Friday morning tram porn

You may already I know about my love affair with Belgium. It's a great little country, industrious but quiet, progressive but traditional, exciting but dull. It's everything I need in a holiday destination. So saying that, we're going to Italy by train in September and missing out on Belgium entirely. Ah well.

Belgium loves trains. The federal and local governments have clearly lavished money on their system. It's almost entirely electrified and there's a lot of it – you're never more than 2km from a railway line. It's cheap, the trains are clean and huge and usually quite new (there's a few 1960s shockers on the more out-of-the-way stopping commuter services, but even these are fun. My friend Paul dubbed them "ratboxes" mind, when he lived there).

What people don't tend to know is that once the centrally-planned railway network in Belgium was complete, the plucky little Belgians decided to fill the rest of the limited space with trams. Not just local, city-wide trams like they have in Brussels and Manchester, oh no. They went the whole hog, building tram lines that ran from the railways stations to the tiny villages. Steam trams. Trams that took goods from Nowheresville to be sold in the metropolii. At its peak, and I'm now making this statistic up, you were never more than a metre from a tram track and frequently actually stood on one about to be senselessly mown down.

They're nearly all gone now. The system was effectively destroyed twice by German holidaymakers (Belgium: voted most popular holiday destination in Germany 1914-1918, 1940-1944) and the second go was fatal. Over the course of the next few decades, the tram lines were taken up, leaving wide cycle lanes at the side of even the most backy of backroads and surprisingly frequent bus services to tiny hamlets.

The remains of the nationwide system (the Vicinal or Buurtspoorwegen) are to be found in the cities – Brussels with STIB/MIVB's tram, Metro and pre-Metro services (don't ask); TEC's Charleroi pre-Metro and??Han-sur-Lesse caves services; and De Lijn with trams in Ghent, Antwerp and all along the Belgian coast. That's the video above: the Kusttram, which runs along 68 bumpy kilometres from Adinkerke at the French border to the wonderfully named Knokke (pronounced 'knocker') near the Dutch border. Almost the entire journey is along the seafront, except for detours through the middle of any nearby towns.

I'm sure the ball and chain will correct me if I'm wrong, but in 3 or 4 trips I think we've now covered the entire route. It's a pretty route with an oddly mixed??clientele??of tourists doing the tram route as part of their itinerary and locals popping to the shops. And for?????5 per person you can ride up and down it all day. Who could ask for anything more?
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