SNCB 25.5 - History of the Class

By Henk Hartsuiker
Of all the locos that appear on Dutch tracks the ones of the Belgian Class 25.5 may have been given the least attention from the press and maybe also from railway enthusiasts alike. I'd like to set this straight by writing this article which is not intended to be the ultimate work on the subject but to give you some more information about the jobs of 25.5s in The Netherlands over the years.

The 8 Class 25.5s originate from the Belgian Class 25 of which 22 were built in 1960 and 1961 and which were delivered in a dark blue livery with a silver trim. Due to the increase in passenger traffic between Amsterdam and Brussels in the late 60s and early 70s a need for additional stock arose to augment the 12 Benelux Hondekop EMU’s already in use. This need was met by the gradual introduction in 1973 and 1974 of a number of push and pull trainsets which were powered by Class 25.5 locos, rebuilt Belgian Class 25s altered to work on both Belgian and Dutch tracks. Each set consisted of 1 Belgian 1st class coach next to the loco, 1 Belgian 1st/2nd class coach, 3 Dutch plan W coaches with 2nd class seats and a Plan D which was rebuilt into a DVT with luggage and restaurant accommodation. Of course there may have been exceptions to this general rule. Oddly enough one of the most obvious adaptations of the new Class was the removal of 1 pantograph to save weight. By the end of 1986 newly built trainsets consisting of Belgian Class 11 locos and Dutch ICR coaches sporting a yellow and red livery were replacing these trainsets. But that didn't mean the days of the 25.5s in Holland were over.

Not long after their duties on the ‘old’ Benelux-sets had ended they began to appear at the head of the trains that ran between Paris and Amsterdam. These sets consisted mainly of French Eurofima and Corail stock combined with other French and Belgian coaches with the 25.5s in charge between Brussels and Amsterdam. One of these duties included the EuroCity trains EC82 and EC87 "Etoile du Nord" (Northern Star) which consisted entirely of French Inox stock. One of the reasons the 25.5s were called upon to perform these duties was the banning of the 5 Belgian multi-current Class 15 locos from Dutch tracks from January 1st 1988. Unlike the 25.5s they didn't have an ATB-installation and thus failed to meet Dutch safety requirements, which were then being enforced more strictly. Most workings between Paris and the Dutch capital are now performed by French TGV sets, which took over from the 25.5s from about the mid 1990’s. In this same period the 25.5s often hauled several holiday trains during the winter and summer seasons. Well-known summer holiday trains were int. 1286 "Camino Azul" and Int. 1186 "Riviera Expres" which brought travellers to the south of France. These trains very often consisted of a wild combination of Dutch, Belgian, German and French stock.

During the winter season the 25.5s could be seen pulling ski-trains to Bourg-st-Maurice in the French Alps. Another interesting period for the 25.5s in The Netherlands was when they were working for Lovers Rail (LR). LR was, as you may remember, the first competitor of NS. On May 26th 1998 Lovers Rail began a half-hourly passenger service between Haarlem and Amsterdam with motive power being provided by two 25.5s, rented from the NMBS, at the head and tail of each set. Pending the delivery of second-hand Belgian M2 stock LR used 4 former German coaches which they rented from a Swiss firm. After the delivery of the intended stock a normal LR train would have the following configuration: A 25.5 in front, 3 M2 coaches, 1 orange NMBS luggage-car and a 25.5 at the end. Sadly for LR not many people made use of the trains and most trains only carried a handful of passengers. As a result the French owners cut off funds on September 14th 1999, services were stopped immediately and LR ceased to exist. Nowadays in the Netherlands the 25.5s can only be seen in charge of freight trains. One leaves from Sittard each day for Liege and they also make scheduled appearances between Kijfhoek and
Belgium to compensate for the loss of work caused by the Dutch locos 6511-6520, which hauls freightliners between Rotterdam and Antwerp throughout.

As said before the locos were delivered in a dark blue livery with a silver trim. From 1975 they received a yellow band along the entire length of the lower part of the body. From 1981 the middle part of this band under the portholes was removed. Originally the locos were numbered 2515-2522 and renumbered to 2551-2558. In March 1979 2557 was severely damaged in an accident and loco 2504 was swiftly rebuilt as 2557. Later the former returned to service as 2504.
Numbering (from Rail Magazine 132)
2551 ex 2515, 125.015
2552 ex 2516, 125.016
2553 ex 2517, 125.101, 140.001
2554 ex 2518, 125.102, 140.002
2555 ex 2519, 125.103, 140.003
2556 ex 2520, 125.104, 140.004
2557 ex 2521, 125.105, 140.005 renumbered 2504 in 1982

2557 ex 2504, 125.004
2558 ex 2522, 125.006, 140.006

It is difficult to say what the future will be for these machines. The current lack of locos in The Netherlands and their ability to work both in Belgium and in Holland suggest that they will be a valuable asset for the foreseeable future although they are now more than 40 years old. A replacement is not foreseen but it is certain that these old soldiers will one day just fade away.

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