Netherlands – March 2012

Again I found myself on a plane to Amsterdam for work, and with a day either side to look around. Having done most the main things in the past, I decided to spend this time largely on photographing trains. I had been researching before I left where the best spots are, and it is difficult – the best activity seems to be around Rotterdam, but I felt that was a bit far and unfamiliar so ruled that out. Looking closer to Amsterdam it was impossible to find a spot that was scenic, curved track, had a good mix of freight and passenger services, and was within walking distance of a station. I had to settle for stations themselves which inevitably come with structures obscuring the view.

The next challenge was going to be the weather – it is late winter/early spring, cold, and more significantly cloudy. The Canon 400D struggles with overcast situations, and I have yet to learn to get around this (though I made some progress towards the end). This, combined with jetlag, being cold, and not wanting to take too many risks lest I miss a shot of a foreign (to me) train unfortunately lead to me taking a lot of ordinary at best photos, requiring a lot of post processing in most cases. I also had a new lens which I was keen to get familiar with, and there were times I should have changed lenses, but I didn’t change even once on the whole trip – this meant I often failed to compose the photos as well as I could have. Next time I should man up, take risks with focal points, lenses and other camera settings, and hope I get one or two really good shots instead of hundreds of bland ones – lesson learned.

I landed about 6:20am on the Sunday, and went to the hotel to freshen up. Post shower I look out the window, and can just make out through the mist that there is a building about 50 metres away … not a promising start, but after half an hour or so it started to clear, so I decide to take a stab and head to Amersfoort, to the east of Amsterdam.


Research had turned up Amersfoort as a good possibility due to the large yard next to the station, and having a curved approach on the eastern end. Sadly the variety was limited:
ICM (Koploper)
Possibly the ugliest looking Multiple Unit ever produced. The high cab is to allow passengers to walk between coupled sets, though there were technical issues, and they have been sealed off as the units get refurbished.


These look good when a complete set with the special motor cars (the motors take up the lower deck), but many sets have a 1700 class loco at one end making them look unbalanced. The seats are quite uncomfortable though compared to newer rolling stock.


Loco hauled version, demonstrating the A and B platforms used in the Netherlands as it comes in around a Sprinter SGM:

Sprinter SGM
A personal favourite, though I haven’t travelled on one. Their days are probably numbered, as the Sprinter SLT (see below) takes over.

Valleilijn railcars

During the trip, I saw a few loco hauled DB trains, but didn’t manage a decent photo of them for various reasons (mostly hiding behind other trains) – I did get this dodgy handheld video though.

The saving grace was that a wander along the street behind the yard turned up a few surprises around what I think was a carriage works, including a MAT64 (I think – not familiar enough with the MATs to be able to distinguish the model years), who’s appearance has made it my favourite of the Dutch trains – sadly they have all been taken out of service.

Shot through a wire fence, hence the blurry bits:



Additionally an unusual looking loco hauled train showed up, followed by about ten enthusiasts – this was something special, though again the photos disappoint. I was able to find out from one of the enthusiasts that this train runs once a year, but know little more about it. The loco is here seen running around the train.


From the other side of the yard, more goodies could be seen, including stored Railion locos, another MAT64(?), and an older MAT unit.



On the way back to the Amsterdam area I got a couple more shots of interesting locos, though the combination of moving train and very dirty windows make them nothing more than reference shots:


The following Saturday I tried my luck again, but at Breukelen – I knew nothing of the location except for what I could see on Google Maps, and the hope that being on the main line to Utrecht that freight and express trains like the ICE would pass. It was another overcast day, though this time I played with the camera settings a little – still have a lot to learn in this regard though. In the last half hour I was there the sun came out, by which time I had to head back to Amsterdam to meet friends for dinner.

The variety of trains wasn’t that great – when I changed trains at Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena an ICE went by, and the next ICE I saw was when I was on the train back to the Amsterdam area. Freight was passing through, though at inopportune moments – I missed a decent shot of a HUSA intermodal as I had wandered from the station to photograph the nearby windmill. I only got a rushed shot of another, as being hauled by electric locos I didn’t hear it coming on the track behind me. Here’s what I did get:

The one I didn’t manage to get a semi-decent shot of (nice lampost though):

The one I didn’t hear:

Also a FYRA passenger train, with one carriage in NS livery …

Aside from that, there were two types of train that came through – the Sprinter SLT which services this station, and the VIRM which passes quickly by. I quite like the VIRMs with their comfortable seats and smooth ride, but the SLT was a bit more basic, and the ride a little rough. For some weird reason the look of the SLT makes me think of Cybermen from Doctor Who, but that’s another story …








The Dutch trains do have good internal displays though, showing not just the destinations, but expected time of arrival at each. Occasionally the speed pops up also, and I was surprised the SLT got up to about 135km between stations, though the stations are spaced quite far apart.

Other shots around Breukelen:



Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA
On the return, I had to change trains at the impressive Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA Station, where I finally got a photo of the ICE, amongst others.

One of the VIRM’s marker lights seems to be in the cab window:


The GVB Metro:


And one more freight: