So we weren’t home for twelve hours, of which we spent maybe ten hours in trains. It’s the way we roll.
We started the journey in Antwerp-Central and took a train to Brussels-Central in the stalwart Siemens Desiro EMU’s used by Belgium‘s NMBS / SNCB.
We expected to take a train composed with I6, I10 and I11 coaches. But instead we got AM96 EMU’s. These can’t go into Luxemburg as the voltage on the line is 25KV. On the upside, the first class seats in AM96’s are of the best the Belgian Railways offer.
In Arlon we hopped on the I6-I10-I11 ‘dragon’ train. I stands for international. In the olden days, I-class coaches were used on train journeys to Switzerland and ski trains to Austria. I-class coaches have had several lives. They also saw action in The Netherlands and Germany.
The original I6’s were built in 1977-1978. Forty years later they’re undergoing a modernisation programme.
What’s so great about I6? It has the classic lay-out of a corridor on one side and compartments on the other. It’s very nostalgic. Now modernised, they’re painted grey with grey seating and red curtains.
The seats are low but the cushion is thick. Perfect for people with no ‘natural cushion’ aka bum. The headrest is moveable. You can move the seat forward and even make a bed. Each seat has a personal light and there are several power outlets.
It looks a bit sparse but it’s comfortable. The journey between Arlon and Luxembourg isn’t long so we can’t say how the seats feel on a long journey.
On the way back we chose a different route: the train to Liège, Liers via Gouvy and in Liège-Guillemins the direct train to Antwerp. That direct train only runs on weekends, using an AM80 Break.
The train consists of I10 coaches, built in 1987. No compartments but a 2+2 configuration in 2nd class and 2+1 in 1st class.
I like to argue the I10 marks the end of an era, where comfort was more important than capacity.
While the Antwerp – Brussels – Arlon – Luxembourg route takes about 4.15 hours, the Luxembourg – Liège – Antwerp route takes easily half an hour longer. So why?
Easy: it’s scenic. It’s almost an ‘Alpine’ (ahum) scenery with valleys and curves.
Let these images do the talking.