Brussels Vicinal

Postcard of the Month

Brussels Vicinal, German Occupation 1915

This postcard was produced in 1915 by French publisher Alary-Ruelle of 131 Rue de Vaugirard, Paris. The writer of our card has dated it 11th September 1915. As can be seen the tram is under the control of German soldiers in Pickelhauben (spiked helmets), although the tram crew were probably Belgian. The caption says 1914-1915 war, but as we now know that war was to last a further three years. The view is in Avenue du Boulevard near Place Rogier, and is the final stop on route "N", which ran Gare du Nord - Gare de l'Ouest - Place Rouppe.

The Belgian Vicinal Tramway was a large network of narrow-gauge light railways that ran in Belgium from 1885, initially steam tram hauled but later many routes were electrified They were operated by the state owned Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Vicinaux (SNCV) or in Dutch, Nationale Maatschappij Van Buurtspoorwegen (NMVB). They were mainly used for passenger transport, but also carried freight, mail and military personnel, cris-crossing the whole country. A number of Vicinal routes entered Brussels and at some locations shared dual-gauge tracks with the city's standard gauge tramway.

The tram on our postcard, A.9376, is of the six-window design generically known as "Manage" cars. It is one of twelve built in 1910 by La Construction Manage (note, not all trams of this general type were actually built by Manage themselves). It had plate-frame 4-wheel trucks, with type T 51 motors and T XV controllers from Ateliers de Construction Électriques de Charleroi.

The company gradually switched to buses and dismantled the tram network. The Brussels line closed in 1978. Only the coastal line, the Charleroi metro, and the short line to the caves at Han-sur-Lesse are still in use today. The Vicinal depot at Schepdaal, near Brussels, is now a tram museum.


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