The Betuweroute (A European Freight-Only Railway)

The Betuweroute is a modern, freight-only railway line in the Netherlands that connects the internationally important port of Rotterdam to the Rhine-Alpine freight corridor via the town of Zevenaar near the German border.

Metrans E186 182-2 With A Prague Shuttle by Nicky Boogaard – Own Work,
CC BY 2.0View Image

Like all contemporary infrastructure projects the Betuweroute was mired in controversy about it’s cost and viability but since opening in 2007, the number of trains using the line has been rising year-on-year. ProRail (the organisation responsible for Dutch rail infrastructure) report that the line now carries over 500 freight-trains a week making it a key section of the Rhine-Alpine freight corridor.

The Betuweroute is still something of an anomaly in Europe, having been designed and constructed solely to carry freight. So if you’re looking for something unique to model, the Betuweroute could be just the thing. Combine that uniqueness with the potential to incorporate some interesting scenes, modern architecture and a wide variety of potential freight rolling stock and I think there’s scope to build some interesting modules or cameos…

Here’s a map of the Betuweroute:

Map of the Betuweroute by Bukk – Own Work,
Public Domain, View Image

At the western end of the Betuweroute, just outside the massive Kijfhoek classification yard the line merges into the Havenspoorlijn, the 40km long Rotterdam port railway line. The Havenspoorlijn serves the industries alongside the docks of the port of Rotterdam and despite the massive size of many of these facilities, could be the basis of a self-contained modular industrial layout à la Lance Mindheim’s Downtown Spur. There’ll be more on the Havenspoorlijn in future posts I’m sure.

At the eastern end of the Betuweroute the line joins the ‘regular’ rail network in the town of Zevenaar before entering Germany near the town of Emmerich and linking into the wider Rhine-Alpine freight network mentioned earlier in this post.

At the time of writing in 2019, the line between Emmerich and Oberhausen in Germany is something of a Rhine-Alpine corridor bottleneck and is having a third track added to increase it’s capacity. The Dutch have already completed similar works on their side of the border which has led to this interesting scene:

Although it’s not technically a part of the Betuweroute, I still thought this scene was worth including as it’s something that would make a unique and interesting module, especially since there seems to be a growing interest in railway infrastructure maintenance vehicles within the 3D printing community: see these models by BMTHTrains and even some of the more established manufacturers such as Kato Lemke with their tamping machine and road-rail excavator. There are also offerings by Japanese company Greenmax (albeit slightly out of scale for European N).

Between the Havenspoorlijn and Zevenaar the Betuweroute is entirely double-track. The line was built without any level-crossings, using only bridges and tunnels to mostly pass under rivers, roads, historic buildings and even whole towns in some places.

In the relatively flat, largely agricultural areas that the Betuweroute passes through these tunnel portals can act as interesting structures to model or scenic breaks.

Viaduct Over The Betuweroute In Tiel By Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed,
CC-BY-SA-4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)View Image

Railway Tunnel On The Betuweroute by MartinD – Own Work,
CC BY 3.0View Image

Betuweroute Next To A Gas Station On The A15 by LennartBolks – Own Work,
Public Domain, View Image

As the saying goes, there are exceptions to every rule…

Betuweroute Near Tiel by Michielverbeek – Own Work,
CC BY 3.0View Image

Make Room For The River In Gorinchem: © S.J. de Waard – Own Work,
CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)View Image

Another interesting feature of the line, which you may have already noticed is the designer, perhaps even stylish, catenary masts (is that even possible?).

Betuweroute At Meteren By Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed,
CC-BY-SA-4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)View Image

I remember reading that the decision to use these ‘designer’ masts was criticised for adding to the cost of the project but the reasoning behind the design are that it increases the loading gauge making the whole installation safer.

The same style of mast is used on bridge crossings where the lower part of the mast curves gracefully around the similarly shaped walls of the bridge. It’s a nice touch and definitely an interesting scratchbuilding/3D printing opportunity.

Betuweroute Catenary Mast Detail By Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed,
CC-BY-SA-4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)View Image

On approaches to tunnels where there is limited room, at power feeds and locations where there is more complex trackwork and thus more complicated wiring, it looks as if more conventional cantenary masts are sometimes used instead of or alongside the ‘designer’ masts.

Betuweroute Pannerdens Canal Tunnel by Rob Dammers – Own Work,
CC BY 2.0View Image

Betuweroute Near Echteld By Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed,
CC-BY-SA-4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)View Image

Having said that… I’m not quite sure what’s going on in the photograph below but as the arms of each pair of masts are slightly different lengths perhaps there is actually some pointwork under these masts and each of the ‘duplicate’ masts is actually carrying the wire for one of the diverging tracks. If anyone knows for sure then please leave a message at the bottom of this post.

Betuweroute Near Echteld By Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed,
CC-BY-SA-4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)View Image

Sound blocking walls are another important feature of the Betuweroute, that probably doesn’t sound that exciting, but it’s another relatively simple way to capture the feeling of a scene somewhere along the Betuweroute.

Below you can see the more typical concrete sound wall:

A12 Motorway & Betuweroute At Chapel Avezaath by Apdency – Own Work,
CC0 1.0View Image

And in this typically Netherlands scene (Dutch bridge design is a bit of an acquired taste I think), the Betuweroute alongside a cycle path behind a glass sound wall:

Oud-Zevenaar, Bridge (De Fergusonbrug) & Betuweroute by Michielverbeek – Own Work,
CC BY-SA 3.0View Image

Here’s some pictures to give you a flavour of the variety of locomotives, rolling stock and freight types (i.e. trainload and mixed freights) that use the Betuweroute. First off, some shots of the ubiquitous ES 64 F4, which is seen in a myriad of liveries:

A Train On The Betuweroute Drawn By A Class 189 Locomotive by Wesseltje14 – Own Work,
CC BY-SA 3.0View Image

189-095 With A Container Train On The Betuweroute by Rob Dammers – Own Work,
CC BY 2.0View Image

Other 25kV AC electric locomotives are also seen (take a look at the galleries I’ve linked to below).

There’s also a fair amount of diesel traction:

Vuren Betuweroute DBC 6422 (Wim)-6431 (Antonius) LLT by Rob Dammers – Own Work,
CC BY 2.0View Image

Valburg IRP 2101 Coal Train Near Europoort by Rob Dammers – Own Work,
CC BY 2.0View Image

Valburg Rhein Cargo DE 805 with the DuKo Shuttle by Rob Dammers – Own Work,
CC BY 2.0View Image

If you want to see more pictures of the trains that use the Betuweroute then it’s worth checking out this Betuweroute and Havenspoorlijn Flickr gallery and this RailPictures.net gallery.

Finally, if you just can’t bring yourself to build a layout that doesn’t feature passenger trains then in recent years you might be interested to know that a short section of the Betuweroute between Meteren and Elst has been used as a diversionary route for ICE trains running between the Netherlands and Germany.

ICE Re-Directed Over The Betuweroute by Rob Dammers – Own Work,
CC BY 2.0View Image

As Thalys high-speed trains are also capable of using 25 kV AC overhead lines, there is a very small chance they may be seen on this section of the Betuweroute too.

However it’s worth noting that passenger trains can’t run the whole length of the Betuweroute as the tunnels and infrastructure of the line were not built with the facilities needed to evacuate a loaded passenger train safely.

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