Modelable Intermodal Terminals #7: Vlaardingen Terminals, The Netherlands

While browsing through the Tank Car Trains album on Flickr I was intrigued by a picture of a Captrain locomotive pulling a string of tank cars through an industrial area in Vlaardingen in the Netherlands. After a bit of searching in Google Streetview I was able to figure out roughly where the photo was taken:

I can’t include the original image as it’s copyright but if you click the link above and take a look you’ll see the similarities. If we stand on the street called Vulcaanweg; the buildings on the left match the original photograph, the only difference is that the photographer must have been standing on the grassy bank between the two sets of tracks on the right.

Now this view wasn’t the most intriguing part. If you turn 180 degrees and ‘travel’ down Vulcaanweg a short distance things get even more interesting.

So lets turn around and follow the tracks north-east: after crossing over the Vulcaanweg…

…the track enters a double slip (fairly common in the model railway world but not something I’ve spotted that often while looking at real-World locations while writing this blog).

The route straight over the double slip passes between those interesting glass sound barrier walls you can see into the DFDS Rotterdam, Vlaardingen terminal . You can just make out the track that diverges to the left, this is a head shunt for the track furthest away from us on the right that heads down to the various sidings in the Vopak tank terminal.

Here’s a map of the area:

View Larger Map

If you look at the map and the picture below you can see that ships are berthed for loading and unloading on the left or western side of the dock (the blue dashed lines represent shipping routes) and the railway tracks within the container terminal are on the right or eastern side of the dock.

Vulkaanhaven by Kees Torn – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0, View Image

In fact there’s a good chance this facility isn’t rail-served at all anymore. Satellite images show numerous containers parked across the tracks within the facility and all the images of freight movements in the area I could find only include tank cars. So why have I written a post about this location you might ask?

The answer is it has a number of interesting features that could be incorporated into a realistic modular layout of a container yard in a small space.

I’ve already mentioned the double slip at the entrance to the container facility. Double slips allow you to fit more track into the same space as back to back regular switches. The only problem for the modeller is that they don’t tend to be used on anything other than mainlines where space is at a premium because they cost more both in terms of initial installation and also in ongoing maintenance. However in this case the use of a double slip on a lightly used freight line is actually prototypical.

The next interesting feature is the sound walls at the entrance of the container terminal:

How do you disguise the fact that your model railway ends at the edge of your baseboard? You use a scenic break, traditionally that’d be a tunnel or an overpass perhaps a large building. How about sound barriers, they’d be a fairly unique scenic break at the exit of a layout don’t you think?

Next there’s the ships that serve the terminal. They are also a pretty unusual and modern looking design, at least to my eyes:

DFDS Humbria Seaways @ Vlaardingen, Rotterdam 14/10/2020 by Rab Lawerence
Own work, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, View Image

They are huge but they’d make a pretty interesting and imposing backscene. They’re approximately 230m long in the real World so that scales to about 145cm or ~5ft in N scale.

Making use of these features with the existing track plan wouldn’t really be possible but it definitely gives some food for thought when customizing the track layout of the existing terminal or even designing a freelance terminal for a model.

We didn’t even touch upon the track down to the Vopak tank terminal or even the tracks previously used exclusively by the Rotterdam metro but now shared with freight trains heading to this facility, perhaps next time…

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