One hundred years ago, manufacturer John Cockerill deployed his 503 locomotive. This month, the small and historic locomotive with a vertical boiler will be honored with an open house at Minett Park and Fond-de-Gras rail museum.
Built in 1920 in Seraing, Belgium, this locomotive was originally designed for internal company transport. Things took a turn when it joined the ABR, a Belgian company that specializes in metal and railway construction. The Cockerill 503 was utilized to its full potential until the diesel locomotive replaced it in 1968. After its replacement, a scrap dealer named De Lille bought the 503 and let it deteriorate in Maldegem, Belgium until 1999.
In the year 1999, Luxembourgish siblings, Caroline and Jean-Marie Thill-Boon, bought the deteriorating locomotive and wanted to restore it to its full potential. Jean-Marie found a workshop located in Slovakia that knew how to restore old locomotives back into working order. This restoration took several years, they even had to entrust ZVU Potez workshops in Czech Republic to build a new boiler. Thanks to the dedication of Caroline, Jean-Marie, and the workshops in Slovakia and Czech Republic, the 503 was back on the track in 2002.
Located at the Fond-de-Gras since 2002, visitors have been enchanted for the past 20 years by the small size of the locomotive, the vertical boiler, and it’s fascinating background in the service industry. On this 100 year anniversary, the Fond-de-Gras has decided to host an exhibition in collaboration with the John Cockerill Foundation dedicated to locomotives, including the famous 503. Along with the 503, 3 steam locomotives and 2 diesel locomotives will be at the exhibition – 2 of which are from the manufacturer John Cockerill.
Along with the rail exhibition, photographer Stéphane Janiec will be showing an exhibit as well. Guided tours of the workshop and train sheds will be offered to the public to see the preservation process of the historic metal. Music, drinks and grilled food will also be available all day to celebrate the centennial of the 503. The exhibition will be running every Thursday to Sunday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., from September 1 to October 15, 2021, entry is free.
The 1900 train schedule is as follows :
Departing Pétange to Fond-de-Gras: 11:15 a.m., 1:20 p.m., 2:15 p.m., 3:15 p.m., 4:15 p.m., 5:05 p.m.
Departing Fond-de-Gras to Pétange: 10:36 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 1:25 p.m., 2:45 p.m., 3:40 p.m., 4:10 p.m., 5:40 p.m.
Departing Fond-de-Gras to Bois-de-Rodange: 1:25 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., 5:20 p.m.
Prices for train: Child € 10.00, Adult € 14.00 (ticket valid throughout the day, excluding rail cars)