About Le Bassin

Modelling and a bit more…

Le Bassin is a 1:87 scale model railroad, loosely based on the steel industry around the town of Seraing near Liège, Belgium. It will be a somewhat different steel industry layout, not focused on running realistic steelworks traffic in a complete but slightly schematic steelworks, but rather a diorama breathing the atmosphere of Seraing and Ougrée in the late 1980’s, depicting a few scenes from the area. Occasionally a train may roll by, largely obscured by buildings, pipes, masts, etc…

Steel industry in the area was still very much alive then, but lots of older parts of the works lay abandoned and would disappear during the years that followed. This fascinating patchwork of active and abandoned industrial buildings of all ages and residential areas built literally right up to the factory walls with gas pipes and works railways weaving everything together was something quite unique and deserves more attention than it seems to be getting at the moment.

As the last tracks, pipes and conveyors through downtown seraing and ougrée have vanished, blast furnace 6 in seraing has been blown up and the future for the remaining blast furnace B in Ougrée looks bleak this project has gone from a fun hobby thing to something a bit beyond that, it gained some urgency as it is now documenting a world that still partly existed as the project started but has now almost vanished.

a two-part project

As it is pretty much impossible to model complex industrial structures that have partly been demolished over 30 years ago accurately for lack of information, we chose to model recognisable scenes from photos, change them around a bit when convenient, mostly compress them as well to keep the size of the layout sort of manageable, and just to start building at some point and fill in all unknown parts with detail that looked plausible. When later additional information would turn up, it was decided not to start redoing already-built things as this would basically guarantee the project to become very frustrating and block any kind of progress.

This decision cut the whole project in 2 separate parts:

  • The layout, limited to a few scenes in the year 1988 and only partly accurate
  • The ever ongoing search for basically any information related to the steel industry in the seraing area, with the occasional detour to charleroi or abroad.

This second part of the project consists mostly of endlessly scrolling through google, facebook groups, pinpointing locations of old pictures, endless discussions about nerdy details with various people, urbex expeditions, a small raid on the piles of archive drawings strewn about in the ateliers centraux building (really frustrating it was such a pig to get into, otherwise I could have saved much more), getting some books, dusting off my very limited 2 years of middle school french (wouldn’t say my french is any good but at least it’s gotten far less terrible than I thought it would ever be) and most of all being very grateful to all sorts of people who have joined the search or offered me old company magazines, a bunch of cockerill-ougree locomotive builder’s plates and all other sorts of goodies, usually in return for little more than a beer. Cheers to all of you!

This blog…

So far I’ve mostly reported on this project on a few relatively small modelling forums and sometimes on facebook and dumped tons of pictures on Flickr. I felt I needed something better but to document this project while not spending tons of work on a real website, this might be a good sort of in between thing. we’ll see how it goes. I’ll do it in english from the start, so you can all cringe at my dunglish but it will surely be more convenient to international readers than trying to wrench my dutch slang on a modelling forum through google translate.

Knowing how I usually do things this blog will probably descend into the usual chaos, as the project has now been going on for over 5 years and I somehow have to get all the work done until now squeezed in here, together with new modelling progress and some odds and ends about the real stuff maybe? we’ll see how it pans out.

For now, here is a list of links to what has been published so far, as it will take some time before this blog gets to be anywhere near complete:

That’s it for now,

Cheers,

Floris

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