About me

As you have to do for introductions like this, I selected some pictures suggesting an exciting lifestyle doing questionable things around old industrial buildings.

Of course most of the time this is greatly inaccurate as I am a modeller before everything else, so usually you’ll find me in front of a desk covered in dust, paint and glue. I would even describe myself as a passionate modeller (which sounds nice but mostly means I will yell vulgar things loudly when things refuse to go as planned) and have been since primary school days, since then it has been gradually getting worse, through a steadily growing skillset, vocabulary and budget. After some maniacal revell and airfix glue sniffing I got my hands on some flea market treasures on 16.5mm-track and after these had been modified plenty of times things got serious when I started building my own cardboard models of dutch steam locomotives, later switching to plasticard.

As meanwhile the rest of life had pretty much come to a standstill it was really pleasant I found a job at Miniworld Rotterdam (called RailZ miniworld at the time), recreating quite a number of rotterdam landmarks in miniature, getting a proper taste for broodjes akong with sambal and learning the first steps of 2D CAD and CNC milling. Also, it’s really interesting to see what happens to model trains when they run 60 hours every week.

As the work at miniworld was mostly buildings, so relatively coarse, the hobby stuff concentrated on rolling stock, first still dutch, later switching to indonesian and polish. Also, a friend got me into urban exploration around that time, it’s always been a secondary hobby for me but a very interesting one.

After 5 years at miniworld I got the opportunity to switch to Artitec, where at the moment I write this I’ve been working for about 7 years now? maybe 8. don’t know. It’s fun so I haven’t been counting the days. Since the work at artitec is mostly on small really accurate stuff, the buildings-and-layouts-part of me started getting itchy again, well, basically that landed me this project. More about that below.

How I got into this mess….

I first visited the seraing area around 2008, and was highly impressed. A lot of old stuff was still there, blast furnace 6 blew some impressive orange clouds right in the middle of town, and there were many intriguing open spaces surrounded by crumbling factory walls. Sadly, at that point, because everything was still more or less active there was no point trying to give it a closer look and circumstances and budget prevented further visits for a while. In late 2013 we went to chertal for the first time and that was where things seriously started going wrong.

During the following years the more often I went there on urban exploration missions with 2 friends, the more we got hooked on seraing steelworks and we visited many sites, like the two remaining blast furnaces, the steelworks at chertal, the coking plant, the forge and electric arc furnace in seraing and many smaller buildings like workshops, pumping stations, offices…

Meanwhile, we did some attempts to find out more about the area but publications about the industry in the area are surprisingly scarce, especially considering how important this industry has been in Belgian history. The lack of publications meant a new hobby was rapidly born to fill the time we were not in seraing risking life and limb with the camera: finding scans of old postcards and other old pictures from the area on online auction websites and bickering about where exactly the picture had been taken, using an ever growing collection of pictures and maps. Slowly this started escalating towards ideas for a group modelling project, as not only urban exploration was a common hobby, we had all originally met through railway modelling.

After some brainstorming the plan finally stabilized on 3 scenes:

  • The ateliers centraux/rolling stock workshop with the unused liquid iron railway through downtown Ougrée, with level crossings and pipe bridge in between houses. We really wanted to model the level crossings and the rolling stock workshop would be a nice excuse to have basically every type of rolling stock on the cockerill sambre network on the layout
  • The old Cockerill blast furnace department as it looked like in 1988, partly demolished but blast furnace 5 and 7 and the charge silo still standing, with the adjacent power plant and forge.
    We had been able to explore the last Ougree blast furnace and the last Esperance-Longdoz blast furnace but the last Cockerill furnace had been gone since 1988. After finding a series of really awesome photos taken during demolition I figured making a model would be a nice chance to explore it anyway. (yes, I will be all cheesy and model our little urbex team on one of those blast furnaces.)
  • The dead end of Rue Philippe de Marnix north of the state railway tracks. I’ll leave it to the reader to find out why that part has to be built.

It was already clear this would be a rather serious undertaking (understatement) even between the three of us, as I was the only one who had built full layouts before. Standards were set suitably high, all buildings homemade and rolling stock as accurate as possible, bought when available (which of course means at least half of it at least partly handmade as well)

As I was already working for Artitec at the time I could make use of the company facilities so serious amounts of resin and etched brass parts could be made for the project without becoming excessively expensive, greatly reducing the amount of work, making the whole thing seem slightly less impossible. (only slightly, though) In return, some project parts have made it into the artitec catalogue.

At this point one friend already started to feel a bit shaky about the whole thing and decided to quit. Well, a most sensible thing to do I’d say, and as said friend still offered to help hauling layout woodwork around the country, who am I to complain.

Meanwhile me and the other mate soldiered on, I started designing and making masters for all resin facades and after castings were made mate started on the buildings for the ougree part while I had a go at the cockerill part and some locomotives.

After a while progress on the ougree bit slowed more and more as my mate was going through some unpleasant times, so we decided I would just continue the build on my own to relieve him of the constant feeling of impending doom such a project instills in sensible people. He would still help me with all sorts of side jobs like being chief layout crew at shows, donate free opinions, brainstorm about all sorts of light and sound related stuff, organising show visits, designing Le Bassin stickers, successfully ordering things that actually get delivered and that sort of thing that would just not happen if left to me. Some day I might even trick him into some miniature gardening.

So… that leaves me here merrily slogging on, strangely somehow enjoying the ever growing endless project just as much as I did years ago when we started! I guess Seraing syndrome is like Stockholm syndrome but slightly worse.



Blast furnace 5 part 1

Finally getting back on topic…. real steel mill stuff!

Well, it’s been a while, as usual. With Ougree mostly finished, time to turn my attention back to Cockerill. A part of the layout I had been working on when the project was started but was then put on hold to finish Ougree, so I could have a sort of finished working layout for shows. Well, if there would have been any shows, but that’s another matter.

Anyway, Cockerill. After the usual redesign of that part of the layout (well, nothing too radical, more like refining the old design using snippets of information that I found while working on Ougree) and laying some track it was finally time for one of the more glamorous jobs of a steel mill layout: making a blast furnace!

Don’t get excited now, it’s still Le Bassin, so it will be a very dead half-demolished one.

something about the real thing

It would have been nice to have the usual row of dates and numbers as to build year, production capacity and all that, but actually I don’t have a terrible lot of information on that. Cockerill had built a row of 4 blast furnaces of a design very similar to the blast furnaces seen around middlesbrough in 1872, around 15 years later 2 additional bigger, more modern furnaces were added, number 5 and 6.

The oldest picture I know of BF 5 (left) and BF 6 (right)
My guess as to the date of this picture would be 1890’s, as BF5 is clearly upgraded quite a bit, BF6 still looks original. To the right the old power plant, a new power plant was built in 1901.
nice view of BF 5, same era as the previous picture.
BF 5 and 6 in 1900/1901 (note the new power plant being built at the right)
To the left in the background BF 1-4
In the meantime BF5 and 6 had received a skip hoist (“monte charge americain”)
BF5, again around 1900

After this, at some point between 1900 and 1912 BF 7 got added to the east of BF5. Helpfully, my 1912 cockerill book doesn’t mention any dates here, so I’ll have to go by pictures. This BF 7 will also be featured on the layout.
During world war 1 the germans quite comprehensively wrecked the place and a lot of rebuilding was required, but it seems BF5 and 6 were relatively unchanged.

The state of affairs between the wars: Left to right BF7 all the way in front, then at the back BF 1-4 and then BF5 and 6.BF5 once again a little ahead of the pack in terms of upgrades. The ore bunkers have also been modernised, the northern wall of the bunker is still there to this day (2021)

After the second world war BF 1-4 were deemed antiquated and were demolished, a sinter plant was built and the blast furnaces were from now on fed by conveyor belts. in 1950 a new more modern american style blast furnace was built at the spot of the old furnaces, in 1952 a second one was added.

Meanwhile 5 and 7 were upgraded, around 1960 BF 6 was demolished so 5 could be enlarged (6 was never hooked up to the conveyor charge system)

Plan of BF5 in its final form. Thanks to Eddy Aerts for sending me this!

During the latter half of the 1970’s the cockerill blast furnaces were gradually shut down as the Cockerill company had in the meantime merged with Ougree-marihaye and esperance longdoz who had considerably more modern blast furnaces (in a german report from the first world war (!) the cockerill blast furnace department had already been described as hopelessly cramped and antiquated) and in the late 1980’s large parts of the old cockerill works in seraing were demolished, including all remaining blast furnaces.

For those who own the Hochöfen book by Bernd and Hilla Becher, go to page 128 and 129 for some very nice portraits of BF 5 and 7. Makes you wonder what else there may be in their archive.

A very nice picture of BF5 and 7 shortly before final demolition can be found here: http://balat.kikirpa.be/obj/10043895/img/N007480
My model will represent this state of affairs.

…and now on to the model!

Well, with a plan and no less than two decent photographs to work with, let’s get going!
First, let’s bash the whole thing in 2D cad. Yep, that’s a phone screenshot as my screenshot-button on my keyboard is broken and shops are closed so I can’t get a new one. Lockdown-life….
To make the blast furnace fit better with the stuff I had already built (which is all compressed at least a bit) I reduced the scale to 1:95. This also has some convenient side effects, like the cowpers now suddenly having a diameter that fits readily available plastic pipe.

Then do a looong day of CNC-plastic-munching…

Do some serious curfew-dodging to get home afterwards… but hey, a cockerill BF5 model kit, then it’s all worth it, right?

time for glue-sniffing!

furnace armour
of course had to do some rivet detail on the girder stuff….
frame getting there….
support ring
Natural habitat. BF 6 used to be at the spot where the train is standing. On the left, at the back the drawing of BF 7, still to be built.. Remember kids, if you have a bad idea, always try it at least twice.

By now I had mostly ran out of cnc-milled parts so progress slowed down a bit, as now a new round of studying the two pictures I had was necessary to start the long haul of making loads of detail by hand. A little bit of additional computer design went into drawing up the cooler plates on the furnace armour and the complicated bits on the gas uptakes so they could be 3d-printed. Then it was just a matter of casting loads of resin cooler plates, adding those to the furnace armour and realising how much cooling water piping and other mysterious stuff such a relatively small simple furnace has, even though half of the stuff was already missing.
My respect to some german madmen who make properly big furnaces.

Current state of affairs
metal tap hole in the middle, slag tap holes to the sides
kindasorta the view as in the Becher book

Sometimes projects really have a soundtrack, this is one of those projects, so why not include that soundtrack here:
(thanks to haiko for providing me with “music for grownups”)

And while dropping links, here’s the whole 1988 photo set, still love it.

So, that’s it for now,


weekend update 8: no pigeons were harmed…

Well, it’s been a while, but now we got rid of the old fridge, time for another odds and ends-post! In the meantime there have been many hours of just being around the layout, not doing all that much but nonetheless continuously adding detail bits, tufts of grass and as of this weekend, pigeons!

most green stuff on the layout is of martin welberg origin (http://www.martinwelberg.nl/), but a while ago I had made some buddleia bushes as they are everywhere in that area. Now the first ones officially rooted in ougree.
finally got around to put some interior stuff in this empty doorway…
with a light because why not…
Since I had part of the back boards removed, why not take a picture from the back of the layout? A view you’d ordinarily never get! (and in this case, I sort of regret that)
another view from the other side
to prevent me wrecking the things all the time while working on the layut, I had been withstanding the temptation of putting tv and radio aerials on the houses for a long time. Now I finally added them, and have wrecked a few already since. I am not very good at life.

So, that’s been some of the usual… now on to the bit you’ve all been waiting for!


The pigeons were made using some photo-etched parts I drew up a while ago, theoretically the pigeons would look just about like this

a bit low-res admittedly, but some paint would round out the shapes a bit and well, let’s face it, they are tiny. (about 3.5-4 mm)

pigeon assembly line
first layer of paint
more paint

Seems like they feel quite at home…

ready to give every passing urbexer a heart attack
that plastic bag smells extremely tempting apparently

so, that’s it for now! hope you all like pigeons.


poking gravel

Well, it’s been a while, but here I am again! Custom plague-mask and all!

Lately work on the layout itself pretty much came to a halt as I was mostly busy working on the most important part of any steelworks layout fleet: the ballast tamper. Indeed, priorities-wise I have not learned a single thing after the electronics store.

A while ago I stumbled upon a picture of Cockerill-Sambre’s own ballast tamper, a plasser & theurer plassermatic 07-275 turnout tamper. It looked rather similar to an old Liliput model although that’s a mainline machine (the difference being mostly in the actual machinery, a mainline machine would work 2 sleepers at a time with somewhat simplified machinery to speed up progress while a turnout machine does 1 sleeper but with a lot more bells and whistles. Cockerill-sambre opted for the latter, which I think makes sense for industrial trackwork with lots of curves and turnouts)

Initially the idea was for a quick rebuild of one of those delicious bits of yellow liliput plastic. Anyone with some degree of modelling experience can already see where this is going.

The original delicious liliput plastic. Little did I know what was to come. Well, actually I did.

After a quick round of googling for plassermatics it became clear they were of course all different (who could have seen that coming) and after a bit more poking around I found some pictures of the actual Cockerill-Sambre machine, which was apparently still around and ended up at the chemin de fer du Bocq, a rather lovely museum railway in the south of belgium. http://www.cfbocq.be

I got in contact with some folks from this museum railway, got told it was possible to come and take some pictures of the machine, so after a roadtrip with Daniel (of Grube Carolus Magnus fame, do check out his stuff if you don’t know it already: https://www.facebook.com/carolusmagnus1911) we arrived in Spontin where the machine was put outside of the shed for me and I could take all the pictures I wanted. Thanks again to all involved!

So there it was, in all its glory! Click the pic for my flickr album.

Cleverly I didn’t take the opportunity for taking some measurements as I figured the dimensions of the liliput model would be mostly correct (of course this was not the case, the liliput model being about 9 mm too long) and it would just be a matter of changing the middle bit and adding loads of detail. Wellll, let’s say, after some cad-work trying to figure the thing out it was soon clear this would be one of “those” projects and the quick modification of some cheap old liliput would actually turn into scratchbuilding the whole thing, keeping cabs and bogies of the liliput model so I could later be a smartass at shows when people ask about this model “oh, uh, yeah, just a modified liliput, you probably got one sitting in a box somewhere as well” but actually it would have made more sense to just make these new anyway. Oh well.

Meanwhile CAD-work on everything in between the cabs continued… Blue parts 3D-prints, white parts cnc-milled styrene sheet

Oh, did I mention the model was just going to be a rolling model to be shifted around with one of the locomotives of which I have too many anyway and it would have only a few lights on it to spice it up a bit?

Oh no.

Well, now with some sketchy 1 powered axle drive mechanism whistled together (I couldn’t fit some proper power since on the cockerill machine most of the engine covers are missing, making it very much a see through thing with about zero space to hide anything) work could start in earnest. First I assembled the cnc-milled frame parts and got to enjoy hiding a ton of wiring for all the LEDs in this very open structure and then caused some diplomatic trouble with the southern neighbours by treating myself to a completely inappropriate combination of beer (in the wrong kind of glass) and snacks.

Now all of this seemed to be working fine it was just a matter of uh… adding stuff, basically. It’s pretty much impossible to figure out every single hydraulic pipe but I sure made an attempt at a lot of them. I drew up some etched steps, ladders and other stuff to finish it all off…

Then splashed some paint on…

Then after some weathering I pretty much considered it finished for now. Still needs some decals which will be added in the future, along with some additional tools and junk and maybe more figures (it does have a driver but that’s all)

And some videos of the thing having a little run around ougree

So… hopefully, with this project mostly out of the way, normal layout work will resume!

that’s it for now, hope you enjoyed it!


weekend update 7

Well, the last couple of weeks has mostly been about making little detail bits, adding them to the layout, designing and making more detail bits, waiting for resin castings or etched parts for those detail bits and generally not feeling like there is heaps of progress, for lack of big projects. So, this time just a little tour around the layout, starting at the workshop we know so well and then venturing into the great outdoors!

steelworks layout problems

When modelling steel industry you need quite some background knowledge of many things, like for example price tags of consumer electronics in belgium in 1988.

Well, as I had no idea about that, I first made a pile of washing machines, tv sets (with led inside of course) etc…

Then flooded several people with questions… well, got some answers, so good enough for some signs that nobody will ever read…

and then put the building back in it’s spot. Still work in progress, but as I keep telling myself, slooowly getting there!

So, that’s it for today,



weekend update 6

Well, it’s not a weekend, but here’s an update anyway, and since I once called them weekend updates, why not stick to the tradition. Also, I get to drink a bit while writing this, so yeah. Some heavy belgian craft beers this time. not complaining.

So, on to the more interesting stuff: progress on the layout! Last time I reported having all pipes painted, so now time for finishing touches. There’s an awful lot of those, as I had basically done all buildings to about halfway in terms of weathering and specific detail, leaving some room for a final round of detail and weathering making sure it all matches nicely when it all comes together.

Also, it’s now time for some green stuff. A moment I had been dreading a bit since it’s a long time ago I did that sort of thing… luckily the products of martin welberg make it all quite a bit easier, basically just rip and glue. I especially like his layered tufts.
You can find it all here: http://www.martinwelberg.nl/

Ok, so, on to the pictures!

First going over this row of houses again, highlighting individual bricks with several washes to liven up the brickwork a little, add additional rust and grime, especially the locally very common black dust at spots where the rain will never wash it away, and further cheerful details like bin bags, a ropey moped, some old planks etc.

So, time for more of this sort of thing on the layout itself, like livening up the factory gate a bit with a bunch of signs, adding some extra grime and union posters to the concrete walls etc…

Meanwhile I had been looking at some pictures I took a few years ago and I figured the roofs still looked too bright. Had a go at the next row of houses and I think I’m getting there. Surely makes things look less appealing, which is a good thing in this case. Oh and yes that buffer stop still needs a bit of attention. It’s all still on the civilised side compared to actual belgian prototype, so who knows what else I might try.

So, that’s it for today,



it’s all painted!

This time, a little milestone!

But first things first: wrapping up work on the rolling stock workshop for now. Things were mostly there already, so sticking random decals on things, then add dirt of various kinds. After adding a light to the hydraulic press I decided the whole thing was officially good enough for now and the workshop could be moved to the layout.

It did even sort of fit in place and required only minor surgery. Good times!

Well, with the rolling stock workshop mostly done and back on the layout, it’s time for the last major job on the ougree part: finally painting all those gas pipes! These were the last major bits of unpainted eyesore in ougree, now they are a painted eyesore. While planning the layout (most of that happened while I was building it, so don’t get tricked into thinking I indulge in weird activities like thinking ahead) I mocked up pretty much everything, but carefully ignored those pipes, as they will just be there, blocking the view on everything I made during the last couple of years, strongly discouraging track cleaning and making sure the trains are mostly hidden in shadows. So much for a layout as a theatre for trains, well, no spotlights for my engines.

To celebrate this milestone some pictures for you and a glass of whisky for me!

So, that’s it for this week. Meanwhile I’ll have another glass while enjoying the cheerful view.



Weekend update 4

Once again, rolling stock workshop stuff.

Well, two more weeks of being locked up in here, bad news to everyone except modellers. Ok, mostly artitec projects, but also some belgian things in between!

First quite some very necessary but not necessarily fun work, like attaching lights to the ceiling of the workshop protruding in the direction of the viewer, to eliminate some annoying shadows at the very front bit. Sounds easy enough, until you have to crack open the roof construction that had been glued shut a month of two ago to install the wiring and then repair all the damage… oh well.

Then on to mass producing furniture and other equipment and detail bits for the old part of the workshop. Some kitbashed artitec leftover castings, lots of scratch built closets and contents cobbled together using styrene strip, some Busch workshop detail bits and pieces and a hydraulic press scratchbuilt using some pictures of the real thing in ougree. And indeed, while making those red and grey plastic fastener-boxes I was asking myself what the hell I was actually doing, but I think it paid off. Next will be sticking decals and paper notes everywhere like on the real thing.

Some in between-project I had been working on lately was 3D-drawing a cummins NTA855 engine, the type used in the little cockerill engines and 2 in the GE 110 ton centre cab switchers, a 3D print has been unceremoniously dumped in a scrap car for lack of better use at the moment, accompanying a pile of rolling mill offcuts (actually painted sheet metal scrap from the workbench)

So… enough warbling, pictures!

so, that’s it for this update, stay safe and see you next time!



Weekend update 3

More rolling stock workshop stuff

Yes, there has been more than 1 weekend since the last update. Well, one weekend renders more interesting results than the other, so in this case I decided that it would be better to wait a bit and show some more afterwards.

Sooo… well, as is to be expected, work on the rolling stock workshop continued. After all big chunks had been painted in their main colours there was still a load of detail work to do, also the main roof hadn’t been painted yet as it was still missing some detail bits. Well, this has all been taken care of last weekend…

The next step would be adding load of detail stuff. More pipework that would be impossible to assemble when the building was still in pieces and of course all the equipment kicking around in a workshop. Most detail stuff was at least inspired by urbex pictures taken in the workshop, as it is basically the only information I have. Undoubtedly quite a lot in there must have changed during the last 30 years, but it’s one of those cases of well, if I don’t know, the audience won’t either. At the moment the front part of the workshop is already being filled up a little, the main part will be next. Weathering is still on the to do list, as is putting up signs, notes etc just about everywhere. I’d say it’s slowly going somewhere though.

Well… with all that official update stuff out of the way, time for some bonus pictures.

As I’ve been working at home lately some samples of this years new artitec stuff basically stranded here because the whole pandemic thing will delay production, so why not have a bit of fun with a little volvo loader. I have a feeling I might make myself an extra sample.

Next are some bonus pictures of some new additions to the fleet, being put to work immediately. Thanks to Evan Daes I was able to buy some more US style centre cab locomotives, so a lineup with the existing centre cabs was of course inevitable…

So, that’s it for this week. Hope you enjoyed this update!


weekend update 2

Splashing some paint on the workshop

This weekend the rolling stock workshop was on the workbench again. (well, it had been all the time, I just built the ladle cars on the bits of workbench left over.)

I was already slowly preparing the workshop for some paint for a while, this has to happen some time halfway the build as a lot of pipework and other detail stuff is criss crossing through the girder posts supporting the crane rails and since these girders have a different color than the walls they have to be sprayed separately. Keeping all the stuff that is partly attached to the girders and partly to the walls detachable is a substantial headache so I figured just spray the thing now and figure out the rest later. The main roof will have to wait for a bit though, as it needs some extra resin bits that I’ll have to cast this week.

after paintwork came the rather tedious job of glueing all 3D printed lamps for the inspection pits to prepainted strips of milled styrene and after the glue had dried glue them over the holes with the leds in the inspection pits. Overall the inspection pits were quite a hassle, especially the lighting, but I think they look pretty cool now.

After this I had to assemble the workshop again to see what it looks like of course, here are some pictures:

That’s it for this week. Stay safe and happy modelling!