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Brussels trams


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I’m starting to prepare a small layout based on my favourite tram system - Brussels!


I hate the new Flexi trams there, having grown up with the PCCs which are now rapidly running out of time so I’ll use PCCs only.


I’m going to scratch build most of it. There will be three sections: 

1) a turning loop at one end in a posh square out of the city centre

2) a pre-metro section in the city and leading to,

3) a stub terminus in a more run down area where the line has been cut back and replaced by the Metro where reversal is carried out by a ‘priests hat’ or reversing ‘wye’. 

The stock initially with be a BEC single car 7xxx PCC as found before withdrawal followed by a stratch built 77xx 6 axle PCC. I will use the BEC kit to get my catenary heights correct.


I have ordered some copper tube to make the catenary masts (with the lower section in thicker ABS plastic as it is easier to turn to make the thickening of the mast lower down.


I am going to use piano wire as the main running wire. 

The track is planned to be Peco code 100 with a small section soldered onto the inside to form the inner flange. 

Edited by Lord of Narnia
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  • 4 weeks later...

Update. I’ve started to accumulate parts to make the overhead and rails. 

I’ve found brass tube to be quite expensive from sites like EBay but B&Q seem to do brass tube at a reasonable price. 

I started with a piece of 5mm copper tube and was going to add a bottom section of plastic tube 6mm wide but this looks a little over scale.


B&Q do 4mm tube at £5.70 a metre and 2mm tube at £3.60 a metre so that’s at least 10 masts for £9.30 which isn’t too bad.


There is a question in here…..


Is 4mm tapering up to 2mm to scale? I’m doing 1:87 HO as it’s a continental layout so I’m hopeful it is.


Any thoughts welcome…..

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I’ve picked up some piano wire from B&Q which was very cheap for 34m. There is a 0.4mm wire for the support wire which will also be used for the mast arm support and then bought a 0.6mm wire for the main overhead.


I was able to straighten the wire by clamping one end and locking the other in a drill and turning it! It has worked really well.


For the registration arms and pull offs I’m going to use staples bent into shape. Brussels uses quite strange registration arms a photo of which is below. I don’t think I can realistically make these strong enough so I’ve gone for a more simple look.


If I get a chance in the next day or two I’ll mock up a section to see how it solders up. I’ve read that piano wire can be difficult to solder so this could all be very tricky! 





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The first mast is ready. This is first try so it is a little rough and ready but I’m quite pleased with it.


I’ve used copper tube as it is cheaper than brass and should solder better. 

A self tapping screw fits nicely so I hope it is an easy solution to fixing the masts. 

My next job is to add the arm (two track side arm) and the diagonal support wire. 

I would like to build a couple of masts today so I can try erecting a short section of wire. 

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Hello @Lord of Narnia,


I like your approach of making the support masts - they look very similar to the O/H masts that supported the trolleybus wires in Cardiff.


I remember once, as a child, going to Bruxelles where my UK grandparents had an acquaintance, but I thought (in my mind) that the trams were 4-wheelers but of a style older than the PCCs (or have my childhood memories gone awry?).


Looking at the O/H supports and off-sets, would they have really been like that? I ask as they seem rather modern, as opposed to brass shoes that would have been attached to the span wires on older systems.


Anyway, good luck with the model.



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Thanks Philip


I’m not sure what year you were there but there were some of the old four axle trams about in the 1970s.


I’ve finished the first mast.


A lot of the system is being upgraded so some of the equipment looks quite new. I’ll try and focus on the older stuff from my earlier photos. There is a newer type below for reference though. 



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I spent a huge amount of time in Brussels in the past; My dad was Belgian and I lived there for a few years in the late '80's/early 90's; I remember the older standard cars with trailers, and the early days of the Pre-Metro; for a number of years the trams used in the metro changed from trolley poles to pantograph on the access ramps, and back to pole on exit. There was a wonderful tram terminus at the Marche au Poisson (fish market) square near the Sainte Catherine church that was abandoned in the first stage of heavy metro operation in 1976 when the Trams 39/44 were curtailed to Montgomery. I have two 1/43 scale 7000 series PCC models built to represent the period of dual-mode current collection, one was scratchbuilt by me, in about 1996, and one purchased from St. Petersburg Model Co. I'll post some pictures. I had also built a standard trailer set and a 5000 series car which were sold on about 1992. I also built a number of the Bec-Kits cars too; the 7000 series in various permutations, as well as the two 5000 variants. Scratchbuilt in 4mm was a 7500 car (rebuilt to 7700 in the early 1980's) and a Vicinal car of the type introduced in 1981 on the coastal tramway, which was visually impressive, but very simple to build - no curves on it at all!


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These look great! I also have family in Brussels - several Aunts and many cousins.


I don’t remember much before the late 80s but I do remember the old PCC trams on the 93 as were used to stay near Place Marie-Jose. In fact part of the layout takes inspiration from the terminus there. The loop is now gone sadly in the name of regeneration!


I’ve read quite a lot about the tram network and there is quite a lot of information and maps on the net. The number of closed routes is staggering. 

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Take a look at this photo. There is a PCC car on the right side numbered 1001. My club mate bought it off eBay. I thought it might represent a Brussels car because of the color. It is an O scale model and has doors at both ends. I thought I had a better photo but this is all I have for now. What do you think?


P. Randall

Edited by Nortonville Phil
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A  genuine US built PCC car was trialled in Brussels after WW2 (and on the Vicinal coastal line), but they then reduced the width of the later ones to fit in more with the narrower European streets.  I think the first European production ones actually went to Den Haag where they lasted in to the 1980's - #1001 being one of them....




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  • 2 weeks later...

The experiments continue. I have set up a trial section of track to see how complex it will be to fit the overhead on a curve.


For the main layout I will have needed to finish all the ground scenery including any cobbles etc. 


So far I plan to bend the overhead wire flat on a surface to follow the track. I have read that it is best to follow the inner rail on curves (which makes sense to stop the pantograph slip off)


I think I will solder the droppers or pull offs to the wire next and then layout by masts with span wire and solder the droppers to the overhead.


That’s the plan anyway….


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Some progress! 

The pull offs have been soldered to the pre-bent wire.


I have started to insert the masts and span wire. The masts are fixed into place with a self taping screw. I found a whole box in the loft and they fit nicely into the base of the mast. I’ll probably glue and screw the real things but as this is only a test I want to reuse the masts on the main layout.



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The experiment continues….


I’ve managed to get the running wire up and soldered the pull offs to the span wire. 

I’ve got another mast to erect and two more pull offs to connect before I conclude the experiment.

Hopefully my PCC will be ready soon so I can start testing. 



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The experiment is over. The test set up overhead looks to have been a success. Until the BEC PCC arrives I won’t know for sure how accurate the wire assembly has been although the experiment to see if it all goes together has certainly worked. I’m pleased with the finished work. 

The photos provided show the finished section of track and overhead. The next thing to do is work out how to do the girder rail and roadway infill. 

I don’t think I have the patience for doing everything in cobbles and it’s not realistic anyway as the is a mix of tarmac, cobbles and off street running in Brussels anyway.


It’ll probably be a while before I start the main layout (I need to get on with my London Underground Layout anyway!) but watch this space…



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  • 3 weeks later...

I’ve started to look at girder rail. I’m not going to buy it so I’ll make it. Getting the inner section looking thinner is the key and making sure the rail chairs on the inside are hodden is a personal bugbear of mine. 

The attached photo shows a mock up using code 100 rail for the main running rail and a piece of code 60 rail for the inner section. It is thinner so looks ok. It also is squat enough to sit over and avoid any rail chairs retained. 

I quite like it so far. I’m not sure the gap between the rails is large enough for the flange thickness though. I’ve considered laying a sliver of plastic card between the rails to hide the chairs or perhaps just poke in some modelling clay instead.


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