A jointly written trip report by DNZ, MDE and Muddy Funkster.
For two out of three of us this was our first taste of UE in another country. We rolled off the ferry at Dunkirk with high expectations and a few butterflies.
First stop was the well trodden ECVB Powerplant. Cars parked, kitted up and off down the road before turning off through the bushes towards the perimeter railings and rail tracks. We could see and hear the workmen we had been warned would likely be on-site during the week. It looked unlikely that we would get into the main buildings as a result.
Once over the fence we decided to head inside a nearby building that looked quiet and empty of workmen, being very careful not to be seen we slipped one by one through a broken pane and inside.
Quickly realising that this building used to be a much older machine hall, probably part of the power station in a previous era but one that had more recently been used as a museum exhibit space.
(1) View of the exhibit hall from the crane gantry.
(2) Wheels from the floor of the exhibit hall
(3) ECVB, entry to side wing (Carnival time).
(4) Wheels of industry.
After just over an hour of exploring and photographing Darren spotted a workman peering in through the window we had squeezed through and then several more appeared outside and seemed to be blocking our way out. Suddenly loud voices close by and then Mark had been busted. Long story short, the police were called and we were held until they arrived.
Some scare tactics ensued and talk of silent alarms in the main hall, names in a ‘register’ and then released. The police talked a good scare for the first 10 minutes and then calmed right down once we had shown them some photographs taken inside. Not the best start to our Belgium tour! Also a first bust for us too. Not too bad considering there was some talk of our kit being confiscated. Personally I think they may have been telling the truth about sensors, as we were definitely not seen entering and were quiet inside, then suddenly we were blocked in and cornered fairly efficiently. Enter at your peril
Neo Classic Town House
While the excitement from ECVB was history, it was good that the next one was a bit more certain, almost a permission visit this one as although its not technically lived in, there is a caretaker
If there was ever a house that you visualise a real life game of cluedo, this would be quite a good candidate, walking through the big oak doors we were greeted by the overpowering scent of old wood paneling.
The place was full of dark wood which sucked up the natural light, some of the rooms were amazing though and ranged from classical elegance to outright chintzy with a wide variety of old toys mixed with taxidermy and random junk.
(1) Antique sophistication. Gorgeous corner sofa and stained glass windows dominate this downstairs room.
(2) Diner is served. View from the main hall into a dining room.
(3) Secrets. Shot of 4 chairs on 1st floor.
(4) Twilight – empty 1st floor bedroom
(5) The drawing room wall
I had thought that the badge of “the most depressing town in Europe” must be a bit harsh for our second days destination, but once we got near, it became clear that this may actually be the case, a large town full of disused warehouses and surrounded by slagheaps and grey skies! We had made good timing too until we hit upon a massive hole in the road, turning round and a few curses to garmin later and we eventually found our destination.
We had seen some workmen near the road and decided on the more subtle route behind some bushes and trees, only to sneak past the workers to find a group of german explorers standing outside the cooling tower taking pics from the road.
We ascended the concrete steps and then… that gratifying moment when pushing the door actually opens it!
Inside the door opened out to a vast space, a number of walkways converging in the centre with everything following the curve of the cooling tower up to the sky. The echoes were amazing, every footstep, shutter click or bird noise bounced around the space like a pinball machine. The place smelled damp and stagnant but there was something quite otherworldly too. Matt decided to brave the “biohazard” signs and enter the muddy underbelly and quite frankly, after seeing the image he ended up with – everyone else wished they had done the same!!
It was now time to cross the bridge and make an attempt on the main powerplant buildings. Unfortunately a workman we thought was connected to the powerplant was working on the opposite side of the bridge you need to cross to reach it.
For 20 minutes in our now unstealthy group of 6 we waited, but he just wasn’t going to leave. We all gave up and split back into our separate groups, deciding to give a nearby derelict train depot a look instead.
(2) The vast interior of the cooling tower at IM Powerplant.
(3) Back Stage Pass. Cost of admission, soaking wet and muddy feet. Well worth it though
(4) side on shot of cooling tower.
Derelict Train Depot
Next stop, SNCB AKA the Train Graveyard.
I can’t find much information about the actual site, but needless to say it’s where defunct trains are stored and left to rust away. Looking at other reports online circa 2007, the SNCB train Graveyard used to have about 50 complete diesel locomotives. When we visited (Sept 2012) I think there were about 5-8 trains max. We’re a little vague on the exact number as there were a few outside which we paid little attention to, preferring to photograph the two which were in the derelict interior (also a lot of work very close by outside and we did not want a second bust). The location seems to be a flying visit for most, but due to official looking vehicles at the nearby IM power plant, we spent an hour or so mooching around and taking photos (while waiting for the coast to clear outside IM). Expectations were low for this place so we were pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer.
(1) Rack & ruin. Derelict train at SNCB
(2) SNCB – Mechanical monster
(3) Derelict room – SNCB
(4) One of several engines to be found at this awesome derelict train depot.
(5) The view from outside.
(6) Time for a rest, one of the colourful tiled rooms in the building
After a very long game of shall we/shant we, we decided that this one needed to be done, our initial entrance looked like it had been freshly secured but at least the building wasn’t being demolished as we watched this time.
The early starts had taken their toll though and two of us squeezed through the gap in the fence and one of us headed back to the car for a nap. The two that carried on looked well funny / dodgy apparently from back on the cooling tower side of the river. Two outlines darting from bush to low wall like ungainly ninjas in training! At least we found a new entrance that went! What followed was a decent through a rabbit hole and eventually coming up inside the enormous interior – floors upon floors of pipes and walkways, there was no way that we would see a fraction of this in the time that we had set aside.
We quickly made our way up the main stairwells to the upper floors where there is more light and the awesome control room awaits.
The place is vast like some kind of cathedral of pipes, we bothy agreed it was amazing and shot as much as we could in a short space of time. The hour and a half we had promised we wouldn’t overrun shot by and it was time to leave.
This place we will return to for sure as I think you spend most of a day in here scouring out all the nooks and crannies.
(1) Control desk at the top of IM powerplant.
(2) The control room
(3) Complex pipe workings inside the main power station building.
(4) Close-up of rusting pipes near to the control room.
(5) The guardian, a collection of pipes
After leaving IM behind us we tried another location. A swimming pool nearby. After finding a window at the back that could be used as access and attempting entry we were yelled at by a guy who appeared inside and legged it tout suit. As we drove off two skinheads with cameras on tripods were walking up the ramp to the back of the building. People connected to these buildings must get so fed up of the relentless urbex action in Belgium
Two days just wasn’t enough to do the numerous derelict sites of Belgium justice. What we did see was incredible and has fired our enthusiasm for a Spring trip. We rolled onto the ferry at the end very tired and very happy!