History of the CFV3V

1973 … 2024 : The CFV3V has been offering steam train services for 51 years !

Once upon a time … … … …

This is how the beautiful stories of our childhood begin.

In 1973, a handfull of steam railway lovers made the crazy dream of reviving this means of transport disappeared from the every day scene since 7 years already.

Today, this senseless dream is shared by more than 150 other lovers !

How far back since then !

Birth of the CFV3V  » Steamtrain of the 3 Valleys »

In the marvelous setting of the Three Valleys, a handful of unusual collectors has concretized the craziest dream of all model makers ; make revive the objet of a passion in real life !

The non-profit association of the Steamtrain of the 3 Valleys was born of a little crazy idea, of an opportunity seized with full hands in 1973 by the first president, Mister Michel Pâques.

In 1972, this one, SNCB driver of his state, was in the station of Charleroi Sud at the head of a train of travelers leaving for Brussels. To furnish the wait caused by a stop signal, he was quoting from the top of his « loco » with a railway worker. The conversation, as it should be between railway people, began at first with questions of service and then diverted te other subjects, less austere. He learned with surprise that an old steam locomotive was soon to leave the coal mine of Pêchon at Couillet and to end up by a scrap dealer of the region.

The opportunity.

Passionate about the railroad since his childhood, he realized that luck smiled at him, that a fleeting opportunity would perhaps allow him to realize a dream hitherto inaccessible.

On the following day, he made contact with the direction of the coal mines concerned, and more particulary with mister Jean Ghislain, director of works and mister Raoul Manfroid, chief engineer at Monceau Fontaine. It was explained to him that the locomotive was riding scarcely more than once a fortnight, and that other machines were perhaps destined for demolition.

An appointment was taken and some time later on, Michel Pâques spent an unforgettable day at the controls of the machine. The usual conducteur of the machine, affected by this infatuation for the « old » steamer, gave him  all his secrets, told him his story… Nothing more was needed for the boiling SNCB driver to undertake, from that moment on, long and tedious steps. They lasted several months. The talks were initiated on both the coal mines and the SNCB. He received a most favorable reception from the presence of many « ancients » for whom steam represented a whole era.

The tedious research.

The parties present found a common ground based on the idea of Michel Pâques : to revive for the nostalgia, but also for the youngest, a steam train on a normal railway line (the gauge normal is 1,435 m).

If, this kind of attraction existed elsewhere,  it had never been possible to put a steam train back on his wheels under actual conditions of use, namely on regular tracks with normal gauge.

At the end of the difficult research, after having solicited for all the necessary  authorizations and benefited from the assistance of the Commissariat Général au Tourisme and the Fédération du Tourisme de la province de Namur, Michel Pâques, with a small group of friends were at the last stage of their investigations : to find a deposit for the machines themselves as well as a track capable of receiving them.

After a study carried out by the SNCB, the choice was finally decided on the line of Nismes – Treignes (which later became  Mariembourg – Treignes), with +/- 14 kilometers of tracks through the wonderful valley of the Viroin.

Under the will and the impulse of their Founder President, a group of railway workers and railway enthusiasts could realize the old dream of  : « re-circulating steam trains in Belgium ».

These volunteer members of the CFV3V, who are they ?

Of course there are railwaymen, formerly retired steam tractors, as well as younger railwaymen who have heard so much about steam that they finally want to know this mythical mode of traction which was at the origin of the industrial revolution and railways. But they are not alone, there is also a majority of members, railway enthusiasts, who want to devote part of their leisure time to a real exploitation. Without them all, nothing would be possible. In addition to the CFV3V, these members are students, teachers, engineers, fitters, turners, designers, employees, policemen, mechanics, dentists, pharmacists, musicians, bus drivers and even priests and notaries! Let us not forget also many wives who know how to make themselves useful.

All are used according to their gifts and aspirations, because at CFV3V everything must be done: mechanics and steam locomotive drivers, railway drivers, locomotives or diesel locomotives, maneuvers (for hanging cars and wagons, railway guards and station supervisors, mechanics for the repair and maintenance of steam locomotives or diesel engines, carpenters, electricians, painters, body builders, track layers, pickers, pruners, barmen and barwomen for the the operation of the refreshment bar, the seller of souvenirs and we certainly forget …

During the two years following the publication of the association’s deed of association in the Belgian Official Gazette (20 December 1973), members of the association embarked on obscure work (for the public) such as the deforestation of the vegetation on the line, the dismantling of needles and rails and their reassembly in Mariembourg, the search for equipment, contacts and negotiations with the SNCB, the Fédération du Tourisme de la province de Namur, the Commissariat Général au Tourisme and the municipal administrations of the entities crossed by the CFV3V line.

On May 14, 1975, an agreement was signed between the SNCB and the CFV3V, granting a 15-year license to a.s.b.l. Steamtrain of the 3 Valleys, authorization to operate the Nismes – Treignes section for tourist purposes. An amendment to this agreement was signed at the beginning of 1978 giving the CFV3V permission to operate the Mariembourg – Nismes section (unused by SNCB since 12 October 1977).
The CFV3V had to build a loading dock in Mariembourg, near its depot.

As you read further, the CFV3V has taken on the legal status of a not-profit association. The management of this non-profit organization is entrusted to a board of directors composed of about fifteen people. Under the authority of a Chairman (Mr Didier Mosseray), the directors share common management tasks. The directors are active members of the association.
Active members are all volunteers and devote many hours of leisure time to the CFV3V.