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A Belgian adventure

Story by March 21st, 2016


. . . in the small hours of a Saturday morning where we’d set out on a mad 36 hour mission to explore some Belgian industry, eat some Belgian meat, drink beer, get electrocuted by an electric fence, almost crash the car , get shouted at by one very angry land owner and get held up on the ferry home (again.) This was our first stop of the day, a relatively small (83MW) superb diesel power station on the French/Belgian border. It was an amazing site to behold.


The curious thing about places like this in Europe is how they stay much more pristine for much longer than places seem to in the UK. This was no exception, it really felt like the place was in stasis just waiting to be awakened at any moment. It wasn’t of course, it was totally de-commissioned and hadn’t generated a kilowatt in years, but was amazingly clean, tidy and complete.


Industry is a favourite of mine to explore. In short, I love it. Something I enjoy doing is working out how places worked, seeing the process from input to output is important for me, and I like to try and see as much of a place as I can. Often I’m walking along following pipes or cables trying to work out what it all did and how it all linked together. It’s like a puzzle for me to solve which I enjoy doing and is as much fun for me as taking the photographs. This place definitely had more than it’s fair share of pipes to follow.


It’s great to see the tools and equipment used in these places, it brings the place alive a bit imagining the workers who used these every day keeping the place functional. Most engineers are incredibly logical creative thinkers who come up with ingenious solutions to problems and take pride in their work. This is reflected in the organisation and tidiness of their workshops; this place is no exception. Impeccable.


Offices, labs and admin areas of the building were just as interesting. Proudly displayed on the wall of a hallway is the emblem of the company who ran the station, WVEM. The glass topped table in the staff canteen supported on two giant pistons was a small highlight for me. If I could have carried two of the many that were in the stores I would have been sorely tempted. Needless to say I couldn’t even pick one up, they are solid steel!

Most power stations require incoming power from the local grid to run their essential services in order to be ‘started.’ In the event of a major interruption or collapse of a electricity grid however, there may not be any external power to use, so a certain number of ‘black start’ stations are needed on a grid to get things going. This was one of them. The control room was suitably retro and almost totally un-modernised it seemed. It was great.


It only remains to say . . .

. . . this will be a memorable place for me not only because of the incredibly daft access, but because it was in fact the very first piece of industry I explored in Belgium. Was I spoiled a bit, I think so.
Footnote: All photos Copyright