Do not break our trains, please — a visit to the Dutch Rail workshop in Amsterdam

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The Amsterdam onderhoudsbedrijf Watergraafsmeer, the workshop of Dutch Rail in Amsterdam and one of a few dozen in the country, opened its doors to the general public yesterday.

The workshop is part of a large classification yard in the east of Amsterdam and can be tricky to reach, which is why Dutch Rail had borrowed the Mat ’54 (a hondekop, dog’s head) electric train from Stichting Hondekop to shuttle visitors between Central Station and the yard.

The Mat ’54s were in service between 1956 and the mid-1990s. They were replaced by the very similar looking Mat ’64, which lacked the distinctive ‘dog’s head’ (introduced to better protect the driver) and which were used into the 2000s.

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Also on display were a German ICE high speed train, a postal train, several regular trains that may or may not be in service still (sorry for the dearth of details, I am not a train geek) and Dutch Rail’s executive train, De Kameel (The Camel).

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The latter’s official designation is NS20. Only one was ever built, in 1954 by Rotterdam train builder Allan. It was scrapped for spare parts in 1991, but brought back in 2008. The train consists of two rooms with a clear view of the tracks front and back, a toilet and a kitchenette, with dual cabs built in the roof.

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The whole event, mostly taking place in what Nedtrain claims is the largest plastic building in Europe, was a rather charming affair with engineers still working (behind barricade tape) on trains, necessitating house rules such as “leave our tools alone”, “never stick your fingers in machines” and “please leave our trains the way you found them”.

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Scrapped train parts such as signs and emergency brakes, familiar to anyone who has commuted on Dutch trains, were sold for 20 euro each, the proceeds going to a good cause.

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