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The header image is from the 1920s and shows a tram in Wenduine.

This article is about the Kusttram interurban tram service (the Coast Tram) that links the towns and smaller communities along the West Flanders coast of Belgium. The Kusttram, with 67 stops and 67 kilometres in length, is the longest tram route in the world.

Note: With the planned extension of the Los Angeles Metro A Line scheduled for completion in 2022, the A Line will supersede the Kusttram with a track length of 79.7 kilometres.

The Kusttram is the remaining part of the original mainly narrow gauge Vicinal tramway (Buurtspoorwegen in Dutch, meaning neighbourhood tramway or railway), that used to cover the whole of Belgium.

The poster shown is dated between 1899 and 1914. Image in public domain. Via Wikimedia.

Poster advertising the Belgium coast
Poster advertising the Belgium coast

Is the Kusttram a tourist attraction, a functional transport system or a mixture of these?

That depends on how you view tramway history and the need of getting from A to B. The historical aspect of trams, tramways and railways are a niche subject, whether it relates to the Kusttram or to any tramway system that has a long-standing history.

There is a very interesting article entitled “The Uniquely ‘Urban’ Coastal Tram – Kusttram“, that discusses this topic on the PUTSPACE website. The author and her group of colleagues relate their experience of travelling the route between De Panne and Blankenberge. The party struck-up conversations with tramway and tourist information officials, posing the question: if and how much is the tram part of a tourist attraction?  The answers they received were that the tram was there purely as a practical means of getting from A to B.

The party also visited the old tramway depot, which functions as a tramway museum. I was amazed to discover that, as far as I could discern from a Google search, this museum does not have a website, and the museum is not even mentioned on the official Kusttram website.

It is evident from the party’s recollections of their museum visit that they found a dedicated team of tramway enthusiasts taking great care of preserving the old rolling stock. You can read about this and see photographs taken at the museum on the PUTSPACE website linked to above.

Whatever the view of officials working for this tramway, numerous websites describe the Kusttram as both a functional means of transport and a tourist tramway of historical value. At the time of writing, Tripadvisor’s reviewers give the Kusttram 4 out of 5 stars for functionality and tourist value.

A map of the Kusttram line between Adinkerke and Knokke

Click the map image to see a full size PDF version of the map. External link.

Map attribution: creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ © Christian Stade

Unofficial map of the Kusttram
Unofficial map of the Kusttram

The Kusttram through the ages

Horse drawn tram in De Panne

Horse drawn tram in De Panne
Horse drawn tram in De Panne

A horse drawn tram on Avenue de la Mer in De Panne. Dated to before 1912.

Postcard scanned by Claude_villetaneuse, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Electric tram at De Haan aan Zee / Coq-sur-Mer

Electric tram at De Haan aan Zee
Electric tram at De Haan aan Zee

An electric tram passing through De Hann aan Zee, which translates in English to The rooster by the sea. The town is known by Belgian French speakers as Le Coq-sur-Mer. The image is from the 1920s.

Postcard scanned by Claude_villetaneuse, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A tram in Wenduine

This image of a Tram in Wenduine is thought date from the 1920s.

Unknown author, Postcard in public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A tram in Wenduine

This scene is thought to date from before World War II.

Unknown author, Postcard in public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Boulevard de Nieuwpoort in De Panne


A steam powered tram on Boulevard de Nieuwpoort in De Panne
A steam powered tram on Boulevard de Nieuwpoort in De Panne

Unknown author, Postcard in public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A tram stop in Blankenberge

A tram stop in Blankenberge
A tram stop in Blankenberge

Postcard scanned by Claude_villetaneuse, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A PCC tram dating from 1948

Prototype PCC motor in Belgium being tested on line 13 of the Knokke network at the terminus of Knokke station
A PCC tram dating from 1948

Prototype PCC motor tram being tested on line 13 of the Knokke network at the terminus of Knokke station.

Image attribution: Photographie Frans Keutgens – Collection Michel Reps, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A tram at Knokke Station

A tram at Knokke Station
A tram at Knokke Station

The photographs shows a Kusttram tram at Knokke Station.

Image attribution: Claude Villetaneuse, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the old tram depot museum in Knokke

The old tram depot museum in Knokke
The old tram depot museum in Knokke

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Jean-Philippe Dheure via Flickr

Heritage open day at the old tram depot in 2018

Heritage open day at the old tram depot
Heritage open day at the old tram depot
Heritage open day at the old tram depot
Heritage open day at the old tram depot
Heritage open day at the old tram depot
Heritage open day at the old tram depot
Heritage open day at the old tram depot
Heritage open day at the old tram depot

The above four black and white photographs are by #PhilipppeCPhoto (Philippe Clabots) and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Via Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=%23PhilippecPhoto%20de%20panne

I do hope that once pandemic travel restrictions are eased, you will be able to visit and ride on this important historical tramway.

If you notice and errors in this article, please contact me.

Please note that the words on this page are © 2021 South Coast View

Links and Resources

Official Kusttram Website (in English)
Coast Tram (Belgium) at Wikimedia
Vicinal Tramway at Wikimedia
Wikimedia images
Black & White photographs
Endless dunes and beach cabanas – that’s summer on Belgium’s coast. The Guardian Newspaper

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