The Randstadrail light rail scheme integrates a couple of former ns (Netherlands Railways) railway lines in the area between Rotterdam and The Hague into the metro of the former and the tram system of the latter. Parts of the system opened in late 2006 (to close again a few weeks later…), and it is expected to be completed in the course of 2008. Since it is (a) overcomplicated and (b) on my doorstep, it is an obvious subject for a Rail3D model!

I’m attacking the project in two stages: first a model of the situation “before Randstadrail”, with the railways still operated as part of the national railway network; then a layout representing the new situation.


Zoetermeer Voorweg station

1 Background

Railways between The Hague and Rotterdam in 2006

1.1 The Hofplein line

The Holland Railway (hsm) opened its main line from The Hague (Hollands Spoor) to Rotterdam (Delftsche Poort) in 1847. This line runs via Rijswijk, Delft and Schiedam. It was built to 2m broad gauge, but soon converted to standard gauge with the rest of the hsm.

In 1907 the South Holland Electric Railway company (zhesm) opened a new line from Rotterdam to The Hague and Scheveningen, taking a more northerly route serving Berkel, Rodenrijs, Pijnacker, Leidschendam and Voorburg.

At the Rotterdam end the line ran into the city on a long viaduct, terminating at right angles to the Rotterdam-Dordrecht main line (then also on a viaduct). The zhesm station on the Hofplein was unusual in that the station building was on the other side of the main line from the platforms, with a subway linking them. In The Hague, the line split at a triangular junction, with one branch (closed in 1953) going to the seaside resort of Scheveningen, the other to hs.

The line was originally intended as an interurban tram, but at the insistence of the hsm (who bought up a majority of zhesm shares) it was built as a main line railway, albeit electrified at 10kV a.c. It was the first electric railway line in the Netherlands. The zhesm was absorbed into the hsm in 1923, and later became part of ns. The hsm converted it to 1500V d.c.

The zhesm depot at Leidschendam was also taken over by hsm and ns (later Nedtrain), and remains the main maintenance depot for electric trains in the area.

In 1973 the Hofplein line’s terminus in The Hague was moved from hs to the newly-built central station (cs). The bay platforms at hs formerly used by the zhesm were demolished (the area where they stood is now the taxi rank).

The terminal building at Hofplein station was demolished in the late 1980s to make room for the construction of the Maas tunnel. The whole viaduct section was reduced to single track at about the same time (if you look at the Google Earth pictures, you can see trees growing between the sleepers of the abandoned track).


1.2 Zoetermeer


Sprinter on the Zoetermeer line (note 4.6m ohle height)

During the 1970s and 80s, a very large new “overspill” town was developed at Zoetermeer, about 15km from the centre of The Hague. This was served by a railway branching off the Hofplein line. The new railway had a rather metro-like character, running around Zoetermeer in a folded loop pattern known locally as the krakeling [a pretzel-shaped sweet biscuit]. Because of the short distances between stops, ns had to develop a new type of emu for the service, the sgm or “Sprinter”.


1.3 Randstadrail

The rapid development of Zoetermeer and other communities in the area between Rotterdam and The Hague during the 1980s and 1990s made planners eager to improve public transport in the area. An obvious idea was to make the Zoetermeer and Hofplein lines more attractive to commuters by integrating them better into the local transport systems of Rotterdam and The Hague. The first attempts to get agreement to such a scheme failed when it became clear that the three parties involved all had incompatible demands: ns wanted to keep the line open to trains (for diversions, freight trains, and access to Leidschendam depot); Rotterdam wanted to run the whole thing as a metro; and The Hague wanted to link it to the tram systems at both ends.

After a lot of talking, and various shifts in politics, a compromise was reached.

  • ns dropped its requirement to keep the line as a diversion route, and built a new link from the The Hague-Gouda line to Leidschendam depot.
  • The Hofplein line would be operated as part of the Rotterdam metro. A new tunnel would link it to the existing Erasmus Line at Rotterdam cs, and the Hofplein viaduct would be abandoned. Metros would terminate at Den Haag cs. The tunnel would have third-rail, the reminder of the line overhead supply at 750V d.c., and stations would have high (90cm) platforms.
  • The Zoetermeer line would be operated by trams from The Hague, which would run through to the southern suburbs via the existing tram tunnel and viaduct in the city centre. An additional branch off the Zoetermeer pretzel would serve the new district of Oosterheem. The trams would be 2.65m wide, but have low floors, and the station platforms would be lowered to 30cm.
  • Between Leidschenveen and Laan van Nieuw Oost Indië, metro and tram would share tracks, so that all stations would have to have platforms with both a low part and a high part.

1.4 Reconstruction

Although the idea was just to link an existing railway to existing tram and metro routes, it turned out to be rather a big project in the end:

  • new bored tunnel from Rotterdam cs to Kleiweg (this will not be ready until 2008 — in the interim trains will continue to operate over the viaduct to Hofplein)
  • new viaduct from Den Haag Laan van noi station to the existing tram viaduct at Ternoot
  • new chord at the point where the Hofplein and Gouda lines cross; new independent track from there to Leidschendam Depot
  • extension of Zoetermeer line to Oosterheem
  • building several new stations; moving a few others to more convenient sites
  • general adaptation of Hofplein and Zoetermeer lines to new standards (e.g. platform heights, wheelchair access, new signalling…)
  • adaptation of Den Haag tram routes 3 and 6 to the new trams (easing of curves, adaptation of track spacing, widening of platforms, etc.)

The new viaduct in the Prinses Beatrixlaan, known locally as the netkous (“fishnet stocking”). The curve on the left is where the new line joins the old viaduct to cs, outside the Conservatorium.

The project also goes with new rolling stock, of course. The htm ordered low-floor Regio Citadis trams from Alstom, the first of which entered service in late 2006. The ret has to wait a bit longer for its new trains, so for the moment it is using old metro stock covered in Randstadrail stickers (the existing metro lines include surface sections with ohle, so trains could be used without modification).


htm Randstadrail Regio Citadis tram on Route 3 in The Hague, March 2007

ret 5268 is one of the eleven units repainted for the provisional Hofplein service (Leidschendam, March 2007) — looks as though it could do with a wash!

Construction started in 2003. The Zoetermeer and Hofplein lines ceased to be operated by ns in summer 2006. It was intended that the closure period would be limited to three months, but there were many problems getting the system up and running, most seriously a number of derailments in November 2006, which revealed problems with the track on the tram viaduct in The Hague (the rate of change of cant on transition curves was too high for the new cars). The Zoetermeer line was closed to traffic and the Hofplein line truncated at Nootdorp until October 2007. As from 28 October 2007, it all seems to be working again…


Car 4054 at Zoetermeer Seghwaert on Randstadrail 4, October 2007

2 Model

2.1 ”Before”

I’ve had a rudimentary model of the Zoetermeer line hanging about for a while. The general idea is to set the model somewhere in the 1990s, before the start of preparatory work for Randstadrail. I’m aiming to implement the 1997/98 timetable (the last one I happen to have on paper), where trains ran alternately clockwise and anticlockwise around the Zoetermeer loop.

The biggest challenge of this layout is to try to model a reasonably convincing urban/suburban setting without completely killing the frame rate. Obviously this also requires a reasonable supply of buildings and other urban essentials, so there’s quite a bit of additional modelling going on in the background!

Apart from matters of detail, I’ve largely finished revising the “functional” part of the old layout (correcting track alignment, etc.). The original model was based on scanned paper 1:50000 maps; I now have the corresponding digital 1:25000 maps, so it was possible to correct many small errors.

With the help of a scale track diagram from Sven Zeegers, I’ve reworked the layout at Den Haag cs, using scripts to get more consistent switch geometry. I’m still not completely happy with this — however carefully you line the track up in one place, you still end up with a spot somewhere else where there is a nasty kink!

I’ve already made a lot of progress creating cityscapes in The Hague, Rotterdam and Zoetermeer with random scenery scatter — not totally convincing, but a lot better than endless vistas of grass.bmp. The key thing seems to be to break up lines of sight as much as possible to give an impression of urban clutter without the need to model every single building.

I’ve updated the Sprinter model with interior lighting, destination blinds, etc. I still need to update some of the other Dutch stock.


2.2 Download

You can get a preview of the layout here: Zoetermeer_19.trp — 18 March 2007, 6MB, requires Rail3D or better.

New in v.19: road and canal bridges in Zoetermeer, some buildings in Rotterdam, basic station furniture (nameboards, benches), improved platforms.

Still to do: station canopies, stairs; more buildings in Rotterdam, tidy up ohle models, suburban housing in Pijnacker, Berkel, etc., proper Dutch level crossing model, possibly also model the main line in more detail, at the very least try to add a bit more traffic on connecting railway lines.


Sprinter on the Hofplein viaduct, with the Delftse Poort skyscraper complex at Rotterdam cs (151m high) in the background

For fun, it might also be interesting to do an early-1980s version, with double track on the Hofplein viaduct and Zoetermeer trains splitting and combining at Centrum West.

2.3 ”After” (updated Jan 2009)

The model is running even later than the prototype did, but I am making some progress:



First step was to build a Regio Citadis model, of course.


I haven’t modelled the Rotterdam stock (rsg2) yet — for the moment, I’m using a vaguely-similar Köln Stadtbahnwagen B that I happened to have sitting around doing nothing. I will probably go straight to the new rsg3 stock (the first prototypes arrived in late 2008 and will presumably be going into service before long).



There have been quite a lot of things to modify — I’ve got the trackwork and signalling pretty much sorted out for the Hofplein and Zoetermeer lines, and the link to the Den Haag tram system as far as the end of the tunnel, but the tram routes beyond that still need to be done. The links to Leidschendam depot still need sorting out, too.

I’ve modelled the Randstadrail signal system, of course. The speed limit indicators have a cunning script that can pick up either a Route Tag or a link speed limit.



There’s a lot to do here - I made custom ns-style station platform furniture for the “Before” version of the layout, and I want to do the same thing for the Randstadrail version as well. Since it isn’t possible to follow the prototype solution and raise the track, I will have to replace all the platforms on the Zoetermeer pretzel with lower ones as well (I’ve already put in split-height platforms on the common section).

3 Resources

Mark Hodson March 22, 2007, at 02:11 pm



MRG 26/06/2013 14:51:59