David v/s Goliath

Pirates on the NS Network starting with plans to be the main sponsor and co-organiser, NS became the main opponent and caused a lot of delay. In the Netherlands, NS withdrew their wagon from the train, they did not want to help out with transport, they spread rumours that De Blinde Schilders were unreliable.

Miraculously, shows were organised in Hoorn, Delfzijl, Amsterdam and Leeuwarden between November 1998 and September 1999. Other railway companies in The Netherlands helped out, provoking NS, the biggest and mightiest company on Dutch rail.

Nevertheless, the NS pushed the railway companies from other countries to take their carriages back, they obstructed other Dutch railway companies who were willing to transport europartrain and willing to host the show in Leeuwarden. There was an agreement between the Blind Painters and Strukton to transport the carriages for a certain budget from the save storage place at the industrial DSM terrain in the south of the Netherlands.

Presenting a calculation to the city of Leeuwarden and the Province of Friesland, the requested amount of money to cover the costs for this two-way-return transport was granted. Unfortunately, at the last moment transporter Strukton had to back off because of the obstruction coming from NS. Individual people within Strukton (see also reference letter) were very positive towards europartrain and helped to find another more NS-independent transporter ACTS. The show could go on, but the budget for transporting the carriages was nearly doubled and the Blind Painters were obliged to store the train insecure just outside the train station in Leeuwarden.

You are not welcome here!

What are their intentions for acting like this?

A few quotes from the people involved

Ruud den Besten, Chairman of the Board of Directors of N.V. Dutch Railways (NS),

I can not answer your request for sponsoring to the project europartrain. This project does not apply to the criteria we have for sponsoring: the project must have a nation wide charisma, be of good quality, reach an audience that is relevant to us and it must have a good financial balance. Furthermore, we will not give any co-operation to the stay of the train at stations.


Elke van Dommelen, communications manger with NS Reizigers, at first very enthusiastic about europartrain, in a fax sent out to all the participating railway companies, September 28th 1998:

The art is no longer on the carriages. The artists took them away because of troubles with the organisation. NS shall do nothing for this project, because there are no guaranties for a good quality of the art presented. Therefore, we demand our carriage back at December 1st, 1998.


Ger Dirks of NS Marketing department in a fax to all the participating railway companies of November 3rd, 1998:

Can we get a copy of your contracts with De Blinde Schilders? Can't you demand your carriages to be given back?

January 19th, 1999, Dirks repeats the request to all the railway companies:

We asked you to order your wagon to be sent back from De Blinde Schilders.


Nico Beltman, lawyer for artists union FNV, acting for De Blinde Schilders:

It is totally unclear to us what other reason NS might have to send out these faxes, then to oppose the project of De Blinde Schilders. Furthermore, it became clear that on the international conference of railway companies in Switzerland, where this project was discussed, NS spoke out about its vision on the project. This makes it very hard, if not impossible for the artists to continue the art train in other countries.


Carol Poyé, organiser from De Blinde Schilders, in a letter to Dutch Minister of Transport, Mrs. Netelenbos, as a request for mediation in the conflict with NS:

The dark shadow of Mr. Den Besten feels like a threat to all involved.


Nico Beltman in an interview:

The immaterial damage for the artists who invested four years of their lives in this train, and after all will not be able to reach Weimar, the planned end goal in 1999, this can not be figured out or covered by any money.


Nico van Zandwijk, chef de Bureau at Strukton Railinfra, a Dutch cargo-transporter on rail:

We felt like cowboys, taking this train that the mighty Mr. Den Besten did not want to see transported, right through the Central Station of Utrecht in the middle of the day.


Hans Kalliwoda, creative director of De Blinde Schilders:

We are the first European Railway Pirates in history!

Go and read on at the discussion round