Nineteenth-century steam locomotives, trains built to transport royalty, a postal wagon, a restaurant wagon, a hospital train and even a wagon decorated by Belgian surrealist Paul Delvaux: these treasures of Belgian railways used to be spread out over five different locations. But since September 2015, this precious collection has finally been reunited in the most suitable location any Brusselaar could think of: Schaerbeek station. A protected monument dating back to the late 19th century, the stone-brick building emanates railway history with its authentic ticket hall where you pay for your museum entry.
What Train World impresses upon its visitors is, above all, a sense of history. An 8,000-square-meter space exhibits steam-powered beasts, such as ‘The Atlantic’, a high-speed locomotive that broke the speed record in 1939 by reaching 120 kilometers an hour – the only one left of its kind after being saved from the wrecking ball by a rebellious railway worker in the 1960s. For its ultimate showpiece, the museum has ‘Le Pays de Waes’, an 1844 gem of Belgian ingenuity and the oldest preserved European locomotive. Further upping the nostalgia factor are full-size replicas of ‘Le Belge’ and ‘L’Éléphant’, two of the first trains to ever glide over Belgian tracks. Luxurious carriages show how Belgian monarchs Leopold II and Albert I traveled in the utmost comfort, while the opposite is true of the animal wagon on display that was used to deport Jews during the Second World War.
Twenty-two rolling marvels in total populate the display hall, and that’s not even counting a myriad of authentic objects, models, films, posters, books and even an original bridge that was used in the 19th century in Namur. To keep in touch with the human aspect of the industry, the museum has preserved at its heart an existing railway cabin that used to house a watchman. Walking through the museum, it becomes clear how Belgium – the first country on the European continent to open a public railway, in May of 1835 – embraced the vibrant heyday of trains in the 19th and 20th centuries.