Train World is located in and next to the Schaarbeek railway station in the north of Brussels. Obviously, it’s easily reachable by train. King Philippe opened the museum in 2015. It’s my third visit and it has’n really changed since the opening. Yet, Train World is still fascinating.
It was time Belgium had a decent rail museum. The kingdom was the first country after the United Kingdom to start a train service. That was 1835, five years after Robert Stephenson steamed up the Planet between Liverpool and Manchester.
The first rail journey in Belgium, between Brussels and Mechelen (Malines), was 20 km long. It was King Leopold I who brought the railway to his new kingdom. One of the first locomotives in Belgium was L’Elephant, which you can admire in the museum.
No rail museum upstages the British National Rail Museum (NRM) in York. That’s quite impossible as the UK is world champion at preserving heritage.
Still, Train World made a more than decent effort. Comics author François Schuiten designed the scenography of the museum, which results in a dramatic experience with lots of black, dramatic music and light.
The exhibition starts in the old station hall, with on overview of old ticket vending systems and personnel uniforms. There are also dioramas of trans and railway stations, including Antwerp-Central and Liège-Guillemins.
Then you go to the annex, a large new construction where the museum really starts.
The collection is very comprehensive. There’s the rolling stock:
- steam engines;
- diesel locomotives,
- electric multiple unites (EMU) and diesel multiple units (DMU) which are coaches with drive wheels;
- coaches and cars;
- royal cars;
- the Trans Europe Express (TEE);
There’s the ‘attic’ with memorabilia such as old posters, clocks and signs. The museum also covers rail infrastructure, signals, engineering etcetera.
In short, the museum covers every aspect of rail operations. It’s all well presented. There are few boards with explanations though. So you better rent an audioguide or download the Train World app.
W didn’t use the audioguide or listened to the explanations on the app and we visited the museum in around 2,5 hours.
Philippe (no, not the king, another one), Christophe, Steve and Nicolas enjoyed the visit. We ended up having waffles and pancakes at RN, the in-house brasserie. We must say the waffle and pancakes were very disappointing. We doubt they were freshly baked. Such a downer.
As ‘good Belgians’ we didn’t say anything but we should have.
So if you visit Train World, consider going somewhere else afterwards.