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Train World: the railway’s showcase at Schaerbeek

 - ©SNCB-Holding

2012-09-14 – Belgium, the pioneer of railways in continental Europe, is finally to have its own railway museum. As well as being devoted to history, the museum will also give plenty of attention to the crucial role that the railways continue to play and to the future of rail in society. One of the missions of the Belgian railways holding company SNCB-Holding is to preserve and present the historical heritage, but it is also responsible for promoting rail transport. Train World offers a unique opportunity to combine these two goals.

At the museum, SNCB-Holding will bring together the finest pieces from its historical heritage and make its collection accessible to the public in a single location, near to the historic Schaerbeek Station. Internationally renowned designer François Schuiten, who is himself from Schaerbeek, has devised the displays. Train World is scheduled to be opened in 2014.

History and education

Train World will explore the world of trains, past, present and future. The history of the train in Belgium is bound up with the history of the country. The first railway line in continental Europe was opened on 5 May 1835 between Mechelen and Brussels, the world’s first capital city to be served by train. The role of the train in the development of Belgium has been enormous, technologically, economically and socially. Yet unlike most other European countries, Belgium still lacks a railway museum worthy of the name, despite possessing exceptional collections.

At present, the collection of SNCB-Holding is scattered across five sites. Bringing the main pieces together in the centre of the country makes the collection far more accessible to the public and researchers, but also enables the sites that have been freed up to be used for the development of new projects. Thus a huge car park will be built at the site of the engine shed and workshop at Leuven; Mechelen will make the “Mijlpaal” area available for new track facilities; Brussels North will use the former museum space for an extension to passenger facilities (shops and offices); the conservation premises at Schaerbeek and La Louvière are unusable in their present condition. Train World will be set up next to Belgium’s first railway line at Schaerbeek and will become a display case for today’s railways and an educational and awareness-raising tool with regard to the train for future generations.

Journey of discovery

The main concourse in the former railway station at Schaerbeek, dating from 1913, will be used as Train World’s reception hall. A new industrial building will be built alongside it, whose structural design is inspired by the typical architecture of the railway workshops. The restoration of the former station building and the construction of the new museum have been entrusted to a subsidiary of SNCB-Holding, Eurostation, which has chosen Paul Lievevrouw as the architect for the overall development. The commission for the museum displays has been awarded to Expoduo and the famous designer François Schuiten, who himself comes from Schaerbeek, but more importantly is an enthusiast for trains and the world of the railways. The entire project (restoration of the former station, construction of the museum, museum design) represents an investment of 20.5 million euros.

Train World will not be a conventional railway museum. It is designed as a succession of recreated scenes recounting the history of the railways in Belgium and Europe, from the oldest Belgian locomotive to the latest train featuring sophisticated technology. As well as a collection of rolling stock, the museum will also present other rail-related items, archive documents, historical photos and films. The whole design will be interactive and adaptable. Visitors will be invited on a journey of discovery through the world of railways: they can see, hear, feel and experience.