No. 164: Musée du Train, Brussels

Last Saturday I went to the Musée du Train–also known as Train World–in Brussels, Belgium. Here’s a short report.

Train World is Belgium’s brand new national railway museum. It’s headquartered in a large, retired, 1887-built station on the north side of Brussels at Schaarbeek.

Above. This former passenger station now serves as the main entrance for the museum.

Train World opened just a few years ago. It has a very-French National Railway Museum feel. It is very theatrical, with exhibits lit dramatically. There are video displays everywhere, and collections of equipment and paraphernalia all over. Unlike the French museum though, Train World is much smaller–only two large halls with a small mix of diesel, electric and steam locomotives, and that’s about it. Nevertheless it is definitely worth the trip. The trains here have “quite a track record” as their ads say.

Below. Outside the museum, clean, modern trams scurry around everywhere.

Below. It cost about ten bucks to get in. Inside the passenger station, the ticket counters are preserved with a variety of era-specific equipment, with video displays showing what this depot was like 75 years ago. Impressive, hand-made 1:20th scale steam locomotive models are enclosed in the large cases on the floor.

The rolling stock collection is housed in a few separate buildings adjacent to the station. Upon entering, one is greeted by the smell of oil and machinery—that’s how I knew I was “home”. Here’s the view:

These are completely restored, Belgian-built engines dating to 1900. Similar types were sent to China and operated there for half a century.

There are screens running video loops everywhere in the museum. On the walls, on the floor, in passenger car windows, even in fireboxes. The videos show maps and scenes of railroading in the glory days. It lends some motion, or action, to the displays.

A nice display of builder’s plates from various eras. Exactly the same as US plates, but completely different.

This track display was excellent. This short section of track includes a variety of individual displays of track from different eras, from the 1830s to today. Along the walls are all kinds of tools and equipment, signals, and signs. And like the rest of the museum, this display it dramatically lit and there are videos everywhere showing equipment in action. The section show below, on the left, is original track from the mid-late 1800s.

Here’s another photo of the track display:

The next room has the darling of the collection—a shrouded 4-4-2 still in operating condition.

The next and last bay has a display with a few diesels and electrics.

At the far end of the museum, there’s a large window where one can view the still-active five-track passenger mainline outside. I waited about a minute. Nothing. Then, three trains passed in view—all at the same time.

No train museum is complete without models. The layout is awesome but I found it interesting that they honored Belgian railroading with an Alpine setting. Shouldn’t we have rolling hills here, akin to an American Midwest layout?

Below. Here’s the most fun you can have at Musée du Train. It’s a full-up passenger train simulator. It was crowded with kids—and that was great—so I didn’t get a chance to run it myself. It’s hard to see but in this photo, the little engineer on the right is getting hands-on training with the museum-lady at left. She’s teaching him how to run the trains, obey signals and speed restrictions, and stop on target at the platform. It wasn’t easy and he missed it every time. He was having a blast trying though.

The gift shop as a restored steam engine overhead. Nice setting for a book shop!

The gift shop also has a Lego model of the museum’s station building. As a amateau Lego fan, this is very cool, and they nailed it—shape, colors and all.

After leaving, I went to the passenger platforms outside to get a few photos of passing trains. This is Schaerbeek Station—just east of the massive freight yards and steel mills in Brussels. In 20-25 minutes I saw about 15 passenger trains.

My impression? This is an excellent museum, but it’s small compared to many others. Glaringly missing is a freight car display. If you are traveling and can only pick one, head to Mulhouse, France and visit the French National Railway Museum first. It is ten times the size as Train World. Nevertheless Musée du Train was a fun day, and close to the city and great shopping and restaurants. For more info, see

Later that day I visited the Brussels Urban Transport Museum—the city trolley museum—which houses an extensive collection of trolleys, busses and equipment dating to the 1880s. That visit was a lot more fun and I’ll do a short report on that when time permits.

Hope you enjoy your weekend! – John

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