The Most Concentrated System in the World
THE TERMINUS AT ANTWERP, an important station on the Belgian National system. One of the four half-
SOME readers may be surprised to learn that the densest railway system in the world belongs to Belgium. Their surprise will, however, be tempered by the information that Belgium, after the Principality of Monaco, is the most densely populated country in Europe. According to the latest available census figures, the density per square mile is 702. Next on the list come Holland, with 627, and Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with 468 inhabitants to the square mile.
But, although Belgium is not much, more thickly populated than Holland, her railway mileage is far greater. The total area of Belgium is 11,755 square miles, as compared with the 12,603 square miles of Holland. But, whereas Holland has 2,313 miles of railway route, the slightly smaller country of Belgium has no fewer than 6,893 miles. Great Britain, Germany, France, and the United States all have close railway networks in their industrial and metropolitan areas, but these are outweighed by great patches of territory in which railways are few and far between. In Great Britain the complex railway systems round London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Glasgow are balanced by such places as Central Wales and the vastnesses of the Scottish Highlands, where the population is small and railways are infrequent.
Belgium’s oldest main line is that between Brussels and Malines, opened on May 5, 1835. As in Germany, Belgium is celebrating her railway centenary as we write, but the Brussels-
A year after its opening, almost to the day, the Brussels-
By the end of 1843 the Belgian Government had extended the railway system to Ghent and Ostend, to the German frontier via Louvain and Liège, to the French frontier via Mons, from Ghent to Courtrai, and from Braine-
Many people receive their first, and perhaps only experience of the Belgian National Railways in the course of the boat train journey from Ostend to Aachen (Aix-
At Liège, or Luik as it is called in Flemish, we find one of the most important railway and industrial centres in the country. A railway map of the Liège district resembles a drawing of a huge, half-
NEARLY 191,000,000 PASSENGERS are carried yearly over the 6,893 miles of track in Belgium. The map above shows the network of lines in that country, which has the greatest mileage of rail per square mile in the world.
The main line from North Germany has come in from the east through Pepinster, being joined just outside by the line bringing in traffic from Luxem-
The main line westwards out of Liège climbs upwards from the city on a long and severe incline of 1 in 33 -
Another junction is passed at Tirlemont before Louvain is reached. After Liège, this is the most important place we have seen so far. The main east-
Brussels is the centre of the Belgian National Railways system from a territorial as well as from an administrative point of view. There are three termini, the North Station, the South (Midi) Station, and the great goods station at Allée Verte. The last named was originally the main passenger station. To the north of the Allée Verte and North stations, between Schaerbeek and Laeken, is a complicated diamond-
Belgium’s “Black Country”
From the South Station a second line runs southwards to Hal, where it diverges, one route bearing round to Tournai and eventually to Lille and Calais, while the other goes straight down to Mons, for Paris. The third main line from this terminus runs south-
AN EXPRESS PASSENGER LOCOMOTIVE, type “8”, with the 4-
A MODERN “PACIFIC” locomotive operating on the Belgian National Railways. The engine was built in 1935, and, except for its wheel arrangement, closely resembles the LNER “Cock o’ the North” type. There are fifteen of these four-
But the complexity of the railway lines round Charleroi puts those of Brussels and Liège completely in the shade. It is beyond the power of words to describe, and an idea of its almost labyrinthine lay-
Two important private railway systems now call for mention. One of these lies to the south of Charleroi; this is the Chimay Railway, running between Hastière, on the Nord-
This is a curiosity, for about one-
THE MARSHALLING YARD at Antwerp (Nord). The loud-
In the war of 1914-
For many decades the Belgian locomotive stock has had a decidedly cosmopolitan appearance. The old Belgian engines built by Cockerill and other firms for the Belgian State Railways in the latter part of the nineteenth century were fine and powerful machines, for their day, but in appearance they were almost grotesque. They had double frames, and, in many instances, square chimneys.
Wide Belpaire fireboxes and Walschaerts valve gear were usual, as these two features of modern practice both originated in Belgium. These peculiar-
At the end of the last century a responsible Belgian engineer was much impressed by the work which Mr. J. F. Mclntosh’s famous “Dunalastair” class locomotives were doing in Scotland on what was then the Caledonian Railway. A number of exactly similar engines were ordered and set to work on the best Belgian express trains. They were so successful that, for more than a decade, all new Belgian State engines, passenger, goods, and tank, were designed very much on the lines of contemporary Scottish practice. Their neat outlines contrasted strangely with those of their square-
Pioneer Locomotive Engineering
Belgium was a pioneer on the European continent in the use of very large locomotives, for both goods and passenger traffic. We have already mentioned the great incline which leads westwards out of Liège on the Brussels main line. Many years ago some twelve-
In the early years of the present century the Belgian lines tried the De Glehn compound 4-
A GIANT TRAVERSER for locomotives at Malines. This is an ingenious device for moving engines from one track to another without the use of points. The railway between Malines and Brussels is the oldest main line in Belgium; it was opened in May, 1835.
The war put a stop to locomotive development in Belgium, just at a time when it was becoming interesting, but it had an unforeseen effect on the country’s locomotive stock in the postwar years. Since a great many Belgian locomotives and vehicles were destroyed or damaged beyond repair during the hostilities, part of Germany’s reparations to Belgium, as to France, took the form of locomotives, coaches, and wagons. The German locomotives were more modern and efficient than the majority of the Belgian survivors. One result of this influx of engines from Germany was a material increase in the country’s total locomotive stock. There were also the American-
Among the German newcomers were representatives of practically every standard type of the former Prussian State Railways: “Atlantics”, eight-
Within the past few years, under the sway of the Belgian National Railways Company, great strides have been made in the development of the country’s locomotive power. Among the new engines are some 2-
In 1935 a fine 4-
Under the Belgian State Railways, after the war, locomotives were painted in a rather ugly shade of light reddish brown, which seemed speedily to deteriorate, first to a nondescript pink and then to no colour at all. When, however, the Belgian National Railways Company came into existence, the standard colour-
POWER OPERATED. The interior of a new electrically-
In the matter of passenger rolling-
Until recently electric railway development in Belgium was more or less an unknown quantity. In 1929, however, the nine-
As in Germany, the railway stations of Belgium, where the bigger towns are concerned, attain a very high standard of architecture and arrangement generally. The Central Station at Antwerp is superb, and has one of the most striking exteriors of any station in the world. The architecture is of the elaborately ornamented Renaissance style; the roof has a lofty cupola containing four half-
Gallant Speed Efforts
St. Pierre Station at Ghent is also a striking piece of architecture. An Arabesque style has crept in here; but views differ on the beauty, or otherwise, of the experiment. The battlemented walls add a medieval touch, which is enhanced by the conspicuous clock-
The stations and bridges on the Belgian railways received their share of devastation during the war of 1914-
Passenger train speeds in Belgium are generally lower than those in Great Britain, Germany, or France. The speed-
The fastest purely Belgian trains run over the fairly level route between Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, and Ostend. During recent years a new direct line has been built between Brussels (South Station) and Ghent, and its length of 33·4 miles is covered by several trains in the remarkable time of 32 minutes, which works out at 62·6 miles an hour from start to stop. This applies in either direction; and various other expresses take 33 and 34 minutes. From Ghent to Bruges is 26·5 miles, and runs are made over this section in 26 and 27 minutes.
Between Bruges and Brussels. 59·9 miles, an express runs in 58 minutes, and the journey of 73·1 miles between Ostend Quay and Brussels is made in either direction in 74 minutes. These are gallant speed efforts indeed for so small a country. The longest non-
[From part 26, published 26 July 1935]