The station at Schaerbeek, on the north-eastern side of Brussels, is an architectural delight, with a lofty and airy ticket hall, 13 platforms and an expanse of tracks serving maintenance depots for locomotives and rolling stock. It was designed by Franz Sevlen (b 1845) in a Neo-Renaissance style, and was built in two phases in 1890 and 1913. The station has less traffic than in the past, largely because trams probably serve the needs of short-distance passengers better than trains, and since 2015 it has housed Belgium’s national railway museum, which goes by the English name of Train World.
It features many innovative displays and claims to be more a train opera than a museum. It includes 22 locomotives and other vehicles, the centrepiece being the streamlined 4-4-2 (2.2.1) Atlantic locomotive No 120.04, one of six introduced in 1939 to work lightweight trains between Brussels and Ostend. Another exhibit is Pay de Waes, the oldest Belgian locomotive, which began work on the line from Antwerp to Ghent in 1845, and was designed by Gustave de Ritter (1795-1862). It was displayed for about 60 years on a plinth at the small railway museum at Brussels North station. The museum has a large collection of railway clocks. Visitors are able to see what it was like to work in a signal box, on a travelling post office, as a porter on a rural station, or, with the aid of a simulator, to share the experiences of the driver of a modern high-speed train. Rolling stock includes some of the luxurious coaches with corrugated stainless steel bodywork that worked Trans Europe Express trains between 1957 and 1995. The SNCB/ NMBS joined the TEE network in 1964. The network reached its peak in 1974 when 45 daily trains connected 130 cities. The network declined with competition from airlines and as national railway companies introduced much faster interval services. The through services from the Netherlands to Paris, including the famous l’Étoile du Nord, continued into the 1990s and were made up of carriages like those in Train World.