I don’t want to overload you with posts about Lisbon, so I thought we would take a break from Portugal posts and hear about Boon’s trip to the Tram Museum in Brussels….
Our Brussels apartment is very close to the Tram Museum, you probably don’t think that is very interesting (and I know Michelle certainly doesn’t fancy visiting), and you probably just think is an old set of sheds with trams in them that haven’t seen the light of day in decades. So did I, until I realised the importance of the tram network in Brussels and the vital part it plays in holding together the many and varied parts of the city, almost like the stitching on a panelled quilt.
After so many trips past the entrance of the place, I decided that the first available Sunday, I would have a stroll down to the place and see what it was like. Five months later, and the opportunity arose where I could spend a couple of hours having a look.
It was an immediate revelation, as I realised that the museum wasn’t some dusty relic, but an add-on to the still working tram workshops in Woluwe. The building itself was beautifully preserved, with a glass wall enclosing one end where the doors to the workshop used to be. It was a beautiful and well-preserved brick building that had been renovated ten years ago and now held both the collection and half of the working trams that you see on the streets of Brussels every day.
Paying the very reasonable €6 entrance fee, I wandered about the two rooms of trams, starting from horse drawn carriages that were 150 years old, all the way up to ones that were retired in the 1980s. Looking over to the other side of the sheds, you could see the present day stock, and really make a connection between the transport of a different era and the present day.
One of the best things about the collection, other than they were all immaculately preserved and restored, was that you could walk onto one from the 1940s and really see what the experience must have been about 70 years ago. I have to admit it was a really moving experience to think that people used the same vehicles during occupation, and how a whole range of emotions must have been experienced as they were ridden by Belgian and German alike.
It was an amazingly well set out collection, with ticket stubs, plans of the networks and promotional posters adding to the overall feeling of going back in time. One of the best things wasn’t even that impressive alongside the huge trams – just a TV screen playing a film from 1906 from a camera strapped to an old tram. It was fascinating to see the look of streets then that we drive down now.
I’d recommend the tram museum if you have a couple of hours free in Brussels, as one of the more ‘out there’ attractions that isn’t in every guide-book.
I didn’t have time to do the whole thing, as on Sundays you can add a ticket to ride on one of the restored trams on the modern rails (they kept the rails the same side so trams from 1900 can travel on the same routes out to Tervuren as they used to) through the forest to the east of Brussels centre. An experience I hope to have before it shuts for the winter!