Did you know that in 1846, the train journey from Paris to Brussels took 12 hours 30 minutes?
175 years ago, on 13 June 1846, three trains decked out in the colours of France and Belgium carried illustrious passengers from the Gare du Nord in the French capital to the Gare du Midi in the Belgian capital. By evening, they were in Lille. The following day, in Brussels. The Duke of Nemours, brother of the French king, for France, and King Leopold I for Belgium celebrated the first major international railway to open.
This inaugural journey was due to last two days, but speed soon imposed its own rules and it took only twelve and a half hours to reach each of the two cities! In the meantime, there was great excitement on 13 June... The line was inaugurated with great fanfare... There were festivities of all kinds throughout the journey - the first day between Paris and Lille, the second between Lille and Brussels. Paris and Brussels thus became the first two capitals in the world to be linked by train. A few months later, in October 1846, the first night train ran between the two capitals.
This event must have been particularly pleasing to Leopold I who, from the start of his reign, expressed his support for rail transport and the construction of an extensive rail network in Belgium to support the economy. Before the end of the century, Belgian engineers and industrialists were in demand all over the world for their rail transport expertise.