Among my recent book projects is an illustrated examination of railway station architecture to be published by Voyageur Press later this year. This is an excerpt of my text:
Today’s Antwerpen-Centraal is a blend of architect Louis de la Censerie’s elaborate and elegantly adorned station building and spacious balloon-style shed with two modern new levels. The lowest level provides through connections to the north. The original station opened in 1898, while the improved and expanded modern terminal reopened in 2007.
I revisited this railway wonder of the modern world at the end of March 2015. Yesterday I presented a few interpretive images, today I present an more literal collection of images.
At Leige (Liège-Guillemins) I boarded an InterCity train for Brussels and glided along in comfort along perfectly maintained track. At Bruxelles-Nord/Brussel-Noord (French and Flemish names appear randomly applied to Brussels stations—so far as I can tell) I changed to another express, this one destined for Antwerp.
I was aiming for Antwerpen Noorderdokken, a location I explored in March, where freight trains access the port of Antwerp. Another change of trains at Antwerp Central brought me to this station. As I walked toward my desired photo angle, I noticed a dark wall of clouds rolling in off the North Sea. (It had been clear and cloudless at Liege!)
Yet, I managed to photograph six freights before the sun vanished—mission accomplished. Boarding my eighth train of the day, I aimed to ride around Antwerp and then back toward Brussels.
By the end of the day, I’d visited eight locations and traveled on ten trains. Not too shabby for the first day of my August visit to Belgium.
Making the most of a Belgian Rail-Freight Hotspot.
Mid-Morning on Friday March 22, 2013, I took a SNCB (Société National des Chemins de fer Belges—Belgian National Railways) local train from Antwerpen Centraal to a suburban station at Antwerpen Noorderdokken. This is an important junction north of central Antwerp, where routes toward Amsterdam diverge from the principal freight line to Antwerp Port.
I was following the recommendation of a friend who had previously explored this junction. As one of Europe’s busiest ports, Antwerp is a large source of rail freight, and this route is famous for both its volume and variety of traffic.
In addition to SNCB’s freights, open access arrangements allow for a variety of private rail operators and other national railways to serve customers. In a little more than 4 hours, I witnessed nearly 35 freight moves (including light engines) under partly sunny skies. In addition I also photographed a dozen or so passenger trains.
My preferred locations were in a field about a 15 minute walk from the Antwerpen Noorderdokken station. Here, the freight line makes a sweeping ‘S-bend’ that allows for a variety of angles favoring the light.
After 4 hours of intense photography, I was cold and hungry, so I retraced my steps and headed back toward Brussels. In addition to digital images exposed with my Canon EOS 7D and Lumix LX3, I also made a number of color slides with my Canon EOS-3.
Belgium’s jewel is among Europe’s most magnificent railway terminals.
On the morning of Friday March 22, 2013, I rode an SNCB (Société National des Chemins de fer Belges—Belgian National Railways) train from Brussels to Antwerpen Centraal (Antwerp Central Station). It was bright and sunny, a real contrast to my experience in Dublin on the previous day where it was cloudy, windy and raining.
I first visited Antwerpen Centraal in May 1996. Since that time this classic stub-end terminal has been transformed into a three-level railway intermodal center. Tracks on the lowest level permit through services without the need for trains to reverse direction as was previously required.
The station head-house is among the most opulent and best kept anywhere in Europe, while the steeply pitched balloon train shed makes for a wonderful venue to photograph trains, its glass windows acting as enormous soft-box.
On Friday March 22nd, I had about 45 minutes at Antwerpen Centraal between trains. I used my time to good advantage and exposed a variety of digital images with my Lumix LX-3, and some Fuji Provia 100F with my Canon EOS-3. The film will be processed at a later time.
The terminal is well-suited to the city center and connected to myriad destinations through an excellent public transport system operated by De Lijn. This includes a 1000mm gauge tram network that still hosts vintage President Conference Committee (PCC) streetcars.
My layover at Antwerpen Centraal was a sideshow to my main effort: I was on my way to a location near Antwerp port where I was aiming to photograph freight trains. Keep your eye on this space for those images!