Visiting Arlon railroad station, Belgium: ornate building by Jean-Louis van de Wyngaert, dating from 1885

Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Arlon station
Arlon station | Source
Arlon Station, Belgium, from the platforms
Arlon Station, Belgium, from the platforms | Source
King Leopold I of the Belgians
King Leopold I of the Belgians | Source
Map location of Arlon, in the Belgian province of Luxembourg
Map location of Arlon, in the Belgian province of Luxembourg | Source

Travelling to Luxembourg and defining what is meant by 'Luxembourg'

This railroad station in Belgium has an interesting history.

Situated in Arlon, chief town of the province of Luxembourg, in the Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ), it dates as a facility from 1858. On October 7 of that year, King Leopold I of the Belgians arrived here by train, accompanied by members of the Belgian government and other dignitaries, for its formal inauguration.

The original railroad company responsible for the station and line was the Great Company of Luxembourg (French: Grande Compagnie du Luxembourg ), substantially backed by money raised in Great Britain. This company was absorbed by the Belgian state railroad in 1873. Prominent local lawyer, journalist and entrepreneur Victor Tesch (1812-1892)(1) was among the principal, influential personalities behind the coming of the railroad to Arlon.

The current building, executed in sand-coloured limestone, dates from 1885. Its mansard roofing has rounded dormer windows. The main, gabled entrance is particularly embellished. By the architect Jean-Louis Van de Wyngaert (2), its ornate styling give it what might now be regarded as a somewhat old fashioned, even quaint, look. Whereas at its inception, the building, and the railway facility that it hosted, was seen as a symbol of modernity in a young country (the modern Kingdom of Belgium was founded in 1830), linking it with what was then regarded as another young country, the neighbouring Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (3), the independence of which emerged in the 19th century.

Arlon is also known for giving its name to a Létzebuergesch -speaking part of Belgium known as the Areler Land . In Létzebuergesch (designated the national language of the Grand Duchy), Arlon is Arel . Somewhat ironically, while Arlon railroad station, founded in the mid-19th century, was supposed to be a symbol of the closer links between Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the town's name is also a symbol of the partition of Luxembourg in 1839, when Létzebuergesch speakers in and around Arlon were summarily divided from the remainder of those who spoke their common language. Even today, this local language receives relatively little official recognition within Belgium (as opposed to the situation in the Grand Duchy). However, in Arlon and, indeed, the whole of Belgian Luxembourg, French is officially spoken.

October 12, 2012

Notes

(1) Victor Tesch also served as Belgian Minister of Justice from 1850 to 1852 and again from 1857 to 1865. He was prominent in the Belgian Liberal party.

(2) Other work by Architect Van de Wyngaert includes the Archeological Museum of Arlon (French: Musée archéologique d'Arlon ).

(3) Somewhat confusingly to the uninitiated, the province of which Arlon is the chief town and its eastern neighbour, are both called Luxembourg; in fact, prior to 1839, they were one entity.

Also worth seeing

In Arlon itself, noted ecclesiastical architecture includes St. Donat's and St Martin's churches. Part of the town wall, dating from Roman times, has survived.

Luxembourg City , Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (distance: 31 kilometres) has many visitor attractions, including the Cathedral and the Valley of the Pétrusse; the Grand Ducal Palace; place Guillaume; the Bock fortress, and many others.

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How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS maintains a service between Brussels and Arlon . Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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