Visiting Essen, Belgium and its railroad station: an ornate structure from another era
"Pet dogs of Europe unite!"
Although the original railroad station building was founded in 1854, the current building dates from 1901. As such, this pre-World War One structure belongs to another era. Its somewhat ornate, red brickwork (1) and conspicuous, rounded gables combine to form a building in eclectic style which radiates a certain grace, absent from the almost 'obligatory' functionalism of many later station buildings. In the booking hall, the high ceiling is noted for ornate metal beams which support it
Particularly before before Benelux and the European Union, Essen railroad station was important, since it is Belgium's northernmost station, situated close to the border with The Netherlands. Much of its goods and customs warehousing facilities now lie empty, through disuse; some of these have even been declared a public monument.
An important aspect of the station's former function was as an animal quarantine facility since especially in former times the regulations governing the transport of animals varied significantly between Belgium and The Netherlands.
In recent years, within the European Union, efforts to coordinate rules governing the entry of animals to other member countries have been pursued, not always without controversy; but a net effect of these measures has been to lower the need for quarantine facilities such as were formerly available at Essen.
Today, while Essen continues to receive passenger traffic from both sides of the border, train services which stop at the station are considerably reduced from the levels of former years.
Essen — not to be confused with the German city of that name — is situated in the Antwerp (Dutch: Antwerpen) province of Belgium's Flemish region (Dutch: Vlaams gewest). Interestingly, Belgium as a whole and Antwerp province within Belgium and the Flemish region are among the most densely populated jurisdictions; however, the area around Essen is itself sparsely settled, partly because of the extensive heathland which characterizes this border area, which has somewhat defied heavy human habitation.
June 24, 2014
(1) Red brick has been a very popular Belgian building material; and examples abound of public buildings which have thus been made colourful and conspicuous.
Also worth seeing
In Essen itself, the church of Sint-Antonius van Padua, by Jules Bilmeyer (1850-1920) has a conspicuous, pointed tower; a local windmill houses a museum dedicated to steam machines.
Kalmthout (distance: 10 kilometres) has a well appointed arboretum and protected heathland.
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport, where car hire is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Essen : 80 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS maintains a service from Brussels to Essen. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Travellers are advised to check with the airline or their travel agent for up to date information. It is also advisable 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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