Visiting the railroad station at Comines, France: differentiating between languages, spellings and jurisdictions
Ends, means and terminuses (1)
Rebuilt between World Wars One and Two, this French railroad station dates from 1876.
Responsible for train service from the station is the French state railroad company SNCF (Société nationale des chemins de fer français). Originally the service was provided by the Compagnie des chemins de fer du Nord-Est. This was later re-named Compagnie des chemins de fer du Nord, prior to nationalization.
It all seems rather straightforward. Except that it isn't.
Since it is located in the French town of Comines, in the Nord department, one must hasten to add that there are two railroad stations in Comines. (For many years, indeed, a rail service linked the two stations; the passenger service being eventually discontinued before the end of a freight service. Whether, locally, prosperity drove the railroad or the railroad drove prosperity, is a complicated question.)
However, the other railroad station is in Belgium.
Yes, Comines, in France and in Belgium, is an agglomeration divided by the Lys River, through which the international border passes. The railroad station on the Belgian side is referred to as being at 'Comines / Komen' (given the local area's bilingual status in French and Dutch).
But the fact is also that this station on the French side of the border, when opened in 1876, was not known as belonging to 'Comines', either.
It was a matter of spelling. Originally it was: 'Gare de Commines'. (This was not the only variation, either: before the days of the railroad, 'Commines' was also written 'Commynes'; in fact, the name of the Medieval chronicler Philippe de Commynes is thus often given as following the former practice of calling the town 'Commynes'.
(So be warned of the complexity!)
The building, executed in red brick, has a somewhat ornate frontage with a pointed, gabled entrance. The main entrance is at a central, one storey buiding, flanked by two wings, each of two stories, with additional dormer windows. Albeit on a rather smaller scale, the building's design generally resembles another railroad station in the region: that of Tourcoing. (I have included, below, a link to a hub I have written on Tourcoing's railroad station.)
The station at Comines is served by TER (Transport express régional) trains, connecting it with stations to La Madeleine. Comines is the terminus to the western end of this line.
The building is situated at the aptly named place de la Gare, Comines.
September 12, 2013
(1) Do I mean: 'termini' (plural?)
Also worth seeing
In Comines itself, Saint-Chrysole church, with a bust of Medieval chronicler Philippe de Commynes is worth seeing, as is the Town Hall (French: Hôtel de ville), with its striking belfry. Across the Lys river from Comines (France) is the Belgian town of Comines / Komen.
Lille (distance: 18 kilometres); has many significant visitor attractions, including the City Hall belfry, the Chamber of Commerce belfry, the former stock exchange building, the Rihour Palace and the General Charles de Gaulle Birthplace Museum.
How to get there: To Comines , Brussels has the nearest large international airport. Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. From Brussels, the Belgian railroad company SNCB maintains a service to Comines/Komen, on the Belgian side, from where Comines-France is easily accessible. Rail access to Comines-France is also available via La Madeleine, France. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. 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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