Visiting the railroad station at Quiévrain, Belgium: dating from 1842 and indicative of a border state of mind

Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Quiévrain railroad station
Quiévrain railroad station | Source
King Leopold I of the Belgians
King Leopold I of the Belgians | Source
French border at Quiévrain, Belgium
French border at Quiévrain, Belgium | Source
Map location of Quiévrain, Hainaut province, Belgium
Map location of Quiévrain, Hainaut province, Belgium | Source

Canadians, too

This interesting building in Belgium, the railroad station at Quiévrain (French: Gare de Quiévrain ), was inaugurated by King Leopold I in 1842. Its location, close to the Franco-Belgian border, is very significant. In fact, the formerly frequent railroad border crossings here gave rise to a common, colloquial expression in French: outre Quiévrain , literally, 'beyond Quiévrain', sometimes used in France as a euphemism for Belgium.

The town of Quiévrain, Belgium, forms a conurbation with a town — confusingly? or by way of contrast? — called Quiévrechain (1). (This town was formerly known for its mining industry, but parts of which have been tastefully greened over into peaceful parkland in this area close to the border.)

Some readers may recall that in my hubpage about Roisin, a few kilometres away, the complex naming of a local river, the Grande Honnelle, was discussed. Well, intriguing elements persist: a tributary of the Grand Honnelle (known in France as the Hogneau) is a stream which passes between Quiévrain, Begium and and Quiévrechain, France, thus forming the border between the two countries. This stream is known as the Aunelle; at least, in France. Whereas in Belgium it is known officially as the Anneau. (The situation is made more complex by the fact that in Belgium this border stream is also known as the Honneau, in addition to its primary name Anneau.)

However, whatever human and political factors may intervene to render the naming the Grande Honnelle / Hogneau, Aunelle / Anneau so complicated, the fact is that the rivers of this border region are prone to flooding. (Water in its natural state waits for no-one ... .)

During World War One in 1918, shortly before the Canadian liberation of the Belgian city of Mons, Canadian Captain John MacGregor, whose actions elsewhere would already win him the VC, undertook reconnaissances in the vicinity of Quiévrain and Quiévrechain, which led to the securing of the local river crossings, and which would thereby win him the MC, also. (The citation to his MC, awarded at Buckingham Palace in February 1919, did not attempt to mention the naming complexities of the rivers liberated, wisely concentrating instead on the exploits of this brave Canadian! (2))

In any case, this historic building with many border crossing memories, is executed in multicoloured brick to an elegant effect. Too bad that the railroad company sees fit to use a portable facility instead! (although this may well make sense operationally... ). The railroad itself now ends at the French border.

The railroad station at Quiévrain, in Belgium's Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ), is situated in the aptly named place de la Gare .

Note

(1) In Belgium, however, no euphemism such as outre Quiévrechain (to denote France), seems to have arisen.

(2) See: http://www.alocalhero.org.uk/1917-1918/

Interestingly, John MacGregor used prior experience as a trapper in his military reconnaissance duties.

Also worth seeing

In Quiévrain itself, the church of Saint-Martin dates from the 16th century; its tower is a conspicuous landmark in the town. After the separation of church and state in France in 1905, and the resurgence of anti-clerical feeling, Quiévrain received a quantity of members of religious orders who found residence just over the border in Belgium to be more congenial.

Marchipont , France/Belgium (distance: 7.6 kilometres); this picturesque hamlet — or rather two hamlets of the same name — is intersected by the Franco-Belgian border marked by a stream (and this is where it gets complicated; see above): in the French Marchipont the river, crossed by a small bridge, is known officially as the Aunelle.

...

How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ; distance: 99 kilometres) from where car rental is available. The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS maintains a service between Brussels and Quiévrain . Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to 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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