Tintin at TrainWorld

TrainWorld, the new-ish train museum at the old Schaerbeek railway station in the north of Brussels, has been advertising a temporary Tintin exhibition, and F and I decided to go on the last afternoon of the year, yesterday.

Well, our verdict is that if you are into trains, it's probably a lot of fun; but if you are into Tintin, it's probably a better investment of time and money to head down to Louvain-la-Neuve for the Hergé Museum. There is one quite nice room with original Hergé manuscripts and early editions of the stories which are most closely linked to trains, and it's true that the train is an important element of Hergé's (and therefore Tintin's) world view – they have a facsimile of Hergé's earliest surviving childhood scribble, which is very recognisably a train (first drawing here). And the main exhibition halls have had a few Tintin memorabilia bolted onto the existing displays. But that's it, and otherwise the museum is aimed very much at the target audience of train enthusiasts, which is fine but doesn't include me (or F) really; the Tintin connection is largely there to draw in visitors like us who might not have been as interested in the main collection.

Having said that, the museum did make me nostalgic for the days when trains ran reliably across the continent. I wrote, gosh, back in 2004 about the joys of inter-railing. More recently, Jon Worth has been brutally chronicling his own travails with the rail system as it currently is, and Frances Robinson wrote an impassioned indictment of EU policy on rail.

I was about to write that I had taken very few long train journeys of late, and then I remembered that only a few weeks ago I travelled home from Frankfurt by train, and then to Strasbourg and back. So maybe the situation is not quite so bad after all; and anyway I guess it's nice that I associate long train journeys with young love, and it was certainly nice to be reminded of those days at the museum, even if I could have wished for more Tintin.

Here's a picture of the whisky tank car from The Black Island, standing outside the museum. In the original 1937 edition, the whisky referenced in the story was a the very real Johnnie Walker; Methuen insisted on 131 anachronisms and inaccuracies being corrected before UK publication in 1966, and Hergé (or rather his assistant Bob De Moor) took the opportunity to change the whisky to Captain Haddock's favourite fictional tipple, Loch Lomond. (Captain Haddock was not yet on the scene in 1937.)