01 Sep '21

The once-majestic Groenendaal station

door Koen Demarsin
We see two young girls standing and watching as the thick plume of smoke rises and the wheels slowly start to move. The train gradually leaves the platform, puffing heavily.

The monumental trees and their crowns form a protective canopy over the station building that almost disappears into the surrounding forest. This is what the lyrical setting of Groenendaal station must have looked like 100 years ago. It seems as if Paul Delvaux were looking on when he painted his dreamy La Gare Forestière in 1960. When the station was completed, in 1896, rather than being a tiny, white-coloured stopping off point, it took the form of a majestic, tall and richly decorated building, too large for the size of the nearby hamlet. Public life in the late 19th century was one where men dominated and women tended to stay in the background. The Delvaux girls are also spectators. Groenendaal village has changed quite considerably over the years, losing its racecourse, its grapes, its visitors and, finally, its peaceful environment. The station is no longer a destination, but a staging post for commuters coming from far and wide.