Brussels traffic circle gets eye-catching ‘Moby Train’ artwork

On the Van Praet roundabout, part of a major approach road in the north of Brussels, there will be a sculpture of an old locomotive in the shape of a whale. The ‘Moby Train’ sculpture is a reference to the nearby Train World Museum and should be there by 2026 when public railway company NMBS/SNCB celebrates its 100th anniversary.

The Van Praet bridge over the Brussels-Scheldt Sea Canal is a household name among people who want to enter or exit the capital via the north, but the neighborhood near the Dockx Bruxsel shopping center does not yet have a landmark.

“The Brussels-Capital Region wants to give this important entrance a strong artistic visibility, just as monumental gates used to mark the entrance of cities,” says Brussels Minister of Finance, Budget, Civil Service and Multilingualism Sven Gatz (Open Vld).

‘Moby Train’ will rise on the roundabout on the Brussels Central Ring (R21) near the bridge by 2026. The whale-shaped work, which incorporates the shell of an old diesel locomotive 5204 Gros Nez from 1957, is designed by artist François Schuiten. He also designed the interior of the Train World Museum) and French sculptor Pierre Matter.

The whale, a nod to the sperm whale from Jerman Melville’s novel Moby Dick, refers to the nearby port of Brussels, the train to the railway museum Train World at the Schaerbeek station. In turn, a landscape of plants and grasses surrounding it should be reminiscent of the sea’s waves.

€2,5 million price ticket

“Brussels needs artistic sculptures that highlight the capital’s significance to the world and the surrounding area,” Brussels Minister Gatz says. He expects the work to become “a new popular icon for Brussels residents, commuters, and domestic and foreign tourists”.

The decoration and design of the Van Praet traffic circle are 80% financed by the Brussels government, which is putting two million euros on the table for the project. The rest will be raised through sponsorship and crowdfunding.

According to Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort (PS), Moby Train “draws attention to the great importance of rail transport in making it easier to get to and around our capital, but also recalls that Brussels was the first capital in the world to be served by train.” Indeed, the first railway line on the European continent was inaugurated in 1835 between Mechelen and Brussels.

In fact, the whole zone around the Van Praet bridge is part of a master plan with more attention to sustainability and livability. For instance, Lambermont Avenue is getting a green makeover, and a tram to Neder-Over-Heembeek is coming by 2024, while work is also continuing on the Canal Cycle Route connecting Brussels to Boom, Vilvoorde, and Grimbergen. At the same time, a new nautical center with an overhanging park will be built on the canal near Brussels Royal Yacht Club.

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