First Rail Line in Continental Europe: Belgium
Belgium was heavily involved in the early development of railway transport. Belgium was the second country in Europe, after Great Britain, to open a railway and produce locomotives. The first line, between the cities of Brussels and Mechelen, opened in 1835. Belgium was the first state in Europe to create a national railway network and the first to possess a nationalized railway system.
In 1834, the Belgian government approved a plan to build a railway between Mons, and the port of Antwerp via Brussels. The first stretch of the Belgian railway network between northern Brussels and Mechelen was completed in 1835 and was the first steam passenger railway in continental Europe. The line between Liège and Ostend meant that the country had a full rail network planned nearly from the outset. By 1836, the line to Antwerp had been completed and by 1843 the two main lines (which formed a rough north-south/east-west cross) had been finished while two other mainlines (Ghent - Kortrijk - Mouscron - Tournai (with an international line linking Mouscron with Lille) - Braine-le-Comte (on the Brussels - Mons line) - Manage (near La Louvière) - Charleroi - Namur) were added to this network and completed by 1843. In 1843, each provincial capital (save Arlon and Hasselt) had a railway station.