With escape lines having to rely heavily on rail transport during World War II, it is interesting to be able to see the stations as they looked at the time. The following website consists of a major collection of picture postcard views of Belgian railway stations: http://users.skynet.be/garesbelges/. At the end of that page are two links. The first, reading “Carte du réseau belge depuis sa création jusqu’à nos jours,” connects the visitor to a map of the Belgian train system from its creation to the present-day, according to the title.
Views of the stations in Antwerp, Brussels, Mechelen, and Turnhout are the ones most relevant to the stories of the Smit-van der Heijden Line, the Phantom Train, and Tom Applewhite. It was Turnhout where the Smit-van der Heijden Line was penetrated by the Germans with the arrest of guide Willem Schmidt and airman Nello Malavasi. Antwerp is important because it was the transfer point for escapees coming by rail from The Netherlands via Turnhout on their way to Brussels. Most persons arriving in Brussels, whether airmen, escaped French POWs, Dutch patriots on their way to England, etc., arrived at the Gare du Nord (Bruxelles Nord) station. And it was there that Charlotte Ambachwas arrested while waiting for guide Willem Schmidt and airman Malavasi. The Mechelen station was to have been the first stop of the Phantom Train. The Nazis planned to pick up a load of Jews en route to Germany. Mechelen was also the location of two key contacts of Karst Smit, De Coninck and the Zwaan family.
Railway Historical Associations
- France: Association pour l’histoire des chemins de fer/ French Railway Historical Society, Paris: http://www.ahicf.com/.
- Belgium: For the history of the Belgian Railways, SNCB: http://www.b-holding.be/en/railway-heritage/history; for the SNCB archives: http://www.b-holding.be/en/railway-heritage/archives; for the SNCB museum: http://www.b-holding.be/en/railway-heritage/railway-museum; and for the SNCB photo library: http://www.b-holding.be/en/railway-heritage/photo-library.
- World War Two Railway Study Group: http://www.saxoncourtbooks.co.uk/ww2rsg/