View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Belgium’s first railway main line, between Brussels and Malines, was opened on May 5, 1835.1 By 1843 the government had extended the railway system to reach the major east-west and north-south axes which included the construction of a connection running towards the German frontier via Louvain and Liège. 2 It is the building of this connection, in particular the railway viaduct for the extension, which Turner depicts on the present drawing, according to Cecilia Powell.3
With the sketchbook orientated horizontally, Turner has drawn two profiles of the landscape running across the page. In the lower of these sketches, a small group of figures at the right appear to be hauling on ropes, perhaps attached to the small cart at the very periphery of the page. The figures appear again directly above in the upper sketch, though far more roughly wrought. Perhaps they are labourers moving construction materials on the viaduct site.