(Some things never leave you…)
Walkers seem to have a natural affinity for railways; one which goes beyond the obvious connection of the environmental benefits of public transport. There’s something which makes the intrusion of a railway line into the landscape somehow less disagreeable than a comparable stretch of road. Maybe it has something to do with railway architecture having contributed some of the finer man-made additions to our list of landmarks: Ribblehead Viaduct, The West Highland Line, The Forth Railway Bridge …
I grew up around railways, and all too many years have slipped by since the days when I would lie awake, windows open, listening to the night mail paused at our local station. Invariably, in steam days, there would be wheel-slip and clatter from the departing locomotive – usually a Stanier Black ‘5’, occasionally something a bit more exotic. Later came the familiar ‘whistle’ of the old english Electric Class 40s at idle, the growl as they eased away from rest; railway sounds are one of life’s indelible imprints. We need to preserve our railway network, extend it and reclaim some of what’s been lost. And there needs to be a change in the impenetrable complexity of ticket pricing to ensure that walk-up fares are pitched at more realistic levels.
Pictures: (Top) Back in the days of GNER livery the northbound ‘Highland Chieftain’ passes the station at Dunkeld & Birnam. (Above) A Class 153 unit, having finished its stint on Europe’s shortest branch-line, waits by the signal box at Stourbridge Junction.
Chris Townsend’s blog (October 2009) includes an excellent piece on trains: http://www.christownsendoutdoors.com/2009/10/in-praise-of-trains.html