Tuesday, 29 January 2013
I love trains, I love their romance. I love the sight of a train thundering over a bridge or plunging into a tunnel - especially if white steam and smoke is billowing out of the chimney stack.
I love riding a train. Being taken somewhere, inexorably heading towards a destination fixed by some Victorian engineer, yet with the possibility of changing trains when the mood takes me: ending up - who knows where.
Films love trains. All life can be acted out between the start and end of a train journey. Stations echo to the whispers of lovers parting, parents waving and soldiers departing.
Trains carrying you along, they're a metaphor for life. You hurtle from one great terminus to another, or maybe you chug gentle from one railway halt to the next picking up the mail and fellow passengers.
Trains, the railways, the stations - inspire poets. The scene seen through that window, trees, fields, some drama fleetingly glimpsed as you slip through the station. Patient motorists chomping at the bit as the railway crossing lights flash danger and the rush of steam engulfs the signal box.
Is anything more delicate, more achingly invoking than "Adlestrop": in Edward Thomas' lines is an Edwardian summer conjured marvellous. Auden's "The Night Mail" transporting us across the border and through the night, dreams, promises and disappointments are pigeon holed as the towns and villages sleep unawares.
Dear John Betjemin, at Baker Street Station Buffet evokes the opening up of Middlesex and Metro - land. Whose championing of Victorian Gothic and St Pancras station is marked with a delightful statue in that station's forecourt. And Sigfried Sasson's "Morning Express" - brings back the Great War obliquely then: now obscured by time, Beeching and the rush for modernity.
I love trains, so why am I not rejoicing at our second Brunel like endeavour to bridge the North-South divide?