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Thursday March 13th  2014  Tim Candler

 

     Trains don't go up and down hills very well, so railway lines from London to Birmingham were cut through the Chilterns.  In the age of railway building, which was after the canals and before the motorways, a railway line was an economic boon. The sort of thing entrepreneurs dreamed about in their schemes to get more money under their mattress than everyone else. I'd imagine that towns between London and Birmingham  beat the drums, in the hope that train lines would pass through their town or at least near to their town.  And I'd imagine that somewhere within the drum beat there were citizens who wanted the train and there were citizens who considered trains an act of vandalism or fracking or something to do with Satan because of the belching and smoke. The Chiltern Hills, before the railway line, were pretty backward with respect to things like progress. They were sheep people, and smaller farmers, country lords and ladies, horse and hounds and all that kind of inward looking that causes a spine to turn in upon itself and yearn for the Judgment Day.

 

 

      In the early 1960's there were still steam trains in Britain.  Old locomotives that had survived the Second World War. They had done their bit for victory and would soon be sent to the knackers yard, replaced by the diesel electric, one of the most boring devices ever to have come from the mind of man. But in the early 1960's  you could sit on an embankment in the Chiltern Hills, and because you were too stupid or shy to ask for a train time table, you could struggle against hypothermia for hours and hours while you waited and waited for a steam locomotive to haul its way north toward Birmingham's Snow Hill railway station, or south toward London's Marylebone railway station. And if you were young, incredibly out of touch, and excitable, you could tell yourself that one day you'd like to grow up to be the master of a steam locomotive. And  when that day came, you could tell yourself, that if ever you did happen to spot a teenager on the embankment waving at you like a mental patient, you'd at least have the decency to wave back. (to be continued....)

 

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