The romance of the railways

20 Mar

I was listening to an audiobook of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes yesterday when there was a line so intoxicating that I had to stop in the street, rewind it, and then quickly google it before I forgot it (because it’s hard to mark a page in an audiobook).

There are lots of arresting lines in Something Wicked – more than there are events, so far (it seems to be more of a mood piece, although the newly arrived carnival has promise). But this one struck me particularly because of the romance that it conjured up about trains in the night, a romance that I am susceptible to myself, nighttime or not.

To be clear, I’m not a big steam train enthusiast and I don’t hanker for the ‘golden age’ of the railways (although ‘Railway Fever’ will be a chapter in my distantly forthcoming book about Glasgow’s bridges), but I still feel the pull of the rails. I’ve quoted a poem about trains before on this blog, and I initially wondered if Bradbury was quoting a poem, too.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes see the destinations of long-distance trains on the board, or hear their calling points being announced (“Exeter St David’s, St Austell, Truro”, “Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Loch Awe, Oban”) and want to just jump on them instead of going wherever I’m meant to be going. And of course, I went on my big Interrail adventure last year.

All of which, I think, justifies a whole blog post just to quote a few lines about trains;

“Way late at night Will had heard – how often? – train whistles jetting steam along the rim of sleep, forlorn, alone and far, no matter how near they came. Sometimes he woke to find tears on his cheek, asked why, lay back, listened and thought, Yes! they make me cry, going east, going west, the trains of far gone in country deeps they drown in tides of sleep that escape the towns.”

Ray Bradbury

One Response to “The romance of the railways”

  1. Mrs Lynne Bradey March 20, 2023 at 10:47 am #

    Although I need to confess to being a steam nut, there is very definitely something very exciting and magical about the railways. Even if I’ve rigged my laptop up at a luggage rack for confidentiality.

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