Good morning customers, I’m your train manager and I’d like to welcome you all to the 18.29 service from Liverpool to the future. Please have your travel documents ready for inspection, customers traveling 3rd class air conditioned are standing in coach D, towards the rear of the train, anyone wishing to travel in the quiet carriage please proceed towards the front of the train, the restaurant car will be added when we leave 1879. Our driver today is Mr. George Stephenson, he’s the bloke in the top hat, with his hand on the regulator. On the shovel, and suitably cloth capped, one of Mr. Stephenson’s pals from Tyneside.
(In those early railway days the men on the footplate were often recruited Pit enginemen from Tyneside, Wales, or Cornwall – they became what one of my former Nine Elms colleagues, Clive Groome, described, in his book the Decline & Fall of the Engine Driver, as ‘the footplate clan’.)
There is no doubting that from Rocket to the Javelin is ‘one giant leap’ in less than 200 years. However, by far the greatest part of that leap has taken place in the last 40 years. No.92220 Evening Star was, for the most part, Rocket on steroids. Over the 131 years between Rocket in 1829, and 1960 when No.92220 became the ‘last steam engine’ little changed, yes there were a few tweaks here and there but coal, water, and human sweat produced the steam which powered them both, and, almost, the entire rail travel machine, from 1804 to 1968. After 1968 it wasn’t just the steam locomotives which were swept away, engine sheds, coal towers, signal boxes and goods sheds, coal yards and sidings, stations, branch lines, a railway landscape and a railway architecture disappeared too.
Not everything changed though, for the customers, there’s surprisingly little difference. Men in top hats still control things and those in cloth caps still do their bidding. Just one head peeps through the window in first class luxury, 3rd class is rammed – barely room for the train manager to stand!
The Rocket replica with its replica train, suitably costumed crew and firmly entrenched class system, is departing from Quorn & Woodhouse Station en route to Loughborough during the Great Central Railway’s Golden Oldies gala.
If you’ve enjoyed my photographs and blog, you might enjoy my book “Gricing: The Real story of the Railway Children”
These are some of the totally unsolicited comments from people who have read Gricing: ‘ treated myself to a copy of “Gricing” for Christmas, excellent reading.’ ‘I’m enjoying your book. It’s a real page-turner, thought provoking and great photos, to boot.’ ‘ I bought and enjoyed “Gricing” etc and would heartily recommend it to readers’. – and from another ‘satisfied’ reader’ – ‘ I was given what I believe to be your book called Gricing the other night. Very much enjoyed the book if it is yours!’
This is the link to my book “Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751