qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Dr B Ching

Book Review: On the Slow Train - Twelve Great British Railway Journeys, by Michael Williams
I'm a little behind on write-ups. This is one of two books I bought at the National Rail Museum in York during my recent holiday, and I felt like promoting it to the top of the pile. Consciously inspired by Flanders and Swann's famous elegy, this is a record of twelve routes that have survived to the present day (most, but not all, were threatened with closure as a result of the Beeching report but somehow reprieved), celebrating the pleasure of slow travel. The opening chapter takes the short Cornish route from St Erth to St Ives; the next the rather longer trip on the Settle-Carlisle. These two were perhaps predictable, but there are some unexpected lines in the book as well - the former North London line (now the London Overground), for example. There is a quintessentially British and unapologetically nostalgic air throughout, with occasional but not overbearing whimsy. There's a veritable miscellany of trivia, but one or two stick in the memory: for example, the claim made by the man in charge of the Cathedrals Express that the ability to run steam trains regularly across the network is down to EU legislation (presumably that's competition-related). That could be quite awkward for Nigel Farage to argue over. The last journey in the book, from Formby to Chester-le-Street, is perhaps a bit contrived, but returns authentically to the material appropriated by our heroes from Dr Beeching.
Tags: books, travel
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