From a Railway Carriage
Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!
Robert Louis Stevenson
Readings from the Roundhouse
This is the night mail crossing the Border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.
Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in a bedroom gently shakes.
Dawn freshens, Her climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends,
Towards the steam tugs yelping down a glade of cranes
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In dark glens, beside pale-green lochs
Men long for news.
Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers' declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.
Thousands are still asleep,
Dreaming of terrifying monsters
Or of friendly tea beside the band in Cranston's or Crawford's:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
But shall wake soon and long for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
The magic that is the railways has long inspired writers, poets and film makers. Here is a poem written by a granddaughter of an employee at Barrow Hill and one that was donated to our collection by a local author. We have also selected a few others of interest from around the web. Please read the note at the bottom.
Snow (1963) - Geoffrey Jones | BFI National Archive
Not a poem but a film that brings together music and images that needs no words.
Parliament Hill Fields – John Betjeman
Rumbling under blackened girders, Midland, bound for Cricklewood,
Puffed its sulphur to the sunset where that Land of Laundries stood.
Rumble under, thunder over, train and tram alternate go,
Shake the floor and smudge the ledger, Charrington, Sells, Dale and Co.,
Nuts and nuggets in the window, trucks along the lines below.
When the Bon Marché was shuttered, when the feet were hot and tired,
Outside Charrington’s we waited, by the “STOP HERE IF REQUIRED”,
Launched aboard the shopping basket, sat precipitately down,
Rocked past Zwanziger the baker’s, and the terrace blackish brown,
And the curious Anglo-Norman parish church of Kentish Town.
Till the tram went over thirty, sighting terminus again,
Past municipal lawn tennis and the bobble hanging plane;
Soft the light surburban evening caught our ashlar-speckled spire,
Eighteen-sixty Early English, as the mighty elms retire
Either side of Brookfield Mansions flashing fine French Window fire.
Oh the after-tram-ride quiet, when we heard a mile beyond,
Silver music from the bandstand, barking dogs by Highgate Pond;
Up the hill where stucco houses in Virginia creeper drown-
And my childish wave of pity, seeing children carrying down
Sheaves of drooping dandelions to the courts of Kentish Town.
When Jack worked on the railways, shunter drivin’ was ‘is work.
Just like a kid with a great big toy, drivin’ engines, he’d never shirk.
From Staveley Works to Barrow Hill, ‘e didn’t go far did Jack.
From Barrow Hill to Staveley, up and down the same old track.
Just pullin’ them big wagons in all weathers, on ‘is shift.
An, leanin’ out o’ cab, wi’ ‘is cap on ‘is ‘ead- skewift.
He drove them little Blackies to ‘n’ fro’ to mendin’ shed.
From Staveley Works to make ‘em work (with Bill or Bert or Fred.)
The Round House was ‘is pride ‘n’ joy, with it’s wonderful turn-table.
He took ‘em there to be repaired, to make ‘em all be able.
Bright flags on Coronation Day, hung there for all to see.
A right royal sight for Queen Bess 2 that day in Fifty Three.
Their badges were still worn with pride even though no longer new.
Standing there in big black boots, black cap and overalls, blue.
They cleaned away the sooty muck, the grease ‘n’ dirt ‘n’ grime.
All shiny for the Gaffer’s eye. It passed away the time.
Jack, 2nd left
The fire box it kept ‘em warm in winter’s cruel ice brand.
The breeze it kept ‘em cool ‘n’ fresh in summer’s sweat. Just grand.
For umpteen odd and somethin’ years this good old shunter bloke,
Would work with mates there in the yard, chat lively with a smoke.
Then arthritis came for ‘im, and got ‘im down so bad
That on some days ‘is mates would have to lift ‘im from ‘is cab.
And when at last he finished work, retired home to Flo’.
His journeys were all done by then. No wagons now to tow.
When I were just a kid I went t’ Open Day with Jack.
To ride upon an engine. Rode to Chesterfield and back.
I write this family saga not with mawk now but with love.
For Jack and all ‘is mates are in the Roundhouse up above.
Then t'old Round House was left to rot for many, many years.
And folks from Barrowhill back then they didn’t waste their tears.
‘Til a man named Mervyn with a fire in ‘is heart.
Set to, to make a proper job. With willing mates he’d start.
Good many years since then ‘ave past and t' Round House it came back.
To the chug, chug, chug of engine sound again upon it’s track.
To the piercing sound of whistles and the smell of sooty steam.
Where young and old can pull the cord, all to fulfill a dream.
See Pacifics and old Diesels and watch the table turn.
Watch history work in this old yard and watch the fires burn.
Hear ooh’s and aah’s as our young folk come to see a dream
And hear the tales of long ago told through the smoky steam
When great granddad Jack worked on the railways……
All colour photos of Barrowhill Roundhouse
by Margaret Edge (grand-daughter of Jack Baker) ©
When Jack worked on the railways
By Margaret Edge 2006 ©
The films and transcripts marked with a pencil are not ours but are freely available on the internet and we have embedded them to save you researching.
As I walk with my dog down the old railway track
That’s when memories come sneaking back
Each railway bridge I come to
Reminds me of places that once I knew
If bridges could talk, what tales would they tell
The one before me was near Speedwell
How many times did you walk over it
Going to Poolsbrook or Ireland pit
Through the bridge, on the left was the ‘Rec’ and Staveley Feast
With the old engine sheds across to the east
Whilst the engines were getting up steam
We’d all be playing in a football team
The next bridge was a wonderful creation
With arches that led into the station
This was the station at Staveley Town
Another of the relics that they pulled down
Never, never, never again
From Staveley Town shall we catch a train
To-day they’d think that we were dense
Asking for a day-trip to Cleethorpes for eighteen pence
When I was a boy
This station was the porters pride and joy
They won first prize with their flower beds
Blooms of yellow, blue, and lots of reds