Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Oh! Dr Beeching...

It's fifty years since the infamous Beeching report began the inexorable decline of branch lines up and down the country. In an attempt to save money and improve rail travel we lost some of the loveliest railway lines in the land, as well as some of the most romantic names: Tumby Woodside, Windmill End, Blandford Forum, Corfe Castle, Adlestrop, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Midsomer Norton.

I've a soft spot for pre-Beeching branch lines having written my first-ever paid piece of writing - aged 12 - about a model railway I'd created. It appeared in the Railway Modeller magazine in 1980 and I was paid the princely sum of £12 for seeing my name - my words, and photos of my train set - in print.

Ah, model railways. It's about the only thing Rod Stewart and I have got in common. (Well, we both sing but one of us makes an awful noise lot more money than the other, but no matter.) Here's a song I often sing (unless the public pay up) about those long lost lines, and it's a cracker of nostalgia for the railways of yesteryear.

Personally, I've always felt there's more to running things like railways than merely making money and it's interesting that a goodly number of the lines Beeching axed have been re-opened either as heritage or commuter routes. Even some of the stations mentioned in this song have been spared or else re-opened. But let's not allow mere truth get in the way of a good story.

Here's The Slow Train by Michael Flanders and Donald Swann and sung - not by me, nor Rod Stewart (I'd like to hear him try!) but by them...

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