Jun. 10, 2016


Due to drizzle, we travelled by steam train from Pickering to Goathland in North Yorkshire. We remembered the WH Auden poem the night mail. It captures the rhythm of a train exactly. See lower down.

Goathland station was used for the arrival at Hogwarts scene in Harry Potter. It and the adjacent village are also used as ‘Aidensfield’ in the UK TV retro cop series ‘Heartbeat.’ Goathland swarms with tourists and fans for the two productions. 

‘Heartbeat’ is set in the late sixties. It is full of scenery, cars and fashions that Brits living at the time will remember. Country life was happily simple. The police are portrayed as benign and fair-minded. (Memories are usually seen through rose tinted spectacles).

The steam trains and old carriages bring back personal memories. As a ten year old, I went to school on a sooty steam train through the then longest tunnel in England. We naughty boys removed the light bulbs plunging the coach into darkness. We let the smoke into the carriages through the windows. The senior girls who were supposed to supervise us screamed most rewardingly.

Many years later, I took a train from London to Newcastle with my boss. He was a rather posh and reserved character. We wore pin striped suits. He said he hoped we would have the compartment to ourselves. I went to the bar and bought a six pack of Newcastle Brown. Then I pulled my tie awry, strewed the cans across the seat and lay disheveled, pretending to be drunk. The throng avoided our compartment like the plague. The boss was mortified.

The old steam trains belched black smoke, stank of soot and oft times set fire to the embankments with sparks from their chimneys. Yet now they are seen as a wonderful way to spend a day out. The volunteer guards on the train look even older than the ancient engines.

I was delighted to note that the clock on Pickering station was made by F Sidebottom, an old Yorkshire name. At school, we had a Shufflebottom and a Longbottom. Poor devils!

Night train by WH Auden