North British Railway, The By C Hamilton Ellis HC 1959
The North British Railway By C Hamilton Ellis Hard Cover SECOND EDITION Copyright 1955 230 Pages
WHEN those unforgettable grand amateurs Norman D. Macdonald and T. R. Perkins used to captivate us with talk of racing trains and railway travel in late Victorian years, they seemed, to younger people, to conjure a world wondrous-strange and remote. Therefore, on looking back, one feels something of a shock on realizing how very different from our present surroundings was even the world of George the Fifth's earlier years. There were indeed the beginnings of things now familiar. When I first knew the North British Railway, the Atlantic had just been flown. America's NC4 had hopped across via the Azores and the Peninsula; Alcock and Brown had made the first non-stop Atlantic flight in a convened Vickers-Vimy-Rolls bomber biplane, and the airship R34 had made the trip from Scotland to Long Island and back. A little later, in a third-class carriage of the Caledonian Railway, I read that the new R38, triumphantly sold to Washington, had broken herself over the Humber. Very advanced people talked mysteriously about home radio. But it was still rather smart to have a motor-car. From Murrayfield to Joppa, Edinburgh swarmed with cable tramcars, and at Darling's Regent Hotel in Waterloo Place, a neat card in each bedroom invited us to join in prayers at nine o'clock in the lounge. When we drove over Glencoe, it was in a four-horse brake. Yes, it was a very different world!
A little later, as the newest and lowest form of animal life in a great school, I drove to it in Etons and a top hat, which was correct, and in a hansom cab, which was distinct lip on my part. Fortunately only the kindly Irish house servant saw me arrive. But that was in England, and in London, and has no part in the present account. To Scotland I went for holidays, as a very Englishy English boy, but my veins contained a 25 per cent solution of Scotch, even then. Among my forebears I could count, so they said, a lady who had loved King James IV, and (it was whispered) a cold-blooded colonel who had helped considerably with the massacre of Glencoe. In my time this meant visits to Scotch cousins (they always used that sturdy adjective in those days!). They lived on the North British Railway, which had to be reached, very pleasantly, by the Midland. There at Melrose was the grand sweep of the Waverley Route below the
Eildons, and while I romped with those agreeable girls on week-days, and rather impatiently joined them in the painting of pious mottoes on Sunday, I loved the North British Railway for its foibles as well as its splendours.
There, far more imposing than the pictures, were the magnificent Atlantics - Teribus, Buccleuch, Haze!dean, Waverley - hauling the Pullmans. There were Matthew Holmes's last and very beautiful engines, the 317 Class. To the eye of boyhood these were friendly-looking locomotives, not so proud as the Atlantics, nor so regal as the Midland compounds, and never in a thundering bad temper as were all the engines on the London & North Western Railway. They were more like a thickset version of certain favourites on my native London & South Western - another kind of Scotch cousin, no doubt. Over at St Boswells were older veterans, and how pretty was the sight of a little Wheatley engine with her two-coach train from Berwick and Duns, slipping gently over the rosy arches of the Leaderfoot Viaduct of a summer evening! What wonder that a boy who loved engines should feel that, although foreign parts might begin when one crossed to the north side of the Euston Road, they ceased about Carlisle, so that somehow he was nearly home again among those great Border hills!
Now stern old Clio is acidly remarking over my shoulder that nostalgic vapours have no place in a book which ought to be given to more serious things-past. Let Clio cheer up and make the best of her author, who will do it again in one place and another; and forbye, let me hope that kind old Auntie Scotia will he tolerant of her South-Country nephew who takes upon himself to write about her!
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