Sunday, April 26, 2009

The devil is in the detail

There is detail and there can be too much detail.

Charter trains seem to fit into these categories as well - detail means an excursion train trip with friends and family to somewhere different. Too much detail, for me, means a rail enthusiasts tour to somewhere really obscure with strange engines and annotated notebooks along the way.

Yesterday was a pleasant fudge between the two. Our souvenir brochure included a detailed itinerary with waypoint markings and a map. I saw only a couple of notebooks and I got the distinct impression that more people visited Carlisle Castle during the afternoon than didn't.

I have spent many years traveling up and down London's Central Line, which has as its Western most terminus the station of West Ruislip. A small number of Chiltern Railways trains (typically one an hour in each direction) also stop there. It struck me as rather a strange sight to see the platform indicator at Carlisle with the ultimate destination of our train accurately described as West Ruislip, albeit that it was not the only stop.

The train was, I think thirteen carriages long. Very few stations can take trains that have thirteen carriages. So at all stations south of Banbury (most of which have platforms that will take trains with a maximum length of six or seven carriages), a member of the train staff had to sweep along the train from the back to make sure that everyone who wanted to get off had indeed moved far enough forward to find the platform. Not a procedure that would work well during a peaktime weekday service.

I originally come from the Yorkshire Dales. While I moved down south a number of years ago, I do still love the countryside of the dales. The Settle to Carlisle railway passes less than 25 miles from where I still have family.

This picture shows just how bleak and remote the line is (imagine it in bad weather). The hill directly in front of the train is the edge of Whernside (one of the 'Three Peaks'). It is about 25 years since I walked up that particular mountain.

For me travel is about understanding contrasts and appreciating differences. I am lucky enough to live in rural Buckinghamshire, a lovely part of the South East of England. But to be able to get on a train at a local station and to travel to the other end of the country, through some of the most fantastic scenery that it has to offer, was really very enjoyable and a good day out.

1 comment:

James UK said...

"For me travel is about understanding contrasts and appreciating differences."
Enirely agree with you there. That's why I love the United States; same language (mainly) but totally different kettle of fish altogether...