Anthologies of railway writing and
Christmas thoughts 2016 (Kevin): one of his four dear daughters gave him yet another anthology and this has (1) shown that this webpage has serious deficiencies (mea culpa, mea maxima culpa) which need to be corrected before it is too late and (2) inspired thoughts of yet another poem (built atround the names of the LNER Pacifics, which in turn were based on racehorses: Spearmint (Toram Beg's favourite); Trigo and Honeyswell and so on and on: this will be sent to some outer galaxy of cyberspace.
The arrival of Lambert's railway miscellany prompted the creation of this page. Now Train songs compiled by Sean O'Brien and Don Paterson (Faber & Faber, 2013) has completely changed the concept of railway anthologies: it is so excellent. Lambert's work was excluded from this webpage as it failed to identify its sources and in fairness did not claim to be an anthology. Strictly, the term is intended for poetry or work of literary merit. Train songs must now be the paradigm and contains a rich collection extending back to William Wordsworth's protests, and the work of many ladies who are great users, and secret lovers, of trains. The compilers are remarkably modest as not a single poem of their own is included: in the case of Sean O'Brien this is a serious failing.
Both Morgan and Simmons
include poetry and both pass this test. Whitehouse
excludes poetry and is limited to Ian Allan publications or publications
for which Ian Allan held the rights: it is worth noting that the comilation
of anthologies is a compulsive occupation and that the authorship of Simmons
and Whitehouse tends towards this medium. In the introduction to Whitehouse
it states that it was a sort of bedside book (this threatens to open a whole
can of worms). Simmons is not faultless, but there is a great depth to some
of the entries as exemplified by John Stuart Mill's
statement on the great utility of a railway link between London and Brighton,
but not at the risk of despoiling the vale of Norbury at the foot of Box
Hill (Mill thou shold'st be in the Chilterns now). I, Kevin, am inclined
to think that if I had begun with Simmons this page would not have been created
as Simmons created a can of worms: some of the entries are quotations (excellent
ones), and some are too long, Should one cite an item in an anthology?
What is the place of fiction within a world dominated by fact? Even Simmons'
Introduction (reproduced in full) is both interesting and yet wholly unsuited
to forming part of a webpage which invites the question what is the place
of an anthology in the world of electronic text. Will the Kindle reader add
anthologies to their collections? Finally it is worth noting that Simmons
produced three other anthologies. The Wikipedia entry on anthologies (28
August 2011) shows the limitations of the genre within a technological
It is tempting to start an online railway anthology which may be initially limited to motive power: it would have to include something from George Dow's British steam horses, something from Michael Rutherford's articles in Backtrack, something from Brian Reed, Riddle's account of approaching Crewe far too fast on the press run of Coronation Scot, and no anthology could exclude Hamilton Ellis or Bulleid, father and son..
Vallance: Railway enthusiat's
Backtrack (page created October 2003!)