Roger [Bradsheigh] Lloyd
Canon Lloyd was a highly skilled writer (died 15 September 1966 Who was Who) who had honed his skills on a significant output of books on religeous topics. His Fascination of railways. (Allen & Unwin, 1952) is graced with a coloured frontispiece by Hamilton Ellis which shows a King Arthur, T9, Merchant Navy and M7, but Lloyd's own colourful experiences began at Cambridge (St. John's College) where: "the gaze of the beholder was at once riveted not on the brass but on the phenomenal height of the chimney. The cab, too, seemed minute... But the man who drove it was no dwarf: far from it he was something of a giant, and he seemed to have great difficulty in tucking his head under that cab roof. I remember him still, an elderly man with long and streaming white moustaches, looking like a taciturn but venturesome pirate of the railway age.
"And there waiting was the Ortona busa green double-decker with solid tyres and no roof, to take me back through the lit streets of Cambridge to College, and a firelit room high up under the rafters and muffins by the fire for tea, and afterwards a long session in an arm-chair with the Holy Roman Empire or the Congress of Vienna".
This was the world of Cambridge in the 1920s: a world of the Ivatt Atlantic from King's Cross; Precursor from Bletchley; Great Eastern 4-6-0s and Kirtley 2-4-0s (driven by bearded giants).
"Now the shingle at West Bay is unique, and nothing quite like it occurs anywhere else in this country. ... So all day and every day carts ply between the beach and the tiny railway station. It is a short but very difficult haul. Two horses can pull the empty cart down to the beach but five are needed to drag the full cart up... The five truck loads of it which that little tank engine hauls away to Bridport go to all parts of the country, and indeed to many parts of the world." Lloyd portrayed a world that seems as remote as Grainger's phonograph expeditions into Lincolnshire to collect folk songs. The pace of life was slower: the ten ton railway wagon belonged to the world of the horse and cart loaded by men with shovels.
On the other hand, Lloyd could not sympathise with those who condemned the early railways: "Wordsworth was so dismayed by the project of the Kendal and Windermere Railway that he composed four sonnets about it and published them as a pamphlet, in which he bade the mountains and floods to rise in fury against the accursed thing and blot it out. ... It is perhaps a pity that these poems have to be included in Wordsworth's collected works for they are poor sonnets. Yet there is passion in them." Those who saw the bleeding scars formed by the M6 and fail to find quiet or darkness because of them may now have greater pity for Ruskin and Wordsworth.
Nevertheless, Lloyd could appreciate that railways had damaged society: "Nor is it by any accident that in nearly all great cities, and especially in London, the worst slums and the most horrifying haunts of vice generally cluster round three sides of the railway termini."
Writing about the incline from Balquidder through Glen Ogle he notes that the Oban-bound trains repeat in chorus, "I can't do it; I can't do it" and adds "indeed there are times in winter when it cannot and it has to go back to Balquidder and shed some of its load". Further: "In mid-afternoon there is another pleasing sight to be seen from the same spot [near Balquidder]. A minute tank engine with a single coach behind it comes careering hell-for-leather down that same hill from Killin Junction. It is freewheeling the whole way and it just looks like the toy train in Hamley's shop window in Regent Street."
Of Marylebone terminus, for example, the prevailing impression is of quietude--nothing particular ever seemed to be happening. It is essentially peaceful, and when some rather fussy penitent told his father confessor [Mgr Ronald Knox, I think] that he could find nowhere in London where he could meditate in quiet and peace, he was astonished to hear the caustic answer, "Have you tried Marylebone station, my son?"
There is an extremely rich description of one of the Hatfield accidents (July 15, 1946) where he writes: "After Potter's Bar the engine which had been going beautifully began to roll alarmingly, and as she did so the driver addressed her reprovingly, "Steady on, old girl," so nearly human was his engine to him." He also notes the evidence published in the official enquiry given by two boys sitting on the fence: "coming round the corner the express was wobbling. The tender was going one way and the boiler another..." Lloyd adds "Very, few adults could see and retain so much detail as that in a second or two..."
Following this he described his own involvement in a derailment: "It was a hot summer's day in the early days of the war when at about nine o'clock, I joined at Crewe the Liverpool train to Euston. We had Princess Royal to take us. Just after Stafford I went to the dining-car, the third-coach from the front, for coffee. We were about to drink it when suddenly the dining-car seemed to bounce. The coffee splilled all over the tables and everybody jumped to their feet... The brakes went on, not very hard, but they stayed on, and speed gradually fell... A further look showed unmistakably that something was seriously wrong...The dining-car steward came along calling "Are there are any doctors on the train?" ... Our dining-car was still on the rails, but nothing behind was. The next coach had one bogie off, and after that the line simply did not exist any more. Steel rails were bent into fantastic shapes, sleepers were uprooted, the ballast was scored and ploughed by the wheels of a dozen coaches..." There were only minor casualties. The train had stopped alongside a laundry near Atherstone:"The laundry wall was lined with a speed almost magical by girls in white aprons on one side, and by a group of soldiers from the train on the other side. They had produced some beer from somewhere and spent the time waiting in idle dalliance with the girls. It was amusing to read later in a London evening paper that the soldiers had at once joined in the work of rescuing stricken passengers. The guard saw to the very few passengers which were at al stricken, while the soldiers saw to the laundry girls."
He writes very movingly about the bravery of Driver Gimbert and Fireman Nightall's action at Soham.
He tells the tale of how a Nine Elms driver bought a pig at Dorchester market and took it back to Battersea on his tender (pig slept peacefully all the way). But he could be wildly inaccurate: the caption to an A5 hauled suburban train states Marylebone to High Wycombe train "near Chorley Wood"!
He could also be highly poetic: "Its trains meander along in a dreamy way through a long succession of village stations whose names are poemsGamlingay, Old North Road, Lord's Bridge--and in spring they run through field after field where buttercups drench the grass, making its green gold. Like most cross-country trains, these have but two speeds, slow and stop."
"...those for it at Winchester hear the most stirring announcement of the day there, "Channel Islands Boat Train. Only passengers for Jersey, Guernsey and France travel by this train. The next stop will be inside Southampton Docks."
"Then the train passes through the dock gates, and grinds round a left-hand curve so sharp that one wonders so large an engine can negotiate it." Eurostar still provides this romance, and there is still the 16.52 from Glasgow Central to Ardrossan Harbour to catch the last sailing of the Caledonian Isles for the Isle of Arran.
The sources for the essays included the Railway Magazine, Time and Tide, the Spectator and Chambers's Journal.
Finally, on Huish: "To this day the historians of the British railway companies find it impossible to be beautifully detached about Captain Mark Huish. They still take sides. His enemies call him the Wily Captain. His friends are apt to use phrases like 'The ablest railway negotiator who ever lived. Both are probably right. Of his wiliness the facts leave no doubt at all. They would justify a far stronger epithet. Like that strange smile of his, he could be crooked. But then so could others, though not all the others. If the historian passes hard judgment on the behaviour of Huish, he must in fairness say as much or more of the next holy terror of the railway world, Watkin of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincoln. But Watkin had not a tenth of Huishs ability. There is probably nobody in the whole range of British railway history but Huish who could have welded so many and so varied companies together into the Euston Empire. But if Watkin could have done it he would not have brought the whole empire down into the dust within a few years as Huish did. Nor would Denison, nor Saunders, nor Ellis.
There is a mystery of character to be explained. By what personal defect of Huish's was the whole conception ruined? It was not that he broke many agreements. Others did the same and were not broken by it. It was not that he recklessly indulged in rate-cutting wars. That was only common form. The clue to the riddle is given by the scraps of his correspondence which still remain in the dusty files, for they reveal that not only did he do all these things and more beside but that he did them always with a chronic ill temper which made him impossible to live with He had the long view as well as the short, but he could never resist the temptation of indulging the short view at the expense of the long He must score immediately, whether over allies or rivals. Victory in the immediate battle so filled his mind as to drive temporarily out of it all consideration that to win some small battles is the surest way to lose the war."
The troubling of the city. George Allen & Unwin, 1962
This is a fable which is centred on the City of Winchester beset by demons, and as the following extract shows set in the twentieth century. Father Bernard Gilfil, an Anglican monk, is a central character. To the contemporary reader the most surprising feature must be the setting: a restaurant car.
...and he was uncommonly hot. It had become a very hot day with thunder in the air, and his cassock was thick. Moreover, the train had been standing for some hours in the Clapham yards in the full heat of the sun, and it now felt like the inside of a baker's oven. The headache, of which he had been dimly conscious ever since he woke, suddenly asserted itself, and he felt the large bruise on the top of his head with exploring fingers. And his throat was dry, parched in fact. He sat there longing for the train to move so that he would have a little cool air, all other thoughts going from his mind, leaving only the pain in his head, and the raging thirst. Then suddenly a thought occurred to him, it was like a cool glimmer of light in the darkness of a nightmare; on this train was a restaurant car, and there he could get a cup of tea, several cups of tea. For a few moments he resisted, wondering how far he could reasonably stretch the Rule of his Order in such a case, but he knew that, if some other member of his Order laid a similar situation before him for his advice, he would certainly have recommended tea in large quantities. Well then, as soon as the train started he would go and look for some tea.
The very thought of it brought some relief, and he was able to turn his mind to the retreat he was to give. The people who were coming would all be those who lived busy lives, probably the retreat would be a new experience for many of them. They would be tired; people mostly were these days. They would also be keyed up, expectant, and secretly a little worried because of the great importance of the conference to follow. He had better say very little about the conference-just enough to show his awareness of the issues at stake, but no more. In any case, he suspected them of being a little naive in their optimism. He must be very kind, very quiet, and very gentle. Above all, he must send them forgiven into their battle for reconciliation. If only he could do that, nothing else need matter much.
The jerk of the starting train shook him out of his reverie. He got to his feet and wandered down the corridor to look for the dining car. Already it was filling up but he found an empty seat and almost immediately an attendant took his order. Indeed, the staff of the dining car seemed to enjoy the novelty of waiting on a becassocked monk who was so obviously giving himself a great treat for, in spite of his throbbing head, he still unconsciously wore an aura of slightly deprecating loving-kindness, and the attendants, without knowing the reason, found a sudden desire to serve him as well as they could.
His needs were met immediately. Extra sandwiches were pressed on him, and he had first choice of the tray of cakes. He loved every minute of it; and he even beamed on the ticket collector who lurched against him when he was pouring out his third cup of tea, and caused him to spill it on the table cloth.
The train was running through Farnbotough now, and he could not in decency spin out his treat any longer. He paid his bill, offered a tip which the conductor refused, and made his way back to his carriage feeling refreshed and soothed. He found his compartment had emptied while he had been away, so, pulling his Office Book out of his cassock pocket, he settled down to say Evensong with a special Intention for the retreat he would soon be conducting. He read with pleasure part of Psalm 1I9it was one which always gave him a great sense of joybut at the back of his mind was the consciousness of the bitter taste his last cup of tea had left in his mouth. 'Railway tea,' he murmured to himself as he turned to the Lesson. ...
Farewell to steam. London, Allen & Unwin, 1956. 128 p.
The fascination of railways. London, Allen & Unwin, 1951. 160 p. + col. front. + 16 plates. 21 illus.
Both are collected essays (and very good ones): deserve to be better known.