Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Railways

Is anyone out there watching the marvellous Dan Snow programme on BBC2 about the early days of the railway?   The farmer and I are and it is fascinating - there is so much we didn't know about it all.

The fact that Great Britain was  in the forefront of the development of railways for a start.   The fact that Dickens in several of his books spoke of the way whole districts were felled to the ground to make way for the rail tracks to  go through.  The terrible loss of life - I did know of the loss of life by all the 'navvies' who helped to build the viaducts; one of my ancestors was involved in this.

And above all this  terrible greed of people to make enormous sums of money by investing in the projects, only to lose millions and end up in debtors' prisons.  (I thought about this and realised that when I was young you could still go to prison for being in debt!)

Driving a railroad across Canada was a British project which cost far more than intended and ruined a lot of people in the process.

After the programme was over for this week the farmer and I spoke of railways today.   Now, correct me if I am wrong as I have little experience of British Rail over the last year or two, but what experience I have is not brilliant - trains that are late, trains that are sadly lacking in luggage space, trains that are standing room only and trains that are not really all that clean.

A couple of years ago we visited dear friends who live quite close to Amsterdam in The Netherlands.   They gave us a wonderful time, taking us into Amsterdam to the Reichmuseum, the Van Gogh museum and a trip on the canals; taking us to The Hague  to see the beautiful buildings.   And the thing which struck us wherever we went was the cleanliness, the modernity and the punctuality of the trains.

Other friends have spoken about similar stories of the trains in various places on mainland Europe.   If this is all so - then why have we lagged so far behind?   In fact, have we lagged behind or is it just my interpretation of things?

On a different topic entirely - our bad weather continues and the number of birds at our feeders gets larger, particularly the blackbirds.   Friends G and J, who came for coffee this morning, told me why it is that so many of our blackbirds here at the feeders do not have yellow bills.   It is because they are visitors over from Europe.   Our local blackbirds have gone South and the European visitors have come in to take their place.   Our fields are always full of blackbirds - we have many blackbirds' nests in the Spring (probably our most common nests) - and we tend to think of them as 'our birds', but of course this is not so.

Wherever they are from, they are taking full advantage of the food I put out every morning and are sitting in the trees waiting for the tray of goodies to be put out at eight o'clock.   They are brilliant time-keepers!   

18 comments:

Rachel said...

Living in London in 1970 as a teenager who had left home at 16 I got involved with a man who owned a house (I had never been out with anyone who had his own property before)and one day I got a call from him from Tottenham Magistrates court to say he was being taken to Petonville Prison for non-payment of mortgage. Later the bailiffs came and broke into the house and I got home from work and found my things scattered all over the floor - a hand sewn dress my mother made for me before I left home and not much else - and the rest of the house empty. I fled and never told my mother!

I like the railway programme too!

shadypinesqltr said...

Every time I come to the UK from the US to visit family in Pembrokeshire, I take the train from Reading to Swansea. I have always been pleased with the punctuality and reasonable cleanliness of the carriages. I've learned to not travel on a Friday and am frequently irritated by the enormous amount of reserved tickets sticking to the top of the seats. Most sit empty for the majority of the trip. Not knowing if the plane will arrive on time, etc. makes it impossible for me to reserve my own. I agree that luggage space is sparse.

Wish I had the selection of birds here in Michigan. The majority of birds fly South leaving sparrows and crows and occasionally a beautiful red cardinal.
Joan in the frozen tundra of Michigan

MorningAJ said...

One thing you have to remember about the Netherlands is that the whole country is about the size of East Anglia! It's a lot easier to be neat and punctual in a small space.

By the way - it's Rijksmuseum. The Reich was something very different, and the Dutch can be bit sensitive about it.

Not watching Dan Snow, but I am enjoying the new trips that Michael Portillo is making at 6.30 on BBC 2! (Well, new to me, anyway)

Golden West said...

We have ruby throated Anna's hummingbirds right out the kitchen window, constantly battling at their feeder. One keeps sentry on a palm frond and drives the others who dare approach away, even if he's had his fill! Most have ventured southward, but a handful remain, much too our delight. You are so right about birds being good time keepers - one hummingbird comes round the house at 4 every day to look in the living room window.

Heather said...

I have seen other Dan Snow programmes and enjoyed them, but not this one. Are our trains dirty because no-one cleans them or because we ourselves don't respect the comfort of others. I think it is shameful that men have to be paid to pick up litter along the roadsides.
It has snowed/sleeted all morning here and I cancelled a 2.00pm appointment. Needless to say it promptly stopped and I could probably have kept it. We have had two waxwings in the garden today - such a treat. They were tucking in to sliced apple.

Gwil W said...

There was a train crash here in Vienna a couple of days ago but of the 49 injured most were relatively lightly injured they say. Two trains on a single track collided head-on. They say the computer for the signals wasn't working and they had to be changed manually and of course in this day age it's probably not such an easy task to find someone who could do the job properly at short notice.

Reader Wil said...

And I thought that our trains were lacking in punctuality and cleanliness especially in weekends. More often than not a train didn't run at all and I had to travel by bus. The toilets are very small and dirty, whereas the British trains have roomy and clean toilets.Shall we swap countries?;)

Crafty Green Poet said...

I've generally had quite good luck with trains, though prices have risen too much recently...

My great grandfather, Mr Train was a station master and his son married a Ms Driver. I may have told you that before, but it's my personal connection with the railways...

Crafty Green Poet said...

I think the European blackbirds are perhaps more sociable than the ones we think of as ours, though that may be an adaptation to winter, rather than because they're European

Country Gal said...

Oh I saw this on the History channel a while ago , it was fascinating ! We have always enjoyed seeing the odd steam train . We have a train museum here and it is amazing . Have a good day !

George said...

I've actually had quite good service with your trains, PAT. I suppose I am envious that you even have an extensive network of services. In the U.S., we have never had the kind of good rail connections that one finds in every country in Europe.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Your programs on trains sounds very interesting. And I love that the birds are coming in great numbers to the feeders. We moved our feeders to a place more convenient for me to view them while recuperating from back surgery - and it took the birds three days to find the new location - and it is only 20 feet from the old location and quite visible. Today I had a black squirrel (I know, he is not a bird) come and look things over but our feeders are squirrel and deer proof so he shook the feeders a few times and ran off - after cleaning up what little seed had fallen below. One chickadee came to the feeder today so I'm hoping the word spreads and more come again. We have a nice variety of birds, though rarely do we see a sparrow - and a sparrow is always a good bird to have around when there are no others visiting - they are cheerful and don't squabble like some of the bigger birds.

Dave King said...

I was an anorak in my youth, collecting train numbers and learning all about the different classes of engine and so forth. Two things killed my interest: Dr Beeching and the demise of steam. The railways never recovered from either.

Denise Nesbitt said...

We are watching the programme too Pat. We like Michael Portilo's journeys with the Bradshaw guide. I bought it for Jon's Christmas box - we plan to follow some routes this year. As you know Jon is involved with engineering projects on railways and so when we went to Netherlands Jon was explaining to me about the various draw hooks and couplers which he machines for the likes of Network Rail. Infact we are off to Leeds fondry tomorrow with some draw hooks. Dont ask me what they are but next time we are over Jon will explain lol xxxx

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for all those interesting comments. First of all, thanks to Morning AJ for putting me in my place over the spelling of Rijksmuseum! I knew I had spelled it wrong but was too lazy to go and look it up. Secondly - very interesting looking at all your comments on the efficiency of our trains and Reader Wil's comparisons between trains. Perhaps we are all too quick to criticise what we know best. Thanks for joining in.

The Solitary Walker said...

I'm recalling the graveyard at Chapel-le-Dale, Pat — where the bodies of over a hundred navvies who built the Ribblehead Viaduct lie buried.

Tigger said...


Surely female blackbirds don't have yellow bills?

The Weaver of Grass said...

Robert - Yes, quite right - so many died building the Ribblehead viaduct, including my maternal great-grandfather.
Tigger - you are quite right, female blackbirds do not have yellow bills, but neither are they completely black - they are dark brown. We do have a few, but not many.
Thanks for visiting.