Michael Williams: On the Slow Train



Ces to visit has grown somewhat A little disappointing unfortunately It wasn t the subject matter I like a bit of British rural travel writing just as I like the same ind of thing on television too but the handing of the theme Too me there was a bit too little beauty in the descriptions and too little depth and conversely too much factual content especially in terms of the transport history of each route with snippets of stuff taken from other writers and poets It would ve worked well as monthly columns in a railway enthusiast magazine but as a book it became of decreasing interest to me despite having enjoyed three or four of the routes myself in real life Especially deserving of criticism was a strange comment on the second page stating how much has changed nearly half a century since Beeching and just how wrong the former BR Chairman got it not only has it the St Erth to St Ives line outlived the good chairman it is one of the few rural branch lines in the UK to make money This felt like predictable sentimental attack on Dr Beeching and surely if as stated so few lines were found to be economically viable then Beeching was right therefore Brilliant writer can t wait to read the next instalment Bucolic measurement amblingsVery pleasant awayday trundle down the secondary railways of Britain It reads like an old steam railway trip to nostalgia junction However this is today s railway Gem of a book introducing us to or reminding us of twelve slow train journies and recalling many we have lost Enjoy these while you can as I have seen so much lost in my own lifetime and when buildings are demolished and land is sold off it can t be put back. Ve of history and a love of nostalgia This book will be a paean to another age before milk churns porters and cats on seats were replaced by security announcements and Burger King These twelve spectacular journeys will help free us from what Baudelaire denounced as the horrible burden of time.

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BOOK ½ On the Slow Train BY Michael Williams – cafe1919.org

Michael Williams caveats this tome by saying that it is unashamedly nostalgic This is true mourning as he does the country station with a roaring fire cheery porter with a fob watch restaurant cars with starched white tablecloths and the clinking of wine glasses The sprung seat of a Pullman 576 B class rolling stock I m just nostalgic for the days when you could buy a supersaver on the day for any train rather than three months in advance He does over egg the pudding though when he says station cafes now serve coffee in styrofoam cups The book was written in 2010 even Pumpkins have cardboard takeaway cups nowNonetheless this is a cute book of twelve classic railway journeys some of which I ve done St Erith to St Ives Ryde to Shanklin Stratford to Richmond some of which I d like to do Settle to Carlisle and some of which I m not bothered ta Preston to Sellafield Shrewbsury to Swansea with lots of local history and colour His bugbear is Dr Beeching whose report closed down many of these branch lines rather than privatisation which makes it impossible to travel spontaneously unless you re writing a book and your train ticket is tax deductible As is often the case with these male written travelogues women take a third class seat to the male historians engine enthusiasts train spotters and English people who believe they are right about things women s roles in heritage railways are to tend to the geraniums in the platform tubs or man the tea rooms or just be a hair colour Ann Ridley a jolly blonde Later on a steam railwayman says of his train She s like a woman She s beautiful but she s uite capable of being temperamental and moody Sounds like a Never was the sadness of the end of an affair so poignantly expressed than in Flanders and Swann's elegy The Slow Train This beautifully packaged book will take the reader on the slow train to another era when travel meant than hurrying from one place to the next the journey meaning nothing but.

An to me A delightful read I bought the book on a whim from one of those cheap bookshops then nearly didn t bother to read it I m glad I did It is an easy read but a fascinating look at 12 very different old journeys taken on the modern euivalent trains It may be that four stars is a little niggardly This is a very enjoyable and enjoyably slender book written whilst Williams was lecturing in the department of journalism at The University of C The author writes about his experiences on some of the most interesting train journeys in the country In tone it feels a bit like a written version of Michael Portillo s Great British Railway Journeys but I like the way this book concentrates far on the journeys the stations the scenery and the people involved with the railways especially those enthusiasts and volunteers who are instrumental in Ragnarok keeping some of the smaller lines open than that TV series doesIt is hardly a literary tour de force admittedly but the author s enthusiasm for his subject really comes across and it was very relaxing and fun to read Iept finding myself picking it up to read a bit whenever I had a few minutes to spare If I was taking one of these trains I d definitely take it with me and look out for all the things the author mentions while on the journey Very easy to read Evocative and nostalgic but not overly so And I can only recall one mistake Recommended A very well written travel book where the author documents his journeys across the UK using many of the country s forgotten secondary routes From suburban London routes to rural back lines there s a bit of everything in here and following reading the book my list of pla. Time lost in crowded carriages condemned by broken timetables On the Slow Train will reconnect with that long missed need to lift our heads from the daily grind and reflect that there are still places in Britain where one can stop and stare It will tap into many things a love of railways a lo.

Michael Williams writes widely on railways for many publications including the Daily Mail The Independent the Independent on Sunday the New Statesman The Oldie and the railway specialist press He is a veteran Fleet Street journalist having held many senior positions including Deputy Editor of the Independent on Sunday Executive Editor of the Independent and Head of News at The Sunday Time