Ever since childhood, when I lived within earshot of the Boston and Maine, I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it.” ― Paul Theroux
I love to travel by train. Ever since i was a schoolboy I have loved train travel. Every term from 1962 to 1966 my parents waved goodbye at Wellingborough Station and sent me off to Birmingham to my boarding school by train……. me……. alone from 7 years old until i left at the age of 11.
I used to love being alone on the train with my bags, changing trains at Leicester and wandering the platforms watching all the passengers running around to and fro boarding their trains, then once on board leaving my baggage unattended in the compartment and walk the length of the train down the corridor looking into other compartments or just standing in the corridor looking out the window.
Those were the days of the Steam Engines and i loved the way the smoke blew out of their chimney and the smell of coal would waft in through the window…… then came the diesel engines which weren’t half as much fun.
I also remember once when we were driving in our car parallel to some rail tracks and when a train overtook us, i said to my Dad “Why can’t we travel by train instead of car, they are so much faster”……..Of course Dad didn’t agree with me !!!!
As a teenager I would often take the train down to London and wander round Paddington, Kings Cross and St.Pancras terminals before buying a Day Underground ticket and just riding the Tube trains all day all over the network.
My first travels abroad were by train throughout Europe. My best friend and travel companion Dave Bamford discovered a train pass called Inter-rail Pass which allowed us unlimited travel in all of Western Europe plus Hungary and Romania of the Eastern Block, as it was known in those days before the fall of the Iron Curtain and communism. I seem to remember that it cost around £25 for a months unlimited travel by train, so we made the most of it……….. all winter we planned our trip pouring over the Thomas Cook European Train Timetable
So we were walking round Paris in the daytime and by night travelling to Madrid. A day in Madrid and another night train to Zurich. A day in Zurich and a night train to Belgrade………. and so on…….. that is how we travelled,criscrossing Europe, sleeping on trains and checking places out by day.
The worst part about the night travel was being woken by Passport Control twice at silly hours of the morning when crossing borders. Europe was not open as it is these days. Every country had its own passport checks.
The worst ones were when crossing from the Iron Curtain countries back into the West….. sniffer dogs were brought onto the train to find stowaways trying to escape the communist regimes. Luggage was opened and checked, nothing was left untouched. Once i was even told to shave my beard off because my face didn’t match my Passport photo !!!!!
Luckily i found out that the Hungarian Passport Control Officer was only joking much to my relief as i had no razor with which to remove the offending facial hair !!!!In the sapling years of the post-war world in an English market town I do believe we travelled in schoolboy blue, the cap upon the crown Books on knee; our faces pressed against the dusty railway carriage panes As all our lives went rolling on the clicking wheels of trains…. Al Stewart
Listen to my Youtube Train Song Channel…….. maybe you will have some Train Travel memories too