If you recognise the title quote you may well be interested in an event planned for Pitlochry at the end of July.
W H Auden’s 1936 poem, Night Mail, celebrated the sorting and delivery office that travelled each night on the train from London to Glasgow. Its description of the speeding train contains the couplet: “Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder / Shovelling white steam over her shoulder.”
The poem was the most obvious response to my recent discovery of this book cover (left) at the top of a shakey stack of volumes.
The Locospotters’ Annual from 1957 originally sold at six shillings (30p would be the modern equivalent) and is still in excellent condition. The editor’s name, G. Freeman Allen, is suitably 1950s and inside is a train enthusiast’s delight of articles about Britain’s railways in the mid-twentieth century. Titles include, “The Diesels are coming,” “The race up from Plymouth” and “Spotting from a signal box.”
The partner volume, the annual from 1958, even includes, an article on the problems of the Queen Street tunnel in Glasgow which brings us right up to date with the same tunnel problems having temporarily closed Queen Street station. Some things never change.
The Locospotters’ Annual is only one of 300 volumes on railways which have been presented by a kind donor to us at Pitlochry Station Bookshop. The books cover Britain and many other countries; some are nostalgic and others quite technical.
In the hope of maximising our good fortune, we are planning a grand sale of railway books to be held on Sunday 31st July 2016 in that most attractive venue, Pitlochry Festival Theatre. As always, all our income will be donated to our six charities.
Watch this space for more details, including a catalogue of the 300 titles.
In the meantime, you could always look up Auden’s “Night Mail” or, better still, find John Greirson’s 1936 film of the poem with accompanying music by the young Benjamin Britten. Here’s a link: Night Mail