Down the line

Upton.  It is a hamlet that once had a railway station.  Long Sutton and Pitney, the station was called.  It was convenient to neither village and there were probably travellers who were less than happy to find themselves 2-3 miles from where they wished to be.

There is talk of a reopening of a local station, one that will serve Langport and Somerton.  Upton has been mooted.  The logic of choosing Upton would be hard to fathom, what would be the point of having a station that is not near either town?

Whatever the fate of local railway plans, there is nevertheless always a fascination in railways; each line, each station is imbued with a sense of something indefinable.

There are moments when one can stand on the bridge at Upton, looking at the line toward Paddington running through deep cuttings, and ponder the industry demanded in building lines such as it, the ambitious investments, the technical skills, the hard labour, the countless  people for whom the railways brought work – and the hope.

Maybe, in rural areas, hope was the most significant factor: expectations of wealth for investors, aspirations to become successful among entrepreneurs, access to markets for factories and farmers, jobs for those who were prepared to travel. The prospect of travel itself changed communities; shopping, excursions, even holidays.

Perhaps in some future time when the means of transport have been revolutionised, the railway lines across the landscape will be regarded by future generations in the way monastic and ecclesiastical ruins are regarded today, as artefacts of a society whose ways and customs were very different. Perhaps the archaeologists in centuries to come will excavate sites where stations once stood and ponder the lives of those who travelled from these places, perhaps children will stand in museums and watch hologram trains making sedate progress along cuttings and embankments.

Perhaps the fascination is about connecting with deep childhood memories. Perhaps it is about standing with my mother on the platform of Langport West station when not yet four years of age. Perhaps it is about watching the level crossing gates of the station at Martock swing open to allow the passage of a train, and to discover decades later that the line closed in 1964. Perhaps it is about being at Weymouth while very young and seeing a train travel the line through the streets on its way to the docks.

There is something in a railway that connects with memories of security and inexhaustible hope.

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One Response to Down the line

  1. Doonhamer says:

    I know that it is an obvious link. But it still brings on a moist eye.

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