Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Underlining A Ford Focus With A Smudgy Biro

Another lucky dip into the vintage postcard collection put together by my mother's Uncle Fowler brings up an unused card dating back 90 or 100 years showing two engines of the Caledonian Railway Company. The earliest engine, we are told, was built by George Stephenson himself whilst the latest was "now running on 2pm Corridor Train from Glasgow Central to London Euston". Whenever I pick these cards at random I am always tempted to turn them into exam questions for unsuspecting students of economic and social history - "using the above picture as your source discuss trends in inter-city transport in Britain over the last 100 years". It is the kind of exam I would quite enjoy sitting : indeed I suppose that this blog is, at times, nothing more than am expansive answer-book to such an exam.
I am not very good on trains. Like all boys of my age I served an apprenticeship as a train-spotter, stood on windy railway bridge underlining engine numbers with a smudgy Biro in my Ian Allan Trainspotters Guide. But it was more out of tribal loyalty than a collector's enthusiasm. But what red-blooded human does not feel a thrill course through his or her veins when a real steam train passes close?
But I am getting sentimental and maudlin. Too many dusty old postcards. Time to look forward rather than back. Was that a Ford Focus that just drove past? Must go and mark it up in my car spotter's guide. .... Not the same feel to it, has it?


  1. I wish my father was still alive because your blog would have persuaded him that the internet was worth trawling. We used to sit on railway bridges as kids and take down train numbers. These days 'trainspotting' has a completely different meaning. We never did anything with the numbers, just wrote them down and came home covered in soot! Love your blog. Really.

  2. no, it does not have the same feel at all. my boys love th trains. who am i kidding. i do too.

  3. Hi Alan,
    What a lovely post! I need to look up Ian Allan Trainspotters Guide, do they still publish them?
    As late as hi-school, living outside of Chicago, I would jump on the box cars as far as I was willing to hike back....I loved the idea of being Woody Guthrie...

  4. I have a thing for those lovely old steam engines. There's something very mysterious, nostalgic and romantic about them. You really do have some fascinating ephemera, Alan.

  5. As a lover of trains & old postcards--wonderful post!

  6. My triplets are obsessed with trains! It's a shame they weren't born 80 years earlier and could have experienced those steam engines as a daily part of life. I'll have to show them your postcard after school! :) I'm sure they'll want to print it.

  7. Anonymous2:55 PM

    Alan, I've an old kid's book that was used for a game of "spot the car", some 70 years ago. The owner did just that!! I'll have to dig thath out, one of these post, here :)

  8. Thanks for the comments:
    > Baino : I'm glad that I was able to bring back such treasured memories.
    > Jayne : As far as I know Ian Allan still publish the guides although there can't be many trainspotters left these days.
    > Betsy : Hope the boys like the picture.
    > Subby : Spot the car doesn't feel right somehow.

  9. I'd rather admire a steam engine than a Ford Focus any day.

  10. I love the design of this postcard - especially with the upper left inset. And incidentally, you have a very entertaining style of blogging!
    Evelyn in Montreal


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