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Take the Train - a Journey into the Imagination.

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
I have very early memories of trains - but the small, perfectly formed 'model' variety.   I am the youngest of four and have two older brothers. They had an amazing model train set that rain all around the loft space of my father's pub. The was a terrific Scalextric set running on the inside of the  of the train track.  The two of them would spend hours up there, building layouts, racing and running engines. They saved all their pocket money for additions.  Dad started them off - he knew what he was doing. Both became engineers, one mechanical, the other telecoms, moving with the times into fiber optics and systems analysis. The train set helped to develop their technical skills and set them securely on a journey to fulfilling careers.
I am not sure when I took my first actual train journey, it may have ben a school trip. Strangely enough, I remember my first 'imagined' train journey extremely well because I spent my formative years at Northway County Primary School under the progressive tutelage of a remarkable teacher, Miss Higham, who introduced me to a wonderful Scottish poet, Robert Louis Stevenson - 
From a Railway Carriage
Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And here is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart runaway in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!

I still use this poem whenever I work with children from 5 to 11.  It is filled with so many wonderful poetic devices; alliteration, repetition, parallelism, sibilance, assonance. It is a fantastic poem to illustrate all these but it is the effect of line length and rhythm it generates when read aloud, that really captured my own imagination. When I did ride the train with family and friends, the poem was always there in my head.  I can still recite it verbatim. I consider it a catalyst for my own poetic journey, although perhaps a little later than scheduled - I am 'getting there'.   As I was growing up, WH Auden's poem The Night Mail, charged onto TV screens as part of an advertising campaign by British Rail. It is another inspiring poem and the 1988 advertisement was really memorable - I am unsure whether the poem inspired Ronnie Briggs and his fellow 'Great Train Robbers' but it has all the same elements as the Stevenson poem. It takes you right on board the train. Auden's The Night Mail was commissioned and written for a 1939  documentary film - Poetry written to order, for use in advertising campaigns, is not a new phenomenon.     My own first, memorable train journey was on the overnight sleeper from Liverpool Lime Street to Dover in 1969 en route to Baden in Switzerland. It was great fun but disappointing to find on waking that we were stationary in a siding. As an intelligent eleven year old, I was used to map reading and skilled at navigating, while my sister drove me to dance competitions all over the country but I was very naïve when it came to trains. I expected this one to run all through the night. Memories of later journeys on Pullman trains are still sweet.       Take the train - a journey into the imagination.     When I was hunting around You Tube for the Night Train video, I was reminded of the really excellent phrase that is trigged by this week's theme. The strap line 'Let the train take the strain', used in a famous British Rail advertising campaign, has become embedded in our cultural make up. Unfortunately while searching, I came across some of the material recorded by a different BR campaign, featuring 'the person who should not be named'. I hope that any younger readers will think that this is a Harry Potter misquote: More mature friends will understand that I have no desire to publicise the dreadful creature, who filled our tea time screens too often and who I sincerely hope is eternally stoking the fire on the train to hell.   More to my taste - here is a Jazz link - Take the 'A' Train - Duke Ellington. Please sit back, let the train take the strain and enjoy the ride kiddies.
Thanks for reading.  Adele
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