Trains Archive

Accent on the journey

A tweet yesterday from the writer Melissa Harrison pointed me to a Radio 4 programme I missed when it was first aired last month. It’s A Journey Through English, a celebration of the diversity of dialects and accents you hear as you take the longest continuous train journey in Britain: more than 600 miles from Aberdeen to Penzance. I particularly liked the contribution from a Scot who said that she had spoken English since she was a child, when “you had one tongue for the hoose, another tongue for the street, and another tongue for the school or the kirk”. It was a programme that, in more ways than one, made Britain seem a bigger place. The guard, having reeled off the 43 stations the train would call at in between, sounded as though he needed a lie-down before the journey had properly begun.

Rhythm and rails

The latest issue of Harper’s has a piece by Kevin Baker, a contributing editor of the magazine, on “The lost glories of America’s railroads”. At the moment, only subscribers can read it in full, but every visitor to the Harper’s website can see, argue with and add to Baker’s selection of “the 23 best train songs ever written – maybe”.

A few more? See the list I compiled, with suggestions from colleagues, when I published my first of two anthologies of Telegraph writing on railway journeys. Sadly, for some reason the links to the sound files on Grooveshark no longer work. Maybe it’s time I put together a new one…

And don’t forget that great poetry anthology recently edited by Sean O’Brien and Don Paterson for Faber and simply titled Train Songs.