Though we’d walked up Pepys Road’s steep slope for lunch,
A cafe christened The Hill Station meant
A narrow-gauge railway, snuffling steam
Up Telegraph Hill, must be the true ascent.
From weathered-teak platform at New Cross Gate
Between the Sainsbury’s and the Overground,
A rack-and-pinion loco that once bent
Up squealing switchbacks, Himalaya-bound,
And fired by Northern Line submariners
Retired to daylight, at the park would slow
To drink deep from the duckpond, and then pound
To the summit, London’s hazy plain below.
But hefting trunks and churns would leave the guard
No time to check you’d swiped your Oyster card.
Graham Coster is the author of two travel books, Corsairville: The Lost Domain of the Flying Boat and A Thousand Miles from Nowhere, about riding with long-distance truck drivers. His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta and The London Review of Books. Until recently he was publisher at Aurum Press.