It doesn’t seem to take much these days to send me trundling down Memory Lane, but last weekend saw me take more of a road trip.
A plaintive, homesick-sounding phone call took us north up the A1 to York on Saturday, to visit our daughter who’s at university there.
After applying a bit of parental TLC and not wishing to supplement this with a whole day of retail therapy, we decided to pay a flying visit to the National Railway Museum.
We’ve been to the museum previously but it’s the sort of place where each visit reveals gems you hadn’t spotted before.
And I have to admit that I was quite keen to see some of the engines brought from around the globe to mark the 75th anniversary of the Mallard breaking the world speed record for a steam locomotive.
I wasn’t around (believe it or not) when the Mallard broke that record, but one of my earliest memories from childhood is of travelling on the steam train that served our village and of engines rumbling under the bridge in the lane to my Nan’s house, with smoke and steam enveloping us as my dad lifted me to peer over the parapet.
By 1966, the steam engines were silenced and the line closed (thanks Dr Beeching) and now the old village station has been swallowed up by a housing estate.
So I was in a quite reflective state of mind as we looked at The Rocket on one side of the museum’s huge exhibition hall and then at one of Japan’s Bullet trains on the other.
But my mood almost matched my daughter’s (pre-Mum and Dad’s visit)when, somewhere in the middle of the hall – between the two extremes of railway history – I spotted on a huge, gleaming steam locomotive, a small brass plate which proclaimed: ‘Built in 1960’. How sad is that? A fantastic (some would say beautiful) machine that was obsolete even as it rolled off the production line – in the same year that I was born!
The National Railway Museum is well worth a visit and my wife is testament to the fact that you don’t have to be a train enthusiast to enjoy it. And, even better, it’s free to get in.
-- Thanks for your replies to my appeal last week for suggestions on how to get rid of the whiff of onions from my hands after spending a morning peeling them for pickling. It seems I should have either cleaned them with salt or washed them in cold water.