The glory of trains

Simon Jenkins, a columnist I usually disagree with, has a good article in today’s Guardian, in praise of the steam engine. Jenkins, who is fascinated by others’ fascination with trains, talks about the revolutionary nature of rail travel, and the engineering marvels that the great steam trains certainly were.

Now that the great steam trains of the past are mostly confined to pottering at 25mph along enthusiasts’ lines, like great pandas scratching out their fur in the zoo, I still think that there is something glorious about train travel. A Southern electric train may not be the great belching beasts of old, but it is still the social, communal form of travel, linking the hearts of cities and villages through hundreds of welcomes and departures, with thin iron lines, rushing over bridges and level crossings, a pure and solitary vehicle, no matter how many trains there are elsewhere on the network. For all the crowds and mess on the railways today (and ever), it’s a world away from the visual clutter and congestion of the roads, or the spare utilitarianism of air travel.