Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The slow train.

We lost something very special when we shut down rural train lines.

I was reminded of that on my recent visit to the pretty little town of Hanstport, on the Bay of Fundy.

While old churches and cemeteries warm my heart with their beauty and purpose, abandoned train stations bring on a melancholy sadness for times past, when life was slower and the train stopped in all the little towns.  Not only does it not stop now, it doesn't even pass nearby.  And when a train is seen, following the super highway like a shadow, it carries goods and rarely people.  And when it does carry people, it zooms along, stopping only in the largest centres, ignoring the little hamlets whose lives once revolved around its schedule.

I peer into the window of Hanstport's abandoned train station, and wonder: when was the last day they worked here ?   Did they leave at the end of that day, thinking they would return the next ?

The desk looks as if they just stepped away for a moment.  The phone sits ready to ring.  A fax on top of the in-box says it's 2008.   The clock on the wall keeps time but no one glances up to see how soon they can knock off for the day.

On the sidings, trains sit parked.  When did parked become abandoned ?  When did the shunting area become a meadow ?

Once upon a time, not very long ago, The Windsor & Hantsport Railway Company, provided scenic excursions for tourists and locals, looking for a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Every Sunday during the summer, the Evangeline Express ran a 3-4 hour round-trip excursion between Windsor and Wolfville.  The tourist train consisted of two open air cars and one air conditioned coach car.  Along the way the car attendants would point out areas of interest and historical facts.

image from: http://home.cogeco.ca/~yardlimit/grizzz/index.html
image from: http://home.cogeco.ca/~yardlimit/grizzz/index.html

Sadly, my explorations found the ruins of the Evangeline Express, and the "modern, air-conditioned coach car" wasting away on  abandoned sidings.

"The Slow Train" is an enchanting song by the duo, Flanders & Swann, that laments the passing of way of life due to closure of British train lines in the early 1960's.   This song was rolling around in my head as I posted these images.

No more will I go to Blandford Forum and Mortiehow,

On the slow train from Midsummer Norton and Mumby Row,
No churns, no porter,
No cat on a seat,
At Chorlton-cum-Hardy and Chester-le-Street
We won't be meeting again on the slow train.

I'll travel no more from Littleton Badsey to Openshaw,
At Long Stanton I'll stand well clear of the doors no more,
No whitewashed pebbles,
No up and no down,
From Thornby Four Crosses to Dunstable Town,
I won't be going again on the slow train.

On the main line and the goods siding,
The grass grows high,
At Dog Dyke, Tumby Woodside, and Troublehouse Halt.
The sleepers sleep at Audlem and Ambergate,
No passenger waits on Chittening platform of Cheslyn Hay,
No-one departs, no-one arrives,
From Selby to Goole,
From St. Erth to St. Ives,
They all passed out of our lives,
On the slow train,
On the slow train.


  1. Isn't that just eerie, to think that the railway workers may have simply walked away from their desks one afternoon, never to return? The little town that I grew up in had a railway station and I have wonderful memories of catching the train from there as a child. I noticed when visiting the area recently that there is now a railway museum there, which only opens on the last Sunday of the month. It had me wondering if my old railway station was closed now. I do hope that something will be eventually done with these lovely old carriages in your photos Sybil. ~ Joanne.

    1. Sadly the old carriages are too far gone Joanne. Apparently the tours ran into the 1990's. How I wish I had gone for a ride on the Evangeline in her hayday !

  2. Sybil, what a rotten shame to have let even the "tourist train" fall into total disrepair. Surely there were enough people for sightseeing, etc.to keep that historic track going. It is so sad to see things such as this. The photos are really good.

  3. All over southern Ontario we have abandoned railroads, with hardly a trace of anything left to show what was once a big part of life.

    1. The only good thing that comes out of all this, is some lovely looong hiking trails. I used to live near Peterborough, and I think the old railbed became a trail.

  4. Slow trains...slow life...slow happenings. A different time, a different place. May we still be able to carve out slow times in our own lives...

    1. Did you click the link to hear the song ? It's quite wonderful.

    2. I shamefully did not. I will now.

  5. Changes overtake us all - to think steam trains were once a newfangled marvel and now they are ancient relics. It is kind of bittersweet. My grandfather was a train enthusiast - I used to love watching his model trains go round the track he had set up in the barn. And he loved to tell me about his train trip to visit his grandfather when he was five years old. Warm memories. I wonder if he knew of "The Slow Train" song.

    1. My parents were big fans of Flanders and Swann, the singers of the "The Slow Train". Their stuff is very funny.

      "Bittersweet" is the right word Barbara.

  6. I share your nostalgia for past eras, but as a native plant person I'm not sorry to see that a meadow so quickly established itself in what was once a shunting area.

    1. It is amazing how quickly things turn back to nature. And that is a lovely thing: you're right about that.

  7. Great blog. I too am saddened by the loss of the railway. We travelled from Halifax to Montreal by train in 2010, thinking it would be better than flying - but the line is so old that the train has to go so slowly on sections. It took 21 hours!!!! Having travelled in Britain and Europe by train, it is definitely the way to travel, but countries have to invest in the lines and upgrade to high speed trains.

    1. Wow Jacqui, just discovered your comment today. Blogger used to inform me of new comments. My apologies.

      You're right about the trains being so much less efficient here in Canada.


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