Ok, it may not be in the best condition and the photos, apart from the cover, are in black and white, but I love this little book.
I’ve had it since childhood and I still love to read the information and study the pictures. I’m not a railway buff, but I think I could have been if I had allowed myself to get drawn into that world.
As a boy, I used to dream of visiting these places, experiencing the different European and other cultures, which all had their own distinction.
I fear much of that uniqueness is disappearing, along with the trains. Of all the countries, Switzerland does appear to be retaining its sense of place, aided no doubt by its particular geographic location.
When stepping off the ship, heat
something heavy and palpable, his duty drawn
out into an exile
stuffing the bank accounts
of far-off millionaires, stuffing
him and the natives from Melbourne
Such a relief to be on the train,
officers hankering in rigid
silence for the cool heights of Shimla,
Home Counties in miniature once bleeding
the big world dry, where spinsters
of Little England began to
watch their gingham fade
He favoured his mother’s
side, whose pale skin and eyes were
more fondly remembered
than appreciated, now more than
a world away,
spattered freckles on his face
where the sweat ran
free in that searing carriage;
sights of displaced women
wrapping up in their shawls, children
standing and sitting, staring
and sleeping, heading on to homes they’d
never seen (or ever see), leaving him
to watch the scorched earth slide
by like some weary sentence,
his mind hanging on
to the boney cattle half
hidden in mud, in the channels
of sometime rivers
gaping for monsoon
I’m going to catch that train,
so I can watch panoramas roll by,
their gently unfolding stories,
and pinch myself into believing
I’m seeing the Canadian Shield.
I’ll drink endless cups of coffee
while chatting with fellow travellers.
Perhaps make a friend or two,
and we’ll exchange stories about homelands
and climate change and places never seen,
maybe raise a glass of schnapps or single malt
to toast Ontario, just to ease it all along.
We’ll swap addresses and emails;
I’ll start a blog on my laptop
where I’ll write some pithy lines
with quotes from my friends,
to capture the spirit of Saskatchewan
and Alberta, while the people back home
simply won’t believe my progress.
I’ll produce a battered guitar
from my back pack and we’ll
write songs together about places we see
and sing familiar tunes like Yellow Submarine
to help pass the darker hours.
And when I finally see the Vancouver skyline,
I’ll look forward to the Pacific,
my first sight of the sea.
Or maybe I’ll just sit here in the warm,
and stir more sugar into my tea.