Six Trains

This post by Linda at shoreacres, took me back this morning to my 1940s childhood.

Linda has eloquently described steam railways in America.

From 1947 to 1954 the magical – to us children at least – The Devon Belle steamed past our kitchen window in Raynes Park on its way from Waterloo station to the West Country. Details of the train and its history can be found in

I was intrigued to read that the author of this piece lived in Raynes Park until he was three and a half, and has memories similar to mine, although I was 5 years old in the inaugural year.

My entire childhood from the age of two in1944 to 1960 was spent in the maisonette at 29a Stanton Road, alongside which ran the railway path. The family ate in the kitchen where we could watch the trains. Chris and I would collect the numbers of those driven by electricity at any time during the day. But our favourite was

This was, of course, because of the steam engines, but also the Pullman carriages which gave us something else to collect. Each of these first class cars bore a different name, usually of a woman.

When eating we were not expected to wolf down our food, leave the table, and get on with whatever else in which we had been engrossed. No, we had to wait for six trains to go by before we were permitted to “get down”.

When I open the back gate for Aaron on a Sunday morning this involves a walk down the gravelled back drive.

Beyond the gate on the south side we have a range of wallflowers and valerian;

on the opposite side there is currently a heap of the redundant griselina stumps, and more yellow wallflowers.

The dark patch of soil a bit further along, beside another stump and a spray of libertia, consists of spent compost from Jackie’s pots. This is being used to fill the holes left by the removal of the overgrown hedging.

Further still, a clump of Johnson’s Blue geraniums is found beside erigeron and bronze fennel.

This afternoon Jackie drove us into the forest for a brief journey before the rain set in.

Forest Road Burley was the venue for an equine mothers and babies group, only occasionally divided by the traffic with which they played havoc. Observant readers may spot the foal featured in ‘Aquatic Surface Cover’ of May 8th.

A young man with a video camera also stopped to film the scene. We enjoyed pleasant conversation.

For this evening’s dinner the Culinary Queen roasted duck breasts in plum sauce and served them with mushroom wild rice with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Carmenere.

P.S. Our friend Barrie Haynes has made this comment on my Facebook page:  ‘Unfortunately, the Devon Belle was not a commercial success. The Observation Cars had to be turned on the locomotive turntable at Ilfracombe and the station was badly sited for the town. I believe the Pullman observation cars were later used in Scotland and I think at least one of them is still with us. Because there were no water troughs on the Southern, engines were normally changed at Wilton.’


  1. I enjoyed the train story and the look at your childhood home. The bartender on that bumpy train was pretty amazing! LOVE the flowers along the fence. SO pretty! And those are some fine looking horses!

  2. How nice of you to mention my post, Derrick. I thoroughly enjoyed this expanded version of your childhood memories, and the information about the trains was great. I thought it especially interesting that Tootlepedal has memories of The Golden Arrow — what a fine name for a train! I laughed at the linked article’s author’s memory of his wails of distress being mistaken for the boarding call, too.

    A side note: UP844 and UP4014 arrived home safely today. You can see the two engines and their crews in a photo here.

  3. This post is a treasure post on trains —I am grateful for all those links. Steam engines were very much in action in the seventies in India, the decade of my own childhood. Although my family kept shifting its residences at frequent intervals, my earliest memories are that of a row of houses alongside a rail track. My father was employed by the railways. We were to return next to the rail tracks after a gap and of few years before my father decided to shift us to the parental village thick with groves of mango and jamun trees.

    The rule of six trains sounds fascinating! But such was life in the times olden and uncomplicated by modernist trappings.

  4. Nice that a blogger shares a similar history – and enjoyed reading this – can imagine you all at the table as trains went be
    – and I am featuring some Emily Dickinson poems this month and she has some that mention trains (I think one calls it a stranger but I need to look) anyhow – trains are still around – it nothing even close to what they used to be

    1. Some time in the ’90s I took my Mum on an intercity train from Newark to York and back. She said she had not been on a train for 50 years, and was amazed at the changes

  5. Not much cuter than a foal, unless it’s two foals! Watched a German football match yesterday and discovered that Borussia Monchengladbach’s nickname is “The Foals”. A strange animal to compare yourself to.

  6. Timing your meals by the trains – priceless! 🙂

    I love the pony and foal images, that one of the close-up of the pony is priceless… i think she should be named Ginger! 😉

  7. The web is a wonderful thing. It has allowed us to make a community where we can see and learn from each others work, as if we are living in the same city.

    Thank you Derrich have a nice week!!!!

  8. I’ve always loved trains! 🙂 Watching them! Riding on them! When I was a little girl, one of my uncles drove a train…it was his job his whole adult life. We would run out by the tracks and wave at him as the chugged by. He’d always blow the whistle for us. 🙂
    The foals are growing up too quickly! But, then I guess all kids do. 🙂
    I’ve never been a “wallflower”, but I do love wallflower-flowers, especially the yellow ones you shared! They had sunshine-smiles!
    HUGS!!! 🙂

  9. Thank you for sharing the post and your childhood train memories. I remember the freight trains going past my parents’ store when I was a child. My brother remembers steam engines in Philadelphia.
    Every part of your garden seems filled with color and beauty, even around the back gate and walk.
    Of course, how can any photos of foals and their mothers not be a delight?

  10. I have a vague memory of seeing my first steam train. I must’ve been very small because all I remember is the fluffy white clouds (of steam) and endless noisy giant machinery. (the wheels on the locomotive) 🙂

  11. I just missed out on steam trains as the Southern Region converted to third rail electric before I was aware of trains. However, I do remember being on Bromley South station when I was very young and a steam train rushed through. I was absolutely terrified! Richard loves anything to do with trains so since being married to him I have done a fair amount of train travel.
    Thank you for the wonderful post, Derrick and all the links. The ponies and foals are so sweet and what an immaculate drive you have!

  12. The American locos are powerful looking brutes but do not have the style or elegance of the English locomotives, nor are they in the same class when it comes to the carriages.
    That Devon Belle loco, seems to have a resemblance to the Battle of Britain or Merchant Navy class it’s possibly a WC/BB Class Pacific7P5F. A nice loco, Must admit I prefer the LMS Princess Coronation Class BP, There all Pacifics 4-6-2’s Great locos, Pity they are now just museum pieces.
    I enjoyed all of those links Thanks Derrick.

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