Train thinking…

22 03 2008

Whilst on the train home today, many thoughts flitted, briefly across my mind. Now, unlike some people, I love my train ride home. In no time at all, I go from being in the centre of one of the biggest cities in the UK, to going through sleepy villages. It isn’t just the contrasting scenery though. There are so many elements of the journey I enjoy.

My journey takes me through history. In a mere forty minutes from Birmingham, I can experience culture, heritage and colour. My journey through the Black Country, takes me past deserted old brick buildings which have had all their windows smashed in over the course of time. Yet they still have the names of their former owners plastered on the side, standing as part of reminder of a distant time just itching to re-establish itself. These buildings are a brilliant red brick colour still, and co-ordinate themselves marvellously with the rust of old metalworks which likewise occur along the side of the railway. The reminders of the industrial heritage of this region are constant as you stare out of the window, trying to escape the noisy baby in the seat opposite you.

It isn’t just the industrial side of things though either. There are swathes of greenery cut into this harsh landscape. There is also the contrast between old and new. There are new roads, new warehouses and new businesses which all struggle for space along the railway line. All of them appear to have a silver fetish, being, as everything seems to be nowadays, coloured a sterile silver. In comparison to the previous brickworks, this is just plain boring. But I find the contrast an amazing thing to see. Side by side are buildings, designed for a certain business seperated by at least one hundred years. And they co-exist marvellously. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the absence of windows and the rather hastily scrawled graffiti on the older buildings, you could see them still being operated in the same way they were in the 1800s. And this is brilliant. I can think of few places where industrial heritage is as important as it is for those in the Black Country. I can think of fewer still who are proud of what they are and where they came from in the manner than people from the Black Country are. Heritage isn’t just something that has happened, it is still very much an active part of everyday life.

And so I returned to my journey, fresh from thinking about heritage, to see one of the many metal horses dancing its way along the train line towards Birmingham. These horses are an amazing thing. Not individually you understand, on their own they are rusting, bent by the wind or vandals, and forlorn. Collectively, the ten or so horses which run alongside the track from Wolverhampton to Birmingham, through the Black Country, are something thought provoking and wonderful. They are there. I see them every time I go home. Yet I haven’t thought about them, until today. What are they there for? What do they symbolise? Why are they all facing Birmingham?

There are more questions than answers about these creatures from me I’m afraid. I don’t know what they symbolise. I think of progress, but then, if it’s progress, is it not hypocritical to use them in a place where machines and technology took off in Britain, if not the world?

Why are they running towards Birmingham? Is it just a chance co-incidence? Poor design on the creators part? Or something more meaningful? What is wrong with Wolverhampton that these creatures are all motioning towards Birmingham? What is the draw of Birmingham? Perhaps this is the point, do they symbolise the millions of people who migrated to the city to find work and live? Or is it something different?

Who put them there? And when? Were they built around the railway? Were they just meant to be a decoration, something to liven the journey? Is it just me looking for meaning in something in which none exists? Were there more than I can see now? If so, how many? If anyone can explain the horses I would be delighted to know.

There were other thoughts which radiated into my consciousness during the train journey, and I will blog about them at some other point I’m sure. But for now I am content with wondering how many other journeys across Britain provoke the same level of contemplation. Or how many have the screaming baby which you just want to escape? I’m guessing the latter has more takers than the former.




One response

29 05 2008
Middle Man

Wow. What a lovely post. You may just have changed my nmind about the Black Country:

And as for train journeys, I agree that they can be special:

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