A junior boy’s memory.
In the late 40s, one Saturday morning, this young lad and his brother would be squeezed into a taxi along with baby brother’s pram and all the luggage plus mam and dad and set off to the Victoria Station. Once there and through the sacred reverberation of the booking hall, the entrance to the trains opened onto to the metal footbridge over the platforms and lines, and there below us, a shock, a mesmerising panorama like nothing else, as far as you could see, a monstrous industrial underworld of clanking and shouting, hissing steam and wafting up to us, the tempting enticing sweet smell of locomotive smoke. A struggle down the steps with the cases and pram to the platform level and we were engulfed in its titanic busy-ness, a tannoy barking out indecipherable orders, smart adults walking quickly here and there, cigarettes being lit, unheard conversations drowned out by the noise, a wink from a passing porter, his laden trolley rumbling along on cast iron wheels towering above me; this was the centre of the universe, this was the mechanicals which operated the world. And there, the most important man in splendid uniform with white shirt and black tie, with mere whistle-blow ordered the lumbering trains about their business. Dad took me to the end of the platform to see the engine. As we approached there was a malevolence about its clicking, hissing and ticking, it seemed keen to be off somewhere, its huge body was so impatient that it was scorching hot if you got too close and if it had an eye I’m sure it looked sideways with disdain at this little mortal. And just to prove its superiority it let out a deafening shrieking hiss in a geyser of steam which, save for the roof, would have blown a hole in the sky. Mam’s waving us back to get on board. The noises subdue as we move into the carriage, dad stowing things in “our” commandeered compartment as doors thump shut. A sigh of relief from mam, and that station master signals the ok, there’s a contemptuous toot from Leviathon at the front and with a gentle jolt the “Master Cutler” is taking us on our holidays, eventual destination Broadstairs!