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Before the fell doctor took his axe to it,

there was a line from Paddington via

Ruabon up the valley to Lake Bala

and so to Barmouth on Cardigan Bay.

What is left is Llangollen to Carrog,

a heritage line run by volunteers.


They have Thomas the Tank Engine days.

The smoke boxes are covered by plastic

faces – Edward, Gordon, Thomas himself.

We go en famille and our grandchild,

predictably, is enchanted but not

surprised. Her universe swarms with magic.

As we eat at a picnic table

on the platform, the Fat Controller

raises his hat to us. She stares enthralled.


How very Church of England these tales are,

though not without humour or pathos!

It is the old church – the Tory party at prayer,

and the old party – gentry and tenants.

The useful trains trundle to the beat of

Hymns Ancient & Modern – ‘The rich man

in his castle, The poor man at his gate’.


Our engine is Gordon, Britannia Class.

He pumps out gouts of steam as the gradient

rises steeply from Llangollen to Berwyn;

passes the Eisteddfod grounds and crosses

the Dee, where bathers wave from a shallow,

sandy inlet and the little one waves back;

climbs through the Berwyn Tunnel; pauses

at Glyndyfrdwy – where Owain Glyndwr

proclaimed himself Prince of Wales; and so –

past a meadow with sheep and a horse

by a river bend, through sparse woods of ash

and oak – to Carrog and a puppet show.




© Copyright David Selzer
3 Responses
  • Rosemary Jefford
    July 24, 2014

    I enjoyed the journey I went on through ‘Moral Tales’. Really like ‘..her universe swarms with magic’ and ‘…Tory Party at prayer’!

  • John Chapman
    August 10, 2014

    So many comments I could make here as you know my passion for steam railways. For the traveller your piece could certainly ring true but your politicising is so slanted. Railways unleashed the world to almost everyone and made the previously unheard of and impossible an attainable dream. On the back of the dirt and filth of providing this emancipation, families were fed, work made available from where there was none and the glory of the holiday at the seaside made possible. Now steam engines bring joy to little ones who would otherwise never have experienced such might displayed so closely that it can be touched. Strange that we do not turn a hair for modern trains as they swish by but stand and wave at the steam train as it goes on its noisy way.

  • David Selzer
    August 10, 2014

    I agree with everything you’ve written about railways per se, John. My ‘politicising’ is in reference to the Rev Audry’s ‘moral tales,.

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