Yesterday evening with an hour to kill before meeting my wife after work, I went for a walk. My usual trek across the hill, beautiful clear visibility, a cool breeze and the land fresh and shiny from an earlier rain shower. If I walk really briskly from my work, within an hour I reach a path that parallels a railway line for a while. This isn't a sleepy branch line or industrial siding, instead it's the main line to the west of England so as I walked I had high speed express trains straining at full power and laden with commuters a few yards away from me. I stopped to admire one as it streaked past. The Inter-City 125 is getting a bit long in the tooth now but back in the 1970s it was new, fast and even glamorous to snotty-nosed little kids like me. This, we were told, was the age of the train, and these were the trains to be seen on.
Thirty years later I have to say they're still a pretty impressive sight and sound. I caught myself looking around guiltily for a moment as it had passed, wondering whether someone had caught my little trainspotter moment.
You see, in the UK at least, showing an interest in railways isn't always perceived as 100% cool. It's the trainspotters that are to blame, let's face it, some of them are a little enthusiastic and can, dare I say it, even sometimes be a bit boring at times. So showing anything more than an extremely fleeting interest in railways can at times lead to social pariah status in the same way as admitting a fondness for country and western music. Oops.
But I can't help it. I'll never stand at the end of a platform with a notebook, I couldn't tell you the class numbers or liveries of a myriad different train operators and I certainly have no idea how many rivets were used in the construction of the City of Truro's boiler but I am fascinated by the view unfolding from a railway carriage window, I've foraged through undergrowth to sit on the Victorian brickwork of long-abandoned railway structures and I've treated my long-suffering wife to unexpected detours on long journeys to drive past long-forgotten trackbeds. Isambard Kingdom Brunel is one of my heroes and I am not afraid to admit it.