I have a theory about railway engines being bad tempered,
well... when I say bad tempered, that's putting it mildly!
They're actually livid, furious beasts and they loathe humanity.
So different from a ship which is a sad, proud, graceful creature.
You know... I can never understand why an engine driver isn't
afraid of the monster he's in charge of... but he isn't! and
when the train's about to leave, he pulls down a lever and this
livid beast is unleashed, like this:
Huffff... huff... huff... huff... Huffff... huff... huff... huff...
and so forth, on it's journey.
Well, now we've unleashed this livid beast, we find it's still
equally furious and it has this colossal argument with the rails
it's running on, like this:
Diddley dee, diddley dah... diddley dee... diddley dah... diddley
dee... and that goes on the entire journey.
And, not only does it have a colossal argument with the rails
it's running on... but also all the other rails that dare to cross
it's own, like this: Diddley dee... diddley dah... diddley
diddley diddley dee... and so on.
Whenever we get out into the country and we come to a little
rustic bridge standing in the railway... it's quite inoffensive,
this dear little bridge... but the engine can't stand anything
within it's reach at all... but shouts at the little bridge
as it goes underneath, like this:
Diddley dee... diddley dah... diddley dee... Yaahhh... diddley
Incidently, talking about this argument with the rails... this
'diddley dee' business... I'm not a much travelled man but I'm
told, this goes on all over the world, on all the different
railways. For instance, in France... exactly the same thing
takes place, only the language is different:
Diddley da... diddley na... diddley da... much the same
Speaking of France... the first time I ever went there, I arrived
at Calais and very close to the quayside, I came across my first
glimpse of a french engine. I was vastly impressed, because
it seemed to be four times as big and eight times as livid as
any engine I'd ever seen before! To begin with, it had eight
of everything, cow catchers and bells... and everything but
the kitchen stove hanging all over it... added to which, it
had a very bad tempered word written across the front... it
just said 'Nord', which I know is horrid to start with!
And it was a great pleasure to find I was able to do something
in France that I'm not allowed to do in my own country, mainly
that I could walk across the line to get to the platform on
the other side without going over by that maddening bridge!
So I picked up my little bag and walked in front of this monster,
cowering away from it... and suddenly to my amazement, it let
out an extraordinary feminine voice!... it seemed to me to be
so enormously masculine and yet, as it started on it's journey
for Paris, all it managed to summon up was: 'Parp'.
Of course, I may be wrong about that but it really does seem
to me to be a little peculiar!
Proceeding on our journey we find, from time to time, that we
tear through certain wayside stations where no train has ever
deigned to stop. People have been standing, waiting on these
stations for centuries... but the engine ignores them, shouting
as it rushes past, like this:
Diddley dah... diddley dah... waahh... waahh... waahh...
diddley da... diddley da...
Then, of course, in time we get to a manufacturing town. Now
when you get to these big towns, if you look out of the window,
you'll notice some things called 'sidings', on which an
inexplicable thing called 'shunting' takes place. This, of
course, is just an excuse on the part of the railway company
to provide homes for old engines!
You see, there comes a time with an engine when it ceases to
be virile and hearty and it just becomes long funnelled and
tiresome. So it's put on one of these sidings and given a lot
of trucks to play with... and if you happen to have a bedroom
anywhere near a siding, you'll find that you're woken up very
early in the morning by trucks 'taking umbridge'!... and it
goes like this:
Huh... huh... huh... p-dank donk... p-donk dank... p-tink
donk donk donk donk...
And, of course, there's another old gentleman at the other end
who decides to do the same thing and biffs them all back again...
and in this way, the railway company is carried on. Now there's
one thing I must know before I die... and that's something that
takes place in the tunnel outside Snowhill, Birmingham. You
dash into the tunnel very fast and the brakes go on and you
look out of the window and all down the tunnel at intervals
are a lot of flare lights. And in between these flare lights
are men... standing... they're leaning on shovels, some on
pick-axes and golf clubs... or anything they can get hold of.
And these men, they live there... definitely!... and as you
go slowly through the tunnel, an extraordinary noise starts
at the far end and slowly crashes past the window, something
Durrum... durrum... durrum... lingalingalingalingaling...
I think it's a piece of tin which has been nailed to the side
of the tunnel with some number on it or something that doesn't
seem to mean anything to anybody... and it's too big!... and
it strikes the side of the train as it goes through! And,
presumably, the men are merely there to bend the tin back,
ready for the next train to hit it as it goes through the tunnel!
Now, lastly... I'm going to tell you the one thing that an engine
loathes more than anything else. And that is another engine
coming in the opposite direction. That... it cannot bear! And
by this time, you'll have settled down having got used to the
'diddley dum, diddley dum' and all the other maddening noises,
when suddenly, to your horror this new thing bursts upon you
and nearly knocks you on the carriage floor. It's the most
frightening thing in the world and it goes something like this:
Diddley dum... diddley dum... diddley dum... shaahhhhh...
HADDLEY DAH... HADDLEY DAH... HADDLEY DAH...
Well folks, that's all... back to the asylum!