Quotes from Eleven Minutes Late

Extracts from Eleven Minutes Late: A Train Journey to the Soul of Britain

“The writer Augustus Hare told how his mother would refuse to take the train all the way into London, but would get horses to meet her at a convenient station so she would not actually be seen in town alighting from a train. Sitting opposite strangers, she said, was ‘so excessively improper’ “.

“And, oh, the colours! The engines on the Brighton line were ‘gamboge’ – tropical yellow – with brass fittings, until they were toned down to chocolate. The London and South Western had olive green engines and salmon-coloured coaches. Everything about the Midland was crimson. The Great Western’s chocolate-and-cream coaches were pulled by bright green engines. The Caledonian Railway was Prussian blue. The London & North Western engines were a boring black, but they gleamed.”

“Originally opened in August 1866 and closed in December 1866, the Potts line in Shropshire opened and went bust twice more. On one occasion the bailiff very conspicuously boarded the train, so he was shunted into a siding and left there.”

“A hundred tons of potatoes sent from Dundee to New York [circa 1913] were not landed because of high duties and shipped back to Liverpool, all of which cost less than sending them from Dundee to Liverpool by rail.”

“The Southern Railway suddenly decided it would be more sensible to get rid of the trains [on the Lynton & Barnstaple line]… There was a furious protest, enough to persuade the Southern Railway to hold a conference on the issue at Barnstaple. The protesters from Lynton were so anxious to be there that they decided to travel by the most modern, efficient and convenient means available. They went by car.”

“When Brief Encounter came out, a few months after the end of war, it did not perhaps have quite the same impact on audiences that it does now. The British had had quite enough of stations like Milford Junction, slow trains, dim lighting, stale buns, imperious buffet manageresses, and perhaps also of lives in which their own impulses were always overridden by calls of duty.”

“We were watching The Alamo on TV, and I said to the wife ‘If that were the English, they wouldn’t have fired a shot’. They’ll put up with ‘owt. The whole transport system is a shambles.”

“At Corrour, 1,338 ft above sea level, where there is no public road, the conductor delivered mail and a Tesco package. Nearby there was a ruined croft. Otherwise, there was no sign of habitation: the moor was unimaginably lonely, bleak, treeless, unearthly, stunning. It had been like that for several miles, and I realized my mouth had been open the entire time, in gaping admiration.”

“The day I went to Norbiton, the station toilets were closed due to refurbishment. South West Trains apologized for the inconvenience.”

“John Major had a plan for the railways. It was a terrible plan, execrably executed. But looking back now on almost twelve years of Labour posturing and procrastinating, you can say this for him: at least he had a plan. At least he had a plan. “