Forget BDSM airlines’ sneakily high-cost flights, leave your Chelsea Tractor in its shed, keep your bank balance in the black and the environment in the green and take a fresh look at the railways. An ever-changing view cataloguing Britain’s past, present and future, and honest intercity travel times avoiding airport moshpits and motorway madness are both worthy attributes. It’s a chastening thought, but after reading Britain from the Rails one has to admit the possibility that Jimmy Saville was right – this is the age of the train.
Britain from the Rails is not an exhaustive gazetteer of the UK’s railways, nor is it a trainspotters’ manual or a backpackers’ guide to cheap fares. Instead, author Benedict le Vay has applied his considerable skills of observation to Britain’s most notable rail journeys, recalling in amusing and sometimes eccentric style the landscapes framed by railway carriage windows from Aberdeen to Penzance and all points between. To your left nuclear missiles, to your right the inspiration behind the witches of Macbeth and at the end of the line, Victoria – a tale of two stations. Dedicating his book to ‘the great railwaymen and women of Britain’, le Vay is sincere about his own affinity with rail travel. Indeed he’s on record stating that ‘I’ve asked for my ashes to be blasted from the chimney of my favourite steam locomotive at my funeral. Hasn’t everybody?’ Even if you’re not quite as enthusiastic about trains as the author, there’s no denying that rail travel has undergone a renaissance in Britain with passenger traffic reaching levels never before seen in peace time. As a hardback companion of pleasing pastel tones, Britain from the Rails provides a commentary to enrich long-distance rail travel and, in the absence of flying boats, airships and ocean liners, revel in one of the few forms of transport to retain an aura of romance.
Benedict le Vay says he loves train travel because it’s romantic, fun, comfortable, civilised, sociable, fascinating and doesn’t damage the wonderful places you go to. When he’s not travelling the rails, le Vay works full time on the Daily Mail. He’s the author of several Bradt Eccentric guides, including Eccentric Britain.
Title: Britain from the Rails
Author: Benedict le Vay
Publisher: Bradt Travel Guides
Publication: June 2009
ISBN: 978 1 84162 277 4