Long ago, we went to Devon,
journeyed all the way by train,
not a sleek and shiny monster
but a giant with coal and flame.
First, the early morning rising,
we were up at crack of dawn.
cases waiting in the hallway,
a last look round, then we were gone.
Excitement rising deep within us
as we trod our silent way
past the homes of sleeping neighbours
to begin our holiday.
At our tiny wayside station
hissed our little local train,
steaming, puffing, waiting for us,
straining to be off again.
In the carriage, we all clambered,
dumped the cases on the floor,
green flag waving, whistle blowing,
porter shouting, “Shut the door.”
Slowly chuffing, jerking, clanking,
bore us off to London Town.
Noses pressed against the window
we began to settle down.
We could see the backs of houses,
narrow gardens, row by row,
lightning glimpses into windows
as the train rocked to and fro.
When we reached the main line station
we stepped out on platform three.
People milling all about us,
what a lot there was to see.
Groups of travellers, sitting waiting
for their trains for ‘who knows where’,
small boy sitting on a suitcase
gazed around with sleepy stare.
Father wound his way around them,
side-tracked trolleys selling teas;
porters, laden down with parcels,
just like walking Christmas trees.
Through an archway we discovered
noise and steam and clank of steel;
sooty glass roof high above us,
engines whistled, sharp and shrill;
caverns full of great iron monsters,
belching steam and eating fire;
men who fed them coal on shovels,
men who never seemed to tire.
Black and shiny were these monsters,
bearing names in letters bold,
christened by the men who made them,
blazoned on the sides, in gold.
Father had our tickets ready,
our train had a corridor.
Slamming doors and engines shrieking,
we were on our way once more.
Slowly moving over bridges,
glimpse of water, far below;
backs of buildings slipping past us,
soon the rhythm altered though.
Faster, faster, went the wheel’s song,
‘Diddley-dah and Diddley-dee’;
every bend we swayed together,
train and us, in harmony
flashing past the rows of houses;
snarled at bridges on the way;
shrieked through tunnels, steam a –swirling,
bursting through to light of day.
Then the houses grew more scattered,
fields of green went swiftly by;
sheep and cows and little rivers;
farms and trees against the sky.
Mother’s smile told us she knew
that we were dying to explore.
“If you promise to be careful
you may use the corridor.”
Off we went with eager chatter,
staggered on, we knew not where,
past compartments full of strangers
who returned our curious stare.
Where one carriage joined another,
beneath our feet were moving floors
connected by a shuddering tunnel;
no-man’s land between two doors.
We arrived back flushed and happy,
glad on Mother’s lap to see
a hamper open wide with goodies;
bread and ham and cakes and tea.
Looking through the window, munching
sandwiches and sipping tea,
scanned the ever-changing landscape,
all looked beautiful to me.
Sitting quietly in the corner,
drowsiness came over me
as I listened to the wheel’s song,
‘Diddley-dah and Diddley-dee.’
Must have slept for quite a while
for Devon is a long, long way.
“Wake up children, nearly there,”
I woke to hear my mother say.
The train had slowed down, winding gently
around the base of cliffs of red.
“See that red earth, through that window?
Shows it’s Devon,” Father said.
“Can you smell the sea, my dears,
that salty tang that’s in the air?
Come on children get those cases,
come on Ma, we’re there, we’re there.”
© Marion Sharville