Drawing the line: Ray Pool looks back at last days of steam
Write Out Loud regular Ray Pool has reached the age where he is a privileged possessor of what is fast becoming a prized secret. As a young man, keen photographer and railways enthusiast he witnessed and took pictures of the final days of steam locomotives in the late 1960s.
Now he has documented those days in a delightful document of line drawings from his own photos, and accompanying poems. The drawings include commuters waiting for a train at Ashford in Middlesex, a steam footplate crew taking a break on the platform at Waterloo, a beautiful narrow-gauge locomotive in Wales, another loco in the Surrey hills, a porter pushing a laden trolley, a tank engine at West Dayton and Yiewsley, a West Country class loco in its pomp, powering through Weybridge in the mid-60s, and a disused station at Upton and Blewberry on the line from Didcot to Southampton. There are many more.
The subjects of the poems include commuters, trainspotters, a long-gone line in Wales, a reminder of the navvies that died to help achieve dramatic feats of 19th century railway engineering, and young lust, “each awaiting a signal from the other”. There’s a Betjemanesque flavour to ‘Railway Chair’ – “O bouncing trouncing railway train” – that is demonstrably in his master’s voice, and would be delivered so by Ray, an accomplished mimic, at any available microphone. Another, ‘A Memory of Heat’, has echoes of Edward Thomas and ‘Adlestrop’.
Those interested in obtaining an electronic copy of this entrancing journey through the days of railways past should email Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Write Out Loud messaging.