Dream 24th Jan 2002

I had inexplicably found myself in my home town, but in a different reality. It was a world without trains. Stevenson had not invented his steam locomotive "The Rocket" but had instead invented an internal combustion engine fuelled by volatile spirit. He had invented the motor car. The train had quite simply never been invented. There were no railways, no stations and no long-distance mass transportation of commuters between cities. The longest distance any worker travelled to his office was one hour by bus meaning that many people worked closer to home.

It was very odd walking down familiar streets which were subtly different from the home I knew. The bus station was roughly where I had known it, except it was several times larger and on the other side of the road in the space the rail station was in my world. It was a monument of Victorian building. In my world it was an ugly grey 1960s concrete structure which had defied all attempts to prettify it. Here it was a historical building, a huge hall, constructed of mellow red and yellow bricks which were glazed and arranged in a pattern. Black bricks picked out the huge words "Bus Terminus" and the great care had been taken over the proportions, the windows and other architectural features. It was magnificent.

Where I had known the town's old cramped railway station underneath its viaduct there was just a road. No viaduct arches, no embankment. Where one of the arches stood in my world was a large Victorian-built pub, painted dark green. Here there were no "Railway Tavern" pubs serving thirsty commuters. Gold lettering picked out the name "THE GOLDEN MOTOR CAR".

There would be no Liverpool Street station, no Waterloo or Kings Cross. No London Underground. No network of railways joining city to city. Just roads and motorways, albeit ones built with Victorian engineering skills and pride. IK Brunel - builder of fine motorway bridges? Were there bus-spotters who enthused over the structural beauty of some motorway interchange designed by some Victorian engineer and held together with so many thousand rivets?

Somehow I got to talking with a civil engineer whose job it was to maintain some of those bridges and tunnels. The problem was that the Victorians had never envisaged the volume of traffic and the road system was literally falling to pieces. There was no room to widen the roads and the weight of so much traffic was too much for the Victorian methods.

I began to explain to him the concept of a railway - dozens of carriages all pulled by one diesel locomotive and travelling on its own track, not on the roads. It would take a great deal to persuade anyone to build a network of railways and to sell the idea to the travelling public, but he thought it had some merits.


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