Part 4 out of 4
his glories weight his brow; but for outright performance, carried on
constantly, coolly, and without elation, by a temperate, honest, clear-
minded man, he is the further point. And so the lone human at his
station in a cab, guarding money, lives, and the honor of the road, is a
beautiful sight. The whole thing is aesthetic. The fireman presents the
same charm, but in a less degree, in that he is bound to appear as an
apprentice to the finished manhood of the driver. In his eyes, turned
always in question and confidence toward his superior, one finds this
quality; but his aspirations are so direct that one sees the same type
There may be a popular idea that the fireman's principal function is to
hang his head out of the cab and sight interesting objects in the
landscape. As a matter of fact, he is always at work. The dragon is
insatiate. The fireman is continually swinging open the furnace-door,
whereat a red shine flows out upon the floor of the cab, and shoveling
in immense mouthfuls of coal to a fire that is almost diabolic in its
madness. The feeding, feeding, feeding goes on until it appears as if it
is the muscles of the fireman's arms that are speeding the long train.
An engine running over sixty-five miles an hour, with 500 tons to drag,
has an appetite in proportion to this task.
View of the clear-shining English scenery is often interrupted between
London and Crew by long and short tunnels. The first one was
disconcerting. Suddenly one knew that the train was shooting toward a
black mouth in the hills. It swiftly yawned wider, and then in a moment
the engine dived into a place inhabitated by every demon of wind and
noise. The speed had not been checked, and the uproar was so great that
in effect one was simply standing at the center of a vast, black-walled
sphere. The tubular construction which one's reason proclaimed had no
meaning at all. It was a black sphere, alive with shrieks. But then on
the surface of it there was to be seen a little needle-point of light,
and this widened to a detail of unreal landscape. It was the world; the
train was going to escape from this cauldron, this abyss of howling
darkness. If a man looks through the brilliant water of a tropical pool,
he can sometimes see coloring the marvels at the bottom the blue that
was on the sky and the green that was on the foliage of this detail. And
the picture shimmered in the heat-rays of a new and remarkable sun. It
was when the train bolted out into the open air that one knew that it
was his own earth.
Once train met train in a tunnel. Upon the painting in the perfectly
circular frame formed by the mouth there appeared a black square with
sparks bursting from it. This square expanded until it hid everything,
and a moment later came the crash of the passing. It was enough to make
a man lose his sense of balance. It was a momentary inferno when the
fireman opened the furnace door and was bathed in blood-red light as he
fed the fires.
The effect of a tunnel varied when there was a curve in it. One was
merely whirling then heels over head, apparently in the dark, echoing
bowels of the earth. There was no needle-point of light to which one's
eyes clung as to a star.
From London to Crew, the stern arm of the semaphore never made the train
pause even for an instant. There was always a clear track. It was great
to see, far in the distance, a goods train whooping smokily for the
north of England on one of the four tracks. The overtaking of such a
train was a thing of magnificent nothing for the long-strided engine,
and as the flying express passed its weaker brother, one heard one or
two feeble and immature puffs from the other engine, saw the fireman
wave his hand to his luckier fellow, saw a string of foolish, clanking
flat-cars, their freights covered with tarpaulins, and then the train
was lost to the rear.
The driver twisted his wheel and worked some levers, and the rhythmical
chunking of the engine gradually ceased. Gliding at a speed that was
still high, the train curved to the left, and swung down a sharp
incline, to move with an imperial dignity through the railway yard at
Rugby. There was a maze of switches, innumerable engines noisily pushing
cars here and there, crowds of workmen who turned to look, a sinuous
curve around the long train-shed, whose high wall resounded with the
rumble of the passing express; and then, almost immediately, it seemed,
came the open country again. Rugby had been a dream which one could
properly doubt. At last the relaxed engine, with the same majesty of
ease, swung into the high-roofed station at Crewe, and stopped on a
platform lined with porters and citizens. There was instant bustle, and
in the interest of the moment no one seemed particularly to notice the
tired vermilion engine being led away.
There is a five-minute stop at Crewe. A tandem of engines slip up, and
buckled fast to the train for the journey to Carlisle. In the meantime,
all the regulation items of peace and comfort had happened on the train
itself. The dining-car was in the center of the train. It was divided
into two parts, the one being a dining-room for first-class passengers,
and the other a dining-room for the third-class passengers. They were
separated by the kitchens and the larder. The engine, with all its
rioting and roaring, had dragged to Crewe a car in which numbers of
passengers were lunching in a tranquility that was almost domestic, on
an average menu of a chop and potatoes, a salad, cheese, and a bottle of
beer. Betimes they watched through the windows the great chimney-marked
towns of northern England. They were waited upon by a young man of
London, who was supported by a lad who resembled an American bell-boy.
The rather elaborate menu and service of the Pullman dining-car is not
known in England or on the Continent. Warmed roast beef is the exact
symbol of a European dinner, when one is traveling on a railway.
This express is named, both by the public and the company, the "Corridor
Train," because a coach with a corridor is an unusual thing in England,
and so the title has a distinctive meaning. Of course, in America, where
there is no car which has not what we call an aisle, it would define
nothing. The corridors are all at one side of the car. Doors open thence
to little compartments made to seat four, or perhaps six, persons. The
first-class carriages are very comfortable indeed, being heavily
upholstered in dark, hard-wearing stuffs, with a bulging rest for the
head. The third-class accommodations on this train are almost as
comfortable as the first-class, and attract a kind of people that are
not usually seen traveling third-class in Europe. Many people sacrifice
their habit, in the matter of this train, to the fine conditions of the
One of the feats of the train is an electric button in each compartment.
Commonly an electric button is placed high on the side of the carriage
as an alarm signal, and it is unlawful to push it unless one is in
serious need of assistance from the guard. But these bells also rang in
the dining-car, and were supposed to open negotiations for tea or
whatever. A new function has been projected on an ancient custom. No
genius has yet appeared to separate these two meanings. Each bell rings
an alarm and a bid for tea or whatever. It is perfect in theory then
that, if one rings for tea, the guard comes to interrupt the murder, and
that if one is being murdered, the attendant appears with tea. At any
rate, the guard was forever being called from his reports and his
comfortable seat in the forward end of the luggage-van by thrilling
alarms. He often prowled the length of the train with hardihood and
determination, merely to meet a request for a sandwich.
The train entered Carlisle at the beginning of twilight. This is the
border town, and an engine of the Caledonian Railway, manned by two men
of broad speech, came to take the place of the tandem. The engine of
these men of the North was much smaller than the others, but her cab was
much larger, and would be a fair shelter on a stormy night. They had
also built seats with hooks by which they hang them to the rail, and
thus are still enabled to see through the round windows without
dislocating their necks. All the human parts of the cab were covered
with oilcloth. The wind that swirled from the dim twilight horizon made
the warm glow from the furnace to be a grateful thing.
As the train shot out of Carlisle, a glance backward could learn of the
faint, yellow blocks of light from the carriages marked on the dimmed
ground. The signals were now lamps, and shone palely against the sky.
The express was entering night as if night were Scotland.
There was a long toil to the summit of the hills, and then began the
booming ride down the slope. There were many curves. Sometimes could be
seen two or three signal lights at one time, twisting off in some new
direction. Minus the lights and some yards of glistening rails, Scotland
was only a blend of black and weird shapes. Forests which one could
hardly imagine as weltering in the dewy placidity of evening sank to the
rear as if the gods had bade them. The dark loom of a house quickly
dissolved before the eyes. A station with its lamps became a broad
yellow band that, to a deficient sense, was only a few yards in length.
Below, in a deep valley, a silver glare on the waters of a river made
equal time with the train. Signals appeared, grew, and vanished. In the
wind and the mystery of the night, it was like sailing in an enchanted
gloom. The vague profiles of hills ran like snakes across the somber
sky. A strange shape boldly and formidably confronted the train, and
then melted to a long dash of track as clean as sword-blades.
The vicinity of Glasgow is unmistakable. The flames of pauseless
industries are here and there marked on the distance. Vast factories
stand close to the track, and reaching chimneys emit roseate flames. At
last one may see upon a wall the strong reflection from furnaces, and
against it the impish and inky figures of workingmen. A long, prison-
like row of tenements, not at all resembling London, but in one way
resembling New York, appeared to the left, and then sank out of sight
like a phantom.
At last the driver stopped the brave effort of his engine The 400 miles
were come to the edge. The average speed of forty-nine and one-third
miles each hour had been made, and it remained only to glide with the
hauteur of a great express through the yard and into the station at
A wide and splendid collection of signal lamps flowed toward the engine.
With delicacy and care the train clanked over some switches, passes the
signals, and then there shone a great blaze of arc-lamps, defining the
wide sweep of the station roof. Smoothly, proudly, with all that vast
dignity which had surrounded its exit from London, the express moved
along its platform. It was the entrance into a gorgeous drawing-room of
a man that was sure of everything.
The porters and the people crowded forward. In their minds there may
have floated dim images of the traditional music-halls, the bobbies, the
'buses, the 'Arrys and 'Arriets, the swells of London.