Last week I was browsing a secondhand bookshop here in Copenhagen. Imagine my surprise when I suddenly came across a dog-eared copy of "A Traveller's Guide to the Great Western Railway" from 1926. What really got my attention, however, was that this was one of the rare illustrated versions, with photos by J. Peerybingle, a well-known photographer of the day.
Feigning complete indifference I managed to obtain the book for a very reasonable price. I particularly like the chapter entitled "Journey to Didcot", and have decided to reproduce it here. I hope I am not infringing on any copyright laws by doing so!
Our journey begins at Paddington Station, that most famous of railway stations from where tracks reach out for thousands of miles across the Kingdom.
Under these mighty arches the traveller may choose to commence his journey with a pleasant meal in one of the numerous dining establishments.
Perhaps a Cornish pasty would suit the traveller? Surely a suitable choice for the Great Western traveller. Side-crimped, of course!
Waiting rooms are to be found in several locations around the station concourse. Naturally, separate rooms are provided for Ladies.
In preparation for the journey the traveller will want to synchronize his time-piece with that of the grand clock in the station hall. One can only wonder at the scenes this clock has witnessed!
Should assistance be needed in finding one's train, the courteous station staff will be of assistance, as will the numerous timetables posted throughout the station.
Porters are available for those who carry heavy luggage, and the station staff are always on hand to assist the less sure-footed.
The Great Western Company provides a variety of services in the direction of Didcot, depending on the needs of the traveller.
The fastest and most direct service is provided by the sleek expresses that stop only at the major stations.
Even the most experienced traveller must marvel at the elegant liveries and the lovingly polished engines for which the company’s crack expresses are known around the world.
Alternatively, the traveller may choose to go by stopping train. These provide a more sedate mode of travel, and an opportunity to fully experience the beauty of the countryside along the way.
The interior of the stopping trains are a study in lavish design and tasteful colour selection...
...and the comfort is second to none.
As we embark on our journey, we soon pass Old Oak Common, the renowned locomotive depot of the Great Western Company...
...where the observant traveller may be fortunate to see some of the graceful locomotive classes of the Great Western. Here it is one of the legendary Castle Class, namely Pendennis Castle sporting the well-known coat of arms.
As we proceed along the line we observe many examples of the lineside industries that keep the wheels of our industrious nation turning...
...and which are served by endless rows of heavy goods trains that cross the country from one end to the other.
Indeed, whereever we look there is evidence of the country’s great reliance on our railways.
As we stop at stations along the way, it is difficult not to be charmed by the railway architecture for which the Great Western Company is so well known.
Elegance is the key word...
...station gardens are lovingly groomed...
...and local artists have enthusiastically helped decorate the station buildings.
Everywhere we witness the company’s loyal dedication to personal and attentive service.
At the stations the railway enthusiast has the opportunity to study the railway officials going about their duties.
Several of the stations along the way provide opportunities for the traveller to connect with branchline services if he so desires.
Gangers may be encountered along the way...
...whose job it it is to ensure that the track is well maintained so that passengers may have a smooth and speedy ride.
Indeed, the railway infrastructure itself is worthy of study as our train speeds westwards.
As we gain sight of the company’s new coaling stage at Didcot we know our journey has come to an end. For the traveller who wishes to further explore this intriguing railway town, we refer to the next installment in our series.