Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Arrivals Board

I thought it was interesting to see where our visitors are arriving from. Not surprisingly the vast majority come from the UK, especially Glasgow and then London and Edinburgh.

More surprisingly the next most popular location is Poland and then the USA, Ireland, and Italy. Amongst the top-ten there are also Thailand and Japan, neither of which I would have thought to be hotbeds of Scottish Catholic train enthusiasm.

Welcome, one and all!

Monday, 26 October 2009

World's Smallest Model Railway

A man in New Jersey has created the world's smallest model railway. The small oval of track, with working train, has been designed to go inside a model of a model railway shop that he is building for his layout. Cool! That's devotion for you: He deserves the Pro Ferrivia et Moderatore Pingui medal!

Friday, 23 October 2009


Thinking about Weymouth as we have been, I would be remiss if I didn't pause to honour Weymouth's most famous railway feature - not a dismantled line to Portland but the Harbour Tramway.

In the picture, from Google Maps, you can just make out the tramway sneaking along the quayside, almost like two long thin shadows, starting on the left and curving down to go under the bridge and then off to the right.

This branch was designed to allow boat trains to deposit their passengers directly at the liners at the quay, to save them from having to have their luggage and their own persons portered down from the main station. It lost a regular service in the 1980s as cross-channel sailings and longer distance cruises attracted less travellers. Whilst technically it could still be used today it seems that its days are over and that Network Rail won't stand in the way of removing it.

If you follow this link to Youtube you can see 33019 taking the Ocean Liner Express round the tramway in 1994. The best bits are seeing the police and railwaymen having to manhandle cars off the running line - I wonder if Health & Safety would let them now.

I remember reading about this branch in an edition of Railway Modeller when I was young and wanting to go and travel on it. I doubt I'll get the chance now!

[Its a sign I'm getting old - 1994 seems just like yesterday, and yet when I look at the cars, etc., this video seems so dated]


I was watching television the other night when I cam across this fascinating programme "Railway Walks" in which the presenter goes for ramble down disused railway lines. In that particular episode she walked from Weymouth out to the Isle of Portland* following a line that, whilst carrying passengers, was mainly designed to take the famous Portland stone down to harbour or to the yards for transshipment off to building sites. Portland stone was famously used for St Paul's Cathedral and the Cenotaph, although perhaps this blog should mention it being used in the London Underground HQ at 55 Broadway, London.

This programme was part of a series, but only this current episode is available on iplayer, I think it was a repeat to fill space in the schedule. It would be worth watching if it appears again in the listings.

* The Isle of Portland is connected to the mainland by a spit of land, so the trains don't have to fly!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Railway Songs

With the mention of Kenny Roger's Gambler in an earlier entry I couldn't help noticing how many railway songs seem sad.

There's Kenny's other favourite "The Green, Green Grass" which mentions
"The old hometown looks the same
As I step down from the train
And there to meet me is my mama and papa
And down the road I look and there runs Mary
Her golden lips like cherries
It's good to touch the green, green grass of home."
And you might think that's cheery until you listen to the rest of the song and realise that he's dreaming and when he wakes he will remember that he is about to face the Death Sentence.

I can also think of "Midnight Train to Georgia" which isn't the world's cheeriest song, although at least they go back to live happily ever after.

On the other hand I've never seen Starlight Express but according to the wikipedia entry that seems to have a happy ending. And we cannot forget "Chatanooga Choo-Choo" - that's quite cheery (and you can even go to Chatanooga and stay in a Holiday Inn Railway Carriage!)

If anyone has any ideas feel free to add them in the comments

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A Menchy

As we say where I come from "we got a menchy"* on another blog. At this rate we'll soon be famous.

Hello to anyone visiting from laodicea! I notice that their website address is ex Laodicea. Whilst they may claim some Latin root for this, it is well known that the Romans derived the word "ex" from the common usage of railway photographers who often caption their photos of the 8.15pm from Glasgow to Stirling as "2015 to Stirling ex Glasgow" - for years I would read this and think that it meant that the train had used to go to Glasgow but had changed it mind and decided to go to Stirling instead!

I notice that the bloggers over there caption us as "frivolity" and "levity" - we are entirely serious, trains are too serious to joke about!

PS. the esoteric patristic references are an uncommon problem - a bit like snow on the line, but caused by people spending too much time with Fr Fortescue's Lesser Eastern Churches.

PPS. I know that many people claim that you cannot spend too much time with Fr Fortescue's works. We are not entering into that argument here.

* In case this derivation is unclear to those not from the West of Scotland, its an affectionate contraction of 'mention'.

Friday, 9 October 2009

E.M. Forster

Okay, so he's no Awdry, but E.M. Forster's not a bad writer and so today we turn to him for a quotation:

Railway termini. They are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return

Sometimes these days it seems as if we have lost the romance of railway travel that Forster conjures up. When we think of trains too often its the functional and banal, the commute to work, the means of travel rather than the end. We need to rediscover the excitement of railways, the opportunity they offer to travel and discover, to see the world in a relaxed way impossible by car or by air. There's amazing literature based on railway journeys.

[Not all journeys that produce artistic successes are great, Kenny Rogers' Gambler only comes about because of how boring the journey is:
On a warm summers evenin on a train bound for nowhere,
I met up with the gambler; we were both too tired to sleep.
So we took turns a starin' out the window at the darkness
til boredom overtook us, and he began to speak
Well, not everything can be fun]

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Reverend Mr Awdry

A great quote from a man whose legacy will never be forgotten:

Railways and the Church have their critics, but both are the best ways of getting a man to his ultimate destination

"Awdry, Revd W." The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations. Ed. Elizabeth Knowles. Oxford University Press, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. The Open University. 8 October 2009

Railway History & More on Hamaxosticus

Obviously we have recently been considering the Latin for railway. That naturally leads on to a consideration of the history of railways. The Oxford Dictionary of World History says that horse powered wagon-ways were used from the 16th century. In the 1500s and much later the use of Latin was still common in certain fields, including administration and science, which may well have been interested in the early railways. Whether they were or not, and what vocabulary they used, is something that I'll have to leave to experts, I don't have the software or the reference books necessary for searching this, although the Latinists who invented hamaxostic(h)us might well have done this.

The first steam engine on rails is believed to have been built by Richard Trevithick in 1804, and even then men of science may well have discussed it in Latin, and the word "railway" in Latin must have been used by Acta Apostolicae Sedis from time to time in reference to Papal journeys, the Vatican Railway Station, etc. I am sure that the word "hamaxosticus" is well considered and attested.

After typing yesterday's entry I had settled down to read "Outside the Empire: The World the Roman's Knew" by NHH Sitwell and there came across the following:
"The Sarmatians are often mentioned in Greek and Latin writings under the general name of Hamaxobii or Hamaxoeci, both of which terms mean 'waggon-dwellers'"
One day you've never heard of hamax- the next day you're falling over them.

"railways, history of" A Dictionary of World History. Oxford University Press, 2000. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. The Open University. 8 October 2009

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


Funnily enough, "railway train" was not a word that commonly occurred in ancient Rome and so the Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary doesn't actually contain the word "hamaxosticus" nor "ferrivia" which is the modern Latin for railway. Lewis and Short does though contain "hamaxa, -ae", "a wagon" from which the modern word is obviously derived, itself transliterated from the Greek.

When L&S is lacking then as Catholics we turn immediately to the Holy See website and its lexicon recentis Latinitatis which gives us "hamaxostichus" for the Italian "treno". Hamaxosticus without the 'h' is also attested on-line (e.g. at Glossarium Anglico-Latinum) and just looks nicer, with the 'h' it just looks too Greek!

I hope this explains our motto to any classical Latinist who is lost in confusion in the face of hamaxostic(h)us.


At the side of the blog you can see our logo, obtained via the amusing and useful www.says-it.com. It consists of a train under the initials of the Scottish Clergy Railway Circle and above our motto: Hoc est saeculum hamaxostici - that is to say, "this is the age of the train".

[BR + Sir Jimmy Savile KCSG, what more could one want]

Friday, 2 October 2009

Metropolitana Romana

J.P. Sonnen on Orbis Catholicus blog provides an image of an old metro carriage at Anagnina, terminus of Metro A of the Roman Metropolitan. This is a common sight for many as Anagnina is the station for Ciampino airport and for heading out to the Castelli (Tivoli, Frascati, Grottaferrata, etc.) on the Cotral Buses, although it should be noted that mainline trains run out to Frascati, Viterbo, etc. as part of Rome's FR regional railway system.

[Once upon a time one could travel through the Castelli on the trams of STEFER however the late 50s and 60s saw the end of the extra urban tram routes outside Rome. They don't look too comfortable in the photos on the above website but Cotral buses aren't too great either. It also used to be possible to take a tram/train out to Alatri and Fiuggi on a line that also passed through parts of the Castelli - once again 'development' saw that line fall out of use, although you can still see the track by the side of the road if you drive out of Rome towards Frosinone, as if a train could pass by at any moment. I remember driving out that way for a day-trip from the College. It was a really awful day at the beginning - rain was pouring down and puddles were almost a foot deep in places. However as we left Rome it got better and there alongside the road we could see the tracks alongside the road - it was really eerie, as if the railway had just stopped one night and never started again, which is basically what happened if you read the Italian site above. It was a ghost railway].