Riding the steam train to Grandmother’s home.
I was a shy child, preferring to stay in my room rather than venture outside for play.
“You are so quiet,” people would say as if it was a bad thing.
They failed to notice their annoying chatter blocked out the sweeter sounds of nature: raindrops falling, leaves rustling, birds chirping. Mother Nature, not people, stirred my senses. There was no sound more exciting, however, than the bellowing steam train as it pulled into the station to take me to my grandmother’s house.
As a fifties kid, I grew up in a home with no family car. A trip to grandma’s house, or anywhere, for that matter, meant a train ride. We would arrive at the station with enough time to spare for a cup of tea in the railway’s cafeteria. Dad called it weak, but it was hot, and sweet, and went down a treat. Sometimes, Mum would fork out for a biscuit. We would then wait on the platform for the train to arrive. Glancing at his watch, Dad would say, “Won’t be long, now.”
Anticipation increased as the minutes passed. I could hardly contain my excitement! Being taller than me, Dad would spot the train first, and shout There it is! See, in the distance! I would stare ahead along the winding track and watch the huge iron beast barrelling toward me, as an overhead intercom announced its arrival. My parents appeared indifferent to my standing too close to the edge, ready to jump aside as the engine pulled into the platform.
Sometimes, the noise was too loud for my young ears, and I feared I would faint clean away. Steam enveloped me. The smell invaded my nostrils. Valves hissed as if impatient at having to stop again. Rumbling and clattering, the commotion lasted several minutes as the engine slowed. Carriages murmured loudly as they bumped and swayed to a halt. Several passengers would jump from the train before it fully stopped. “Idiots,” Mum would whisper. “One day, someone will fall!”
I’d climb into the carriage exhausted from the din, and sink into a padded bench seat. Within minutes, amid a loud whistle, a clatter and hiss, the engine would pull out from the station, and we would be on our way. What wonderful memories I have of my train rides to grandma’s house.
Author, Barbara Studham: Memories of Steam Trains. Milly Mullan, the main character in my Under the Shanklin sky fiction series, also loved riding the steam train. Here, is part of the first chapter of book #1 Under the Shanklin sky, where she shares her memory.
As a child of the fifties, Millicent Mullan treasured her summer holidays at the charming seaside town of Shanklin situated on the Isle of Wight. With anticipation soaring, at least two weeks before school ended for the summer, she would fetch her yellow, plastic bucket and spade stashed in the cupboard under the stairs, and chatter with excitement to school chums, friends, family, and anyone within earshot willing to listen.
“Soon I’ll be swimming! I do hope the weather is hot. You should feel the sand, it’s so smooth under your feet. And I often find shells. And the gulls scream so. We are staying two weeks in my favorite hotel. I wish we could stay longer. I never want to go home!” Rambling on, she’d twirl and whirl in her puffed-sleeved dress, until her mother would shout, “Shut up, Milly! You’re driving us nuts!”
But, Mum understood her daughter’s delight, as she loved Shanklin too. Every winter Mr Mullan would reserve two rooms for their upcoming summer family vacation at the Shanklin Beach Hotel, one for himself and Mrs Mullan, and one for Milly. In those days, the furnishings were old and scratched and the beds lumpy. Each room had one basin with cold running water. To try their patience further, guests on the second floor shared a bathroom, but, overall, the Mullan family couldn’t care less, and simply agreed such outdated décor only added to the charm of their windswept surroundings.
To Milly’s parents, Ron and Sandra, the most arduous part of their holiday was the daylong journey from their house to the hotel, especially if caught in a downpour. And, poor Mr Mullan had to bear those heavy, brown suitcases which a week ago he had laid out to air, before Mrs Mullan stuffed them with necessities. Huffing and puffing under their weight, he’d pray the handles would hold and not break as one had before, leaving him stumped as to how to get their things to the hotel. It had happened before boarding the ferry and they had no clue what to do, until several kind passengers offered them bags. The old, leather suitcase was abandoned and the bags filled, and Milly giggled and skipped behind her dad as he staggered along with one case and eight bags in hand.
“Get out from under your dad’s feet,” Mum had chided with arms full of beach paraphernalia and her favorite deck chair.
During Milly’s early years, they had no car so their journey would begin in the early morning on a bus from their home in Iver Village to Uxbridge, then a train from there to London with a switch at London’s Paddington Station to Southampton, for the ferry ride across the Channel to the Isle of Wight. There, another train would take them to Shanklin Station and finally they would splurge for a taxi to drive to Shanklin Beach Hotel. By the end of the journey Ron and Sandra would be exhausted and go to bed early that night, but Milly took it all in her stride especially loving the train ride from London to the south coast.
Staring out the window and seeing what only children can, she’d delight in the beauty of the countryside and the speeding of the train past houses dotted along the way. The clammy smoke from the steam engine would fill her nostrils as it seeped into her carriage.
“Close the window, Milly,” Mum would say. “The noise is too loud and it smells.”
But if a passenger interrupted her delight—hello, little girl, are you enjoying the ride?—she’d get cross and frown at them rudely. Milly loved her vacations and all its intricacies and wanted no one to spoil it with mundane murmurings in her ear… ©BarbaraStudham
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Under the Shanklin sky
by Barbara Studham.
Barbara Studham’s bio:
For the past twenty years, Barbara Studham parented four grandchildren, all diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Her two memoirs: Two Decades of Diapers, and, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, The Teen Years, describe her challenges during their toddler years, and teens. She has also written fiction, including a six-book series titled, Under The Shanklin Sky; set in the seaside town of Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight. She is currently creating a children’s FASD picture book series. The first, titled The School Day, is now available.
All Barbara Studham’s books are available from AMAZON.
Author blog: http://www.barbarastudham.com
FASD blog: http://www.challengedhope.com
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/barbarastudham