Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Love on a Branch Line; Hate on a Main Road

Posted in Great Britain, Media, Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 9 August 2011

I’ve just started watching the BBC’s excellent adaptation of Love on a Branch Line by John Hadfield. I won’t go too much into the plot, as the important element of it is the “love” rather than the “branch line”. However, it is interesting to see, as the branch line element is the crux of the setting. The idea is that the branch line to the fictional village of Arcady in Suffolk was closed four years prior to the action in the book (and thus the TV adaptation) – not as a result of Beeching I hasten to add. As a consequence, this little community is essentially cut off from the outside, in these days before decent roads and everyone owning a car; being cut off means it develops even further into the characteristic sleepy English village that is so often found in certain types of literature, esepcially when seen through the eyes of an outsider, as the protagonist of the book is. This setting is of course as much a fairy tale as the unicorn – even John Betjeman was pragmatic when it came to eulogising the loss of such branch lines:

I’m not being nostalgic and sentimental and unpractical about railways. Railways are bound to be used again; they’re not a thing of the past…what’s more it’s wrong in every way when we all of us know that road traffic is becoming increasingly hellish on this overcrowded island…I think it’s more than likely that we’ll deeply regret the branch lines we’ve torn up, and the lines we’ve left to go to rot.

That being said, even Betjeman saw the need to stop running trains for the sake of running them, even if there were no fare paying passengers. And yet, in spite of it being a fairy tale, isn’t the branch line village vision of England a better one to look to? Wouldn’t it be nicer to live in a village with an eccentric aristocrat  who lives on his own private railway, than in an England where this sort of thing occurs? We can but dream. Because it is only a fairy tale.

Love on a Branch Line


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