An old friend of mine, back in university, used to say that a clear sign of encroaching middle age was the development of an interest for trains. The first step to becoming one of those sad and lonely old men that spend their days watching the trains running.
Youth can be so cruel.
And yet, I find there’s a number of books on old railways here on my shelf, a clear sign that the abyss of old age awaits, with a bench at the station.
And last night I invested two bucks in a nice little book called Night Trains: The Rise and Fall of the Sleeper, by Andrew Martin.
Martin is a journalist specialized in railway matters, and the author of a long series of railway-themed mysteries. In this book he goes through the history of the famous Wagon Lits company that managed such iconic services as the Orient Express and the Blue Train.
Taking the form of a travelogue, the books follows the author as he travels Europe on today’s fast and somewhat charmless high-speed trains, while putting together details and recollections from the golden age of the sleeper car. Facts and figures about the sleeper car service are intermingled with reference to the service’s impact on popular culture, in books, movies, paintings.
I am currently halfway through the book, and I am quite pleased and intrigued. It would be great to emulate the author, and board a train to visit the places described.
And the volume’s also a great resource for writers, as it’s filled with historical detail and information. Great for research.
Now I’d really be curious of checking out one of Martin’s railway mysteries. Middle age is clearly getting an unshakable grip on my mind.