Iowemma: Canto III


NOW a word about the stations,
Little wayside country stations;
Some with platforms, some without them;
Some with buildings, some with shanties;
Some at which the train stops always,
Some at which it stops when wanted.
All of the bedecked with flowers,
Gay in summer, gay in autumn.
Come with me upon a journey
On the line that takes us southward.
Only fourteen miles of railway
But including seven stations.
As they leave the Douglas Station
Parallel the rails run westward,
One set destined for Port Erin,
And the other Sunset City.
Just before the tracks are parted
Comes a rising of the south track,
Rising to cross o’er the river
On a bridge of crossed steel girders,
O’er the rushing Douglas River
On a bridge of reddish colour.
Into woodland leads the railway,
Leads into a rocky cutting,
And we climb with engine puffing
Till we come out on the headland
With the sea below us wrinkling
At the feet of rugged coastline;
And we shudder to a standstill
In the station of Port Soderick.
Here a long and curving platform
Flanks the rails on one side only.
On the other rears the building
Double-storeyed, creeper-covered,
Looking prosperous and stately.
On the ground floor booking office,
Waiting Rooms and other places,
While above the station-master
Has his own especial dwelling.
This was built when cash flowed freely
When the shares were fully paid for,
Ere the Company promoters
Found the capital quick dwindling.
We shall notice at the next halt
How economy was practised.
Through the winding glen of Crogga,
Blue as heaven with its bluebells,
With its ultramarine bluebells,
Through the cutting, under bridges,
On the top of tall embankment,
We approach the halt of Santon
Where a tiny wooden hutment
And a lengthy wooden boarding
Serve the purpose of a station.
Double-tracked for engine shunting
And a siding for the cattle.
That is all; no curving platform,
Not a slender ghost of platform,
Only plots of yellow dahlias,
Only hedges of red fuchsia
And the fragrant elderberry.
On below another road bridge,
On above a curved embankment,
Underneath the bridge at Blackboards,
Down the long and sinuous trackway
So we putt and hiss and wobble
To the pretty Ballasalla,
Quiet heart of rural Manxland,
Station for old Rushen Abbey,
Now a factory for fruit jam
And a garden hall for dancing,
And a hostelry for drinking.
Just another rural station,
Happy laughing Ballasalla,
Sleepy, peaceful Ballasalla,
One time home of fishing friars,
Now the home of old retired folk.
On across a level crossing,
‘Twixt the gates that block the highway,
On to flank the singing river,
Silverburn the singing river,
By the field of Bishop’s Belly,
By the gorsey water meadows,
On to where the track is stony
And the bumping trav’llers mutter
That the wheels have lost their roundness
And are changed in shape to squareness.
Very shortly, whistling madly,
Underneath a slender path bridge
Enters on a length of straight line
Leading to the tree-lined station,
Castletown, the ancient capital.
For a place so old in legend,
So renowned in island history,
Once the seat of the Manx Government,
Once the home of the Manx rulers,
Once the thriving port of commerce,
With a castle small but perfect,
Dating from the Norman Conquest,
Once the prison of the island
Where were jailed the worst offenders,
Here we find a paltry station.
Here we find a limestone building
Fronted by a red verandah,
And a length of whited railing
Followed by a vulgar hoarding.
Opposite are trees and hoardings,
Screening from the gaze Park Poulsom.
It is true there is a loop-line
For the passing of another
Train that may be going northward,
And a siding, and a warehouse;
But no platform, only gravel,
And a leap for those alighting.
On again we rumble slowly
High above the Burn of Silver,
By the road called Alexander,
To a cutting ‘neath Malew Bridge,
Then a curving line to westward,
Then a little to the northward,
As if it would fain return then
To the place whence it departed.
So we come to Ballabeg Halt,
With its banks of laurel bushes
And its single line of railway,
And its tiny station shanty.
Then below another road bridge,
Bending slightly to the leftward,
Veering slightly to the westward,
Passing fields of oats and barley,
Wheat and turnips and potatoes,
Come at length with many a whistle
Steaming into faerie Colby,
The fair station of my childhood,
Where the stationmaster’s moustache
Flared in streamers like the sunset;
And a narrow lane led outwards
To that precious mountain kingdom
Where we spent so many summers
In a carefree gay existence.
Now the journey’s almost ended;
Just two more miles toward the westward
After turning to the southward,
Soon reaching little Port St. Mary,
Where at least there is a platform
And a most imposing building
Rising up in red brick façade
And a glass roof to the platform.
Yet for all there is no loop line,
And we chug past graceful gawworks
Over flat and farming country,
Till we reach our destination
At the buffers of Port Erin.
Here again there is a platform
And a red brick station building
And a shed for locomotives,
And loop line and a siding,
All that engineers could wish for
At a terminus so vital,
At the end of such a railway.