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Editorial to Part 3


THOSE who know the South Kensington Science Museum, London, also know that the original “Puffing Billy” rests there; but few people know that there is a “Puffing Billy” replica in the German museum at Munich, possibly the finest museum in the world - or, at least, one of the finest. I am reminded of this by a reader who writes to point out that 1935 is a great railway centenary year, for it includes the Great Western Railway as well as the German railways in the centenary list.


The original “Puffing Billy” was built in 1813 by Hedley, and for many years drew the coal wagons in the mining districts of Newcastle-on-Tyne at a maximum speed of six miles an hour. Little did Hedley dream that his creation was ultimately to inspire a film and that “Puffing Billy” was to become a film star. “Puffing Billy” is the chief attraction in a new film entitled “The Steel Animal - a Century of German Railways”, directed by Willy Zielke. It was a difficult business to persuade the replica of “Puffing Billy” to leave the exhibition stand at Munich and travel in the open air, so that realistic moving pictures of it could be made. Without the aid of the new transportable rails of the German railways it might never have been possible. But on the new contrivance “Puffing Billy” was able to parade the streets of Munich, and interested citizens who were present when the new picture was being made had an opportunity of seeing the two extremes in German railway history - the newest design carrying their oldest railway engine.


I AM still very happy that my post-bag contains so many appreciative and helpful letters. The confidence that I have felt in this work has been more than justified, although I was certain that Railway Wonders of the World would meet with considerable support. The nature of my mail is more than ordinarily interesting. Letters arrive from readers in all walks of life; from those who are associated with railways, from those who run model railways, from those who are intrigued by the drama of railway progress, from those who derive pleasure if not always profit from invention, and also from the youth of the country. G. A. N. (Sudbury), whose chief hobby is the studying of signals, demands more about signalling; but if he will refer back to Part 1 he will notice that the chapter dealing with his special subject was indicated as the first section on signalling. Indeed, the subject will be developed further, and I have arranged for the next section to appear in Part 4, to be published next Friday.


PART 3, now in your hands, is another in which the wide variety of railway interests is fully main-tained. There seems to be no limit to the number of angles from which railway progress may be reviewed, which is one reason, I suppose, why the subject holds for most of us so strong a fascination. The story of Death Valley is itself an epic of endurance, while the chapter on high-speed travel is a testimony to the modern desire for rapid transport combined with comfort. The “Flying Bugatti”, on which I travelled in France not long ago, is typically French in design and differs from so many other examples of streamline progress in that it is driven by petrol engines. Many people I know have travelled to France specially to make the journey on this type of train. From high-speed travel on land we turn to travel underneath the surface of the earth, for in this Part we begin the story of one of the wonders not only of railway progress, but also of the world - London’s Underground. So many correspondents have expressed a wish for this story that I am glad to be able to present the first part of it in this number. Several correspondents tell me that they have never travelled on London’s underground railways, yet they are fascinated by them. And no wonder, when you consider how marvellous a feat of engineering the laying of subterranean lines really is. Of London’s millions no fewer than 1,380,000 passengers travel underground every day. How has this been achieved? It has been achieved not only by the brain of man and the physical strength of man, but also by vision and faith. All conquest must be backed by these two qualities, or there is only inertia, and it is this thought, which is constantly in my mind, that lends to all human endeavour an added glamour and interest.


IN Part 4, to be published next Friday, we shall continue the remarkable story of London’s Underground; we shall, too, learn about a railway that goes to sea and about the cable railways of the world. In addition, the number will contain a beautiful art plate. There is no doubt that when you come to bind up the completed parts you will have the most complete record of railway progress ever published.