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Editorial to Part 5


IT has been of considerable interest to me to find how many readers have discovered or admitted the charm of the story of the locomotive. History is so often another word tor dullness, and to look back into the past is frequently not so intriguing as to look forward to the future; but locomotive history seems to possess a romance all its own. It teaches us, as all history should, that what has gone before can be as romantic and glamorous as what is to-day and what is yet to come, and that the future must inevitably be built up on the past.


Those readers who have written to me to express their enjoyment of this particular angle of railway development will find in the present number a further chapter describing the progress of the railway engine after the Rainhill Trials in the British Isles, on the Continent and in the United States of America. The early problems facing locomotive builders were indeed considerable, and how, by their ingenuity, these pioneers overcame the most difficult of problems is a drama more fascinating than many told in the form of fiction.


THE whole story of railways is one of spectacular achievement; it is also a story of high endeavour, for without the vision of our predecessors we should not now be able to travel with such facility. The more we speed up communications, especially international communications, the more likely is peace to come upon the world, for it is only by the inter-communication of peoples that individuals of different nationalities can learn to understand one another and to appreciate one another’s difficulties. That is why I think every honour and credit should be given to those men whose brains enabled railway transport to come into being.


In this number, too, I am publishing an account of the Great St. Gothard, a Swiss wonder line that threads its way through the Alps and makes use of those astounding spiral tunnels that were cut to enable trains to overcome what are almost fantastic gradients. Switzerland has not lagged behind in railway progress.


The word “wonderful” is not used ill-advisedly in relationship to the railways of the world. If you will refer to the fine current photogravure supplement you will see some truly remarkable pictures illustrating some of the wonder bridges that have saved much in mileage and much in cost in railway transport. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, for example, is the largest single-arch span bridge yet constructed, and it cost over ten million pounds to build.


Every facet of common life seems to be reflected in the railway mirror. Who is familiar with the intricacies of the TPO’s - Travelling Post Offices? His Majesty’s mails form a very large part of the work undertaken by railways. On the special mail trains there are sorting offices that deal with the mail-bags as they are gathered by means of a net from the track-side on to the fast-moving train. Everything is done to save time and to speed up the mechanism of business.


These are but a few of the items included in this special number. We begin, too, the story of the electrification of the Southern Railway, the largest suburban electrical scheme yet attempted by any railway in the whole world.


NEXT week we shall return to high-speed travel by dealing with one of the most remarkable of trains -  the “Flying Hamburger”. Germany has made great strides in high-speed travel, and I have already referred to my journey with the driver of this particular train, but I cannot resist returning to it, as it is one of my most memorable experiences. There is a great difference between travelling on the footplate of an ordinary train and travelling in the comfortable cabin of a high-speed flyer. In the latter you sit directly in the nose of the craft, and speed along the track and through stations at anything up to 100 miles per hour. It provides an experience not easily forgotten. It has been my fortune to fly a good deal in all kinds and conditions of aircraft, but I can honestly say that no aeronautical experience equals that trip with the driver of the “Flying Hamburger”.


We shall also deal with another of the famous trains of the world. It is doubtful if there is anyone who has never heard of the “Flying Scotsman”, which runs between London and Edinburgh, covering 392.7 miles in 7¾ hours. To travel on this train is an education in itself. Since June, 1865, it has been making its daily departure from King’s Cross at 10 o’clock. Of course, many changes have been made since the inception of this train.


I have been asked by a number of correspondents whether Railway Wonders of the World will cover the important dock railways which mean so much to intercommunication. There is no railway subject of interest that will not ultimately be dealt with, for I have given considerable attention to the fact that this publication is ultimately to form a complete survey of railway development.