Daily Archives: April 18, 2010

On the slow train

When Flanders and Swann romanticised the memory of the slow train (at a time when many lines were closing, and they may have envisaged the prospect of its complete disappearance), one of their chief tools was the long list of evocative place names.  The (unglamorous) slow train was to be written into history as an element of the mythical rural idyll for whose ruin it had no doubt once been blamed.

Inexplicably they omitted Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, the place famous for its name and nothing else.  It’s still a station served by some of our remaining slow trains, and I couldn’t resist taking a snap of the old-fashioned station when I found myself on a train stopping there en route home from Ireland.  Although the name is descriptive, I can’t help feeling it owes more to the Welsh tradition of having a quiet laugh (c.f. Llareggub Hill, that creation of the most famous bard since Taliesin) than to the more prosaic and succinct place naming conventions that give us names like Plymouth or Aberystwyth.  Even the most expansive English names, like Buckland Monachorum just a few miles from here, don’t come close.