Wednesday, 22 February 2012

"The most desperate efforts to avoid the ladies" - Observing Station Activity (1868)

When browsing copies of Charles Dickens' magazine, All The Year Round, I came across this fascinating piece from 1868 which not only commented on the ever-present hustle and bustle at railway stations, but also on the entertainment one could have through the simple act of observing it:

"There is certainly no more lively, bustling, animated and animating scene than the terminus of a railway on the departure of an express train. It does one good even to be an on-looker; and I can imagine that a man who has few opportunities to travel, might give himself a pleasant excitement every day, by visiting the nearest terminus to witness the excitement of others. In this ingenious manner I have enjoyed some delights of travelling, without the weariness of a journey, an without the paying a fare. It would be difficult to describe what it is that renders the scene so invigorating. There seems to be a sort of animal magnetism at work. Everyone is excited though there is no particular cause for excitement. There are plenty of carriages, there are full five minutes to spare, and yet every individual on the platform is in an intense hurry-passing and repassing, darting at the book-stall, plunging into the refreshment-room, peeping into the carriages, glancing at the clock, asking questions of the guards (who are passing up and down with their hands slyly formed into money boxes), giving directions to porters, shaking hands with friends over and over again, and, if addicted to tobacco, making the most desperate efforts to avoid the ladies."[1]


[1] Unknown Author (Charles Dickens ed.) 'Railway Thoughts', All The Year Round, 4 January 1868, p.81

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