Night Mail

I’ve been thinking about trains a lot in the last couple of days. Not sure if it’s because of the ongoing strikes and pay disputes or something deeper, but that, along with watching a TV programme last night on how train carriages and the driver’s cabs are created, has put me in mind of the famous poem by W H Auden, “Night Mail”.

My dad has always been fascinated by steam trains, and as children, he would often take me and my brothers to places like Dinting, where we could feast our eyes – and noses – on the sights and smells of a proper steam railway.

When I got married, I was fortunate enough to marry a man who loved steam trains just as much as my Dad, and so it was no surprise that our children developed (or inherited) a love of them too. I remember one holiday we visited the National Rail Museum in York, and there was a display all about the mail trains. There was a working model of how the mail sacks would be collected from big hooks by the side of the track – the train didn’t always stop! – and we could have a go at sorting some post in the pigeonholes in the carriage. It was great fun, and there was this video playing on a loop in a little booth off to the side.

As I say, I’ve been thinking about trains a bit recently, and I’ve had cause to think about those fond memories of when I was a child and my own children were so fascinated by all things steam-related, so thought I’d share this bit of footage with you today.

I love the way the rhythm of the words mimic the rhythm of the wheels on the track, and I love the whole narrative of the poem as it tells the story of the mail train’s journey to Scotland. There’s something in it that touches that place inside me that yearns for that perceived simpler, more innocent time in the past.

What do you think of it? Have you heard it before, or is it new to you? Does it evoke that sense of nostalgia in you too? Drop me a line and let me know.



5 thoughts on “Night Mail

  1. Reblogged this on AuntyUta and commented: husband, had liked steam trains very much. Here in NSW we have still a few steam trains going for special axcursions!
    For the last twenty years or so of his working life, Peter did jobs as a station master for the NSW Railway.


    1. W.H. Auden’s poem, Night Mail, performed by Benjamin Britten. Taken from Night Mail, documentary, The flagship of the GPO Film Unit’s output and a cornerstone of British documentary. Directed by Harry Watt and Basil Wright, 1936.

      Thanks for the Night Mail YouTube video, Pam! 🙂


  2. lesleykannenberg

    I saw it years ago but loved seeing it again like you I reminisce the old days and ways with longing. I attended holy innocents church in fallowfield and our annual outing was on the steam train to disley and big picnic and singing in the grounds of Chatsworth house. Life was slower and less fraught people seemed to care about each other more families were important you’d visit grandparents and great aunts and uncles you had time to spend with family. Thanks for thought provoking message have a wonderful day x


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