In the hectic time leading up to the publication of Rustblind and Silverbright, our anthology of railway-themed slipstream and horror, I have invited short blog contributions from the authors included in that book, which I will be publishing at irregular intervals over the next month or two. Here, Danny Rhodes gives a quick insight into how his story ‘The Cuts’ came to be.
N.b – the illustration shows a request stop station in Norfolk.
On the Map
By Danny Rhodes
I decided pretty early on in the process that if I was going to write a story about trains it might be on the Beeching cuts. I knew if I was planning to submit the story to David, a train enthusiast (I hesitate to use ‘anorak’ as I’ve never met the bloke), it seemed to me, then I ought to try to give the story some accurate historical grounding. I spent some time flicking between various sites on Beeching and Google maps, checking out landscapes and trying to discover a suitable ‘culled’ branchline on which to set the story.
Somewhere around this time I had to take a train to Prestatyn and it was while I was on this journey that I learned there are remote, unmanned stations in Wales (and perhaps in other places) where the passengers have to make ‘request stops’ in order for the train to halt there. I’d never heard of ‘request stops’ on railways before. An idea dropped into my mind, of a man waiting at a station for a train, a man in danger, and the train not stopping, the train leaving him there to his fate.
In the end I didn’t set the story in quite so remote a location. I found the perfect line for a story though, on Anglesey, and using Google Maps I was able to follow the old train line out of Gaerwan north through the countryside, noting its flat topography, and thus arrive at Rhosgoch, a village that once had a station but no longer. If you go to Google maps you can do the same. I’m finding the ‘street level’ element of this quite a tool. Us writers can go virtually anywhere these days and write fairly accurate visual descriptions of locations we have never been to. What’s exciting about this is that we are not rooted to the popular, worn out ‘tourist trail’ settings anymore. We can wander quite freely into any corner of any place on the planet where the Google cameras have been…if we want to that is, if we don’t want to let our imaginations take over at some point, as I found I did, if we want to create our own worlds and base them in a reality of our own choosing.
The Gaerwen to Amlych line has gone now, good only for walking. There seem to be various people doing just that on Google maps. You can see them if you look hard enough, strange, two dimensional individuals with blurred faces, sometimes staring in wonder at the Google maps camera van as it moves on its merry way, mapping and capturing every inch of the world (or those places that have agreed) for reasons we have not yet begun to comprehend…