Authors: Andrew Martin
The Last Train
First published in 2009
by Faber and Faber Limited
3 Queen Square London WCIN 3AU
Typeset by Faber and Faber
Printed in England by CPI
All rights reserved
© Andrew Martin, 2009
The right of Andrew Martin to be
identified as author of this work
has been asserted in accordance
with Section 77 of the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988
A CIP record for this book
is available from the British
For all the
people in the Quiet Carriage
I would like to thank, in no
particular order: Roy Lambeth of the Durham Mining Museum; the World Ship Society
and especially Mr Roy Fenton; Drene Brennan of the Postcard Club of Great
Britain; Dr E. M. Bridges of the Museum of Gas and Local History at Fakenham,
Norfolk; Tony Harden of the Railway Postcard Collectors' Circle; Andrew Choong,
Curator of Historic Photographs and Ships Plans at the National Maritime
Museum; Mr N. E. C. Molyneux of the National Rifle Association; Adrian Scales
of the Scarborough Railway Society; Sue Pravezer, QC; Clive Groome of Footplate
Days and Ways; Rod Lytton, Chief Mechanical Engineer at the National Railway
Museum and' Karen Baker, librarian at the Museum.
All departures from historical
fact are my responsibility.
Table of Contents
I awoke the thought came to me:'
Where has Scarborough got to?'
and it caused me a good deal of pain. I knew I was near coal - too near. I was
it. Or was it a great black beach, for I heard waves too?
There was darkness above as well as below, but not quite complete darkness
above, for I could make out thin strips of light. Each thought caused me a
blinding pain behind the eyes and I did not want any more to come.
inched a little way to the left, and the coal smell was stronger. It disagreed
with me powerfully, and I saw in my mind things to do with coal and burning as
the nausea came on: a locomotive moving coal wagons in an empty station that
ought to have been packed with holiday-makers; a man making coal-gas tar at
the works on the Marine Parade at Scarborough, and evidently doing it for his
own amusement, for he was the only man in the town. A storm approached across
the black sea behind him.
saw the booklet that gave directions for use of an incandescent oil lamp - it
gave sunshine at night through a red shade, one hundred and twenty candles -
and I saw smoke over Scarborough, and further general scenes of that sea-side
town in the hour before the lamps are lit: the funicular railway closed and not
working; the locked gate at the entrance to the underground aquarium and
holiday palace. I figured an orchestra locked inside there along with a troupe
of tumblers, and a magician who was the wonder of the age but nevertheless
troubled by a leaking kettle.
saw the harbour of the town with the boats at all angles, as though they'd been
in only moments before, and were still struggling to
saw a public house with a ship's figurehead on the front, a marine stores, the
sign reading 'All Kinds of Nets Sold' lashed by waves ... and nobody about. I
pictured the great hotel - I could not recall its name and knew it would cost
me pain to try and do so. I saw the high, windowless wall to the side, streaked
with rain - the place was a prison viewed from that angle. I heard a great
roaring of water on the other side of that wall. Flags flew from what might
have been flagpoles at the top or might have been masts, and in my mind's eye
the monstrous building slid away from the Promenade, and began bucking about on
the dark sea.
scenes were mainly without colour, but then some colour came, and it was wrong,
too bright, done by hand: a red baby in a sky-blue cot set in a yellow room.
That baby was on a post card - that was
at the thought my stomach lurched fruitlessly while the head-racking pain
redoubled. I moved on the coal and the same convulsion came again, only worse.
My stomach was trying to do something it could not do. I thought of a short
cigar taken from a cedar-wood box. It was a little dry. But what was dry? Box
or cigar? At any rate the room containing the cigar was too hot, yet how could
it be, for it was part of heaven? No, not quite heaven. A voice echoed in my
head: 'It's turned you a bit bloody mysterious, this Paradise place.' Paradise.
Somehow, a secret file was involved, a pasteboard folder containing papers
that everybody looked at, and yet it was secret. I saw a jumble of razor
blades, a fast-turning dial on what might have been a compass, but surely ought
not to have been. My mind could hold ideas and pictures but could not make the
connections between them.
looked up again at the light strips. I raised my arm towards them, and they
were a good way above the height of my hand. My arm wavered and fell; it was
not long enough, and that was all about it. I was perhaps underneath the
floorboards, in some species of giant coal cellar, and this notion came with a
new sensation: a fearful sense of eternal falling. Some of my memories were
coming back to me, and coming too fast. I closed my eyes on the great coal
plain and raced down, down, down.
there in place of Scarborough was the city of York, or the outskirts thereof:
our new house, 'the very last one in Thorpe- on-Ouse', as our little girl,
Sylvia, used to say, the house that put off the beginning of open country. It
was evening - early evening, spring coming on; a kind of green glow in the sky,
and I sat in my shirt sleeves and waistcoat. They had been ploughing in the
fields around the village, but I'd not seen the work carried on, for I'd passed
all day in the police office in York station.
sat on the front gate with Sylvia, and our boy Harry. They both liked to sit up
high - well, it was high to them, Sylvia especially, and I had my arm around
her to stop her falling, which she didn't like. Not the falling I mean, but the
arm. She wanted to sit on the gate unsupported like Harry, who now pointed
along the lane, saying, 'Here he comes', and old Phil Shannon, who lit the
lamps in Thorpe-on-Ouse and at Acaster Malbis, was approaching on his push
bike, with the long lamplighter's pole held at his side. I fancied that it was
a lance, and Shannon a sort of arthritic knight on horseback. He leant
alternatively left and right as he pedalled, like a moving mechanism, some
species of clockwork.