(Notes edited by Alastair Wilson)
|notes on the text|
...there were times when Kipling would sit in the Brattleboro train station for hours, talking with stationmaster Dave Carey about the movements and mechanics of trains, or chatting with travelers coming and going.John Reading adds that when the Kiplings came to Brattleboro, the railroad was run by the Connecticut River Railroad, but in 1893, the Boston and Maine took a lease of the line, so it was Boston and Maine territory when the tale was first published. It would seem that the stationmaster was a prime source for Kipling’s railway background material, in much the same way as Dr. Conland helped with the fishing fleet information in Captains Courageous.
“This is a story about locomotives – locomotives that talk. Consequently, it may be rejected by readers who are repelled by Kipling’s anthropomorphism in, for instance, the delightful Jungle Books – which themselves started a fashion, even now not quite dead, in talking animals – or to take a closer example, “The Ship that Found Herself” in the same volume.”At the start of the 21st century, readers, having been subjected to a century of anthropomorphism from, e.g., Disney cartoons, to say nothing of George Orwell in Animal Farm, etc., may find it acceptable, though David Gilmour (The Long Recessional, John Murray, London, 2002, p. 107) clearly does not. Also, the tale is full of technicalities referring to the steam railway, which would have been more comprehensible to male readers (particularly) in the first 75 years of the 20th century, but with the steam locomotive no longer in everyday use, that general understanding no longer exists.