Among the Railway Folk


Vulcan’s Forge

(notes by David Page drawing on the work of the ORG Editors)


8th August, 1888 in the Pioneer, 19th August, 1888 in the Pioneer Mail and 18th August 1888 in the Week’s News.

Notes on the Text

[Title] Vulcan the Roman god of Fire and Furnaces.

[Page 292, line 1] Bradford Leslie the ferry must have been named after Sir Bradford Leslie (1831-1926). A former apprentice of the great British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, he was a civil engineer who was involved in the expansion of the East Bengal Railway (EBR), and later in the East Indian Railway (EIR), as well as other smaller railway companies. He also helped to build the floating bridge across the Hughli from Howrah to Calcutta and for a short time was municipal engineer of Calcutta. [Oxford Dictionary of National Biography]

[Page 292, line 1] Sahibgunge ferry or Sahibganj. There were four places of this name in Bengal, but this one must be near a great river or there could not be a ferry. This was probably the one about 60 miles north-north-west of Patna. [ORG]

[Page 292, line 12] Hoti Mardan about 20 miles north-east of Peshawar near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in the area between the Swat, Kabul and Indus Rivers. Here it indicates a place far away from Jamalpur and not even on the railway. [ORG]

[Page 292, lines 16-17] D. and O. Sleeper The sleeper is a transverse spar on which the rails rest. This was an iron sleeper at a time when most countries were using wooden ones. This sleeper is also mentioned on page 294, line 20 and in the report on The Giridih Coalfields. (page 308).
‘D.’ was a Mr. Dunn and ‘O.’ a Mr. Olpherts (pronounced olputs by Indians). These two patented the sleeper but had to hand over their rights to the East India Railway Company. [ORG]

[Page 292, line 29] ‘holy spirit of man’ A quotation from the “Chorus” by the poet Swinburne (1837-1909) from Atalanta in Calydon (1865).

[Page 293, line 15] Racine a town in Wisconsin, U.S.A., near Milwaukee on Lake Michigan.

[Page 293, lines 28-29] George Stephenson (1781-1848) and the two Brunels, Sir Mark Isambard Brunel (1769-1849) and Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), father and son, were amongst the great railway builders and engineers of all time.

[Page 294, line 4] brass money.

[Page 294, lines 26 ff] Five eight This means Rupees 5, annas 8, that is 88 old pence sterling or 7s 4d per 112 lb (or in current usage some 35p per 50kg). ‘three eight’ would be 56 old pence 4s 8d for 112 lb (some 23p per 50kg), if the rupee be taken at the old (1888) par of 16 old pence. [ORG]

[Page 294, line 28] Rs. 3000 would be saved on 75 tons of iron (76 metric tonnes) at Rs. 2 for 112 lb (50 kg), or £200 sterling.

[Page 295, lines 1-2] Three hundred weight and three hundred quarters A ‘hundred-weight’ is 112 lb (50 kg). It is not entirely clear what Kipling meant here. It may be that the second word ‘hundred’ crept into the sentence by mistake. If so, it could mean 3 3/4 hundred-weight or 420 lb. (190 kg).

[Page 295, lines 26 & 28] hot-potted a reference from chapter VII of the popular novelShe (1887), by Rider Haggard (1856-1925), where the cannibals: ‘put the red-hot pot upon his head’, a painful way of killing a man before eating him.

Haggard and Kipling were close friends, hence the lines by James Kenneth Stephen (1859-1892), “To R.K.”:

Will there never come a season
Which shall rid us from the curse
Of a prose which knows no reason
And an unmelodious verse:
When the world shall cease to wonder
At the genius of an Ass,
And a boy’s eccentric blunder
Shall not bring success to pass:

When mankind shall be delivered
From the clash of magazines,
And the inkstand shall be shivered
Into countless smithereens:
When there stands a muzzled stripling,
Mute, beside a muzzled bore:
When the Rudyards cease from kipling
And the Haggards Ride no more.

[Page 298, Line 16] Ghaziabad about 12 miles east of Delhi. [ORG]

[Page 299, Line 4] Britons never shall be slaves a line from “Alfred, a Masque”, 1740, Act III; Scene, the last, by James Thomson (1700-48). Usually the song is known as Rule, Britannia. [ORG]

[Page 299, lines 21-27] This paragraph is based on the old English nursery rhyme “This is the house that Jack built”. It first appeared in print in 1755, and was made popular by the Victorian illustrator Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886). It is an accumulative rhyme, in which each line builds on the previous one.:

This is the house that Jack built.

This is the malt, That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the rat, That ate the malt, That lay in the house that Jack built…

This is the cat, That killed the rat ….


©David Page 2008 All rights reserved