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Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: ra2yr (---.156ce.maxonline.com.sg)
Date: September 03, 2004 12:57PM

I heard this poem being quoted by Winston Churchill in "The Gathering Storm" and was fascinated by it. Perhaps it isnt a poem after all, but can anyone identify it?

Who is in charge of the clattering train?
The axles creak and the couplings strain,
and the pace is hot and the points are near,
and sleep hath deadened the driver's ear,
and the signals flash through the night in vain,
for death is in charge of the clattering train

P.S Its a good movie. Ought to go watch it if you havent

"Of the wide world I stand alone and think, of Love and Fame to nothingness do sink" John Keats


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: lg (---.ca.charter.com)
Date: September 03, 2004 03:46PM

From Punch Magazine, quoted here:

[www.gutenberg.net] />
[Major MARINDIN, in his Report to the Board of Trade on
the railway collision at Eastleigh, attributes it to the
engine-driver and stoker having "failed to keep a proper
look-out." His opinion is, that both men were "asleep, or
nearly so," owing to having been on duty for sixteen hours
and a-half. "He expresses himself in very strong terms on
the great danger to the public of working engine-drivers and
firemen for too great a number of hours."--Daily Chronicle.]

Who is in charge of the clattering train?
The axles creak, and the couplings strain.
Ten minutes behind at the Junction. Yes!
And we're twenty now to the bad--no less!
We must make it up on our flight to town.
Clatter and crash! That's the last train down,
Flashing by with a steamy trail.
Pile on the fuel! We must not fail.
At every mile we a minute must gain!
Who is in charge of the clattering train?

Why, flesh and blood, as a matter of course!
You may talk of iron, and prate of force;
But, after all, and do what you can,
The best--and cheapest--machine is Man!
Wealth knows it well, and the hucksters feel
'Tis safer to trust them to sinew than steel.
With a bit of brain, and a conscience, behind,
Muscle works better than steam or wind.
Better, and longer, and harder all round;
And cheap, so cheap! Men superabound
Men stalwart, vigilant, patient, bold;
The stokehole's heat and the crow's-nest's cold,
The choking dusk of the noisome mine,
The northern blast o'er the beating brine,
With dogged valour they coolly brave;
So on rattling rail, or on wind-scourged wave,
At engine lever, at furnace front,
Or steersman's wheel, they must bear the brunt
Of lonely vigil or lengthened strain.
Man is in charge of the thundering train!

Man, in the shape of a modest chap
In fustian trousers and greasy cap;
A trifle stolid, and something gruff,
Yet, though unpolished, of sturdy stuff.
With grave grey eyes, and a knitted brow,
The glare of sun and the gleam of snow
Those eyes have stared on this many a year.
The crow's-feet gather in mazes queer
About their corners most apt to choke
With grime of fuel and fume of smoke.
Little to tickle the artist taste--
An oil-can, a fist-full of "cotton waste,"
The lever's click and the furnace gleam,
And the mingled odour of oil and steam;
These are the matters that fill the brain
Of the Man in charge of the clattering train.

Only a Man, but away at his back,
In a dozen ears, on the steely track,
A hundred passengers place their trust
In this fellow of fustian, grease, and dust.
They cheerily chat, or they calmly sleep,
Sure that the driver his watch will keep
On the night-dark track, that he will not fail.
So the thud, thud, thud of wheel upon rail
The hiss of steam-spurts athwart the dark.
Lull them to confident drowsiness. Hark!

What is that sound? 'Tis the stertorous breath
Of a slumbering man,--and it smacks of death!
Full sixteen hours of continuous toil
Midst the fume of sulphur, the reek of oil,
Have told their tale on the man's tired brain,
And Death is in charge of the clattering train!

Sleep--Death's brother, as poets deem,
Stealeth soft to his side; a dream
Of home and rest on his spirit creeps,
That wearied man, as the engine leaps,
Throbbing, swaying along the line;
Those poppy-fingers his head incline
Lower, lower, in slumber's trance;
The shadows fleet, and the gas-gleams dance
Faster, faster in mazy flight,
As the engine flashes across the night.
Mortal muscle and human nerve
Cheap to purchase, and stout to serve.
Strained too fiercely will faint and swerve.
Over-weighted, and underpaid,
This human tool of exploiting Trade,
Though tougher than leather, tenser than steel.
Fails at last, for his senses reel,
His nerves collapse, and, with sleep-sealed eyes,
Prone and helpless a log he lies!
A hundred hearts beat placidly on,
Unwitting they that their warder's gone;
A hundred lips are babbling blithe,
Some seconds hence they in pain may writhe.
For the pace is hot, and the points are near,
And Sleep hath deadened the driver's ear;
And signals flash through the night in vain.
Death is in charge of the clattering train!

Anonymous



Post Edited (09-03-04 14:58)


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: Linda (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: September 03, 2004 07:35PM

Its called "Death and his brother sleep" by Edwin J Milliken.

I've been in touch with the head of mechanical engineering from Imperial College London (he has researched rail crashes) about this and he hasn't tracked down this crash yet. Marindin was BoT investigator from 1895 to 1900, Milliken died in 1897, so the crash must have happened between 1895 -1897. He found a crash in that period at Eastleigh but the circumstances don't fit.


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: IanB (---.tnt11.mel1.da.uu.net)
Date: September 03, 2004 07:48PM

Linda, where does that information about the title and author come from?


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: Linda (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: September 03, 2004 07:55PM

DEATH AND HIS BROTHER SLEEP (Queen Mab)

Major Marindin, in his report to the Board of Trade on the railway collision at Eastleigh, attributes it to the engine driver and stoker having "failed to keep a proper look-out". His opinion is that both men were "asleep or nearly so" owing to having been on duty for nearly sixteen hours and a half. "He expresses himself in very strong terms on the great danger to the public of working engine drivers and firemen for too great a number of hours " - Daily Chronicle





According to our [Punch's] contributor's ledger it [the poem] was written by an Edwin J. Milliken. From what I have picked up he seems to have held the literary post at Punch, equivalent in status to the chief cartoonist, writing much of the magazines poetry and the "letterpress explanatory" of the main cartoons.

These are the header and footer of the version I have. We found it in the old PL days, but I no longer have the original source. It predates the troll. Henry was part of that discussion so he may remember where we found it.



Post Edited (09-03-04 19:02)


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: ra2yr (---.156ce.maxonline.com.sg)
Date: September 04, 2004 02:53AM

So this poem is actually that long? Basically that the poem is based on a true event??

"Of the wide world I stand alone and think, of Love and Fame to nothingness do sink" John Keats


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: Linda (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: September 05, 2004 09:02AM

I actually own a copy of Churchill's "The gathering storm". Its volume 1 of his 6 volume Second World War.

On 19th March 1935 the Commons debated the Air Estimates, Churchill spoke of the increases proposed for the air force. He pointed out that they would be criticised as warmongers even for this inadequate amount so they might as well vote for enough to make a difference. He drew attention to the reaction in 1708 when it was discovered that the Battle of Almanza had been lost because of insufficient men in the army. He felt despair after this debate and wrote in his book after he had quoted from the speech he made:-

There lay in my memory at this time some lines from an unknown writer about a railway accident. I had learnt them from a volume of Punch cartoons which I used to pore over when I was eight or nine years old at school in Brighton.

Who is in charge of the clattering train?
The axles creak and the couplings strain,
and the pace is hot and the points are near,
and sleep hath deadened the driver's ear,
and the signals flash through the night in vain,
for death is in charge of the clattering train

How ever I did not repeat them.

That is from page 112 of my copy. Could some one who has seen the film let me know how it was used there.



Post Edited (09-05-04 08:05)


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: marian2 (---.range81-152.btcentralplus.com)
Date: September 06, 2004 04:22AM

In the film, he did repeat them - I think to Parliament, but possibly just to friends/colleagues . The only part of the poem used was the 6 lines quoted in the book. It's ages since I saw the programme - it was shown here in two or three part s in July 2002 - hence my rather vague memory of it.


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: Henry (213.78.121.---)
Date: September 06, 2004 07:49PM

The source of the information was a letter from the Punch archives, but I'm not sure to whom the letter was addressed! Henry

According to our [Punch’s] contributor's ledger it [the poem] was written by an Edwin J. Milliken. From what I have picked up he seems to have held the literary post at Punch, equivalent in status to the chief cartoonist, writing much of the magazines poetry and the "letterpress explanatory" of the main cartoons.

Kind regards,

Nick Roberts

Punch Cartoon Library & Archive
Suite 5, 3 Hans Crescent
London SW1X 0LN
United Kingdom


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: David Miller (213.48.85.---)
Date: October 12, 2004 01:50PM

I too saw 'Gathering Storm' and I think Churchill quoted these lines in a conversation with his son, Randolph.

Henry wrote:

The source of the information was a letter from the Punch
archives, but I'm not sure to whom the letter was addressed!
Henry

According to our [Punch’s] contributor's ledger it [the poem]
was written by an Edwin J. Milliken. From what I have picked up
he seems to have held the literary post at Punch, equivalent in
status to the chief cartoonist, writing much of the magazines
poetry and the "letterpress explanatory" of the main cartoons.

Kind regards,

Nick Roberts

Punch Cartoon Library & Archive
Suite 5, 3 Hans Crescent
London SW1X 0LN
United Kingdom


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: Erlend (---.bb.online.no)
Date: November 15, 2004 08:59AM

This film was shown on norwegian television two days ago. These lines were uttered in rage after he had hung up the phone with a local Tory-representative who had criticized and/or threatened him because he wouldn't shut up about "herr Hitler". I think the people in the room were his butler and his secretary, but I'm not positive.


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: LindaD (91.110.213.---)
Date: May 30, 2008 06:54PM

As some of you will remember we have been questing after the accident which inspired this poem for several years now and finally we have a result. It was a very minor accident which is why it hasn't made it into print or on-line until now.


On the evening of 12th July 1890, a light engine (i.e. engine only, no train) ran through signals at Eastleigh North Junction and collided at relatively low speed with the rear of a freight train standing waiting a path through the station. Nobody would have been hurt but for the freak chance that a length of wood thrown from the wreckage penetrated the guard’s lookout window of an excursion passing on another track and killed the guard. It is clear that the driver and fireman of the light engine had both missed seeing stop signals at the previous signalbox, Chandler’s Ford. The signalman had tried to attract their attention by waving a red lamp but they did not see that either.

The light engine, named “Castor”, had set off from Salisbury at 8.39 pm to run to Southampton. Its driver, William Pitt, with fireman Joseph Pitcher, had been on duty from 6.30 am having worked the following:-

6.30 am Southampton – Weymouth Passenger, arr 9.05

10.35 Weymouth – Portland goods, arr 11.20

Shunt at Portland

12.00 Portland – Weymouth goods, arr 12.15

Lunch 12.15 – 12.45

2.20 Weymouth-Eastleigh light engine arr 5.11

6.05 Eastleigh – Salisbury special arr 7.00

Shunt at Salisbury

8.39 Salisbury-Southampton light engine.

The man killed was Guard Turner of the London & South Western railway, and the train in which he was riding was a Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway excursion returning to Bath.

But for the freak death of Guard Turner the incident would probably have escaped attention. As it was, it was unremarkable by the standards of the day – by contrast, that at Armagh in 1889 was truly horrific – so I’m surprised it inspired such a poem. There was no runaway train rattling through the night – just two tired men who missed a signal.


My thanks go to Prof R A Smith, Professor at the Dept of Mech Eng, Imperial College and Glen Simpson of York for their help in finding the accident report in the archives of the NRM.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/25/2009 02:50PM by LindaD.


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: marian222 (86.155.240.---)
Date: June 01, 2008 06:09PM

Well done, Linda - it's been a long hunt, thank you for hanging in there!


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: misterF (91.109.230.---)
Date: June 02, 2008 10:43AM

Hey Linda
You officially are the winner of the all-time stickatitiveness prize.
Stephen

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/02/2008 10:44AM by misterF.


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: Chester51 (58.173.104.---)
Date: June 12, 2010 10:10PM

I have been watching the film mentioned. I think Erland is about right where he describes the situation in which the quote is made. Ronnie Barker plays the butler. A relatively straight role for him.

I too Googled it to find out more, Which led me here.

A most marvellous film.


Re: Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Posted by: fuzzy scotsman (87.194.159.---)
Date: January 27, 2011 10:07AM

The aformentioned clip featuring the wonderfull Albert Finney as Churchill

[www.youtube.com]




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