Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Marsh Brook signal box and Malcolm Saville

Earlier this week the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced that 26 signal boxes have been granted Grade II listed status. BBC News has the full list, and if you study it you will see that Marsh Brook box in Shropshire, which has featured here before, is among them.

My earlier post mentioned that there is a theory that Marsh Brook is the oldest signal box still operating in Britain. It also features in the Lone Pine stories of Malcolm Saville and, with the help of the person who runs the Malcolm Saville Society Twitter feed, I have been able to track down two passages that mention it.

Published in 1943, Mystery at Witchend was the first of the Lone Pine Stories. And in the very first chapter you will find:
At last they were ready to start, but got no further than the level-crossing gates. A brown-faced signalman leaning from his window smiled at them through the rain, and Richard called out: "May I come up and pull one of those levers one day?" but he couldn't hear the answer as a goods train clanked by. Some of the long, low trucks carried tanks, and as they passed, old John said, "I've got a lad in one of them things in Africa."
And in chapter 2 of Lone Pine Five from 1949 (by the magic of series fiction the children have barely grown older) you will find:
Meanwhile, Dickie and old George the signalman had recognized each other. 
"Do you remember, George, the very first day we came to Witchend and got off the train you promised I could come and pull some of your levers? I never did, you know. Shall I come now?" 
"I won't make no promises, young man, but I remembers you and all of you for that matter, right well. Just come up here and see me some time when I'm not so busy. . . . Now sir, I'll be closing the gates again in a minute, so maybe you'd better come over."
These passages occur in the original versions published by George Newnes. When the stories were republished as Armada paperbacks the text was cut to fit the shorter format and both passages are missing from these later versions. This is a pity, particularly in the case of Mystery at Witchend and its picture of rural railways carrying tanks. Without this sort of detail the stories are far more formulaic, though never quite Blytonesque, and less remarkable.

You may be able to pick up the George Newnes editions for a few pounds, but if you want the Lone Pine stories with dustwrappers you are going to have to pay silly money. The best bet may be the recent paperback reissues by Girls Gone By, which have the full text, but the earlier ones in this series are now getting rare and expensive too.


callmemadam said...

Victor Watson shows in Reading Series Fiction that the Armada editions didn't just modernise (e.g. cutting out mentions of the war) but changed the whole nature of the books.

I won't tell you about the 1st editions in dws I've picked up at boot sales for 10p ...
The only hardback I lack is The Man with Three Fingers and I'm not prepared to pay £75.00 for it. I've received several of the GGB editions for review and recommend them. Not just the full text but details of all editions, with any illustrations, plus extra Savilleana, if there is such a word.

Tim (Kalyr) said...

Good to see both Lostwithel and Par boxes in Cornwall in the list. Hopefully new uses can be found for both of them; Par would make a good station buffet.