This had never happened before. He had always caught the last train home from Halewood, but now all was silent at 23.46pm as he stood alone on the platform, staring along the tracks into the gloomy darkness of where the train should come from, where it did at 23.39.
Meetings always went on late at the computer club he attended every Wednesday evening, but this particular night there were a few new members with plenty to say about their respective technology interests and he ended up leaving too late for the train to Edge Hill. Now here he was on a cold September night with seemingly the only way home was to pay an extortionate taxi fare.
At 68, widower, with three grown-up children, Bill Henderson was quite portly, balding and looked about five years older than he was. What if? he thought. What if it was late? It still could turn up. The moon tried its best to come out from behind dark, lazy clouds, and what little light it offered, hardly illuminated anything. Only the cold lights on the station platform failed to penetrate the surrounding gloom. He waited a few more minutes, silence pervading the atmosphere.
He was just about resigning himself to walking the streets to look for a taxi when he heard a low rumbling sound. A sound which grew louder, and in the distance a light appeared, growing nearer. Amongst the darkness he could see smoke, or steam billowing, and it emerged like a black bear coming out of a cave, a steam powered locomotive in no hurry, grinding to a halt with three carriages.
Bill simply stood there for a few moments, staring at it. Hammered into the front, a curved metal sign proclaimed, ‘Rosalyn tempest'. It seemed to be waiting for him, and he took a few tentative steps towards the nearest door, wondering for a few seconds if it was going to his station, but he decided that if it wasn't, he could still get off and hail a cab.
He opened the door and entered what could only be described as a first-class carriage. As soon as he closed the door, the train moved away, and he walked into what seemed to be Victorian splendour, yet there was nobody else here. There were several scarlet upholstered chairs and coffee tables with a lush carpet and wall lamps. It soon built up speed, and he sat down and relaxed as it passed through all the other stations until it finally ground to a halt at Edge Hill. He got off and closed the door, slowing down to stare at the train.
It stayed where it was, and still there was no sign of anybody, not even at the station. He left and walked the five minutes it took to get home. The following morning he was sat at the bar of the local pub he frequented; the image of the train fresh in his mind. He had told Mike, the barman about it who was quite a closet local historian, but he had never heard of the Rosalyn Tempest.
He went through to the back and emerged moments later with an iPad, and was soon surfing the internet for steam locomotives. Mike became engrossed for a while, and Bill simply sipped his bitter, enjoying the quiet atmosphere. “Here” Mike said, “I've found it. The Rosalyn tempest.
Manufactured in Bristol by Great western railway, the only one of its kind ever built, was given to Lancashire railways to use throughout the north-west, which it did for six years between 1925 and 1931 wherein it developed irreparable cracks in two of its wheels, rendering it dangerous to passenger safety, and considering there were no other parts that could fit it exactly, nor were they prepared to fix them, the decision was took to take it out of service altogether and replace it with two new standard locomotives.
The Rosalyn tempest ended its journey at Edge Hill station in 1931 where it was dismantled”. “Dismantled” said Bill. They both looked at the screen, at a picture of the very same train.
(c) John Jones