rainbow livery


Once upon a rail,
When the locomotives first set sail,
Their engineers, they already knew
That these were not just drab machines –
No, each was special to her crew,
Bedecked and tendered like a queen –
And painted – donned with pride and with blue,
Protected with their red, and enamoured with their green.

            Stephenson Trials
Melanie Marr, coming home on the train
From a day-out in York and the Railway Museum –
So many locos, and no time to see them,
And only their colours stood out, in the main.
From the first Locomotive, a wood-and-black fellow,
The blaze of the Rocket, so pristine, so yellow !,
To Brightons in umber, and Cambrian grey –
But the big four were coming to sweep them away…

A little lighter than British Racing,
But darker than Southern and LNER –
The perfect green, thought Melanie Marr,
A green both dignified and bracing !
So Great Westerns got her vote,
If she really had to make a pick.
Some may call it middle Brunswick,
They just called it locomotive.

Melanie never like malachite,
Forever sandwiched inbetween –
It wasn’t deep and it wasn’t bright,
But under-ripe, and over-green.
They could have had electric blue,
Or merchant-navy silver grey –
However fast the boat-train flew,
That green would never save the day.

The apple was fine, but they just couldn’t settle –
A little unsure on the colour of metal.
The Mallard was blue, much to Melanie’s sighs,
With garter and overcoat worn in disguise.
They’d muddied their branding, they’d chilled their panache –
Are apples too homely for cutting a dash ?
Why be so ashamed of so fruitful a sheen ?
If you’re gonna break records, then break them in green !

            Crimson Lake
A name, she thought, like a matinee idol –
A Paisley lass, or maybe Crewe,
Who caught the deep red train to London,
Changing her name, and her accent too.
By the time she disembarked at Euston,
She already was a star –
Ready to faint in the melodramas,
Ready to dine in the restaurant car.

            Rail Blue
British Railways had the pick,
And flirted with a lively blue,
But switched it back to Brunswick, quick,
And endless green would have to do.
But when the ‘Railways’ stubbed to ‘Rail’,
They tried a blue which hid the dirt –
For Melanie, no greater hurt
Could now disgrace the midnight mail.

            Franchise Rainbow
Privitised, and multi-coloured,
Trains of ev’ry shade but beige –
And some are old Great Western-dressed,
But Melanie is not impressed.
Call her spotter, call her dullard,
But that was a diff’rent age –
Now trains are sleek, but lacking sheen –
Yet marketed by all as ‘green’.

The final leg to Rayners Lane,
Yet not a trace inside the train
Of the gorgeous purple of the Met.
The tube-line on the map is all we get.
But once the poles and seats would say
That here maroon could still be found
Within her train to work each day,
When she was scarlet-fronted, Euston-bound.

            The Future’s Bright
Melanie, though now retired,
Imagines what intrepid acts
Await for her on down the tracks
To get her boiler fired.
In any livery, it’s plain
That market-men have simply shown
What engineers have always known –
A train is never just a train.

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