It so happened that in between finishing Matthew Engel’s sad and funny lament for the fate of Britain’s railways and sitting down to write something about it, I travelled on the Purbeck Line between Swanage and Corfe Castle. Everything about it was perfect. The sun shone from a flawless sky. Swanage Station, in contrasting shades of green, was decked in cream bunting. The guards had on black waistcoats with watch chains and brass buttons to go with black caps, black trousers, black shoes, crisp white shirts and the friendliest of smiles. There were trolleys stacked with authentic old-fashioned trunks. The tickets were the little cardboard rectangles of old.
The buffet was called the Bird’s Nest – no bogus Frenchifying for Swanage. Nor were there any robotic announcements apologising for delays or warning about gaps and against leaving luggage unattended. No nannying, no bullying, no fraudulent nonsense about quality and customer care; just a forty-year-old diesel to