he was on the station platform outside the waiting-room door, with a rather expensive looking camera. ‘Ah Brian’, he says, ‘You’re in time for the last train. This is the end of an era, you know, we will never see the likes again in Loughrea. First all the young folk leave and now the train is chasing away after them.’ Hum hum hum. Click, he took a shot of the engine and the number on the front.
We chatted for a while, and when he spotted your grand-dad, in his CIE cap, he grabbed my elbow and we followed him up to the cab of the engine (there was only one carriage, a pre-1960’s groaner). Anyway, however the Doc managed he persuaded your grandad to let us ride in the train engine’s cab for the last run. Well he was the Doctor, hard to say no to him on anything. It was magical, being so high up, and seeing the driver’s eye view of the railway tracks snaking away in tandem in front of us. The train cab itself was small and fairly spartan, not much comfort there, but your granddad was lord of this space and he loved it.
We went through a few level crossings, your granddad sounding the horn, waving to the few folks in cars at the crossings or waving from their houses. Martin was taking photos and every now and then engaging your granddad in conversation. ‘Who lives in that house? Where does that road go? How many miles from Loughrea to Dunsandle? Did you ever meet John Huston?’ etc. Your granddad was not used to so much conversation in his cab and he was not in such a mood to expound.
The train rattled on, moving slowly, especially on the bends. The countryside was really beautiful, pristine green fields and Galway stone walls. Sheep and horses bolted when the train passed and I saw at least one fox. We were about a mile from Attymon when Dr. Dyar comes up with the gem that I have remembered fondly since.
‘So Joe, do you ever get tired of this journey, over and back, what three times a day, 7 days a week, it’s got to be really mind-numbingly boring after a while and you’re doing it for what, 20 years or more, how do you stick it?’
For some reason I see your grand-dad Joe in my mind’s eye smoking a pipe, maybe he did, or didn’t, but thats my memory anyway. He took the pipe from his mouth, and fixed the good doctor with a stare like you’d give a dog that wouldn’t roll over for you or give you the paw.
‘I’m surprised at you, a man of learning like you asking me that. Sure doctor, don’t you know, travel broadens the mind!’