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Editorial to Part 4

THE interest taken in London’s Underground, known the world over, increases. I have received so many letters about this absorbing subject that I am almost persuaded to describe that interest as phenomenal - a much abused word. But there it is. From New York a correspondent writes to demand that this subject shall be adequately dealt with (and he has only just seen the first number of Railway Wonders of the World).

When I first travelled on New York’s subways, as they are called, I was a little astonished and a trifle disappointed when I was seriously reprimanded for smoking. I had, of course, to put my cigarette out in accordance with the law, otherwise I don’t know what dire penalties would have been my lot. London, the capital of an Empire that has Freedom as its watchword, has never reduced me to such a state of embarrassment.

The ventilation of our own underground system is obviously better than that of New York’s subways, for I do not know of any other reason why smoking should be forbidden. Another thing, too; if you have travelled underground, both in London and New York, during the “rush” hours you can safely say that London provides a peaceful picnic in contrast with her cousin’s mad scramble. But to each nation its own ways, I suppose. In this part, now in your hands, you will find the continuation of the story of London’s underground penetrations. It is a fascinating account, and those of my readers who by some mischance failed to read the opening of the chapter may still obtain copies of Part 3, a few of which remain for late-comers.

IT is surprising how variously trains may travel: by cable, by land, by mountain, and the like; but there are also trains that go to sea, and in the current part a most thrilling chapter is included to describe the wonderful feat of engineering that enables passengers to travel a hundred miles across a chain of islands, from the mainland to Key West, in the Gulf of Mexico.

Then we have more about modern signalling - a description of the methods employed to indicate to an engine-driver the approximate speeds at which he may travel and the route to be followed. The working of the remarkable electric machines, which operate the railway points and so transfer a train from one track to another, is also described.

You will find, too, many other interesting facts that are not generally known - mysteries, in a way, but capable of solution nevertheless.

Who among us is not able to say that he receives a daily post-bag? If you could see mine you would be justifiably astonished; and when I face it each morning I am reminded of the remark-able system that controls the rail transport of mails. I do not think I should be exaggerating if I said that British post-office methods, as much as they may be criticized, are the best in the world. In some cities of the world you may post a letter in the morning to a destination in the same city, yet the recipient may not get it until the following day or the day after. But you cannot say that such lethargic manners apply in London. Nor can you say that they apply generally in England, for once more the railway comes to our aid in the living of our daily lives.

His Majesty’s mails are one of the marvels of efficient organization. The receipt of a letter or parcel from a distant part of the British Isles has become a commonplace, yet the secret of speed and efficiency in postal deliveries is not very well understood. In Part 5 I shall publish a chapter showing how the postal bags carrying our mails are collected or put down while the mail express is travelling at sixty miles an hour. It is a drama in itself, and certainly well worth reading. A journey on a travelling post-office is not easily forgotten.

THEN, again, I shall tell you some-thing about bridges. To me there is always something romantic about a bridge. It means the overcoming of great difficulties, the shortening of distance; it may mean something picturesque as well as an example of engineering skill. There is, too, a romantic sound about the very name of bridges - the Bridge of Sighs, for instance (albeit nothing to do with railways); and when you see a bridge the human equation compels you to wonder about what is on the other side of it.

My photogravure section next week will deal with some of the most remarkable railway bridges in the world. Chosen mostly from those situated in the British Empire, they include the great new bridge over Sydney Harbour. Costing some £10,000,000 to build, this is one of the most important of bridges. Included also in this pictorial supplement is a view of the famous “Overland Limited” crossing the wonderful bridge over Great Salt Lake, Utah. I well remember first crossing this bridge, at sundown (as you will see it in the picture I shall publish), and being told by an

American that if I fell out of the train into the lake I should die of suffocation from salt! I was on my way from San Francisco to Buffalo, to try the “Honeymoon Express” that takes the newly married to Niagara Falls.

Railway Wonders of the World has already covered some of the absorbing aspects of “railway mountaineering”, but in Part 5 (and don’t forget that it is on sale next Friday) will appear the extraordinary story of the great St. Gothard railway, one of Europe’s most vital transport links. This line is one that involved the construction of a large number of tunnels, some of which are in the form of double spirals inside the mountains. This method of construction was necessary to enable the railway to gain altitude. The pictures and diagrams which I have secured are worthy of study, for they show how man remains undaunted by the obstructions of nature, beautiful or otherwise.

I am still receiving so many letters about this work that I must ask my correspondents’ indulgence if there is a slight delay in replying to their letters. It is impossible to handle this mail in each weekly part, so I am replying by post to those readers who enclose a stamped envelope for replies. To J. H. (Southwick) and “Branksome” (Newcastle-on-Tyne) I may say here that the subject of model and miniature railways will be dealt with in a later Part.