There is a mystique about rail travel; especially in Europe. Rail stations are the hub of most cities and towns. They are where things happen, where people meet each other, and where journeys begin and end. Every station, large or small, is a cultural statement. Flower sellers, bookshops, coffee shops and fast food booths have taken root everywhere. Beggars plead, opportunists prey on tourists, while buskers add to the mood. Just outside Taxis, buses and trams compete for the business of travellers. You can feel the pulse of a place in and around its rail stations.

It's likely the romance of rail travel will linger long after Agatha Christie novels go out of fashion and famous trains like The Orient Express stop running. Apart from this undeniable romance however, there are other dimensions to rail travel which can bring strange feelings, perhaps even yearning, to a modern rail traveller.

Graffitti is everywhere, even in Germany, although it's mostly confined to fences and buildings along the side of the tracks. To my eyes it is an alien phenomenon and contributes little to the romance of rail, but alongside it, there are other unappreciated gems.
There are untold decaying, decommissioned, sad and forlorn railway buildings beside rail lines on the edge of most cities and towns. Testaments to an earlier time they sit untended and it seems mostly forgotten. It is difficult to photograph many of them, due to the speed of the train, as you can see:
 

The disappearing history in these relics can be seen more clearly in these two photos below which I have borrowed from google images:

(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2911/14615603402_b91cfdf9e0_m.jpg)

(http://www.railwaybulletin.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/news_big/story/2014/may/88601_4pictureformerstationbuildinginvlotho.jpg)

When I look at scenes like these I feel the traces of people long gone: Workers, travellers and families living their pre-war and nineteenth century lives. Their essence lives in and among these ruins, even though, sadly, it fades now with each crumbling mortar joint. The bustling activity of earlier times and the culture attending it has disappeared to places I cannot follow.

The romance of rail lives on also in these neglected places; windows broken, signs removed and grass growing through paving stones; sidelined and superceded on a track to oblivion. As the ICE from Dresden to Erfurt glides past, the faces of people long gone, and their forgotten lives, materialise briefly for this traveller.

 

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