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The Train of a Life : In Charles Dickens’s tale set around Mugby Junction, a man sees his life flash by like a ghostly train.
The Train of a Life

Abridged from ‘Mugby Junction’, by Charles Dickens.

At the start of his railway-themed story ‘Mugby Junction’, Charles Dickens wants to tell us about the lead character, whom we know thus far only as a man with two black cases labelled ‘Barbox Brothers’. He is standing with the station’s sole member of staff on the otherwise deserted, rain-soaked platform at three o’clock in the morning.

AS the belated traveller plodded up and down, a shadowy train went by him in the gloom which was no other than the train of a life. From whatsoever intangible deep cutting or dark tunnel it emerged, here it came, unsummoned and unannounced, stealing upon him and passing away into obscurity. Here, mournfully went by, a child who had never had a childhood or known a parent, inseparable from a youth with a bitter sense of his namelessness, coupled to a man the enforced business of whose best years had been distasteful and oppressive, linked to an ungrateful friend, dragging after him a woman once beloved. Attendant, with many a clank and wrench, were lumbering cares, dark meditations, huge dim disappointments, monotonous years, a long jarring line of the discords of a solitary and unhappy existence.

“—Yours, sir?”

The traveller recalled his eyes from the waste into which they had been staring, and fell back a step or so under the abruptness, and perhaps the chance appropriateness, of the question.

“Oh! My thoughts were not here for the moment. Yes. Yes. Those two portmanteaus are mine.”*

* The story goes on to relate how Mr ‘Barbox Brothers’ goes on to use seven lines branching out from Mugby Junction to search for meaning in his life. The chapters that follow include Dickens’s famous ghost story ‘The Signalman’, and four tales by Dickens’s co-authors Charles Collins, Amelia Edwards, Andrew Halliday and Hesba Stretton.

Abridged from ‘Mugby Junction’, by Charles Dickens.

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Charles Dickens (19) Extracts from Literature (93) Railways (22) Fiction (83)

Picture: © Nick MacNeill, Geograph. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0. View original
Loughborough Central station, on the now preserved Great Central Railway line in the midlands. ‘Mugby’ is a faint alias for Rugby to the west, a station which Dickens did not remember fondly as the lady in the cafeteria there had once refused sugar until he had paid in advance for his tea. In ‘Mugby Junction’, Dickens indulges in a little revenge. “Speaking as a man,” the lamps man at Mugby Junction says, “I wouldn’t recommend my father (if he was to come to life again) to go and try how he’d be treated at the Refreshment Room.”
By Charles Dickens
By Charles Dickens

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