A Childhood Memory of the Day King George V Came to Town

Reminiscing springtime in an English railway town

Matt Mason
2 min readApr 13, 2022


The chugs slow as we step forward to the platform edge, the first faint waft of smoke tantalising our senses, carried on a light wind displaced by the powerful machinery muscling its way into the station. The chugs become lethargic, drawn out, to finally die.

Inner workings of a steam train. Copyright MG Mason 2015

Then we hear it: wooooooo-ah-wooooooooo!!!!!!!!! and with a squeal of brakes, it grinds to a halt at the platform and the engine breathes a sigh of relief. Finally, the huge axles stop, steam rises and water drips from iron onto the track.

The crowd gravitates to the engine, crowding the front to get the best first shot of a train named in honour of a king who — at this point — had been dead nearly fifty years.

The driver sticks his head out of the window and waves. He is for the moment a celebrity to the children who think he officially has The Best Job in the World(TM). He answers some quick questions from the children and reaches back inside the engine.

‘Oooohhhhh!’ we all go as a large burst of steam billows out from under the engine and engulfs us. That smell — there’s nothing else like it in the world. The raw power of the mechanics of a bygone age — axles spin, showing off the powerful engineering and another cloud of smoke billows out from its underside.

‘All aboard!’ the call for the lucky few who will be taking the short trip and enjoying a Bank Holiday lunch as the engine heads to the larger and more visually striking stations of Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads. This is the heart of Brunel’s Great Western Railway — or God’s Wonderful Railway as it was lovingly described back in the day.

As the engine pulls out of the station, I look on longingly, watching this relic leave Swindon station for another year — leaving never-to-fade memories and my clothes smelling of coal smoke.

Goodbye George.



Matt Mason

Archaeologist by training, freelance writer by choice. General creativity nerd. EIC of "The Ace Space" - a publication for ace and aro voices.