Going Nowhere: Daniel Judt on Tony Judt’s love of trains

Daniel Judt in The Point:

ScreenHunter_2792 Aug. 17 21.29Before my dad died in August 2010, he had begun work on his next book. “The time has come,” he had decided, “to write about more than just the things one understands; it is just as important if not more so to write about the things one cares about.” The thing my dad understood was twentieth-century European history. The thing he cared about—more than almost anything or anyone—was trains. His next book would be titled Locomotion: a history of the railway.

He spent his Putney, London childhood riding trains to nowhere in particular, just for the sake of riding. On summer days, he took the quaint suburban electric railway around suburbs and lumpy British hills, then back to Clapham Junction, where he picked his ride home from a row of grunting diesels and majestic old steamers that shuffled along nineteen different platforms. I spent my childhood listening to these wistful remembrances, trying to imagine eight-year-old Tony peering out onto a dark and smoggy London.[1]

Whenever he could, Dad took us railroading through Europe. We would board at the Gare du Nord, with its serpentine TGVs, or the Gare du Midi, with its blue and yellow boxy Belgian locals, or Paddington, with its rows of channel-hopping Eurostars. We always arrived early so Dad could sip a double-espresso in the main hall.

If stations were his “cathedrals,” as my dad once wrote, timetables were his Bible.

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