The Union of South Africa and East Lancashire

As filmed by a man with eight legs

I have to confess it was a stalking.

I looked her up on Facebook and drove across the moors to where I’d worked out she would be.


I parked the car and unleashed my camera.

I was by myself but not alone.

My viewfinder located lusty men leering through long lenses from within even longer grass.

The level crossing gates were erect as Dylan’s dry dream.

A passenger from Workington crept up on me.

He decided to risk it and removed his mask.

We exchanged the obligatory greeting.

Things were cooler, but comfortable.

I heard a distant wolf-whistle, but he said it was a cayote.

A chime-whistle he said.

Stolen from the United Sates and only blown by stars from her studio.

The phallic barriers tipped to the horizontal to hold back those that might block her way.

She approached.

Sedately, said the Workington man.

Just a little smoke. 


Shutters snapped from the crocodiles on both sides of the tracks.

She was ten minutes late, but in her heyday that had been a lady’s prerogative.

The African queen gasped as she passed.

Her carapace was greenbottle, her limbs spider-black.

Radial fishnets, steel-shod, heels sharpened to scimitar flanges.

A rolling star in a starring role.

She was everything the Workington retiree had hoped for, he said. 

Though she needed a wash.

Her fans strew from her train.

Children were taken to be underwhelmed by a nostalgia they were not old enough to know.

Ancient acolytes fell at her feet and unchained her from the front.

She poodled to the rear and they fastened her there.

When it was time for her to leave, she withdrew affectionately, tender first.

Her followers were on board; her gerontic fans were left wanting more.

A boilerman had made a movie without a Hitchcock.

The double-barrelled shooter held a tripod in each grip.

Six legs in hand and two of his own: a mega-pixelating arachnid.

His big hand captured the hour; his little hand caught the seconds.

She gave all gracefully.

A workhorse turned national dame.

She was a cast-iron lady, no doubt.

I worried that we were being un-woke, but old men know a manufactured metaphor when they have forged one.

She’d been unified much longer than the nation she was named after.

She’d steamed through wars, hot and cold.

How many paying progenies had she safely delivered?

How many had she carried to full terminus?

This was one of her final trips.

Her ticket was expiring.

Her breath would soon stop.

No more time to be kept.

She will stand still.

Children will still stare.

And wonder why.

More steamy tales

The era of locomotives like this is depicted in:

Untitled novel paperback

Untitled novel eBook

A similar locomotive, the LMS Pacific Class Duchess of Sutherland inspired a couple of stories in . . .

Papercuts paperback

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