In 1830, the first railway passenger service in the world was established between Manchester and Liverpool - ever since railways have exerted their special fascination, not least with writers and musicians. They can evoke adventure and romance, excitement, power and fear. Dickens, for example, had a strong dislike of trains, but couldn't ignore them in his fiction.
The path of a train can mirror a journey through life. The 19th century Parisian railway provided a powerful backdrop to Emile Zola's exploration of the darker side of human nature in La Bête Humaine; while for the American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, the train was the means of carriage for a soul's symbolic journey towards spiritual fulfilment. Arthur Honegger famously used an orchestra to mimic the sound of a great continental steam train, while Rossini - who detested the railway - took a certain pleasure in creating a musical depiction of a hypothetical railway accident. Trains mean rendezvous, departure, loss and transportation. For some, the incessant drive of a great steam engine is potent expression of a mechanised industrialized world. For one poet, the clickety-clack of metal wheels on metal rails evokes something primeval.
Jonathan Pryce and Eleanor Bron read poems and texts celebrating our relationship with trains by Emile Zola, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, Wilfred Owen, Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin, Leo Tolstoy and Primo Levi; alongside archive recordings from TS Eliot and John Laurie. Featured "Train" music includes musical thoughts from Arthur Honegger, Percy Grainger, Gioachino Rossini, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Mikhail Glinka, Charles Ives, Benjamin Britten, Rued Langgaard, Simon Bainbridge, Meade "Lux" Lewis and Elvis Presley.