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The Railway Children
The Modern Miracle of Steam, part 2
music & lyrics by Stephen Kingsbury

Click here to see 'The Modern Miracle of Steam, part 2' in the Vocal Score in a new window
 
Perks Well, I haven't got long, 10.21's due soon. What d'ya want to know?
 
Peter I'd love to drive a train one day.
I wonder how it works?
Could you maybe take the time to show us, Mr Perks?
 
Perks Well the first of all, the train is just the whole entire shebang:
That's the wagons and carriages
And tender where they keep the coal and water
But by far the most exciting part of any modern train
Is the locomotive's engine that is powered by steam
It's really quite miraculous.
Invented not so long ago to pump the water out of mines.
So very simple then, but now these modern locomotives
Are in fact gigantic orchestras of instruments
Performing in a symphony of steam.
 
Phyliss They do look really complicated.
 
Perks Well there are an awful lot of things that happen all at once.
But if you think of it as rather like a team of separate parts
That are working side by side each with a special job to do.
Now, let's start at the firebox
 
Children What's a firebox?
 
Perks That's where you shovel in and burn the coal
To make a raging fire
The heat of this then boils up all the water
In a thing called a boiler - an enormous kettle
Steam then passes through to the cylinder and piston.
 
Children Pylinder and Siston?
 
Perks The cylinder contains the piston racing to and fro
Under pressure from the hot expanding steam
But as you know wheels go round and round
Not back and forth
And so we need a crank
 
Children A crank?
 
Perks (presto!) An arm attached at right angles to a rotating shaft whereby reciprocating motion is changed into circular motion.
 
Children Eh?
 
Perks Now a series of connecting rods transferring all this power
To the locomotive wheels will mean she's off and flying!
(sung) These are all important parts
Of one enormous team
That's the modern miracle of steam
 
Bobbie She's off and flying? Who is she?
 
Perks The train of course!
 
Phyliss Are all trains called 'she'?
 
Perks

Every single one!
 

Bobbie Mister Perks, do you recall before the railway came?
Was the world a different place or was it much the same?
 
Perks Heavens! I'm not quite that old!
But I know one thing for sure:
That the railway helped invent
What we now think of as the modern world today.
 
Phyliss That's silly. How can a railway invent anything?
 
Perks Let me explain.
 
Peter Before the railways came the only way to travel far
Was by walking or by riding on a coach and horses.
Well, you could easily get through a pair of shoes
If you should walk from here to London.
Even on a coach and horsesYou'd be bumpin' on the road
For maybe three days or maybe even four.
But if you care to take the train you simply
Wouldn't have the time enough
To finish off a crossword let alone a magazine
Before you'd hear, "Kings Cross, all change!".
 
Perks ...Move along now...mind the gap please, madam!
 
Bobbie In the early days of railway did the rich sit with poor?
 
Perks Well not exactly, not to start with.
But because there was a cheaper class
The poor could still afford long distance
Travel for the first time
In the breezy open carriages!
 
Children So hold on to your hats!
 
Perks Quick and cheap and easy and so very very sociable.
There's country folk and city folk all mucking in together
This brand new way to travel meant
The cities and the towns had cheaper food
As all the fishermen and farmers got their
Produce to the market even quicker.
 
Children What did that mean?
 
Perks You could buy a lovely piece of cod in
Derby that was caught that morning!
Villages where fishing was the only way of living
Were immediately popular and all the rage
As day trips to the coast became more common
So the seaside was invented
With the train to take you there.
And now there's Brighton and there's Blackpool?
 
Children And there's Bridlington and Bournemouth
 
Perks And there's Mablethorpe and Morecombe
 
Children And there's Margate and there's Minehead
 
Perks And there's Cromer and there's Clacton
 
Children Where?
 
Perks Clacton. Very nice it is too…driest past of the country so they say. Me sister has a beach-hut there. Now where was I...oh yes... (clearing his throat and getting on his metaphorical soapbox, then, with great passion:) Over thirty-thousand miles of railway were laid during the last century. A railway that transformed Britain from a land of isolated villages and towns into one...united...country!  
Perks (sung) The greatest feat of civil engineering
That he world has ever seen!
 
Perks & Children That's the British modern miracle of steam
(sung)
The greatest feat of civil engineering
That the world has ever seen
That's the British modern miracle of steam
 
Phyliss Mister Perks, I've been thinking...
 
Peter Well that makes a change!
 
Bobbie Peter!
 
Phyliss If the railway really is as magic as you say
Then surely many miracles would happen in a day
If the railway were a place where wishes could come true
Then I'd send our love to father
That is what I'd do
 
Perks Trains can take all sorts of things
So why not love as well
Who knows if it will work at all
Time will tell
Trains are truly every bit
As magic as they seem
It's just another miracle of steam
 
Perks & Children (sung) Anything can happen
When you take the time to dream...
 
Perks Here comes the 10.21. (he proudly consults his watch) Bang on time!
 
We see the passengers.
 
All Now there's a certain rhythm syncopation
(There's a certain rhythm)
With this transportation
(A syncopated sound, fascinating rhythm)
It marks the racing heartbeat of a modern nation's
(The heartbeat of a proud and modern nation's)
Patriotic pride
Now we have spanned
This pleasant land
Come and take a ride
We are steaming from the city to the countryside!
 
All Aren't we awf'ly lucky to have the railway
(Serendipity gave us locomotive means)
The modern way to get from here to there
(The contempor'ry mode of trav'lling to and fro)
Everyone's in love with the sound of a steam train
(With the sound of steam train,
Wooh wooh, Fairs are fair)
A transport for the masses where the fares are fair
(Where the fairs are all fairly low)
Fish are fresh; not terribly smelly in Derby
(Now in Derby their fav'rite food is fish and chips)
And the seaside is a lovely place to be
(Don't forget your bucket and spade
And something to do if it rains)
Yes, aren't we awf'ly lucky to have the railway
(Aren't we awf'ly lucky to have the railway...)
Oh, lucky old Edwardians are we!
(...Yes, indeed!)
 
Passengers Lucky old...Edwardians
Lucky old Edwardians are we!
Lucky old Edwardians are we!
 
Perks & Children Anything can happen
When you take the time to dream
That's the modern miracle of steam!
That's the modern miracle of steam!