30 Day Challenge: Day 22

The Railway Children - E. Nesbit, C.E. Brock



There are plenty of books that make me cry because they're sad. Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Black Beauty, spring to mind. 


But the book that has me sobbing like a baby is one with a happy ending.  And that book is E Nesbit’s The Railway Children.  It’s funny, touching and like all of Nesbit’s books a fun read.  She never talks down to, or patronises her readers.  And her child protagonists are all very believable characters.  They act like real children, and in between having great adventures, they spend a lot of time bickering with each other.

For those who haven’t read the book, it’s a story about three children (Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis) who have to leave their London home and move with their mother to a small house in the Yorkshire countryside after their father is unexpectedly taken away by the police. 
Their new home is right by a railway line and they spend their days exploring and making friends with the people who work at the station or on the line. Every day they wave to the 9:15 train and ask it to take their love to their father. 
The children eventually get used to their new lifestyle. They are not as well off as they were in London, but they are happy, having adventures and get into a few scrapes.  But one day Bobbie reads an old newspaper which has been used as wrapping, and finds out the secret their mother has been keeping from them. Their father is in prison, wrongly accused of selling state secrets. 
Time passes, more adventures follow, and then one day, Bobbie is standing on the platform when a train arrives. Through the steam she sees a figure and then as the steam clears, she realises who it is… and I'll let Nesbit take it from here.

"Only three people got out of the 11.54. The first was a countryman with two baskety boxes full of live chickens who stuck their russet heads out anxiously through the wicker bars; the second was Miss Peckitt, the grocer's wife's cousin, with a tin box and three brown-paper parcels; and the third —


"Oh! my Daddy, my Daddy!" That scream went like a knife into the heart of everyone in the train, and people put their heads out of the windows to see a tall pale man with lips set in a thin close line, and a little girl clinging to him with arms and legs, while his arms went tightly round her."


I bawl my eyes out every time I read it. 


As an aside, the 1970 film version of the book, with Jenny Agutter as Bobbie, very nearly made it as my favourite book turned into a film.  The ending is just the same as the book, and has just the same effect on me.


And this is one of the most famous scenes in the film. For years I wanted to wear a red petticoat just in case I ever had the opportunity to whip it off and save a train from derailment.