Winter 2005

Strangers on a train

Departure of the Slam Door Train

Design: Blast. Photographer / Publisher: Maxine Beuret, £4.99. Available at www.maxinebeuret.com

This November, Britain’s railways were pulled creaking and groaning into the twenty-first century when the last slam door trains were decommissioned, half a century after they were introduced in the 1950s. Photographer Maxine Beuret has lovingly documented their last two years of service, her camera lingering on red No Smoking signs, the guard’s Loudaphone system, the familiar navy and royal blue upholstery and of course the sliding catch on the doors, which used to take so many people unawares as they fumbled to open the door before the train moved off. On the cover of this slim A6 volume two old gents in dark coats look across at each other a tad grimly, and the scratched window gives a hazy view of a cloudy English day.

The book is delightful to handle and the elegant pictures, 25 in all, are richly coloured and printed on matt stock. It is a poignant reminder of the passing of another quaint British institution.

Maxine Beuret is a connoisseur of the outmoded: other work includes photos of Blustons, a ladies’ outfitters in London, and a funeral parlour in the US. She speaks to those of us who hanker – for a moment at least – for this faded Ealing Comedy version of Britain rather than its sleek Eurostar counterpart.