Will’s World: Is common sense as lost as golden age of trains?

I’m a big fan of trains. Not quite in the bobble-hat, Thermos flask and camera class of middle-aged men who enjoy standing on platforms and getting animated over a fleeting appearance of the 8.55 to Euston, but nevertheless I do like them a lot.

So much so, in fact, that in another life I could’ve happily driven one for a living.

However, it’s vintage steam trains that really capture my imagination. I’ve spent many a happy hour at various museums exploring them.

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The Railway Museum in York is a particular favourite, as was boarding the Hogwarts Express at Harry Potter World with my numerous daughters a few years ago. I was probably more excited than they were.

I even dragged the present Mrs Evans along with me to our local station last year just to see the famous Britannia come roaring through, and I admit Great British Train Journeys with Michael Portillo is probably my favourite TV programme.

Golden age of steam

Sometimes I use my imagination to transport myself back to the golden age of steam.

I’m walking down the platform wearing a crisp grey suit with matching fedora styled at a rakish angle, clutching a copy of The Times under my arm, and a walking cane in my hand.

I board the train, make my way to the first-class dining car, order myself a large whisky that comes in the finest crystal glass, and strike up a civilised conversation with the similarly sophisticated fellow next to me as the countryside flies past the window.

Back to the present day, though, and travelling via Crewe Station in 2024 isn’t quite as glamorous; nevertheless, I still generally enjoy the experience.

But it was at this very location recently that I found myself in an unexpected and surreal situation.

As my long-suffering family will attest, I can’t abide tardiness and am almost never late. But on this rare occasion, I was running behind schedule.

With only five minutes before my train arrived, I decided I had just about long enough to grab a much-needed coffee from the café on the platform.

I hurried inside and the lady behind the counter promptly made my drink. As I paid, she began to put a plastic lid on it.

“No thanks,” I said. “I don’t need a lid.”

“Sorry, I can’t let you take a hot drink out without a lid,” she replied curtly. “It’s a health and safety issue.”

Steaming mad

Now, take a minute to read that again. I’m 45 years old, work daily with large animals and heavy machinery, and have managed to get this far in life without drastically injuring myself or anyone else with a hot drink.

But I’m not allowed to leave a café without a plastic lid on my cardboard cup of overpriced and average coffee because it’s a “health and safety issue”.

What, I fleetingly wondered, would happen if I just removed the lid and walked out?

Would she pull a taser from her pocket and put 50,000 volts into me before I reached the door?

Would she somersault over the counter, wrestle me to the ground and drag me off to security in a headlock?

Would she hit an alarm, causing hordes of guards to appear, resulting in me sprinting through the station like Dickie Attenborough in The Great Escape, dodging through the crowds and around carriages before ultimately being captured by the Plastic Lid Gestapo?

As my train arrived, I lamented the fact that the golden age of common sense is seemingly as sadly long-gone as the golden age of steam.