Andy Grant has one burning ambition – to be an engine driver. This is not altogether surprising since he is the son of a stationmaster and lives in Arley Station house.
The Severn Valley line – one small country branch of the massive Great Western Railway system – is Andy’s world. His life is bounded by the arrival and departure of powerful, majestic steam engines. He recognises every locomotive and knows most of the crews. The high point of his life is when he is given a ride on the footplate by his friend, driver Ted Jarvis.
His life is happy and uneventful, apart from his elder sister Marj who is boring and elder-sisterly, and his mother who cannot be made to realise the importance of Andy’s ambition to be a driver.
Then comes the start of the Second World War and everything changes. Andy’s safe, predictable world of trains running more or less to time just outside his bedroom window is swept away. New engines are seen on the line, new people invade the village and one of them, Alice, even comes into his own home having been evacuated from her home in Birmingham. Andy gets caught up in the strange, uncomfortable events taking place all around him during those first months of the war. Events which are sometimes unhappy, sometimes exciting, but never, ever, predictable.
The God’s Wonderful Railway series follows the fortunes of three generations of the same railway family who live and work on the Severn Valley Railway in the Midlands. The first story, Permanent Way, is about Robbie Grant, who, together with his father, arrives in the village of Arley in order to build the railway in the 1860s. The second story, Clear Ahead, is set in the early years of the 20th century and follows the story of George Grant, grandson of Robbie. The third story, Fire on the Line, is set in 1939, at the start of the second world war, and concerns the changes war brings to George – now Stationmaster at Arley – and his son, Andy.
Fire on the Line is based on the third story in the BBC Television series, God’s Wonderful Railway, which was transmitted in 1980 and is now out on DVD.
The book is out of print but secondhand copies might be available from amazon.
DVD’s of the television series are available from www.amazon.co.uk, www.hmv.co.uk and other outlets