In hilly sections of the country, the railways generally cross the wagon roads by bridges; but wherever the two kinds of roads intersect each other on a level, travel on the latter is interrupted by gates and watchmen, who permit no one to pass while a train is approaching the crossing. Thus every railway crossing in Europe is superintended day and night by watchmen. These watchmen are noticed by signal-bells, at the departure of every train running in the direction of their crossings. Under such a system, accidents are impossible. Even the doors of each “compartment” are barred by the conductors before the trains are dismissed, and will not be opened by the conductors of the next station, until the train stands still. The tickets, besides containing the ordinary matter on tickets in this country, have also the price printed upon them.
Some of the stations of the Old World, are buildings of extraordinary beauty and magnificence.
The grandest structure of this kind, is, probably, the station (Ger. Station or Bahnhof, Italian Stazione) of Stuttgart. Among many others, might also be mentioned the stations of Paris, of Turin, of Milan, and of Rome; but the Great Western Station of London, lakes the palm of those all, for magnificence, beauty and convenience combined. What the station at Clapham (seven miles above London) looks like, I do not know, but it is said, that from 1,000 to 1,200 trains run through it every twenty-four hours! What multitudes of people must be streaming over the platforms and past the windows of the ticket-offices of such a station, every day! At Birmingham and at Crewe, where 300 and 500 trains pass daily, the swarming thousands remind one of floods and inundations, but how must it look at Clapham?
July 7th, 3:40 p.m. Leave Birmingham for Stratford on the Avon (pron. [=a]’von).
Arrived at 5:00 p.m., July 7th. It had been my intention to pay this place only a brief visit, giving but a glance at “The Poet’s” home and birthplace, and then start on foot for Coventry; but I soon found that Stratford possesses more charms than I had anticipated. Shakespeare’s fame has an influence over his native town, that is simply marvelous.
The thousands of tourists that come from every land, and from every clime, to see the scenes that the poet saw, and breath the same air that he breathed, make the place one of the most popular resorts of literary pilgrims, that can be found anywhere.
The buildings of Stratford are small and low, as is the rule, rather than the exception, in English towns and villages. Many are covered with tiles, but the thatch roof is also very common here. This consists of a mixture of straw and earth, often more than a foot in thickness, and covered with moss and grass. Notwithstanding this, both the houses and the streets are kept remarkably clean and inviting; so much so, that I felt nowhere else so soon and so perfectly at home as here. Its people seem to be possessed of every virtue, and preeminent among them all, is that of hospitality which seems to be blooming in the hearts of all its citizens to-day, as did poetry in the mind of Shakespeare three hundred years ago.