Our last day was the eve of the Ramadan Fast. At eight o’clock that night we left by train to journey homeward overland, for time demanded that we should go back much quicker than we came.
We broke our journey for two days at Buda-Pesth, and looked on the Danube; at Vienna we stayed a little longer, and found that gay city hard to leave. We drove and rode in the Prater, and horseback exercise in such a place was, I need not say, delightful. We stopped at Frankfort, enjoyed its opera and other things, then, via Ostend, wended our way to London.
“Will you undertake to report on the subject of Light Railways for the International Railway Congress at Paris?” This question was put to me in the year 1899, and although I was busy enough, without shouldering additional work, I at once said “Yes,” and this was how I came to spend part of my 1900 annual holiday in the beautiful but crowded capital of France. Crowded it was almost to suffocation, for 1900 was the Great Exhibition year, and all the world and his wife were there. The Railway Congress took place in September. The business part of the proceedings came first, and I did not stay for the festivities. When my Report was made and discussed (a reporter was not allowed to read his paper, but was required to speak from notes), I made, with three railway friends from Dublin, tracks for Switzerland. It had been a strenuous year and mountain air and exercise were needed to restore one’s physical strength and jaded faculties.
“Means of developing light railways. What are the best means of encouraging the building of light railways?” This was the text for my paper, as sent to me by the Congress, and my Report, I was told, should be confined to the United Kingdom, Mr. W. M. Acworth having undertaken a report on the subject for other countries.
In my Report I first disposed of Ireland, concerning which and its light railways I have already written with some fullness in these pages; and my readers, I am sure, will not be surprised to hear that, as regards that country I answered the question remitted to me by saying that the only practical means I could see of further encouraging the construction of light railways in Ireland was by the wise expenditure of additional Government Grants, while as regards England, I pointed out that she had for long preferred to dispense with light railways, that, as forcibly expressed in The Times, she alone of civilised countries had but one standard for her railways, that is “the best that money could buy”; that times had changed, and in 1894 and 1895 much discussion and investigation on the subject had taken place, brought about chiefly, I thought, by depression in agriculture; that the energy which France, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and Italy had expended on their light railway systems,