For 175 years the British have lived with the railway, and for a long while it was a love affair - the grandeur of the Victorian heyday, the glorious age of steam, the romance of Brief Encounter. Then the love affair turned sour - strikes, bad food, delays, disasters...Parallel Lines tells the story of these two railways: the real railway and the railway of our dreams. Travelling all over Britain, Ian Marchant examines the history of the British railway and meets those who still hold the railways close to their hearts - the model railway enthusiasts, the train-spotters and bashers (a hybrid of train-spotting where the individual - usually male - has to travel behind a certain locomotive in order to catalogue it), the steam enthusiasts. He swaps stories with commuters at the far reaches of London suburbia, he travels to deserted railway museums, and smokes cigarettes on remote, windswept stations in the furthest corners of Scotland, turning his characteristic eye for character, humour and surprise to one of the great shared experiences of the British nation.
Ian Marchant wasn't born in Newhaven in East Sussex in 1958, but he often claims that he was because of his deep embarrasment about his real place of birth.
But he really did grow up there, and went to school there, and he still sees it as home, even though it quite clearly isn't, given that he lives 250 miles away in Mid-Wales.
He didn't make a living singing in bands in the late 1970's and early 1980's; nor did he become a civil engineer in the late 1980's, as he didn't have any facility for the maths. He was surprised to learn recently that he didn't graduate in the History and Philosophy of Science with a Creative Writing Minor from Lancaster University in 1992. He really did live in a caravan for many years, but he didn't share it with a chicken called Ginger, who was rather an occasional visitor.
He put his career as a novelist on hold when his second novel 'The Battle for Dole Acre',(whose title he can't pronounce),didn't really sell. He didn't know much about railways or pubs when he started writing his acclaimed travel memoirs 'Parallel Lines' and 'The Longest Crawl',(though he does now). He did stay awake for countless nights to write his latest book 'Something of the Night'. He's now not writing a new book (provisional title 'A Hero for High Times') because he's writing this instead.
He does, however, teach Creative Writing at Birmingham City University, support Brighton and Hove Albion and sing in a cheesy cabaret duo called 'Your Dad', even though he's not really your dad, unless he is.
You can read his blog, which he doesn't update enough, via his website, www.ianmarchant.com