Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Winton Train

I remember growing up in the 1950s with the 2nd World War still very much in the thoughts of my parents. When I began to learn of the holocaust, I was disbelieving that such things could happen. I'm still moved when I hear stories from that time.

The photo shows the pre-1939 Czechoslovak-built mainline locomotive 486.007 'Green Anton' about to leave Prague main station yesterday with accurate period carriages from the Hungarian railway museum in Budapest. This was the first leg of the Winton Train out of Prague main station with period carriages from 1939 heading for Furth im Wald. On the Czech leg on some gradients, 486.007 was supported by 498.022 'Albatros'.

Other steam engines will provide the power through Germany and Holland. Those on board will cross to Harwich, and LNER A1 Class 4-6-2 no 60163 Tornado will pull a special steam excursion into Liverpool Street station this Friday.

A steam train excursion, across four countries. What's it all about?

I must confess I did not know about Sir Nicholas Winton until recently. The story is here. Read it. What a remarkable man. What a remarkable story!

In early September, 1939, a train with 250 children was due to leave Prague, for safety, following the route taken by more than 600 rescued previously, thanks to the efforts of Nicholas Winton. But war broke out on September 1. The train never left, and one can only speculate on the fate of the children. According to Winton himself (see link to interview below) only one or two survived.

This week's Winton Train follows the route of the 1939 rescue trains, and on board are descendents of some of those saved then. But there's a lot more to it all than just a steam excursion across Europe. The goal of the Winton Train Project in 2009 is to inspire young people through the deeds of Nicholas Winton, and the Czech organisers arranged a series of cultural and social events - the Inspiration by Goodness project. There was a competition too. School and university students were challenged to find from documentary films, literary works, photography, 'stories of personal courage and goodness in today’s turbulent and complex world'. See here.

There are more steam loco pics on the Winton Project website here.

And there is a BBC feature on the story here, and this includes a video clip of the train and carriages. And listen to the man himself Sir Nicholas Winton here.


  1. There was a small piece on 'Coast' this week only the port of entry was Hull with a special platform in the station to take the refugees by train to Liverpool and onto America.

  2. That's interesting, Jim. There are certainly other aspects of the official'Kindertransport'. See here:

    I was disappointed to read that the USA did NOT take any of the Czech children in this story, despite Winton's appeals. But of course Winton's children were only a small number of the refugees offered a safe haven in the UK and other countries. Still this itself was a small number compared with how many were ultimately killed.