No churns, no porter, no cat on a seat,
At Chorlton-cum-Hardy or Chester-le-Street.
Several of the stations mentioned survived the Beeching Axe: Chester-le-Street, Formby, Ambergate and Arram. Gorton and Openshaw also survives, as Gorton. Chorlton-cum-Hardy closed in January 1967, but re-opened in July 2011 as Chorlton Metrolink station.
Selby and Goole were not threatened by Beeching, though the line from Selby to Goole mentioned in the song was closed to passengers. The other line mentioned, from St Erth to St Ives[note 1] was reprieved, and both stations remain open.
Michael Flanders' delivery of the lyrics seems to imply that Formby Four Crosses and Armley Moor Arram were station names, but in both cases he combined two consecutive names from an alphabetical list of stations. It has been suggested that he took the names of the stations from The Guardian, explaining at least some of the discrepancies between the names in the songs and the names of the stations.
In 2004, Canadian classical quartet Quartetto Gelato released a themed album called Quartetto Gelato Travels the Orient Express, celebrating the original journey of Orient Express and featuring music from London to Istanbul. The album begins with a rendition of "Slow Train", with the final lines changed to reflect the route of the Orient Express.
A version of "The Slow Train" by the King's Singers is on electronica duo Lemon Jelly's track "'76 aka The Slow Train", combined with a cover of the Albert Hammond song "I'm a Train" also performed by the King's Singers. A live version by Stackridge was included in its 2009 DVD 4x4.
Michael Williams' book "On the Slow Train" takes its name from the song. It celebrates 12 of the most beautiful and historic journeys in Britain that were saved from the Beeching axe, including famous routes such as the Settle-Carlisle line and less well-known pleasures, such as the four-hour Preston to Carlisle route along the remote Cumbrian coastline.
List of stations referred to in the lyrics
Where appropriate, the correct name of the station is shown in brackets.
- Ten of the 31 stations were open in 2012, with five others on lines still open.
- Trouble House Halt opened in 1959, shortly before Beeching became BR chairman.
- Re-opening of the line through Cheslyn Hay in 1989 included a new Landywood station, half a mile to the south.
- Kirby Muxloe is regularly proposed for re-opening with the freight-only 'Ivanhoe Line' remaining between Leicester and Burton however a scheme re-appraisal by Scott Wilson in 2009 suggested there was little likelihood of the line reopening to passengers.
- Littleton and Badsey, Chittening Platform and Armley Moor are on lines still open. Chittening and Armley are in the Bristol and Leeds urban areas, and are proposed for re-opening.
- While the Cornish St Ives was the one to which Flanders is referring, St Ives, Cambridgeshire on the Great Eastern Railway between Cambridge and Huntingdon was closed by Beeching.
- Re-opened in July 2011 as Chorlton, on Manchester Metrolink.
- Both Selby and Goole remain open, but the line between them, referred to in the song, closed in 1964.
- "Littleton and Badsey Station (Revisited)". 21 January 2003. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
- "The Independent, April 3, 2010.". London. 3 April 2010. Retrieved 14 Feb 2011.
- Pre-Grouping Atlas, page 15
- Pre-Grouping Atlas, page 16
- Nick Catford (20 April 2010). "Disused Stations site record: Long Stanton". Retrieved 16 December 2011.
- Suggitt, Gordon. "Chapter 11: Around Selby". Lost Railways of North & East Yorkshire. Countryside Books. pp. 124–126.
- "Re-opening rail line 'too costly'". Leicester Mercury. 2009-09-09.
- British Railways Pre-grouping Atlas and Gazetteer. Ian Allan. 1988. ISBN 0-7110-0320-3.
- Dewick, Tony. Rail Atlas 1890.
- Jowett, Alan (1989). Jowett's Railway Atlas of Great Britain & Ireland. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-086-1.