It has been suggested that a photograph can be thought of as denoting, rather than the existence of something, the actual absence of the referent:- the ‘thing’ photographed being no longer present.
Perhaps, then, in a similar way, a ‘landscape’, being a man-made creation on any number of levels, could be considered to signify the loss or absence of what had gone before, whether the original
wilderness before humans set eyes on it, or the various layers of man-altered scenes that have existed since humans began to impose their own various myths upon the space.
The Victorian railway system spread like fingers across rural Britain. But in the 1950s and ‘60s, many of the branch lines saw closure and sell-off in the face of new economic realities and political preference. Although, however, these fingers had rested on the landscape for less than 100 years, they left behind many fingerprints. These show through today not just in the obvious remnants of physical structures
on the land - bridges, embankments, station platforms, and so on – but also in tell-tale traces on our culture and collective memory, reflected in railway nostalgia-related hobbies and pastimes, photography and film that remain from the time.
In many locations, however, there is nothing visibly obvious at first glance. Yet the landscape bears the traces, the new merely masking the old which shows through on closer inspection:
Empty spaces left behind by the dismantled lines – sometimes an in-filled cutting across a field or just a suggestion of a route curving through a rural wood or meadow – can often resonate with the lost railways’
palpable absence, as the myth of the railways endures.