Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 40

Daniel 7 v 1 – 14

Full Steam Ahead

The impact of the COVID restrictions has obviously had an effect on everything that we had become accustomed in our everyday lives. For me one of the frustrating issues has been the inability to indulge in my hobby of displaying my vintage tractors and classic car at the local rallies. In the past year every scheduled enthusiast’s meeting has been cancelled and several of those in the near future have already been abandoned. 

I know that in the big picture this minor inconvenience could be considered as insignificant, but never the less, it is still frustrating.

Although I enjoy taking my own vehicles, I also enjoy looking at the other exhibits, in particular the steam fairground engines. They are big, majestic, and powerful and yet when they are stationary they appear to be gentle, docile and almost timid, hiding all that power and energy behind highly polished brass and chrome and delicate artistic paintwork.

But my attraction and admiration of steam engines has not always been the case.

I can recall as a very young lad, holding onto my dad’s hand in Bradford Foster Square Railway Station and I was screaming my head off in fear of a steam train. I can remember the occasion quire clearly but not the reason why we were there. It was not to go on a journey so possibly we were meeting someone, but whatever the reason I was definitely not happy.    

In my eyes the steam engine was enormous and was belching out steam and smoke as if it was a giant dragonish monster. The air was filled with putrid sulphur smelling coal smoke and periodically an ear splitting hiss of pressurised steam would pierce my ear drums and then reverberate around the Victorian cathedral like station platform area.

Then, even worse was to come. The beast started to move, emitting thunderous explosions of smoke from the firebox, and high pressure steam into the pistons to force the wheels into motion. In that snapshot in time the world of that young lad had descended into a nightmare of smoke, steam, deafening sound and a fire breathing monster advancing towards him, and above all the turmoil my dad was shouting, ‘ Look son a steam train.’

This was no train; it was a dragon, sent to destroy us all but only I could see it.

Ironically, some seventy years later, my attraction to steam engines is the smoke, the steam, the smell, the sounds and the sheer presence of these giant monsters. They were a product of an age that revelled in extravagant engineering. Steam was the fulcrum of the industrial revolution in the Victorian era changing the direction of industry and travel not only in this country, but also across the mechanised world, only to be superseded by advanced technology and alternative fuels such as petrol, diesel and electricity.

Although now in retirement, the age of steam is not deceased and in the past ten years at least two brand new stream locomotives have been manufactured and can be seen touring the country, (before COVID). Ever increasing miles (Kilometres) of railway lines have been restored by enthusiasts in order to display these dragons of the past, but it has to be said that although my enthusiasm for steam is undoubtedly strong, in my mind it still takes me back to Bradford Foster Square Station’s demonic dragon all those years ago.

Visions and dreams of multi-headed fearsome beasts and monsters are common in the Bible particularly in describing apocalyptic or cataclysmic events or prophecies and the book of Daniel is a good example of this kind of symbolism. It was written at a time when the Jews were suffering and living in constant fear of a pagan tyrant king and needed assurance that God had not forsaken them.

The Book of Daniel starts with his ability to interpret the King’s, (Nebuchadnezzar) dreams most significantly a dream of a man made of gold, silver and bronze but in Chapter 7 Daniel’s role changes to be more prophetic. His vision describes four beasts rising from the sea and although the beasts relate back to the metal man earlier in Daniel 2, they all represent a terror that disturbs Daniel greatly.

It is a prophecy of five future Kingdoms;

The first is of a winged lion which represents the Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar.             The second is that of a stooping Bear which represents the Persian Empire which will overcome the Babylonians.                                                                                                                          The third is a winged four headed leopard which represents the Greek and Macedonian Empire.                                                                                                                                                         The fourth is a fierce creature that was previously unknown, as strong as iron with the ability to crush anything underfoot. This represents the Roman Empire.                                         There is a fifth and final Kingdom which is that of the Messiah, one like the Son of Man descending with the clouds of Heaven (verse 13).

Although Daniel’s vision depicted hard times and suffering to come, it also reassured and comforted both him and the Jewish nation, in that God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ will prevail over all evil.

My dad bought me a Tri-ang 00 gauge electric railway engine with four carriages and a coal tender. It ran on an oval shaped line and I bought myself a model water tank and a signal box.

Much better than the real thing.

Derek T.