Although our play is set in Yorkshire, many believe that the inspiration for The Railway Children came from Strines, a village in Stockport Borough, between Marple and New Mills.
The author, Edith Nesbit, had a sister, Saretta, who lived high above Strines at a house called ‘Paradise’. Edith stayed with Saretta often and got to know the area and its people well. Next door to Paradise is a house called ‘Three Chimneys’, both still there today. In The Railway Children she writes, ‘It was hilly country. Down below was the line of the railway, and the black yawning mouth of a tunnel. There was a great bridge with tall arches across the valley’. All are visible from Three Chimneys.
In the book the children have adventures on the canal with its coal wharf, the flight of 16 locks and the aqueduct, all still there. In 1893 there was a major landslip on the railway near Strines, surely the inspiration for the famous landslip adventure.
The final piece of the Strines jigsaw is the ‘Old Gentleman’. Edward Ross, Company Secretary of the Manchester Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway lived at Beechwood, above Marple South tunnel, visible from Three Chimneys. Edith would have known him as he was celebrated in the area for helping the poor in times of need and helping young men of the area to find jobs on the railway. The kind and generous Old Gentleman of the play turns out to be a director of the railway company, so the parallels with Edward Ross are clear.
There is a walks leaflet that pinpoints the ten places in the Strines and Marple areas that are linked with Edith Nesbit and The Railway Children.