Diesel Amazingly Survives a Harrowing Nine-Hundred-Mile Train Ride by Precariously Clinging to the Undercarriage of a Speeding Locomotive
"It's remarkable how he survived a nine-hundred-mile journey traveling at over one-hundred miles per hour...He would have been able to see the tracks where he was and he must have been petrified."
-- Jodi Fox
New to this world, tiny little Diesel already has had the hair-raising experience of a lifetime. For close to twenty-four hours on October 13th he was forced to hang on for dear life to the undercarriage of a Chiltern Railways locomotive as it made five trips between London's Marylebone Station and Kidderminster Station in the West Midlands.
No one knows where he came from other than that he was spotted dashing underneath the train while it was stopped at Banbury Station in Oxfordshire the previous day. Over the course of the next day the train traveled nine-hundred miles with Diesel perched near the gear box and wheels just underneath the door to the engineer's cab.
When the train stopped at Wembley Station in northwest London at around midnight on October 13th his presence was discovered by the operators who belatedly heard him meowing. Lured out of hiding by the promise of a slice of salami, Diesel was taken to a veterinarian where it was determined that the four-week-old kitten had amazingly come through his perilous misadventure unscathed.
It perhaps should be noted in passing that sliced salami and smelly fish seldom receive their just desserts. After all, they are most assuredly good for far more than snacking in that each year they play a crucial role in rescuing numerous cats simply because they are so readily available in lunch bags and boxes.
It also looks like Diesel's traveling days are over in that he has been adopted by nineteen-year-old Jodi Fox of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, who is employed by the railroad as a fleet resources assistant. (See photo above of her and Diesel.)
"When I got to work in the morning, I was asked whether I wanted a cat," she related to the Daily Mail on October 16th. (See "How Diesel the Miracle Kitten Survived Nine-Hundred-Mile Train Journey Perched Underneath Driver's Cab.") "I thought it was a joke but then I looked inside the box and I fell in love with him straight away. He just looked so cute."
In addition to being cute, there can be no doubt that Diesel also is a very courageous cat to have lived through his nightmarish ordeal. "It's remarkable how he survived a nine-hundred-mile journey traveling at over one-hundred miles per hour," Fox marveled to the Daily Mail in the article cited supra. "He would have been able to see the tracks where he was and he must have been petrified." (See map of Diesel's journey below.)
That is putting it rather mildly. Nonetheless, cats have that remarkable capacity to find strength and raison d'etre in situations where most humans would gladly throw in the towel if they were given the opportunity to do so. (See Cat Defender posts of May 17, 2007 and October 3, 2009 entitled, respectively, "North Carolina Shelter Plotting to Kill Cat That Survived Being Trapped for Thirty-Five Days in Cargo Hold of Ship from China" and "Deliberately Entombed Inside a Canvas Bag for Six Days, Duff Is Saved by a Pair of Alert Maintenance Workers at an Apartment Complex in Spokane.")
His harsh introduction to this world has, understandably, unnerved him somewhat and it is going to take him a while to psychologically recover. "He's quite timid. He's okay on your lap but once you let him go he runs behind the cabinet," Fox told the Daily Mail. "I think he likes small enclosed spaces."
The fact that Fox is able to hold him is one indication that he likely had a previous owner. He possibly could have been abandoned at Banbury Station, escaped from his carrier, or wandered in on his own accord.
While Diesel is busy trying to adjust to this crazy world into which he was born, Chiltern's marketing director, Thomas Ableman, is not wasting any time cashing in on his notoriety. "This is some tale and we're delighted that this little kitten has chosen to travel with Chiltern Railways on its first ever train journey," he told the Daily Mail. "Perhaps, we should add to our great value tickets a new range of feline fares."
That would not be a bad idea except for the petit fait that cats and trains generally are not a good mix. Like Diesel, a cat named Rascal from South Bend, Indiana, strolled onto a parked freight train in 2007 and ended up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Fortunately, he was later reunited with his family. (See Cat Defender post of June 7, 2007 entitled "Rascal Hops Freight Train in South Bend and Unwittingly Winds Up in Chattanooga.")
There are some notable exceptions to that rule, however. For example, Tizer of King's Cross Station in London, Tama of Wakayama Electric Railway's Kishigawa Line in western Japan, and the late Diesel of Inverness Station in Scotland all found gainful employment in railroad depots. (See Cat Defender posts of November 23, 2007, June 2, 2008, and June 25, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Tizer Lands a Job Working for the Police After Ending Up at a Shelter Following the Death of His Previous Owner," "Ridership Soars as Tama Takes Over as a Stationmaster on Money-Losing Commuter Train Line," and "Inverness Station Kills Off Its Resident Feline, Diesel, after Fourteen Years of Faithful Service and Companionship.")
Of course, there are a few cats who make a habit of riding the rails. Par exemple, only recently it was revealed that a cat named Percy has been taking the train from his home to an aquarium in Scarborough for the past four years. (See Cat Defender post of November 14, 2009 entitled "Percy Takes the Train All by Himself in Order to Visit the Penguins at an Aquarium in Scarborough.")
The most famous train riding cat of all time was, of course, Skimbleshanks who made himself to home on the night mail train which traveled the British West Coast Main Line. (See photo above of Reed Jones as Skimbleshanks in the Broadway production of the musical Cats.)
Here is how T. S. Eliot immortalized him in his epic poem, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats:
"There's a whisper down the line at 11:39
When the Night Mail's ready to depart,
Saying 'Skimble where is Skimble has he gone to hunt the thimble?
We must find him or the train can't start.'
All the guards and all the porters and the stationmaster's daughters
They are searching high and low,
Saying 'Skimble where is Skimble for unless he is very nimble
Then the Night Mail just can't go.'
At 11:42 then the signal's nearly due
And the passengers are frantic to a man --
Then Skimble will appear and he'll saunter to the rear:
He's been busy in the luggage van!
He gives one flash of his glass-green eyes
And the signal goes 'All Clear!'
And we're off at last for the northern part
Of the Northern Hemisphere!
You may say that by and large it is Skimble who's in charge
Of the Sleeping Car Express.
From the driver and the guards to the bagmen playing cards
He will supervise them all, more or less.
Down the corridor he paces and examines all the faces
Of the travelers in the First and in the Third;
He establishes control by regular patrol
And he'd know at once if anything occurred.
He will watch you without winking and he sees what you are thinking
And it's certain that he doesn't approve
Of hilarity and riot, so the folk are very quiet
When Skimble is about and on the move.
You can play no pranks with Skimbleshanks!
He's a Cat that cannot be ignored;
So nothing goes wrong on the Northern Mail
When Skimbleshanks is aboard.
Oh it's very pleasant when you have found your little den
With your name written up on the door.
And the berth is very neat with a newly folded sheet
And there's not a speck of dust on the floor.
There is every sort of light -- you can make it dark or bright;
There's a button that you turn to make a breeze.
There's a funny little basin you're supposed to wash your face in
And a crank to shut the window if you sneeze.
Then the guard looks in politely and will ask you very brightly
'Do you like your morning tea weak or strong?'
But Skimble's just behind him and was ready to remind him,
For Skimble won't let anything go wrong.
And when you creep into your cozy berth
And pull up the counterpane,
You are bound to admit that it's very nice
To know that you won't be bothered with mice --
You can leave all that to the Railway Cat,
The Cat of the Railway Train!
In the middle of the night he is always fresh and bright;
Every now and then he has a cup of tea
With perhaps a drop of Scotch while he's keeping his watch,
Only stopping here and there to catch a flea.
You were fast asleep at Crewe and so you never knew
That he was walking up and down the station;
You were sleeping all the while he was busy at Carlisle,
Where he greets the stationmaster with elation.
But you saw him at Dumfries, where he summons the police
If there's anything they ought to know about:
When you get to Gallowgate there you do not have to wait --
For Skimbleshanks will help you to get out!
He gives you a wave of his long brown tail
Which says: 'I'll see you again!
You'll meet without fail on the Midnight Mail
The Cat of the Railway train'."
It is sad that most modern rail lines are too fast, overcrowded, and uncaring to any longer accommodate cats like Skimbleshanks. He and others like him certainly added a touch of elegance, grace, and home that is sorely lacking on today's passenger trains which resemble cattle cars more than anything else.
Photos: News Team (Diesel and Fox), Daily Mail (map), and The Really Useful Group via Wikipedia (Jones as Skimbleshanks).