I’m interested in animals and commemoration in the modern world, reflected in my publications in the Journal of Material Culture and Mortality. Hence you won’t be surprised, dear reader, that my journey yesterday from Reading to London Paddington by train involved an essential and ever-so-brief sojourn at Slough railway station.
There are many, many reasons to visit Slough but no better reason to conduct a canine mortuary pilgrimage than to visit Station Jim. My brief stop was for this one reason alone. I was there to pay my respects to perhaps the greatest of all railway dogs and one of Britain’s most prominently located animal ancestors. Station Jim is a perpetual presence on the station: he looks out over thousands of trains, travellers and station staff every day of every year without fail regardless.
Station Jim was a living presence at Slough station for only a short time two centuries ago. He was brought there in 1894 as a 3-month old puppy and until his untimely death in November 1896 he worked as a Canine Collector for the Great Western Railway Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund. He collected £45 in coins during his time in this role, performing all manner of tricks and sometimes getting on trains as far as Leamington Spa.
After his death, the affection for Jim was such that there was only one course of action that both honoured his legacy and allowed him to continue his charity work into the afterlife: Stuff him!
Subsequently and for the last 118 years Station Jim has collected coins and attracted attention. Jim has been watching the people come and go; travelling to and from work and home, going on their holidays and leaving for two world wars. Jim has seen people come to and through Slough from all over the British Empire and Commonwealth and beyond. Station Jim is both local and international, both celebrity and sorry symbol of another age through his ever-present personality and dedication to duty.
Furthermore, Station Jim has become a modest internet hit. With 340 followers and 170 tweets, since September 2008, Station Jim has his own Twitter account. Jim tweets (or barks) in response to mentions and also with all manner of sage insights from his distinctive platform perspective. He comments on the trains, the weather and the state of his fur, and even asks for updates on football scores.
Visit Station Jim! In his white case beside the ladies lavatories, he now stands guard over platform 5 and the bicycle racks recently positioned in from of him. With his collection pouch and his attentive stance, as well as a placard telling his story, he is a true canine celebrity for the Great Western Railway, British Rail and now Network Rail.
Don’t just stare at him, give him a coin and have a little chat with him. Tweet if you feel inclined! Station Jim’s bark is worse than his bite!