Rhythm, Rhymes & Railways

Historyworks is starting a new public art project in Cambridge which will run from the September 2017 to December 2017, and we'll invite a large number of singers from local schools and community choirs to come together to perform new pieces for voice and body percussion which we will perform at the Winter Fair on 2nd December 2017.

The project is called 'Rhythm, Rhyme & Railways' to tell the story of how Cambridge changed when the railway came in 1845. We are working with top writers, the renowned poet Michael Rosen, and the witty lyricist, Dave Cohen (the CBBC's Horrible-Histories Song-writer); and partnering with a range of local historians and experts to help us find the significant stories to translate into song.  The Musical Director of the Railway Singers will be Mario Satchwell with support from Tizzy Faller & Bethany Kirby who has done a brilliant job as the Musical Arranger for the lyric pieces by Michael Rosen and others.

Helen Weinstein has been leading the research about the railway, working with Tizzy Faller and our group of History PhD student interns, using many of the resources of the Mill Road History Society, such as the research on the railway cottages, and the fantastic archive based at the National Railway Museum in York.  We'll collect stories locally too to add to the narrative of the poems and online resources.

Harry Gray, a sculptor who works on large-scale public artworks, is making the 'Romsey R' in partnership with the typography expert, Will Hill, which will be cast in bronze to look like an 'R' made of railway tracks, and located in perpetuity on the corner of Cavendish Road and Mill Road just over the railway bridge marking the main neighbourhood where railway workers and their families came to work and live in Cambridge in the Victorian period.  Historyworks is involved in collecting words for the sculpture, to be carved onto the Romsey 'R' and this has involved visiting many schools and community events to encourage the public engagement with the artwork, asking audiences to fill in Romsey R postcards in order to collect railway journey start and end destination points to be carved into the sculpture, and the accompanying stories and remarkable memories surrounding these destinations.

In the next phase of the project, the Historyworks team is running a series of free community choir sessions in the Autumn to rehearse and record the songs, for the children then to learn them in school assemblies and choir rehearsals, and then to record some improv railway pieces, and body percussion and drumming sessions. There will be two large public rehearsals in November, (2pm to 4pm on Sunday 19th Nov and Sunday 26th November) to learn singing and body percussion and movement, in preparation for a performance of all the pieces in St Philip's Church on Mill Road, which will be held between 11am and 12 noon (following a rehearsal from 10am) when families can come along and join in too on the date of the Mill Road Winter Fair, which is Saturday 2nd December, 2017.


There will also be a series of workshops in October and November, featuring the poet Michael Rosen and the CBBC's Horrible Histories Songwriter, Dave Cohen, organized for primary and secondary students from the local schools, which will led by Helen Weinstien and designed to inspire young people and elders to join in the project for composing poems and songs so that hundreds can be involved in responding to the Railway story of Cambridge, travel and migration, change and development of a city, by writing their own poems and songs which Historyworks will record to showcase on the screens at St Philip's Church and for an online exhibition to be launched on 2nd December on the date of the unveiling of the Romsey 'R' sculpture at the Mill Road Winter Fair 2017.


You can find a summary of the history with resources, and a powerpoint for schools which shows lots of interesting photos of Cambridge, including the bombing of the railway cottages during the Second World War, and the perplexing photograph of an elephant been squeezed into a carriage ready for transportation!  The last frame includes some classic films by John Betjeman, and the Night Mail by W.H. Auden, which you can find on our Creating My Cambridge History resources page with a powerpoint for school classes here:




Anyone in Cambs who would like to join the Railway Singers is welcome to participate because there will be no auditions, but we hope to have some experienced singers to anchor the choir, because we are partnering with a local choir which has met in Romsey for the past 5 years called Sing! Community Choir.

Mario Satchwell (with support from Tizzy Faller) will be the Musical Director for the Thursday evening September and October sessions. Bethany Kirby will be the MD for the Sunday 8th October soundscape session. Helen Weinstein and Jon Calver from Historyworks will record songs in top audio quality to share with others in Cambridge and create a legacy album. New songs and percussive pieces about the railway have been composed this summer.

We will be meeting in the Sing! Community Choir slot of 7.30pm to 9pm on several Thursdays in September at St Philip’s Church at 185 Mill Road, CB1 3AN . We hope to have the body of the Sing! Community Choir at the Thursday sessions to record the songs for other community participants and the schools to learn ready for our mega rehearsals in November prior to our main performance at the Mill Road Winter Fair which will be a participatory event celebrating the project, which will also be hosted at St Philip's Church at 185 Mill Road.

Railway Singers Warm-up Songs & Social on 21 September - Mario Satchwell will lead the new warm-up songs and short pieces on a railway theme from 7.30pm to 8.30pm before we go around the corner for a social at the studio of Harry Gray, who is making the Romsey R sculpture, when Helen will share the history story and Harry the Romsey R sculpture story, and this will be hosted in the artists studio with refreshments provided by Historyworks...

Railway Singers Rehearsal Session on 28 September - Mario Satchwell, the 'Railway Singers' Musical Director  will teach the more complex pieces, with new railway pieces co-composed by Helen Weinstein and the CBBC's Horrible Histories songwriter, Dave Cohen, with harmonies composed by Bethany Kirby. We will record these songs in parts in order to make it easy for school singers to learn from mp3s, and then as a whole for the project, for wider family and friends to join in for the November and December rehearsals and performance.  Mario hopes too to teach us one or two big train gospel numbers!!

Soundscape and Recording Session on the afternoon of Sunday 8th October (led by Bethany Kirby for conducting the sound and rhythms & Tizzy Faller for drama improv) which session will be divided in two, where the first part after warm-ups will be a recording of the songs for schools, and then we aim to spend the rest of the session on improv and to record an abstract reenactment using voices and body percussion, telling the story of a steam railway journey from Cambridge to Hunstanton, going through tunnels, experiencing a rain storm, changing tracks to reach the seaside destination, with these different landscapes and weather conditions captured through vocal reenactment by the singers, with a soundtrack which we will illustrate in film similar to the Honda 90 piece choir:


& see rehearsals for the Honda civic choir here so you'll get a taster of how we'll build a piece together with recording and editing a set of sounds with railway singers:


Singing & Movement on October 12th at St Philip’s School Hall (led by Mario Satchwell for the body percussion to illustrate two new rhythmic poems by the famous poet, Michael Rosen for the first 45 mins & then after the break we've booked Rebecca Power to lead a movement session so that we can put fun actions to accompany the songs! 

Movement session on October 19th at St Philip’s School Hall (led by experienced musical specialist, Angharad Walter and Rebecca Powell of StageCoach), following on from Mario Satchwell rehearsing us on the gospel numbers,  community singers to include a flashmob type movement for the songs, which will complement the flashmob moves the school children will be learning for their participatory events)

Family Sunday rehearsal sessions: On two November dates, early afternoon on Sunday 19th November and Sunday 26th November 2pm to 4pm, we will recap all the songs and movement pieces we learnt together in Sept/Oct in community choirs and bring people together with family members to help us form a mega choir with the primary and secondary school singers  who will have learnt the songs during the Autumn.

In Summary, the Rehearsals where community choir singers will join school singers to form a mass choir which we will be filming to make a final short film will be:

2pm to 4pm on November 19th at St Philip’s Church at 185 Mill Road 

2pm to 4pm on  November 26th at Rad Hall, Coleridge School, Radegund Road 

10am to 11am on December 2nd at St Philip’s Church at 185 Mill Road

Performance will be on the morning of the Mill Road Fair, 2nd Dec 2017:

11am to 12 noon on December 2nd at St Philip’s Church at 185 Mill Road, and then parade for 4 blocks to the Romsey R unveiling of the sculpture as part of the Winter Fair - yay!


The poet, Michael Rosen, is collaborating on the project with Historyworks, and will be returning to lead workshops for schools and lyric writers in the Autumn. So far, he has written a poem or chant based on two posters from the Victorian period offering day excursions from Cambridge, one to London, and the other to the seaside, ending with the emphatic request, no luggage allowed! To see Michael Rosen perform the poem and read the words, view our film here:


A new sculpture has been commissioned to celebrate the people and history of Romsey and the relationship with the railway.  The Mill Road area is historically associated with the railways since it was developed in the nineteenth century to provide homes for the railway workers and their families.

Harry Gray, who specializes in stone carving and bronze sculptures is working with Will Hill, who is a typographer, to build a Romsey R the height of a house, to be situated on the corner of Cavendish Road and Mill Road.  The sculpture is to be an R shaped sculpture, in a bespoke typeface designed with reference to the existing lettering on the original Victorian lettering around Mill Road. 

FYI Here is an article published on Saturday 8th July in the CAMBRIDGE INDEPENDENT showing the wooden version mock-up of the Romsey R:



To encourage local participation in the design of the sculpture, Historyworks is sharing postcards with local schools, singers, residents, workers, asking all those who have a connection with Romsey and Mill Road , to contribute to the project by sharing their train journey stories.  We are asking people to share an important journey, putting down their start and end destination, and a few lines to describe on the postcard back why the journey matters to them, because of the memory, or remarkable, or tragic story which may be attached to the journey. Almost everyone has a rail journey important to them.  It may be the first railway journey you remember from childhood, or living in a new country, or a journey to a new home or job, to a festival or a funeral or farewell to a meaningful relationship or a major event in your life…

The Romsey R sculpture will feature some of these stations or destinations that have been significant to local people.

To get involved with the Romsey R sculpture survey, Tizzy will be giving out the Romsey R postcards at the next Thursday Sing! Choir sessions and we would prefer postcard submissions from singers so we can easily sit and read through these together with Harry Gray to select the words to be inscribed on the sculpture, but if you don’t have time to fill in the Romsey R postcard at choir, please fill in the online survey:



Here are some of the great responses from the people of Romsey, both young and old, of fun, poignant and meaningful train journeys they have taken. Some of the stories are recent, while others took place on train lines that closed many years ago!

There are some very local journeys:

Great Chesterford to London Liverpool Street

“First time my 3 year old had been on a train. That morning I found out I was pregnant with child number 3! She was thrilled – I spent the entire journey in shock and trying no to throw up!”


Salisbury to Cardiff

“1991 – I was 10 years old and travelling to visit my older sister at University. My first train journey without adult supervision. Our train crashed in the Severn Tunnel and myself and my other sister were stuck in the dark for 2 hours. Quite the adventure!”


Cambridge to Great Yarmouth

“I went on holiday to Great Yarmouth with my family for a week and I lost my favourite teddy”

Jamie, aged 9/10

Cambridge to York

“Going to York on a modern train and having a huge surprise at Peterborough Platform Four! There was a huge amount of people with cameras, then the loud noise of a rhythmic train on a track approaching he platform. Then the platform covered in steam, and through the steam as it disappeared and thinned, the gasp when the crowd had a gleaming old engine with carriages pull up next to them, and it was the Flying Scotsman!!”


Harrow on the Hill to West Harrow

“When I six, my four year old brother was excited it was Grandma’s birthday so he jumped up and down to the beat of the train, and landed on her frosted birthday cake. Then, above all that drama, he sat on me!”

Sophia, aged 9/10

Cambridge to Hunstaunton

“On a cheap day hordes of Romsey people went! You got straight off the train onto the beach near the pier.”


Durham to Newcastle

“I remember going on the train and being on the station in Newcastle and the train was delayed. All the people on the platform started to play charades and sing Christmas carols. I felt connected to everyone around me. It’s something I’ll never forget!”

Ingrid, aged 9/10

Cambridge to Edinburgh

“Me and my sister were pretending to be fairies when getting on the train. I was “flying” into the train when I hit a lady upside the head! I hope she didn’t notice! Aged 5 at the time”

Holly, aged 9/10

Haddenham to Marylebone, London

“I went with my friend to London. This was the first time I went alone (with my friend) to Camden. We were amazed by the diversity in Camden and the strange food, such as nitrogen ice cream. I’ll also never forget navigating our way around the tube station. This journey represented independence”


Cambridge to Lewes

“I make this journey regularly between my family there and my adopted home, As the downs appear, or as the fields around Shelford appear, I experience the same uplifting feeling that I’m coming home. Home is both ends of the journey.”

Harpenden to Cambridge

“Going home in the night cuddling up to my mum, feeling sleep and rocking in time to the train bumping along the tracks.”

Esther, aged 9/10

And some international adventures:

Guizhou to Kunming, China

“Standing room only on a 36 hour journey – bodies all over the carriages trying to sleep on the floor. I made friends with the train “Commandant” sharing Marlborough cigarettes (much prized) and trying to be friendly in broken Chinese. After a few hours he found me a seat in the driving car. At 3 in the morning he gave me a bed in the sleeper car. Bribery or being sociable?”


London St Pancras to Prague

“Opening a luggage locker in Brussels and finding a man stowed inside, crouched with his knees up to his chin. A tale of several cities, unknown lives and of fear and hiding (the man) vs my life of freedom, travel and happy endings. I instinctively knew to leave him be. We went to Prague – my 3 children and my 2 parents – to go and see my husband sing there.”


One of Alysoun’s three children said, “I remember the man, not much else/ I had forgotten we went to see my dad sing; it’s funny what you remember.”

Bougarik to Blida, Algeria

“I went there because that’s where my family is, and I hadn’t been to the beach for a long time. It was my first time on a train. My uncle that I haven’t met in the long time was there. I went there because I have no cousins here. Out of the window was a big fair and nice views of the sea. I finally got to my pets and I had a great times. I was 8 years old.”

Douaa, aged 9/10

Prague to Budapest

“Being too tired to care that I was sharing bunks, on the sleeper train, with five strangers! Boiling hot on a train so rickety it felt like it was about to fall apart. I got no sleep that night!”


Cambridge to Warsaw

“I went there because I went to visit my family in Poland. I loved seeing the fish swimming in the sea. I wish I could go again. I was about 4 years old”

Weronika, aged 9/10

Mumbai to Goa

“First experience on an Indian sleeper train! 24 hours+ of new noises, smells, slights… The Chai man yelling “Chai, chai, chai” at 2am”


Madrid Chamartin to Santander

“Spending the night with other passengers, talking, singing and sharing food and drinks, The journey took 11 hours! We didn’t sleep at all, but I remember getting out of the train really excited. We were to spend two weeks up in the mountains!



If you have a request or suggestion for a railway piece – whether it be a rap, song, poem, round, improv– please be in touch with Helen Weinstein, the Director of the project, so that she can scope how we can act on your request. So far, Mario Satchwell and Tizzy Faller and Helen Weinstein have done some brainstorming and come up with the following ideas with help from colleagues.

We'll be uploading poems and songs as films as audio files in the SONG section of this website, including the following list, so take a look at what we've prepared so far as a help to our composers - see:





Eagle Engine Number Nine,

Rolling Down the Cambridge Line,

At Ely Fens at half past Nine,

Back Once More get Home on Time!

All Aboard!

Whoo Whooo! 

Mind the Gap


Download a copy of the score HERE


A cat med-i - tat-ing on a Rail -road track. 

Cat! You'd better get, You'd better get back, Don't do that! 



1: This old freedom train has been a long time coming

2: Ain’t nobody can’t afford it, so you’d better jump on board it

3: Gimme that freedom, gimme that freedom

4: Gimme that freedom, freedom, freedom (chk-a-chk), freedom, freedom, freedom (chk-a-chk)


Mp3 on audioboom with taster of other melodies suggested by Tizzy, are in process of prep recorded in this order to help Dave Cohen and Helen Weinstein collaborate on lyrics for set of songs for primary singers:




I've been a wild rover for many's a year,
And I've spent all my money on whiskey and beer
And now I'm returning with gold in great store,
And I never will play the wild rover no more

And it's no, nay, never!
No nay never no more
And I'll play the wild rover,
No never no more

I went to an alehouse I used to frequent,
And I told the landlady my money was spent
I asked her for credit, she answered me, "Nay",
Saying, "Custom like yours I can have any day"

And it's no, nay, never!
No nay never no more
And I'll play the wild rover,
No never no more

I took from my pocket ten sovereigns bright,
And the landlady's eyes opened wide with delight
She said, "I have whiskeys and wines of the best,
And the words that I told you were only in jest"

And it's no, nay, never!
No nay never no more
And I'll play the wild rover,
No never no more

I'll go home to my parents, confess what I've done,
And I'll ask them to pardon their prodigal son
And when they have kissed me as oft-times before,
I never will play the wild rover no more

And it's no, nay, never!
No nay never no more
And I'll play the wild rover,
No never no more


Verse 1:

Pardon me boy,
Is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?
Track twenty nine?
Boy, you can give me a shine.

Verse 2:
I can afford (Can afford)
To board a Chattanooga Choo Choo (the Chattanooga Choo Choo),
I've got my fare (I've got my fare),
And just a trifle to spare (And just a trifle to spare).

Chorus 1:

You leave the Pennsylvania station 'bout a quarter to four,
(Read a magazine and then you're in Baltimore),
Dinner in diner, nothing could be finer
Than to have your ham 'n eggs in Carolina.

Chorus 2:

When you hear the whistle blowin' eight to the       bar,
(Then you know that Tennessee is not very   far),
Shovel all the coal in, got to keep it rollin'
(Woo woo, Chattanooga)
There you are
Woo, woo! (x3)

Verse 3:

I'm gonna meet (I'm gonna meet)
A certain party at the station (I'll be waitin')
Dressed in satin and lace (Yeah, yeah)
With a smile on my face (He used to call me his      'funny face')
He's gonna cry:
He's gonna cry (Wa, wa!)
Until I tell him that I'll never roam 
So Chattanooga Choo Choo,
Won't you choo-choo me home?
Choo-choo me home
He's gonna cry:
He's gonna cry (Wa, wa!)
Until I tell him that I'll never roam


So Chattanooga Choo Choo, won't you choo- choo me,
(Chattanooga Choo Choo, won't you choo-choo        me),
Chattanooga Choo Choo, won't you choo-choo          me home?
Woo, woo!
Choo-choo me home!






Early in the morning when I wake up.
Early in the morning when I wake up.
I brush my teeth, I eat my bread
I drink my coffee and I go back to bed
Early in the morning
Early in the morning.


I have a song to sing,/  Come let the music ring,/

I can do anything,/ I have a song/ what can go wrong,/ I have a song to get me along...

= We're Going to the Zoo


For Romsey R Round = The Volga Boatman Song (RUSSIAN CHOIR ON YOUTUBE)

For Primary Choir Eagle Train Celebratory Song = Oh I do Like to Live Beside the Seaside! 

For Railway Social History = Pop song with mimic of catchy pop tune, like Price Tag! (JJ on YOUTUBE)



Rhythm, Rhymes & Railways


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