The shortest path …

A long time ago in a country far, far away …

The King heard about a new marvel of engineering … in England was invented a monstrous machine. It was moving by its own, magically propelled by coal fire and hot steam! Its speed was higher than the quickest eagle or the fastest horse! It travelled on a special iron road and it could carry tens of people in its carriages!

The king asked his court for advice. Should he build such marvel in his country?
A great professor told the king:
“ Your Imperial Highness, it is a well-known scientific fact: nobody can survive the speed the English pretend to reach with their bogus machine!
More than ten miles in an hour?!
You can’t exhale the air out at such speed!
The lungs will explode and the heart can’t pump blood at such acceleration! Moreover, that speed can burn the body and turn it to ashes!”

One of the king’s advisers said:
“This is a fantasy – steam can’t move objects heavier than the cap of a tea boiler! And everybody knows – steam can’t be faster than a horse!”

Raising his grey hairy eyebrows, the great mage laughed. He said:
“Steam is a ghostly force! Do not underestimate its power!
A ghost, my friends, can move heavy objects and travel at the speed of thought! Fast and very powerful the grey steamy ghosts are!
However, your Majesty, it is something diabolical in a machine which uses the dark magic force of the ghosts!
Such devilish steam puffing machine, on our lands, you should never allow!
A bad feeling about this, I have!”

However, the king wanted to let himself carried by the monstrous steam machine and, despite the wise and learned advice he received, he decided to build the first iron road of his kingdom. This modern road will connect the capital – Kingcity – to his winter residence – Kingvillage.

A team of engineers started to design this iron road desired by the King. After months of work they proposed a curvy alignment, avoiding the big foggy swamp and going around the beautiful gardens owned by the Grand Imperial Duke, a fearsome man, very protective with his possessions.
They prepared a detailed map of the route and presented it to the King.
Seeing the map, the King shook his head and thinned his lips. He asked for a long ruler and drew a straight line between the Kingcity castle and the Kingvillage royal residence.
“Chers amis, you are engineers and should know better – the shortest route is a straight line!
Build me this line and not your snaky path!” he said.

The engineers left in silence and started to work on the kingly revised route. They invented some new ways of draining swamps, tried timber soil piling and built tens wooden bridges to pass the heavy iron road over rivers and roads.
They kept the iron road alignment exactly as the king drew it – a straight line … The story says they even built the flat curve the king drew around his thumb, pressed on the ruler.

A railway depot was built, years after, in the space avoided by that curve.
It was named “The Royal Thumb”.

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