Peter Webb died on 24th December 2016. As he had been a Christadelphian, baptised on 24th April 1946 we say,
‘He fell asleep in Jesus Christ in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead’
As a cousin of my father Alan Nightingale he shared the same North Wingfield (Derbyshire) Christadelphian roots. His main desire was to be able to serve his God and the Lord Jesus Christ. However amongst other interests as a young man someone took him to see a vast model railway layout in the Railway Technical Centre in Derby where all the changes in railway infrastructure were tried in model prototype form before they were fitted into the full-size network. Peter wrote the following ‘parable’ as a memory of that visit not long before he ‘fell asleep.’
The Great Controller
It was shortly after the second World War that three or four of us teenagers were taken to see an amazing model railway. A brother had joined us temporally at our ecclesia. He was on secondment as a lecturer at the local Railway College and took us to see this enormous and utterly amazing model railway.
Clearly it was a serious piece of teaching equipment. It filled a significant portion of this very large room, being about the size of our ecclesial hall. It was at table height and contained examples of every piece of railway equipment imaginable.
Half way down the right hand side of the room was a raised platform on which the consul was sited, behind which the controller stood. The whole network was there before him; goods trains, passenger trains, carriages, wagons, guards vans and post office vans. There were more trains than you could possibly imagine.
Even the signalling was under his control. No more than one train was allowed in any one section at any time, and no train could leave its section until the next section was clear. There was also a timetable to be followed, so all trains had to be kept moving.
The model complex included workshops, marshalling yards and cleaning sheds for the coaches and engines. If there was an accident or damage to the line the controller would immediately dispatch one of his helpers to the site, being careful to ensure that all traffic was kept clear of that section.
It was a great teaching tool for men who would in a few weeks be doing the job for real. For us lads it was great fun and provided a memory which would last a lifetime, though perhaps with a few embellishments!
This all made me think about the Great Controller, because, perhaps in a childish way, this is how I see my God – the Great Controller in the heavens, with the whole of mankind laid out before him. Nothing escapes his view, whenever we have a problem he is always there ready to dispatch his helpers to the trouble spot, then he is careful to guide us away from any danger, never tempting us beyond our power to cope.
Was I really there or was this just a dream, the dream of an old man? Whichever, one thing is for sure, my God has been there for me all my life, and one day when my journey has ended I can be sure that my train will come in.