Friday, 1 August 2008

Day Out With Thomas 2008

The 'Day Out With Thomas' events at the Battlefield Line form an important part of the railway calendar. On the 13th and 19th July, I was booked as the Driver on 'Thomas'. He was a little poorly, some concern having been raised about the condition of his springs, so he was generally confined to pottering about the station at Shackerstone and being admired by all the children. An extension to the whistle chain allowed children to actually sound Thomas's whistle from the safety of the platform! This was very popular (except with the loco crew).

From time to time, there were little 'playlets'. In one, Thomas appears to be poorly until the Conductor uses a fishing rod to catch and remove a fish from his water tank. Thomas cheers up considerably after the removal of the fish (no letters of protest, please - real fish are not used). In another playlet, children bring real water in small plastic buckets to fill Thomas's tank. The enthusiasm of the children is wonderful to watch, although the conclusion is usually that the unfortunate loco crew get water thrown at them.

There were also 'Races', with two locomotives running parallel along platforms 1 and 2 (whilst the main train was safely out of the way down the line). Both 'Fast Races' and 'Slow Races' were undertaken, involving 'Thomas', 'Percy' (a.k.a. 'Sir Gomer') and 'Yvonne' (the Cockerill Tram Engine). At other times during the day, 'Fergus' (the Aveling Barford) clanged up and down giving brake van rides.

The first and last trains of the day to Shenton were hauled by a Class 47 (I'm not sure what part of the 'Thomas' Canon that represented) and 'Mayflower' (as the 'Big Green Engine') handled the other departures.

In addition to all this activity, 'Daisy' the Diesel Multiple Unit was giving passenger shuttle rides from Shackerstone to Hedley's Crossing and back (a round trip of about two miles). On the 19th of July, it was agreed that 'Thomas' could accompany 'Daisy' on one of her shuttle trips. 'Thomas' was 'tied on' and 'Daisy' hauled 'Thomas' down to Hedley's Crossing. 'Thomas' then pulled 'Daisy' back to Shackerstone, greatly enjoying the opportunity to do some useful work.

I was booked on again on the 20th July, this time as the driver on 'Daisy'. On some of the shuttle trips, the 2-car DMU was filled to capacity and we had to turn people away.

The July events had been advertised on television to try to improve the numbers attending - there certainly seemed to be lots of people there. All the visitors I spoke to thought the event good value, with a ride on the main train, a brake van ride, a trip on 'Daisy', engine races, playlets, face painting and a 'Thomas' bouncy castle all included in the ticket price.

Pictures of 'Day out with Thomas'.

Detailed pictures of the locomotives: