David Maidment

David Maidment

Thomas and Friends: Series 5 Railway Consultant

David Maidment

Correspondence with James Gratton - 26 May, 2007
 
You may recall seeing Mr. Maidment's name in the Series 5 episode credits. When I initially found reference to a 'David Maidment' on the Railway Children website, I asked them whether this was the same gentleman who was associated with Thomas and Friends. I've always been curious about what he contributed to the series, and as you will find out by reading David's reply - a lot!  Here then, is David's reply...
 
Dear James,
 
Yes, it was me. I was a BR manager for 36 years, Chief Operating Manager LMR (a Fat Controller in my own right) from 1982-6, and Head of Safety Policy for BR/Railtrack from 1990-6, when I retired spending 5 years then in part time work as a railway safety consultant.
 
As a result of conferences etc on safety overseas during the early 1990s, I became aware of the plight of street children on railway stations around the world, but especially in India and in 1995 I founded the Railway Children.  Around 1997 I wrote to Britt Allcroft asking if the company would consider a donation to the charity because of the common railway interest, and I was invited to lunch with their Marketing Director (? Steve Wright) in Southampton.  It was explained to me that the company was reluctant to just make a donation as they frequently received such requests, but they liked the idea of the Railway Children and said they'd think about it.  We spent a pleasant lunch with me telling a number of anecdotes about my time as a Stationmaster and Area Manager in South Wales and as COM, at Crewe.
 
A couple of days later I received a phone call asking if I would pen a few of the anecdotes I told as David Mitton was keen to use true stories as the basis of the extra tales as they were often better than fiction.  I duly spent a couple of happy mornings typing with two fingers and sent them off, whereupon I received 10,000 donation for the charity and a two year contract to vet the scripts to ensure there were no railway 'howlers' in the texts or videos that would get complaints.
 
My stories, as far as I can recollect, involved a best kept station competition, the anecdote about a terrifying ram that occupied one of my derelict closed stations in Llanhilleth (Western Valley above Newport), a tree that slid down the bank in a storm and stood upright in the middle of the track between Ebbw Vale and Aberbeeg (my station), a couple of hair-raising runaway trains in the Tondu valleys, the inept attempts of the new D95XX Paxman diesels to bank trains up to Ebbw Vale (they used to run hot halfway up the bank and cut out, leaving the Cl 37 to pull the train and banker) and finally my story about a royal train (I was in charge quite frequently while I was COM LMR) when we got the Queen's bath water on the ceiling - David Mitton converted this to the special when the same thing happened to the Fat Controller's mother, though her dog was a mongrel, not a Corgi !  I also showed them the famous poster of the French accident in the 1890s when a steam loco ran through the buffer stops of a Paris terminal station and was tipped at 45 degrees into the road outside.  The cartoon poster has the French driver 's speech balloon, expressing the profanity 'Merde' or the english "Oh sh*t !"!
 
I was invited to Shepperton studios to see the making of one of the stories of 'Thomas and Friends' - the one where Gordon repeats the error illustrated on the French poster, and later had a pleasant lunch with Britt Allcroft and met David Mitton.  While I was there I was taken to see the set for a new 'Avengers' TV serial - a spectacular London snow scene.  My two year contract was not onerous - I had the script for the one video to check on which I was named as consultant.  I can remember commenting on a couple of minor details about signalling, but it was really an excuse to be able to donate money to the charity without it creating a precedent for other charities to seek donations.  I have been asked by at least two two year olds for my autograph on the video (or at least by their dads !).
 
Unfortunately Britt sold the Thomas rights on shortly afterwards and although I tried to contact the new owners, there was never any follow-up from them.
 
One or two other answers to your questions - I had no prior contact with Rev Awdry's work before contacting Britt Allcroft.  I remember being asked to draw the Paxman 650hp diesel (the D95XX) but I think they had cold feet about depicting the Paxman company in such a derogatory (and perhaps libellous) way !   I definitely remember their preference for true stories rather than fiction, and they certainly thought some of my experiences were odder than they might have conceived from makebelieve.  They did change some of the stories - they amalgamated the best kept station competition and the ram - having him eat the flowers.  In fact, I had sheep all over the railway which closed to passengers in 1962, a couple of years before I was appointed, but we had heavy steel and coal traffic.  This ram inhabited the waiting room of Llanhilleth station and attacked vandals who tried to enter there.
 
I told some other royal train experiences but I think they decided that we had better keep them for another time unless we both wished to finish up incarcerated in the Tower of London !
 
I hope this is of interest to you and your Fansite and Forums.  No problem about publicity, but I would appreciate a website link to that of the Railway Children and encouragement to your colleagues and members to support the charity (50% of the 2million annual income comes from people within the railway industry and enthusiast market).
 
Best wishes,
 
David Maidment
Chairman, Railway Children
Co-Chair, Consortium for Street Children
Children's Rights Advisor, Amnesty International UK.
 
 
We invite visitors to visit David's Railway Children website to learn more about this Charity, its good works, and more importantly to make a donation if you can.
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