ERS 139 - Bad Days On The Main Line

ERS 139 - Bad Days On The Main Line - Christopher & Ian

This volume of Christopher’s started life in ERS V1, but the decision was made to rewrite it for the overhaul. At the same time I had plans for a volume about engineering work although it soon became clear it wasn’t going to work. The suggestion of linking the two together came from Simon, with the final edit producing what I feel is a truly wonderful volume.

When Dick voices reservations over the old fashioned semaphore signals on Sodor, it doesn’t go down well with the resident steam engines. However, when Bear accidentally overshoots a red signal, and then Dick has a narrow escape with Winston, it does set everybody thinking that the big red diesel may actually have a point. SPAD’s (Signal Passed at Danger) is an unfortunate fact of the railways, although new technology has helped to prevent serious accidents.

Engineering works are of course a necessity on a railway, although the majority of passengers don’t consider this when their trains are delayed, disrupted, or worse, cancelled. Colour light signalling is being introduced on the Main Line following the events of the previous story, but the engineering work required causes several delays. Gordon is particularly grumpy about it all as the passengers take their frustrations out on him. Following a near-miss with a flock of racing pigeons on the viaduct, the big engine’s softer side is revealed.

James, Oliver and Percy are chosen as ‘test engines’ for testing the new signalling around the Tidmouth and Knapford area. James acts as the ‘Inspection’ train and Oliver and Percy work other movements in the area. Due to the cold weather and the boring work, not to mention branch line running, James is in a foul mood and a spat with Oliver doesn’t help matters. Due to lack on concentration he nearly over runs a signal set to Danger, causing the Inspector to fall over and knock himself out in the process! This is one of the few stories that I can’t recall how it came to me, but despite the technical detail behind it is very much a character driven piece.


As the signalling works move along the main line, further delays cause disruption, and this time it is Henry who has a grievance having been delayed by Bear and the Workmen. When the new signals fail Henry is even more incensed, as does having to follow Daphne with the ‘Flying Kipper’ over Gordon’s Hill. But while running at cautionary speeds, Henry and his crew discover a side rod is working itself loose. Henry finally admits that slow running can sometimes be advantageous.