ERS 68 - Thomas's Branch Line Bothers

ERS 68 - Thomas's Branch Line Bothers - Ryan

This particular volume was rewritten from top to bottom when I got round to tackling it.  I was not satisfied with a number of the storylines, and although the subject matter remained, a lot of the fat was trimmed and in all, I feel it made a better volume overall in the end.



The original story for this was loosely based on an episode of Fireman Sam, where a Jackdaw was going around stealing shiny things from everyone in Pontypandy.  However, it was slightly retconned here to allow the introduction of Volley, the station cat at Ffarquhar to the fray.  This volume continues the development of the Ffarquhar Branch’s extension / expansion, with the shed now being long enough to accommodate six engines, rather than three.  In the first story, things are going missing around Ffarquhar station, and everyone is suspecting a thief in their midst.  However, Volley the cat provides a slightly more innocent explanation.



This one was the first proper introduction of ‘Rosie’.  Rosie was intended to be created and developed by Loey Machan, who never quite got round to doing it, and so I took the reins instead and used this volume as her introduction.  This story actually draws from an incident on the Isle of Man, which was included in The Railway Magazine in 1998, when I first began reading it.  Recollections of a former Head Master who had taken up a post as a Station Master on the Isle of Man Railway, who had to contend with a herd of bullocks that had broken free from a field beside the line, and served to hold up his train.  Initially, for the rewrite, I had cheekily thought to give it a ‘naughtier’ title, more closely connected to the original subject matter, but changed it to cows instead and laid the focus on Thomas trying to show Rosie that he can manage animals who stray onto the line – and fails miserably in the attempt!



Given the realms of real life, we have retired Bertie to the Sodor Road Museum.  But this does not limit him as a useable character, and he will often appear in various ERS volumes doing coach tours, as he does here.  As Sodor’s bus services also privatise and phase out old stock, Bertie is disappointed to see the new fleet aren’t keeping to his previous standards of time keeping.  And when one of them gets a flat-tyre in Ulfstead town, Bertie is pressed into revenue-earning service again to help the passengers and get them to Thomas in time.



I grew up with Irish music, and one of my favourite folk songs, sung by The Dubliners, is one called A Pub With No Beer.  When I acquired The Island of Sodor book, I began using a number of the things I learned from it in the ERS volumes, and it has helped a great deal.  One such thing was the inclusion of Felgoods Brewery, which we used here to create this story.  In it, the Felgoods lorry breaks down, and a fundraising campaign is put into full swing to help out during the ‘Rails and Ales’ event on the Branch Line.