The ERS Overhaul was initially conceptualised in the late Summer of 2008,
the idea behind it being that certain books in the current ERS Library could be improved or tidied up. Then, around November of 2008, it was officially decided that all ERS Volumes in the Library would undergo
a re-evaluation and become subject to tidying up, rewrites or at worst, full withdrawal from the ERS Library.
The reasoning behind the ERS Overhaul was simple. The last five
volumes to be accepted into the original ERS Library continuity were among the best that had ever been written. In terms of the characters, stories, situations and inspirations behind them – some of which had
drawn from real life sources as the Reverend Awdry and Christopher Awdry had done. However,
while this was the case for a handful of volumes, there was a lot of new material being submitted that was not felt to be
strong enough to fit into the Library.
In January of 2009, the final ERS Evaluations for the original ERS Library took place. However, while some of the volumes passed the evaluation process, it was deemed a silly move to allow them
access into the ERS Library when it would be on a long-term hiatus. These books
have been placed on the back-burner and will hopefully appear for the first time after the completion of the ERS Overhaul.
Knowing that the ERS Overhaul was now on the cards officially, Ryan and the staff team set up a new board. Your Own Railway Series Style Stories embodied the principles
of the original ERS setup, where there would be no evaluators involved, and the writers who wished to contribute had complete
free reign over what they wished to write and who they wished to include in their stories.
It was hoped that this board would be used as a means of developing new ERS material, giving writers a taste of constructive
feedback, and hopefully giving us the characters of tomorrow for the ERS. Thankfully,
members have used the board constructively, and it has become a popular fixture on the Fan-Fiction boards.
Developing The Extended Railway Series Character Base
The first main priorities of the ERS Overhaul were removing characters and stories which did not do the Library
justice. The characters with the greatest staying power are the ones who have
received the greatest emotional involvement and development from their creators. To
cite relevant example, Kaiser the Fireless Engine, Blandford the Somerset Engine, Sodor Castle the Western Engine and
Daphne the Deltic all received special attention from their creators to develop
them effectively as characters. This involved monopolising the writing for these
characters in their earliest appearances to create a history, develop the characteristics and relationships and to help him
or her find their place on the Island of Sodor.
However, a number of these characters did not have any great emotional or dedicated involvement from their creators,
and because of this, they fell by the wayside as other writes tended to avoid writing for them. These sorts of characters would ultimately become the ones subject to the axe wielded by the ERS Overhaul
The Privatised North Western Railway
One thing that we seemed to miss in the original ERS continuity was the fact that we were now set it in post-1995
world. From 1948 till 1995, Britain’s railways had been under the Governmental
control of British Railways. Now, they were placed under the regulatory body
of Railtrack, while being operated by Private Companies instead. The North
Western Railway Company had returned to operating under its own steam, and was not subject to Government control any
longer, which meant the introduction of new steam locomotives would be legitimate – particularly because under our redevelopment
plans, Railtrack or Network Rail would not own the trackbed or any materials associated with the Railway. Instead, they would be full property of the North Western Railway Company, who would not simply
be a franchise holder as their contemporaries currently stand.
This has actually helped the ERS Overhaul a great deal. When the
Rev W Awdry wrote his third book (James the Red Engine) in 1948, the railway network
had been completely nationalised. From there, he was able to develop his Region
and create the Island of Sodor as a result. Through the plans set out by British
Railways, he was able to develop a living, breathing, functioning railway system, which was not immune to change, but ultimately
resisted it – and gave steam a safe-haven. However, as a result, after
1968, Awdry would have been either unable or unlikely to introduce more steam engine characters following Oliver, as Dieselisation
on the Main Line network took full hold of Britain’s Railways.
With the introduction of Privatisation, it sees roles reversed. The
railway is welcoming back new steam traction at long last, after being freed from the rules and regulations set down by British
Railways, beginning with the introductions of Sodor Castle, Brad and Jinty.