Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Question Hour: One For The Thomas Fans (You Know Who You Are)

by Tom Bozzo

Here's an irresistible search term:
sir topham hat [sic] incompetence
Those of you who have both Thomas-obsessed youth and the Rev. W. Awdry's original stories will know that irate customers spend some time telling the Fat Director/Controller (a.k.a. Sir Topham Hatt) what a Bad Railway he runs. That's not even counting the train crashes due to bad brakes, troublesome trucks, and willful engines.

Still, the clincher IMHO is in the first story on the "Percy Saves The Day" video ("Percy Gets It Right," which is actually a story "based on" the Rev.'s work). On a run, Percy discovers that a section of track has become unstable. He is called a worry-wheels by the bigger engines, and Sir Topham Hatt makes a wholly conclusory statement that the line is "safe enough." Some safety culture there.

Sure enough, a landslide buries one of the unsafe sections of the line, and Thomas crashes. It's then up to Percy to convince his Driver to search for Thomas and his missing train, which he improbably extracts from the landslide.

I don't know what British law is, but I gather that Sir Topham Hatt's behavior could potentially be construed as criminal neglegence in other jurisdictions — e.g., France and Italy, where inquests into possible criminal charges stemming from transportation disasters are carried out concurrently with NTSB-style technical investigations.
Hee! I do wonder about liability, with all those collapsing bridges and other features of Sodor's railways.
We get only glimpses of the government in action on the Island of Sodor -- there are the occasional stickler police constables concerned with side plates, and there's been a railway inspector or two, but it's unclear who Hatt really answers to. The Duke and Duchess visited, but it's not clear that they are governing types.

He seems to be able to develop historical sites into attractions or quarries as he pleases, so he must have some cash and influence. However, his railway can hardly be operating at a profit, with all the accidents, unless he's gouging passengers and freight shippers.

He does appear to have a monopoly, but perhaps we just aren't hearing about the Really Sensible People on Sodor who run safe railways (curse that MSM), or the Really Lawyers on Sodor who have been looking for that Hatt fellow since his last racket ...
Dude, it has been years since I've had to even think about Thomas the Tank Engine and his crew. We watched those videos over and over and over again. I *thought* that I had put that experience behind me. Do me a favor. I will turn over to you our entire collection of trains, tracks and other accessories (value: $15,000) if you will please stop blogging about freakin' Thomas the freakin' Tank Engine!!
Karton: There is a monarchy (see "Paint Pots and Queens"), but S.T.H. seems to have about the autonomy of a New World colonial governor, considering his multifarious projects.


I am glad that John can't read the response I'm about to give.

Tonya, I must decline your offer.

Asking me to give up the opportunity to use Thomas the Frickin' Tank Engine to hold up a cracked mirror to present economic circumstances would be like asking you not to post about your need for comments. Our respective blogs would be husks of their normal selves!

That said, I am willing to explore the possibility of setting up a special Tonya RSS feed that eliminates the Thomas-related content.
Given my 2-year-old's infatuation with Thomas et al, we've been doing a lot of speculating on the economics of STH's railway.
1. WHY are there 3 sets of tracks next to each other throughout so much of the island?
2. Productivity seems unusually low-each engine pulls 2 or 3 cars at a time as a general rule. This leads to questions about the price of coal on the island, and in turn mining practices.
3. Environmental nightmare. The volume of soot generated by the engines must be enoromous. What does this do to the health of the children on the island?
4. How is it that the bakeries only keep enough flour on hand to make a day's worth of English Muffins, and that the Mountain Village doesn't stockpile coal to avert tragedy when the narrow-guage engines go joy riding on The Incline?

My only guess is that maybe the engines aren't very strong but they also don't use much coal to fire their boilers. Most of STH's maintenance outlay seems to go to special washdowns rather than mechanical repairs, so maybe they're simply worn out.

Really Inefficient Engines would explain the need for so many of them and the extra infrastructure. Perhaps STH has his fees structured such that it is more cost effective for his customers to take small daily deliveries rather than stocking up. Each new episode leaves me with more questions than answers. Maybe I should get out more...
Heather, I answered some of your questions on the main page (here). As for your last comment, the stories evolve such that the railway turns from a pretty normal railway (except for the talking engines and troublesome trucks) to a working anachronism, so in the end it's hard to apply normal economic logic to STH's workings.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?