Monday 9 July 2018

Chris Grayling quits his own brain

Following the shock departures announced today. Chris Grayling managed a departure on time for the first time in his career by continuing his complete absence from his own brain.

Well, in a day of explosive news stories, Chris Grayling the beleaguered and shite Transport Secretary revelled in not being part of the news.

He continues to lead an elite task force tasked with countering the worrying 'Its Coming Home' theory.

This worrying news has sprung the Transport Secretary into concern that it can get home, that a timetable exists to get it home or it will even get home at all. 

Saturday 10 February 2018

Five ways to expose yourself as a Railway Enthusiast

Exposing yourself to friends and family, relieving yourself of the fraud status of trying to ignore that Class 37 storming over your local level crossing, we will help you feel you can grab your protective cased iPhone and snap away at that Tractor without remorse.

Here are Five ways to finally expose yourself as a Railway Enthusiast.

5. Silver Dining

Now this is an expensive course of action, but what is the price of a life of relief and being true to yourself? For a mere £900 each, you can hand over your money to a Steam Railtour operator to travel in style with the person you are yet to expose yourself to. When handing over that cheque, you are ready for a 4.7% chance of the Railtour actually operating, the Railtour company not going bust or having its services banned from the railway hours before your big exposure.

Should you be lucky enough to actually get on your Railtour and sit at a table, now is the chance to sit back and wonder as your guest marvels at the Diesel Replacement engine on the front. At this moment you can reminisce how disappointed you are that the Steam locmotive had failed and BAM, you acknowledge how much you like steam locomotives too. Winner.

4. When Railway Museums have weird exhibits

Now as a closet Railway Enthusiast you may have a friend or family member, who has an equally boring hobby - such as space ships. You are in luck, Railway Museums currently disposing of national assets are instead filling their museum(s) with space 'stuff' from their parent museum.

Jump up and down excitedly on seeing where Tim Peake took a crap on his re-orbit and marvel at its space thingy. On the way to see this, you will pass real national icons. The pay and ride Thomas the Tank Engine. While you bounce up and down on the back of your £1 investment, then is the time to expose yourself that the ride on the way to the space junk was brilliant. 

3. Have Kids

This is worth putting in the effort of finding a partner, mating, raising and growing your offspring to around the age of 3 years old. At this point you slowly introduce Thomas the Tank Engine (reluctantly).

There is a clear method on commenting on every 'Peppa Pig Day' that is displayed from your favourite Steam Railway, 'Shall we do this one hun? Little Shit would love it'. You're commenting on your railways page in the wide open world, noone even blinks at your clear show of rail enthusiasm.

While said little shit is gawping at the wonder of someone sweating as Peppa Pig, you can check out the valve gear on that 'Hall' class.

You merely ride on the coattails of your child between the age of 3 and 7 as they move onto large Dogs Patrolling CGI Towns. That is 4 years of unadulterated rail enthusiasm, once the child has had enough and sees life through there iPhone 38X - it is back in the closet.

2. Move to the North

Northern people have had a lifetime of bouncing up and down on tracks that escaped Beechings axe and the joy of constant queuing in the rain for rail replacement buses. Their fascination for railways is an untapped resource that you can merely claim as your own.

All Northern people hate trains as their level of enthusiasm rests with the well loved 'Nodding Donkeys', any sign of a slight piece of interest in anything beyond a Pacer is simply extraordinary.

Move to the North, like Trains and live as a King.

1. Moan about Trains, constantly all day

There was once a magical time in which Internet Forums were the forefront of angst and villainy. Paintwork was a particular subject that would have Moderators weeing in their own encrusted armchairs.

Now we have social media and the angst is quick, brutal and a mere faction of what is happening in the real world behind those closed blinds.

One channel to simply come out as a Railway Enthusiast is quite simple, channel your enthusiasm into moaning about anything to do with Railways. The colours of them, the cost of them, the faces on them, the Teddy Bears attached to them.

This a foolproof way of channelling your railway enthusiasm, we are yet to see any hardcore railway enthusiasts who constantly moan about the hobby they believe is their 'enthusiasm'. You could possibly be the first?

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Thomas the Tank Engine returns clean from rehab and looks to the future.

Discovered languishing and shit faced with James. Thomas the Tank Engine has had a rough week. But luckily his 'Friends' (get it?) are here to help out the cheeky billionaire in his hour of need.

Ryan Hagan of Sodor Island Forums takes over the Bash Mash to explain.

Contrary to the previous Bash Mash article, rumours of Thomas the Tank Engine’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Thomas is going through his biggest format change to date and there’s some natural apprehension from long-time fans of the series, who have a clearly-defined perspective of how and what the series and stories should be.

From 2017’s Journey Beyond Sodor and partway through Series 21, Thomas and his friends have been able to make more expressive movements, moving their frames to sway, lean and bounce to make them a little more ‘human’ – albeit, not as exaggerated as Chuggington.  Market research by Mattel has found that this is something kids will respond to, and provide a fun visual element to the series.

In recent years, it’s also been found that Thomas & Friends has a serious contender for the world’s favourite Pre-School Brand title.  Peppa Pig and her muddy puddles provided a slight irritation and a few butterflies in the stomach, but Paw Patrol’s sweeping popularity is causing some serious headaches at Mattel, taking a real bite out of Thomas’s market share.  Very bright, colourful and fast-paced, it’s enraptured a lot of kids and currently appears to be occupying that “Sweet Spot” as the Must-Have Kids Toy of the Moment – like Peppa Pig, Teletubbies, Furby and Buzz Lightyear before it.

In a bid to combat this and refresh the series, Mattel performed extensive market research across Thomas’s major territories to find ways and means of improving the performance of the brand across merchandise sales and television ratings.  The result has been an overhaul of the series format, which will make it more gender-inclusive and multicultural, with more fast-paced stories, featuring fantasy elements and musical sequences throughout the episodes.

Thomas has been subject to two major format changes – the first in 2004 with Series 8, where the cast was streamlined to eight focus characters – nicknamed the “Steam Team”, who became the primary focus of the series – this was to re-establish the core characters, and aid familiarity for new viewers.  It re-established Thomas & Friends in the United States, and proved a successful move.  In 2009, the move was made to full CGI and away from the traditional models.  Viewing figures rose as a direct result.  However, these two changes remained sympathetic to the established series, whilst Thomas’s next format change is due to be on a much larger scale.

Thomas & Friends: Big World, Big Adventures is due to launch in 2018, first with a 70-minute film where Thomas will begin an adventure taking him on a journey across five continents, followed by a 26 episode series of the same name.  The series will feature stories from his Round the World trip, and from what can be inferred from the recent press-releases and interviews ahead of the relaunch, seeing what his friends on Sodor are up to as well upon his return.  On a personal level, so long as there’s a South African Garratt and a Darjeeling B-Class, I’ll be happy.

However, there have been some creative decisions which have caused a bit of upset among the older fans.  In a recent episode, A Shed for Edward, Edward the Blue Engine – the first character to be featured in the Rev. Awdry’s stories – left the home of seven of the series’ eight central characters at Tidmouth Sheds, and went to live at Wellsworth Station in his own shed there.  This has led to widespread speculation that Edward has been downgraded from central character status to recurring or background roles to make way for new female characters to fill the space left.  Given that these eight core characters aren’t the sole focus of episodes as they were back in 2004, I’m not unduly concerned about Edward’s future role in the series.

Similarly, the role made famous by Ringo Starr has been removed entirely from the series – Thomas himself will now be our ‘Storyteller’, introducing the episode and its theme, and proceed to be our guide on his journey in order to make the series more interactive and immersive for kids as he goes on his journey.  The Storyteller has been a central figure from the beginning, and as much as the role has became marginalised over time, it's comforting to have someone to fill in gaps in knowledge which can't be done as convincingly in dialogue or visual exposition.  I’ll miss Mark Moraghan’s enthusiastic narrative throughout the upcoming episodes.

I’d be more apprehensive about these changes if they hadn’t been handled by the team who has restored Thomas back to his former glory.  The series’ Railway Consultant, Sam Wilkinson is both a life-long fan of the series and been very active and passionate in the railway preservation world since his teens.  Creative Executive Ian McCue made it his mission to draw Thomas back to a standard of storytelling which the Rev. Awdry would (hopefully) have approved, whilst maintaining a balance of fantasy and fun to appeal to the target audience, which he has done with excellent proficiency throughout his tenure with the brand, with the brilliant Andrew Brenner helming the new writing team for the series as Head Writer.  I only have praise for current Producer, Micaela Winter, who’s been assigned a weighty task in reimagining the series for a new generation and implementing changes to compete in a challenging market.

I can only really speak for myself in this regard, but I have faith in the team running Thomas & Friends right now.  Mattel want to ensure the survival and growth of the brand in the face of fierce competition, and let’s face it, when you’ve spent £425 million on a purchase, you want to get more than five years of use from it, and you want to keep the #1 engine in the #1 spot.

Overall, love it or loathe it, Thomas has been the entry point for a lot of us who are passionate about railways.  Kids who watch Thomas visit their local railways and develop a deeper interest, some will become future volunteers.  

It’s because of Awdry’s stories and characters that I’ve developed such a deep interest in railway history, spent time over the past ten years learning about and visiting the places that inspired him to write like the Talyllyn, the Corris, the Ffestiniog and Ravenglass, and amassing a large collection of railway books which is known affectionately among friends as ‘The Archive’ – texts from which have been loaned out on many occasions for SLIPS research!

My greatest personal hope is for Awdry’s Famous Engines to carry on as long as humanly possible.  They’ve been a great part of my life, creating wonderful childhood memories, presenting me with opportunities I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and forging friendships throughout my life, much as they have done with everyone who has read the books, watched the series or played with the toys.  

It’s great seeing the enthusiasm I felt as a child being passed on to the next generation of fans, who are going to love their journey with Thomas and his friends as much as I did.  The adventures they have will undoubtedly be different, but I hope they are every bit as fun.  They keep the dream alive, and I think above everything else, the Rev. Awdry would be delighted to know his characters are still creating happy childhood memories seventy two years later.

What do you think to the change? You know what to do and where to shout.

The views below are entirely those of Ryan Hagan and not representative of the Sodor Island Forums and Fansite or the Thomas fandom as a whole

Sunday 8 October 2017

Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. 1984 - 2017.

The regime of 'The Fat Controller' was put under the spotlight recently. Many were asked why they stood to one side when an engine called Henry was entombed for life or a locomotive called Smudger sentenced to a crippling death.

After all this bad press and reports, it seems the 'other story' may not come after all. Thomas the Tank Engine is over.

We will openly admit at this juncture to being mere bystanders in the regime known online as 'Thomas Fandom', these are hardcore enthusiasts of a children's set of books, popular TV series and 'loadsa money' merchandise that began with the Rev W Awdry telling his son a bedtime story, and forever humiliating any Dads efforts to putting children to bed until the iPad and locking the bedroom door from the outside hit parenthood.

Despite appearances, we are normal, we lived normal childhoods and watched normal Children's TV. This included the much maligned Britt Allcroft TV Series which took on these stories by the Rev W Awdry and turned them into one of the best loved children's TV series of all time.

Maligned as green locomotives seemingly 'got wood' by looking at Forests. Double Track signalling on narrow gauge railway lines was thrown by the wayside and the professional development of every driver on the Island of Sodor disappeared from the pockets of every incompetent member of staff as they 'jumped clear' saving there own skins.

Our childhoods were opened to the world of Ringo Starr having  a go at a Scottish accent. But Thomas now finds himself 'fessing himself' rotten as we watched in horror as the models disappeared to Drayton Manor and the computer nerds took over with our much loved friends appearing in 'CGI'.

But, among changes - and we say this as occasional watchers, stories were quite funny. and an entertaining series was regurgitated from the ashes of those models. Who wouldn't want to see the Fat Controller slipping on his arse after sentencing several locomotives to death or entombment? The Thomas tree was bearing fruit again.

Thomas Fandom.

What's happened?

Well this was the innocent tweet that was sent and triggered tears and anger across the Twittersphere of Thomas Fandom. 

Here are the facts.
  • The next series of Thomas and Friends will be called 'Big World! Big Adventures!' and will see Thomas travel the world.
  • The narrator is gone.
  • Thomas will speak directly to the audience. Think 'Dora the Explorer'.
So. That really is all folks. Should we care about the outcome of a childrens Television series that passed most of those reading this wibble by many years ago?

We have asked the Fandom to explain and reassure us, we look forward to their insight but the facts above are surely enough.

Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. RIP.

Saturday 9 September 2017

Army of Rail Enthusiasts with nothing to complain about causes panic on the streets

The unused energy combined from Railway Enthusiasts with nothing to moan about would be enough power 3 million keyboard warriors' internet routers for 9.3 weeks.

There is a strange phenomenon which not only scares us, but should have every rail enthusiast worried down to the very core. The inability to moan about shit that drives us mental - like liveries, restore it now, diesels on the front, Network Rail gauging and other serious matters.

We are assured by every 'Steam Railway' magazine front cover, hidden behind those cellophane wraps as we try to flick through on the shelf in WH Smith, that York based anger continues to drive many an enthusiast to go and lock there favourite artefact in the Great Hall for fear of it being sold off to the lowest bidder.

But, we must be honest. We're ready for something to really rile us all up. This is when the army of rail enthusiasts come into there own by combined anger. Then we sit back and watch as the one person who disputes common sense bravely storms into the comment section to offer there expert (wrong) opinion. Then they remove there account within hours of fightback.

Can we think of a world without keyboard warriors?

We have an American President that is spoiling the whole phenomenon for us. How can we compete with the most powerful person in the world when complaining about any new yellow stripes on Duchesses?

The good old days of another locomotive heading into BR Late Crest livery just doesn't fill us with the rage we are accustomed to anymore. Mainline railways are consistently late or we simply don't like slagging off any company called 'GWR' as much as we did to the corporate undertones of 'First Great Western'. Kicking Brunel in the bollocks is not something we're a fan of so we are holding back. 

Well, here's the thing, we're setting out our stall to bring back the keyboard warrior. Think of the most ludicrous rail based anger and post away on social media. The winter months are long and cold. 

Give us something to warm us all up. What's riling you up uncontrollably?

Saturday 2 September 2017

Nuclear War declared after child steps in front of a Photograph of Railway Locomotive.

As the world waited patiently for disjointed Leaders to increase their war of words. It was a 47 Year old photographer who triggered Nuclear War when a child stepped in front of his photograph of an InterCity 125.

Lets be honest, it was always going to happen. The organisers of a large scale event not only ask people to stay off the tracks in front of big Green Engines but tell Big Green Eyed Photographers to stay calm if little Johnny, in amazement at seeing a Steam Locomotive for the first time, happens to spoil one of his million photographs of a stationery locomotive.

Kudos to GWR for breaking the curse
"Photographers are asked to be patient and polite"
 Ah, you've got to love the hope and tinge of naivety as a GWR Spokesperson sends out this message to the keyboard armed Army of 'Railway Photography Group' members. The message is not sent with the normal fire and brimstone that comes along from Epping & Ongar volunteer supreme leaders (Group Admins). So who knows, perhaps being nice and respectful to photographers may be a new wave we could get behind?

The theory of paying hundreds of quid to watch a music concert, to then spend it watching behind a mobile screen all night long - to then buy the concert on VHS (?) after in glorious HD with proper angles and editing. This is because we want to watch our shakey, shouty version taken from our Nokia 3310s. Obviously.

The epitome of these events is now everyone armed with smartphones ready to take the master shot and send into the BM must accept a simple fact. A child or uninitiated will spoil your photo at some point during these events. Accept it, put on a horse mask and enjoy the event regardless.

Here is hoping the magical 'photographers only' events, in the dark, silent cold shed yards with nothing but the sound of Hi Viz vests being adjusted keep the photographers anger at levels befitting not having to snap your SD card.

And if you do see an angry photographer, take a photo and send it in. They are hilarious.

Thursday 27 July 2017

Border between Lancashire & Yorkshire broken as 'Arseholes' found in both counties

One of the fiercest borders in the world, the one keeping Lancashire folk away from Yorkshire folk is deemed ineffective as little vandal shits have been found in both counties.

We spent the day beaming Live from The North Yorkshire Moors Railway this week, seeing first hand the destruction caused by vandals, but more importantly the community coming together to show brute force in cleaning up, repairing and restoring to glory all that vandals tried their hardest to wreck. 

As we beamed Live on Facebook, a large group of overseas students were on a field trip to Pickering Station gathered by a bruised and battered Gresley Buffet car. The behaviour of the students was impeccable, but what must they have thought of the mess of broken glass they were looking at? How possibly can we explain the actions of members of a community tearing apart its most valuable asset.

Not one to withdraw from the news too easily, heritage railways were again the victim of vandalism as the East Lancashire Railway was trashed by 'young vandals' who were arrested quickly. Whether they trashed, then fell asleep in the filth they had created has yet to be seen.

So, where do we go from here. BBC News may not pick up on the next spate of vandalism as just 'another one of those things' that we've all heard before. The Downton Abbey train being wrecked is news, perhaps the Train from Hollyoaks doesn't have the same ring to it. 

Complacency on Heritage Railways being wrecked is as dangerous as the people who deem it a hobby to break peoples hard work into pieces without care. 

Celebrating all that Heritage Railways give to the country and the world is equally as important as reacting with an Angry Face when someone attempts to smash it to bits. You're all intelligent people reading this article and picking up on grammatical errors contained within. You know what value Heritage Railways add to the world.

The big question is how it is showcased beyond those who turn up for 'Scotsman' Galas or Days Out with Blue Engines. The question is what do we need to say or do to convince people to not become ultimate scrotes wielding fire extinguishers on Snapchat.

Answers on an Angry Postcard.