Really Useless Engines

Yesterday’s overhead cable problems on the line from London to Edinburgh reminded me of this little story from the blizzard of December 2010:

Jimmy the Scottish Express engine was very excited. Fresh snow had coated the countryside from his highland home and he had the important job of taking lots of passengers all the way down to London.

The big station was very busy because it was the weekend before Christmas. Some of the passengers had presents for friends and relatives they were planning to visit. There were also lots of students going home with cases full of books and dirty washing, people with dogs and even a lady with a cat in a basket.


Everybody was looking forward to the holidays.

Just before the station clock struck eleven the station master shouted “All aboard” then blew his whistle and waved his flag as Jimmy puffed away from the platform. Soon Jimmy was speeding through the countryside on his way south past snowy fields s full of sheep and cows.

‘Hello Jimmy’ called the Angel of the North ‘is the snow bothering you?’

‘Its nae trouble with my overhead wires, daft soft stuff’ he replied as he sped past. But then as he got near Peterborough Jimmy started to feel ill, gradually he slowed down and ground to a halt.

‘What’s the problem?’ the passengers asked.

‘Jimmy’s overhead cables are broken’ said the guard ‘You are all going to have to get off and get a bus.’


‘Oh bother!’ the passengers grumbled as they collected their belongings and trudged off the train.


It was very cold and all the station staff had hidden in their office because they were scared that the passengers might be cross.

The passengers, who included old people and little childrenengines6

were very, very cross, especially when they asked a policeman if he knew where the bus was, and he said


‘I don’t know’.

Some of them said some very, very bad words about the railway.


The station master called Sir Pussum Phat the controller of the privatised railway.

‘Jimmy’s power lines are broken and the customers are very cross that we have stranded them in the freezing cold without enough buses to take them all home” said the station master “They are saying it’s a really rubbish railway’

Sir Pussum was very annoyed to be disturbed as he had just finished rolling in his bonus money and wanted to count it all again. He asked his media relations manager what he should do.


‘Don’t worry Sir Pussum’ said the media relations manager ‘the newspapers will be too busy reporting the snow chaos at Heathrow Airport tomorrow to notice this mess, just tell the staff to keep out of their way and hopefully they will all get desperate enough to hire taxis when they get fed up with standing in the cold’

‘That sounds like a plan’ said Sir Pussum as he helped himself to another bowl of unicorn cream.

As it happened East Coast could not find enough buses to transport all the passengers to Huntingdon to catch trains to London and ended up booking people into hotels overnight (as was reported on the BBC News). While we were queuing in the sub-zero temperature the price of a black cab to London rose from £250 to £350. Fortunately we overheard someone calling a mini cab firm and they very kindly gave us the number so I was able to book a mini bus (there were seven of us and a cat in a basket) to take us back home. I eventually managed to get the fare refunded from East Coast, but regrettably had to raise the matter with my MP before they did the decent thing.

4 thoughts on “Really Useless Engines

  1. Ye Gods! Is that a real story? :O Poor dears who were stuck in all that snow and had to — so black market and lazy management heads in the government and big companies are not limited to my country. It’s always us commoners who’re stuck in it. Little relief does that news bring me! 😦

    • I’m afraid it is true we were thrown off the train at Peterborough in the snow because the overhead lines came down, rumour has it that the reason for the lines coming down was that to save money the supporting pylons had been spaced further apart than was recommended when the line was electrified, well that along with scrimping on trackside maintenance. as for the train companies customer service it left a lot to be desired. No staff at the station came out to check the passengers were OK leaving keeping order to three Police community support officers, the buses when they eventually turned up could not cope with the number of people stranded and when we complained they were as obstructive as possible about refunding the £175 that I paid for the mini bus because as they said I hadn’t got permision to hire it from one of their staff (who of course were all hiding in nice warm offices), when as it happens I saved them the expense of finding hotel rooms for seven people by my action. It took a letter from my Member of Parliament to actually shame them into paying up.

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