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Tommy is a Punk Engine Festival

Bored with too many Thomas the Tank Engine-themed event days the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway planned to hold a Thomas the Tanked Engine beer festival. This didn't go down too well with the owners of the Rev Awdry's estate, so they hurriedly re-promoted it as a 'Tommy is a Punk Engine' event, complete with tribute bands 'The Rotten Jonnies', 'The Filth', 'The Ramtwos', 'The Six P*sstakes', 'The Dead Spits', 'The Klash', 'Gang of Fourish', 'Siouxsie and the Sousaphones'; 'The Gabardine Girls', 'The Brogues', 'Limp Big Toes', and 'X-Ray Goggles ft. Polly Vinehill on vocals'. And, just because it seemed the right thing to do, the R&B outfit 'Useless Juicy' played a repertoire of American train songs.





For maximum authenticity many of these bands had never played a gig before, and the sound quality was rather poor with the volume always set to '11'. To ensure any fans of Spinal Tap felt at home a scale model of Stonehenge dominated the stage. The artic trailer used as the main stage was generously loaned by 'Vicious Sid' and ''Alf Barrel' – otherwise known as Sid and Alf Barrett Transport Ltd. The 'Doof Wagon' providing the amplification was however more Steampunk than Mad Max.

Those of more gentle dispositions preferred to stay in the Kasbar-themed 'Arabian Knights' beer tent. This came about because of a dire joke originating from not taking credit cards so there needed to be lots of notices informing customers it was a 'cash bar'. The joke took shape by festooning the marquee with Middle Eastern fabrics and 'magic carpets'.

Amongst this oriental exoticism there was an outbreak of English folk music by the likes of The Whelk Band, Ma' Ford and Daughters, Scan Tester and the Echocardiograms, The Invisible String Band ('amazing what a tone-deaf singer with a cheap sequencer can do' was the nearest to a flattering comment) plus other briefly-shining supernovae of Bungay's Black Shuck Acoustic Folk Fest (trying saying that after six or more pints of Bishops Snoring IPA… )

The motley collection of rolling stock was given a make-over for the day. Instead of painted faces for Thomas and Toby there were stylised versions of Tommy Ramone, Siouxsie Souix and Ziggie Stardust. Annie and Clarabel appeared as the Troublesome Teenagers with mohicans on top of their clerestories. And, well, as for the Troublesome Trucks, they dragged up as the Frolicsome Frocks – pink tutus n'all.

Tommy is a Punk Engine

'Tommy is a Punk Engine'

With apologies to Accucraft

Souxsie the Souix loco

Siouxsie the Souix locomotive (as if any excuse was needed to run US rolling stock on the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway)

More apologies to Accucraft

Rowland Emett had somewhat similar ideas soon after the Second World War ended…

Emett's US loco

Ziggy the tram loco

'Ziggy the Tram Loco'

Adapted from a drawing of Wisbech and Upwell Tramway's tram loco (a.k.a. LNER J70 68222; a.k.a. 'Toby the Tank Engine') by G Hastings published as a postcard in 1984.

Mostly too young to know much about Seventies Punk, still less remember Tommy Ramone (1949–2014), many of the audience turned up as Steampunks and even 'Whitby Goths'. Among them were several of the region's Molly Dancing teams. Curiously some of the dancers looked like they doubled up as musicians playing on the stage…


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Images and text copyright Bob Trubshaw 2018–2021