ERS 217 - Vicarstown Museum Exhibits

ERS 217 - Vicarstown Museum Exhibits - Ian

When Simon Martin left writing for the ERS, certain areas which had initially been under his influence went untouched for a time, as the team pondered on what to do with them. One of these was Pegasus, the new-build engine, who was first seen in Simon's final volume. The Vicarstown Railway Museum was another and other than the arrival of the ever-so-slightly evil Zelda in ERS#169 'Sudrian Diesel Engines', not much had been seen to occur there. This volume set out to rectify that.

Previous volumes had documented the moving of Eric the Mountain Engine and his carriage to the VRM, so this was one big point that needed addressing in the volume. The carriage - who became Stephanie - balances out Eric's kindly, occasionally timid demeanour by being happy to stand up to anyone - useful in the museum when sat between Sharpe and Zelda!
The chapter saw reference to Snake and Newt too. It is revealed they have been moved away having been sold. The characters - having never spoken a single word between them in the series - were so underdeveloped it seemed better to remove them so as to let the established cast continue to thrive. Don't think it will be the last you hear of them though - there are big plans for them to be developed in their own right.
Finally, Rollo's unfortunate occurrence was based on a real-life close shave witness at the Great Central Railway as a bus swung wide during a turn and nearly took out the fence next to the running line.

One of the more complicated stories in recent years, there was much discussion over whether this idea actually 'worked' when I first mooted it as so few people would known about the locomotive Ellerman Lines from the National Railway Museum in York. I'm glad I got my way though, as it was wonderful to prick Sharpe's pomposity as the old engine mistakenly believes he is getting his own demonstration line. As Warrior reveals in the text, “Ellerman Lines is a former Southern Region Bullied Pacific, who lives in the museum as a static… sectioned… exhibit.” It is left to the next chapter for Sharpe to learn of his impending fate...


With the introduction of Stephanie alongside Eric, it highlighted the lack of any other coaches or trucks resident at the VRM. One character - mentioned once before in ERSN #1 'The Life and Times of Jim the Jinx' - was Penelope, an Inspector's Saloon who was undergoing overhaul. This led to the decision to draft non-locomotive characters in, so with Penelope already on the list another was Mark, the Mk1 carriage first seen in the previous volume who was badly damaged following a Fireman's training exercise with Henry. In writing terms, Mark was first mooted for this volume before it I suggested developing the otherwise unnamed coach already appearing in ERS #216 'Mixed Traffic Engines' and making them one and the same. Finally, there was the idea to bring back a character I introduced some years earlier. Rather than simply having the men visit the disgraced Mary though, it seemed better to get more characters involved...

...which is exactly what happens here. As the mainline engines learn of Mary's good fortune at being recovered, they are further shocked to learn it was the kindly, sensible Robert who suggested her to the museum. Robert is an incredibly moral character with a truly impressive story behind him, so it seemed very possible that he would simply want everyone to get their second chance. With the discovery of valuable artefacts when Mary is cleared out prior to moving, he is shown to be right if in a slightly different way t how he meant. This, then, set the stage for a subsequent volume seeing Mark, Penelope and Mary's arrival at the VRM - which follows very shortly indeed.