ERS 207 - Bulgy the Bus - Reloaded

ERS 207 - Bulgy the Bus - Reloaded - Ian

Bulgy made his single appearance in the series to date in the Reverand Awdry's volume 'Oliver the Western Engine'. Only ever intended as a one-off character, there was much debate over whether to bring him back at all. But his return to working condition was alluded to as far back as #142 'The Mid Sodor Rally', so we knew the time would come when we had to do something about it. And after much group discussion, this is what I came up with...

Bulgy has been in the repair-shops of the Transport Museum for many years, which given the state he was last seen in and subsequent years of neglect, should surprise nobody. Finally ready for work, he is sent out for trials and quickly clashes with the new, modern buses he encounters. His attempts to prove himself see him landing himself in a duck pond. The idea itself came from very little - just a vintage bus parked alongside some newer variations and wondering how the bus - if it were alive - would feel. Sometimes good stories can come from nowhere and nothing...

...which ultimately was the case with this one too! There is a fabulous pair of roads in the mountains of Cumbria - quite close to the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway - known as the Hardknott and Wrynose Passes. They are enough to test the skill of any driver and their vehicle, are impassible in winter and have been the death of many a vehicle. The last time I traversed them, I encountered a stranded mini-bus, unable to climb up from the enclosed valley between the two roads. It was enough inspiration to think of one of our road vehicles getting stranded somewhere, and Algy's attempt to beat Nero in showing the tourists the local lighthouse was the end result.

Everyone naturally assumed that once returned to traffic, Bulgy would immediately join Duck and Oliver on the west side of the island. This offers plenty of story material, but I wanted him to meet Eagle first. Eagle is such a wonderful character, so different to everyone else on the railway network which ultimately means plenty of opportunities for story telling. The story here - a bus saving rail passengers when trains are unable to run - happens almost every day somewhere on the British network. But here it creates wonderful tension for some much loved characters, and presents Bulgy in a smug but positive light.

Finally, it is time for Bulgy to be reunited with Duck and Oliver. The Western engine's reaction to Bulgy's return was always going to be a tricky one to cover - I even got a discussion going about it on the forums to get people's ideas. One idea I had was on seeing a fabulous cream coloured double decker bus go by one day covered in wedding bunting - it seemed perfect as a new guise for our grumpy anti-hero. His first official duties as a Wedding Bus go awry however when he spies children laying a trap for the engines on the Little Western and - in the race to warn Oliver of the trouble ahead - finds himself run off the road and falling into a field. I quite like cliff-hanger endings occasionally, and this certainly was one - Duck and Oliver were left feeling guilty, Roland's fate was uncertain following his part in the mishap, and Bulgy's fate was gloomy to say the least...