ERS 188 - The New Fat Controller

ERS 188 - The New Fat Controller - Ian

The retirement of Sir Stephen Hatt was long debated behind the scenes, and it was purely chance that I began to put together a suitable departure for the long time NWR Controller. His son Richard, known for his time in Africa in ERSN1 ‘The Life and Times of Jim the Jinx’, and more recently as the Tall Controller of the Skarloey Railway, takes over the position. But that doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last of Sir Stephen, as plans are still in place to revisit the character in the future.

The Sodor engines and railway staff alike have noted aa change in the Fat Controller in the past weeks as his retirement draws ever closer. Sir Stephen makes a grand tour of the network during his final week and it is clear to all he is troubled. It is Toby who helps him open up about his fears of retirement, wondering just what he will do after a lifetime on the railways. Toby recalls their first meeting, during a holiday in East Anglia on Toby’s old line, and offers advice and encouragement to his old friend.

As the engines discuss Sit Stephen’s time as Controller, Duck upsets James by recalling he was the first engines to get into trouble under his leadership by demolishing a signal in the fog. James is far from impressed but Duck thinks it rather funny. It is unfortunate for Duck that Sir Stephen’s final incident involves Duck derailing Alice and Mirabel outside the carriage shed after a point lock fails. Duck is greatly embarrassed, but what will James say about it all?

As Richard Hatt hands over the Skarloey Railway to Alexander Sam - the new Thin Controller - he makes plans for his father’s retirement party. Sir Stephen has made it clear he wants to go quietly, but Richard is determined to surprise his father with a farewell gathering. A low-key buffet lunch at the big station goes well, but is in fact a bluff to hide the real event taking place at Wellsworth that evening. When Sodor Castle is hastily sent out on a special train, Sir Stephen is suspicious… is it Richard who is in for the surprise himself?

Richard’s appointment is the talk of the sheds, with the branch engines expressing their differing views of what the future holds for them. Richard proves himself to be most capable following an incident with Percy and runaway trucks. This story was inspired by a real life tale, of a lorry falling onto the railway at Dartford in the late 1950’s, and subsequently a van falling onto a passenger train in the late 2000’s.