Recollections from Shining Time
When I look back at my years working on Shining Time Station
my thoughts turn to three elements. Firstly the people, second the craft of what we were doing, and the emotional context
of the writing.
My first thoughts are of Rick Siggelkow,
Executive Producer and writer. His ethics as a writer and a person shine through all of the episodes. The storyline was always
about the best in people even when they were not at their best.
Britt, that is the only name needed to define her. Always
a quiet and steady influence behind the scenes maintaining the integrity of the original concepts and storylines of Thomas
the Tank Engine.
Barney Stewart. He was my mentor and I eventually took over
the show as Lighting Designer when he moved on to other projects.
Barbara Hamilton and Tom Jackson because each were talented
in their own way. Barbara, unbelievably funny when in or out of character. Tom, a quiet steady force who was the source of
simple wisdom that could stand the test of time.
Bobo Lewis, as Midge Smoot; I remember her quiet smile and
how well she elevated even the most simple of scenes. Mart Hulswit, the right blend of being officious and slightly overbearing
yet at the same time vulnerable. Jerome Dempsey as Mayor Flopdinger, to be sure the perfect caricature of the seemingly bumbling
fool. A fool who was as wise a fox. Didi Conn as Stacy Jones, the love interest. Always sought after but always unattainable.
She was sweet and simple and exemplified the best of the homespun era. Brian O’Connor as Schemer and of course
his nephew Schemee; Always looking for an angle to strike it rich…always foiled by his own scheming. And of course
George Carlin, as Mr. Conductor. George, the legendary comedian whose humour was definitely not child friendly was always
a thoughtful and gentle presence on set. The depth of his skill meant that tender moments or wise saws were delivered with
the utmost sincerity and believability.
The Flexitoons puppeteers. Talented practitioners of
a craft from my youth, marionettes. The characters were quaint but they too exuded wisdom beyond their humble wooden shells.
Craig Marin, the head puppeteer was a superlative craftsperson as were the rest of the cast of puppeteers. Olga Felgemacher
Marin, Alan Semok, Vaneece Thomas and Jonathan Freeman. Experts at operating the puppets, set design, costumes, prop
construction, repairs and special effects gags as needed for the show.
The set was as much a character of the show as were the performers
that graced its surfaces. The hand stamped floor, the real wood, the period piece arcade machines. These elements made Shining
Time Station a real place inhabited by real people - not actors playing people. There was a tremendous amount of detail
in the murals that comprised the station walls. These details leant a sense of authenticity to the set and in the process
gave the studied observer a glimpse into our historical past that was so influenced by the inexorable march of the “iron
The camerawork, the lighting, costumes and props were combined
seamlessly to support the text and the storyline. These crafts were deftly integrated so that they were not noticed. You just
felt that you were part of the story. I think that this is a testament to all those involved. It was never about these crafts,
it was about the story.
The Special Effects Sequences...
There is a fond remembrance of many of the special sequences
that were composed for Mr. Conductor. But, one in particular comes to mind. We had to make Mr. Conductor his usual size (about
1/6th his real size), that was par for the course. On this particular instance Mr. Conductor had to dance with a ballerina
on a music box situated on a table. The scene appeared to be lit by a single candle on the said desk. As the song concluded
and the dance ended Mr. Conductor blew out the candle and the scene became dim, lit only by the light coming through a window
at night. Technically, a very challenging sequence to execute in those days. This made that final result all the more
satisfying. We had through teamwork made fantasy into reality. And that is the essence of good storytelling. That was the
essence of Shining Time Station. Taking the fantastic making it simple, believable and real.
I can’t say that I remember any particular episode.
I think that my recollections are an amalgam of the time that I spent working on the show. What I do remember was the ethos
of the writing. The writing was about people and theirs stories. People with their foibles, strengths, weaknesses, but above
all their humanity.
The story…that’s the
We'd like to thank Bentley for his heartfelt
recollections and wish him all our best with his projects. Bentley has also kindly shared a few of his photos and technical insight
which can be seen in our Behind-The-Scenes section.