In writing this
story, the author, known to most rail-fans as Steam Man,
is seeking to commemorate the noble fight fought by
Charlie Lewis, Alan Jorgenson and others - who, against
all odds - kept the little line going for 17 years.
Hopefully they will get another chance.
FROM THE AUTHOR
After reading reams of correspondence about the
closure of the Albert Country Railway, I asked a wise
sage to explain it all to me. In the way of his people,
he didn’t give me a straight answer, but instead told me
the following cautionary tale.
|Chapter One -
The end of the Line
upon a time there was a little train that bustled up and
down a steep and windy railway, taking goods and
passengers between the sea and the inland principality
the past, the King of the Land had provided railways to
all the kingdoms, and the land had prospered.
it came to pass that some principalities were favoured
more than others, and this led to an uprising in the
land. The King of the Land then decreed that the
principalities must pay for their own railway
maintenance, as the money that had been used for this
was now needed to contain the uprising.
Lord of the Railways was left with no option—his budget
had been cut, he had to close down many railways that
did not earn enough money to justify their continued
The advisors said that this was all right, as
there were enough vehicle roads to carry the goods, and
that entrepreneurs would buy big trucks and carry the
goods for the people. Still others would take the
opportunity to buy kombi-taxis and start businesses that
would enable them to carry all the people.
so it came to pass that the railway to Albert was closed
Chapter 2 - A New Beginning
However, nothing is ever what it seems and fate had
|There was a Not So
Fat Controller who loved this little
railway. He entered into a pact with the
Lord of the Railways that allowed him to
operate the little trains on the
condition that it would not cost the
Lord of the Railways anything.
And so was born the
Albert Country Railway. Once again the
little steam trains huffed and puffed
their way into the mountains of the
Principality of Albert, carrying both
goods and passengers.
The Not so Fat Controller and his group
of merry men and women were happy. They
loved their little railway, as did the
people of the principality, who could
now travel to the sea ‘safely’, while
their goods were transported to the
great railway at the sea, which in turn
would distribute them throughout the
The Lord of the Railways breathed a sigh
of relief as he had felt sorry to have
had to close down a well-loved and
Chapter 3 - Floods in the Land
then there came a disaster as the gods sent great floods
to the land, which washed away many railways and roads,
including the Albert Country Railway. The King of the
Land made money available to repair the roads, but told
the Lord of the Railways that he must use his own money
to repair the railways.
also changed the laws so that the Lord of the Roads
could allow bigger and bigger trucks on the roads. The
railways were no longer to be allowed to transport all
the goods. And so it came to be that the truck owners
were allowed to transport any goods anywhere, and they
charged less for carrying them than did the Lord of the
more trucks appeared on the roads, and the wear on the
roads increased, and the roads cost more to maintain.
But the King of the Land found money for this.
railways, on the other hand, could only afford to repair
the busiest lines, and many lines were closed down. The
Lord of the Railways, however, entered into a new pact
with the Not so Fat Controller which enabled him to
repair the little railway. But this meant that the Not
so Fat Controller was now in debt to the railways.
Nevertheless, the little trains were running again and
the people were happy.
- Trains and Trucks
pacts have conditions. The Not so Fat Controller was not
allowed to run his steam engines and had to hire diesel
engines from the Lord of the Railways to pull the
soon afterwards the truck owners went to the King of the
Land and asked permission to carry heavier loads on
their trucks, as their profits were very low. The King
gave his permission on the condition that a road levy be
imposed on diesel sales to raise money to repair the
roads. But this was not enough, the busy main roads were
tolled in such a way that the cars, which did not break
the roads, paid heavily for the damage caused by the
Not so Fat Controller was not happy—he had to repair the
railway and also pay for repairs to the vehicle roads.
At the same time he had to lower his charges if he was
to keep business coming his way. This meant that he
could not pay his debt to the Lord of the Railways.
uprising in the land continued, and eventually the King
of the Land abdicated. There was a new Rainbow King, and
he made many changes. He decreed that all people who
were less equal than others should be given houses and
other things to make them more equal. He decreed that
jobs should be created. The rail subsidies were cut
further to fund the new social structure, as the
railways were now believed to be only needed for those
goods that could not be carried by trucks.
truck owners wanted more profit and the Rainbow King
gave them permission to carry even heavier loads. The
people said that the very heavy loads would break the
roads, and the broken roads would in turn break the
vehicles using them. Thus, many jobs would be created to
fix the roads and the vehicles, and all the main roads
would be turned into toll roads, which would pay for the
road repairs. This would create far more jobs than the
railways could ever do.
the railways carried less goods and the losses mounted.
The Not so Fat Controller was forced to stop running
goods-trains on the little railway. Instead, he
concentrated on developing a tourist train that would
bring money to the local people. And which would also
enable him to pay his debt.
so began the Pomegranate Express. And once more the
people were happy.
Chapter 5 - Success and Failure
Not so Fat Controller slowly shaped the Pomegranate
Express into a top international tourist attraction. At
the same time he repaired the stored steam locomotives
and brought them back into service. This made the train
even more popular with the people. He sent the diesel
locomotives back to the Lord of the Railways, who was
not pleased as he had no other use for them.
little train stopped at interesting places where the
tourists spent their money, and this created employment
for the local people. The little train started to make a
profit, and it looked as if the debts would slowly be
able to be paid.
the Lord of the Railways started to act strangely and
tried in many ways to stop the little train from
running. The resilient Not so Fat Controller fought off
these many attacks, as they broke the pact that he had
made with the Lord of the Railways.
time it looked as if all would be well, and then, out of
the blue, the Lord of the Railways demanded that the
debt be instantly repaid. The courts were persuaded that
the little Albert Country Railway should be declared to
be bankrupt. And
it came to pass that the little train ran no more, the
tourists were very sad, and the local people lost their
income. But what had really gone wrong?
then suddenly out of the blue an explanation appeared.
Chapter 6 - A New Revelation
this point the sage said to me: ‘My son, you must
understand that in a democracy, such as ours, there are
many truths, and there are many versions of the truth .
you understand this, you will understand what happened.’
day a spokesperson, announced that he represented a rail
company, Coastal Steam Railway, which had never run any
trains. He told the people that the little railway was
badly neglected and therefore very unsafe. He told the
people that his company had existed secretly for many
years, and had been negotiating with the Lord of the
Railways for many seasons to take control of the little
company was in accordance with the principles of the new
democracy, and its directors included the President of
the Republic of Pomegranateland (formerly The
Principality of Albert), and all the President’s men.
This qualified the company to lease the railway, and to
apply for much public money so that it could repair the
track and structures to an acceptable standard.
explained that the Not so Fat Controller could not have
public money because he was a private person. But,
because the new company didn't know how to run a
railway, it would call for tenders from interested
Controllers of any shape or size, and that the Not so
Fat Controller would be able to apply to run the
this, however, could only happen when the Coastal Steam
Railway had received its public money, and had spent
some of it to make the railway safe. He did not say when
this would happen.
Chapter 7 - Some More Truths
Not so Fat Controller told the people that the line was
safe for the speed at which the little train operated,
and that he had a certificate from the Lord of the
Railways to this effect. He also said that the Lord of
the Railways had not allowed him to change their pact
into one that was democratically acceptable. The
President of the Republic of Pomegranateland was not
answering his telephone calls.
felt that there was a hidden agendum, as all the
troubles had started at the same time - just when the
little train had started to make a small profit. He
thought that he smelt something in the air. Others were
quick to report that it was a very fishy smell.
being an ichthyologist, the Not so Fat Controller and
many others did not realise that the ACR closure came
shortly after the annual sardine run. This phenomenon
occurs every year at this time, when huge shoals of
little fish move up the coast, and
are driven into the shallow water by predator species.
The local population scoop these fish out of the water
with whatever means they have at their disposal. This
leaves miles of coastline smelling like a fish
what exactly did the Not so Fat Controller smell?
neighbouring republic, The Beloved Country, the people
were celebrating. This was because they also had a
little railway company, but theirs met all the
requirements of the democratic system. Their little
railway had been abandoned some years back, also after
flood damage. But now they were restoring it and were
once again running little trains.
spokesman of The Knitting Wool Steam Railway spoke out
and said that the Pomegranate Express line could be
brought back to a safe running condition for the price
of a few pomegranates. He spoke from a great knowledge
of the system, and he offered to assist with a caretaker
operation, to get the little train running again within
a few weeks.
offer was made in the hope of restoring the area as a
great tourist attraction, and so regain lost employment
opportunities for the local people. He would help until
the Rainbow King, the President of Pomegranateland and
other important personages could all get together and
work out how best the railway could satisfy all their
all this was going on, rich property developers had
infiltrated the local parliament and the headquarters of
the Lord of the Railways with the sole purpose of
obtaining the several kilometres of coastline that the
little railway occupied. This would allow them to build
luxury holiday homes and golf estates for the very rich
the wise old sage said to me, ‘Do you now understand
what has happened?’ If, however, your simple mind cannot
comprehend these truths, then go to your bed and go into
a deep sleep and dream up a solution for this sorry
mess, and then go and tell it to the people, so that
they can put pressure on their President and all his men
to solve the problem.
Chapter 8 - Dream or Reality?
while later, there was much fanfare at the new little
station by the sea. The passengers had climbed onto the
Pomegranate Express on an early summer's morning, just
as the sun started to peep over the sea.
the front of the train was a shiny polished little bendy
engine, called a ‘Garratt’ locomotive. The front engine
unit opened her drain-cocks and hissed, ‘Dayle, I wonder
if we can’ ? And the rear engine unit did likewise and
hissed, ‘Sue, I know we can.’
Presently the New Thin Controller blew his whistle, the
Not so Fat Controller waved his green flag, and the
driver blew the locomotive whistle. And so the little
train eased out of the station,
filling the air with the smell of coal smoke, oil and
steam. And the President of the Republic of
Pomegranateland waved out of the window to the
controllers as the train picked up speed. A third
controller stood with a smile on his face. He shook
hands with the other two controllers, wished them
goodbye, and said ‘I must be on my way, there is a
little train waiting for me in the Beloved Country.
as the train cleared the station limits, there was a
whistle from the siding. Charlie, the little tender
locomotive, cracked open his drain-cocks as he moved
slowly onto the mainline with his two coaches, and
whispered, ‘This is the first time that the Pomegranate
Express is travelling the whole distance of this little
railway, all the way to the new station of Albert. I
will be following close behind, carrying the maintenance
team and the relief loco crew. I think they can do it.
But if it becomes too difficult, I will creep up behind
them and gently nudge them over the steep hill, and they
won't even know it.’
the sun climbed higher over the sea, the little trains
turned inland to climb up the steep valley that led to
the mountains far from the sea. The back of the main
train was now bathed in bright sunlight, and there for
everyone to see, was a giant, smiling pomegranate.
Written by Steam Man -
Edited by Tabatha - Illustrated by DC
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