Wednesday, December 1, 2021
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Thomas the Woke Engine

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CURATORS from the National Railway Museum and academics from the universities of York, Leeds and Sheffield have teamed up for a project, Slavery and SteamSteam Power, Railways and Colonialism   

It will examine ‘the economic, social and infrastructural legacy of steam and slavery across the later 19th and 20th centuries’. 

This has led to a great deal of soul-searching at the North Western Railway on the island of Sodor. 

Thomas: ‘Gordon, have you ever considered that we are a little bit … er, racist?’ 

Gordon: ‘Don’t be silly! Why do you say that?’ 

Thomas: ‘Well, when I look round the shed I don’t see any black engines, and if we get dirty the Fat Controller sends us to the paint shop.’ 

Rebecca: ‘And have you noticed that whenever there is a royal or special visitor to the line, it’s always Gordon who gets to pull the train?’ 

Thomas: ‘You’re right, Rebecca! You and Emily hardly get a look in. I’m beginning to think the railway must be sexist as well as racist.’ 

Gordon: ‘Rubbish, I’m the largest and fastest engine on the railway and blue engines are naturally superior. Don’t you agree, Thomas?’ 

Thomas: ‘Well, I … er … I’m …’ 

Emily: ‘Don’t even go there, Thomas!’ 

Gordon: ‘I’m sorry, Emily, I didn’t mean to upset a lady.’ 

Emily: ‘That’s typical of you Gordon, you’re a blue supremacist sexist pig! How do you know I identify as female? Once the Fat Controller hears about this, you’ll be hauling fish wagons on the Ffarquhar Branch Line.’ 

Thomas: ‘Perhaps the railway needs a Diversity and Inclusivity Officer. They could give us some training to avoid all our prejudices and make us repent for our wicked thoughts.’ 

Gordon: ‘What nonsense, Thomas! You are nothing better than a jumped-up, woke shunting engine.’  

Rebecca: ‘What a horrid thing to say! Anyway, I’m thinking of becoming an electric locomotive to save the planet.’ 

Gordon: ‘What a stupid engine!’ 

Rebecca and Emily steamed out of the shed in a huff and relocated to a distant siding. Thomas hid at the back of the engine shed. An enraged Gordon let off steam.  

All was not well on Sodor that night. 

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John Ellwood
John is the father of four beautiful girls. He is the co-author of Steam Dreams and other interesting stories. He has generously donated his vaccine to the people of France. John is, thankfully, not knowingly related to Tobias Ellwood.

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