CURATORS from the National Railway Museum and academics from the universities of York, Leeds and Sheffield have teamed up for a project, Slavery and Steam: Steam 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.