Tag Archives: Thomas the Tank Engine

For railway enthusiasts

The economics of the current Irish railway system have received insufficient attention. If they had, the entire system (with the possible exception of some commuter lines) would have been closed down years ago and we wouldn’t have the current mad proposal to reopen the railway line to Foynes [h/t COM] at the same time as a road improvement scheme is being studied.

Happily, however, the railways of the neighbouring island have recently been the subject of considerable attention. Duncan Weldon considers here the “economic, financial and business questions raised” by the railway systems of the island of Sodor, concluding:

Economists do not fully understand the long term drivers of productivity growth. But the lesson of Sodor is this: over investing in a technologically backward, sheltered and protected from competition railway is not the road to prosperity.

And yet despite stagnant living standards the people/engines of Sodor appear content. Indeed it is unclear if they get paid at all — instead they seek meaning and joy in a Stakhanovite desire to be “really useful engines”. The great trick of Sir Toppham is employ engines who essentially evoke the image of the New Soviet man in the service of a proto-capitalist, semi-feudal enterprise.

Responding, James Kwak said:

Sodor Railways seems to be the epitome of a fat, dumb, and happy company. Labor is incompetent, yet management does nothing about it, and in return labor is eternally loyal to management. Who loses? Customers and shareholders.

However, Dan Davies offers a different perspective here. But Tracy Van Slyke has spotted other issues. I wonder whether any university offers courses in TtTE Studies.

But back to Foynes. I see that Councillor Emmett O’Brien believes that

[…] the tourism potential of this line could be explored with the possibility of steam train tourism linking Adare to Askeaton and Foynes.

The appropriate information is here.