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Blessed is St Thomas the Tank Engine.
All at Quainton have much to be thankful for Tomas the Tank Engine as he continues to pull in the crowds on every occasion he is visiting QRS. It could almost be said he is a life saver as the revenue tills jingle and everyone has a grand day out.
Most of the volunteer members also have a great day working hard to please their visitors and the thanks express in the latest QEL from Ben Jackson is well deserved.
The only problem is these are special Enthusiast days attracting families with young children and often several times until these youngsters grow out of childish things. Fortunately the attraction of Thomas seems to pass from generation to generation so there is always new enthusiasts.
However, the question must be asked do these DOWT days do much for the more serious Museum Vision that has been espoused by the Society especially when major exhibits have to remain closed or occluded by fun fairs and activity stalls. Do these visitors see through the frivolity and froth of Thomas Days Out and feel drawn back to our more normal open days? Maybe some will pick up our standard leaflet and look at other events on the calendar but with small children will they be able to keep them entertained with the TPO, the exhibits in Rewley Road or the Museum or the static items mostly in a sad state or the four wheeled locos that undoubtedly appeal to older enthusiasts from another age.
Placing too much reliance on revenue from Thomas and his friends may be a dangerous strategy for although there seems an endless stream of new enthusiasts you can be sure that Matel or the HITS Corporation are well aware of this market. We should look around at the number of theme parks now appearing based on popular children's toys, films/videos and games. It is just possible that the owners of these products may find it tempting not to share the commercial gains with people like us so much and concentrate on opening their own parks.
It may not be too fanciful to note that just up the road from Quainton nearby to the Bicester Village are large tracts of unused MOD land fully fitted out with railway lines and connected to the network. Close by is the infra structure of the M40 plus new frequent Chiltern Trains services from Greater London. It is almost too perfect for an enterprise like HITS to ignore and the Government would be sorely tempted to sell off the surplus areas if enough pieces of silver were offered in exchange. If this were to come about QRS would be dead in the water so far as DOWTs are concerned even if heritage railway further afield might still be able to have these days without much problem with the owner's competition.
Maybe we should keep our ears to rails so we can hear what is coming before it HITS us out of the Thomas Blue.