A Partial Transcript of the Creative Writing Workshop Session for "Thomas and the Magic Railroad," by Britt Allcroft

Here’s a thing that I wrote that nobody seems to want to publish. And that’s cool. It might be a little funny, especially if you have kids, and your brain is kind of mushy from reading, say, Thomas and the Magic Railroad every night for a year or two. In any case, I thought I’d just post it here.


“Were we all supposed to have pictures? I know this is only the second week of workshop, but, I mean, nobody else had pictures, right? Mine doesn’t have any pictures. It could, though, I guess. I guess maybe it would be better with some pictures?”

“I loved the way you set up the basic dichotomy of capitalism here. I mean, on one side we have this little employee, and you definitely go out of your way to mention a lot of times how small he is, that he feels tiny, that even compared with other workers, you know, he still feels small, and that totally worked for me. And the other workers, they’re like a bunch of tools. Like that Gordon. I mean, what a douchebag? But again, his douchey-ness totally worked for me, and it told me a lot about Thomas, that he just takes it, day after day after day. And then the corporate side of things — Sir Topham Hatt and Mr. Conductor. I love what you did with those characters. It’s right out of Kafka or, like, a Saunders story. On the one side, this guy who calls himself Sir and looks almost exactly like Dick Cheney…”

“Can we talk about that for a minute? I think you might have to tone that down a little bit, the way his mouth is kind of crooked and smirking all the time. He was like the Jon Stewart imitation of Dick Cheney or something. It was the one thing in the graphic part of this that was just kind of like over the top for me. It took me out of the story.”

“I thought the train was…never mind.”

“So the corporate thing. There’s the Topham Hatt/Dick Cheney character, who is just like totally evil, but also just kind of the looming presence…”

“Like the eyes of Dr. T.J. Whatshisname. From Gatsby.”

“He is totally that kind of character, yeah. But then the other corporate representative, the one dude who the workers actually come into contact with, the one who is supposed to be driving this whole train (pun intended), is this ineffectual wimp who can only move from place to place in a shower of magic gold dust. So in order for this dude to even move, like to get from one place to the other — and hello, he’s supposed to be in charge of the railroad, which last time I checked was there pretty much only to move things from one place to another — he has to waste all this gold dust, so he’s literally just puffing money into the air. It’s just a brilliant portrayal of the gears of capitalism.”

“Isn’t the train supposed to be a cock?”

“To me, it felt like a great adventure story, a real page turner. I didn’t think we were doing genre stuff in this workshop, actually…But still, if you take it for what it is, then I thought, nice stuff Britt. Tight. Well executed. If we’re doing genre work, that is. And I didn’t think we were, but…”

“I thought the bad guy kind of dominated this story. I mean, Diesel is just such a bad ass. And nice move, naming him Diesel. I mean, he might as well have been named Big Oil, right? Or Boris Badinov, you know, if this was a cold war thing and not a train action adventure kind of experimental thing.”

“Did anybody else wonder who is driving these trains? There are, like, conductors, and in some of the pictures they seemed to be sitting where you’d sit to drive a train. But then the trains themselves seemed to have the ability to decide where they were going and what they were doing…”

“Free will.”

“I just think it’s something to think about. You know? I mean, are these trains driving or being driven? I know it’s not a realist work, but still, I think in the universe of the story, you still have to be consistent, right?”

“I want to build off that, actually. Because I think I read this the same way. It’s experimental. The universe of the story is a word universe, where images kind of coexist with narrative, and if you look at it a little deeper, you’re like, dude, there’s no way that this is as simple as it seems. It’s like some kind of image collage thing fairy tale mashup thing, a non linear sensory exploration of the intersection between commerce and fairy tale.”

“But Britt is asking a lot of the reader, though, if that’s what he’s trying for. I think it’s awesome, but that kind of work is not for everybody.”

“I’d think about sending this to the Fairy Tale Review. Or Colorado Review maybe. Indiana Review publishes a lot of experimental stuff. Fence.”

“Going back to the Diesel thing, I thought that problem was that he just kind of dominates the story. I mean, he’s such a compelling character, but I don’t know if you actually want him to be as awesome as he is. I found myself wondering less about Thomas, who I thought, for what it’s worth, was just a little stock. His motivation as kind of obvious for me. The little big man.”

“That’s the danger, right, if you have a story with a good guy who’s just like all good, and a bad guy wh just all bad? Nobody changes. There’s no growth.”

“Are we sure the train doesn’t represent a cock? Because there’s like this mysterious dangerous tunnel that he’s not sure he can go into it, that, like, all the other trains talk about in these legendary terms, and then he kind of magically slides into it. And then he meets this train named Lady? Lady! Come on. I thought it couldn’t be more obvious. There was all this stuff about him being so small, smaller than the other engines, blah blah blah. I got like halfway through and I was like, Britt, dude, you better just get over it, you know. Motion of the ocean.”


“Britt — you’re not allowed to talk yet. Let’s let Thomas and the Magic Railroad talk for you, okay?”

“But I…”


“So the Train is definitely a cock, then?”

“Yeah. Definitely a cock.”