Archive for Thursday, June 17, 2010

Accident doesn’t deter Thomas the Tank Engine

June 17, 2010

Oh, no, it was Thomas the train wreck!

Yes, the rumors are true. Thomas the Tank Engine collided with a trailer being pulled by a pickup. It happened during the last ride of the day Saturday for the famed cartoon character turned life-sized replica that comes to Baldwin City every year.

“We all thought it was hilarious, too,” said Linda Ballinger, event co-coordinator for Day Out With Thomas. “Oh, my! Everyone was talking about it on the radios. Thomas has been in an accident!”

But it was minor, very minor. None of the 300 passengers aboard Thomas was injured. Neither were crewmembers or the driver of the pickup pulling the trailer, Delbert Sheldon, 59, of rural Baldwin City. Damage was minimal, too.

“It broke out one of Thomas’ headlights, bent the bumpers and the ladder,” said Ballinger. “All he has now is a bumped-up bumper. Nobody was hurt, except Thomas. He was able to get fixed and go on to the next place. He didn’t have to go home to get fixed.”

Thomas was going only 5 mph as he was heading north through the last intersection of the 25-minute pleasure trip before returning to the Midland Depot. His top speed is only 8 mph.

While the intersection at Lawrence Street is marked as a train crossing, there are no warning lights or crossing arms. Weeds are also overgrown near the track Thomas was coming down. Sheldon didn’t see Thomas … until it was too late.

“As I’m going across the intersection, I hear the whistle for the first time,” said Sheldon, who first looked left and saw regular engines, then right and saw Thomas. “The truck got through and three-quarters of the trailer got through. You’re not going to go through there fast.

“I’m already across,” he said. “Hind sight is 20/20 and I should have floor-boarded it. I just wish I wasn’t the one involved and I hope it’s a wake-up call. No one was hurt and that’s the main thing.”

He thinks there should be people at all the railroad intersections warning people with flags.

There’s an emergency switch in the Thomas replica, but the train is actually being moved by a real engine that’s on the other end of the train, said Sgt. Mike Underwood of the Baldwin City Police Department.

“The person in Thomas activated the emergency brake after it happened, but there wasn’t much he could do,” said Underwood. “The actual engine was at the other end of the train and I’m sure he couldn’t have seen it seven cars down.”

The Thomas that was in Baldwin City is one of six depicting the cartoon character on the PBS children’s show that tour the country on such events. Ballinger said there hadn’t been a wreck here before.

“Baldwin hasn’t had one, no. But Thomas has been crunched before,” said Ballinger. “They have had wrecks before.”

At least Thomas wasn’t hurt badly, which was a concern of passengers, such as Sandy Gully’s 5-year-old granddaughter, Rhapsody Kay Gulley, who’d come from Independence, Mo.

“There were no injuries, but my granddaughter was terribly concerned about Thomas and wanted to know if he was going to have to go to the hospital,” said Gully.

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