The Chigley Train

In a time long forgotten it would not have been a shock to see a private train pulling either passengers or freight on the rails of Britain. This bygone era is seen quite clearly in the late 1960’s children’s television program Chigley. To make things even more realistic it’s driven by a member of the aristocracy Lord Belborough and his butler, Brackett.

The train is the famous Bessie and it is stored in a train shed, though it could well be for a car as there is plenty of Garage Shelving around keeping Bessie’s parts safe and clean for repair should they be needed.  Perhaps they went to to order some.

Chigley, like it’s predecessors Camberwick Green and Trumpton appears to be a snapshot lost in time of Britain that never existed or if it did was coming to an end, when the films were made and shown from the Mid 60’s onwards. They were still doing the rounds in the early 80’s though not to the great extent as is remembered. Gordon Murray, the creator, sought to celebrate a lost UK and he was also the one of the first to use stop go animation instead of marionettes as he had seen the process in East Europe. This was to be a big influence on such animators like Nick Park and staff of Ardman Animation who grew up watching the shows.

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The basis of Chigley was pretty much always the same for all thirteen episodes made. A package or parcel needed to be sent to Treddles Wharf where it would be sent on to who knows where. The only means of transporting it was via the Train Bessie which was a privately owned by the aforementioned Lord Belborough. He is ably assisted by his manservant Brackett. The good Lord was always overjoyed to get Bessie out on a job. It seems that he and Brackett don’t get out much. The show, as with the others where very gentle. Very little happens that cannot be easily rectified. The show also featured some of the stars like Windy Miller from Camberwick Green or the Fire Brigade from Trumpton. While this was partly to save money it strangely provided a synergy between the shows and illustrated the community living close together that created a believability and realism.

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Each task that Lord Belborough and Brackett completed, usually with minimum amount of fuss, had a very tight time limit. For some reason the Lord and Brackett had to get to back to the local biscuit factory for “the Six o’clock whistle”. At the end of every working day the Lord and Brackett would arrive with an antique music organ and played a tune that the workers would perform a dance to. Whether this was in their contract is unclear but again it shows a glimpse, albeit a stylised one of the manufacturing industry and community spirt that is no longer much of a feature in British life.

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