Ivor the Engine
Not to be confused with Ivor Novello
“...Not very long ago, in the top left-hand corner of Wales, there was a railway. It wasn't a very long railway or a very important railway, but it was called The Merioneth and Llantisilly Rail Traction Company Limited, and it was all there was.
And in a shed, in a siding at the end of the railway, lives the Locomotive of the Merioneth and Llantisilly Rail Traction Company Limited, which was a long name for a little engine so his friends just called him Ivor..."
So began, in 1959, the first episode of the first series of a set of television films which were to become part of the mainstream of Children's television for the next thirty years.
The Merioneth and Llantisilly Rail Traction Company Limited must be one of the best known and best loved railways in the world. The fact that it is wholly ficticious and exists only in the cartoon films, books and videos produced by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate has not detracted in any way from the reality of the neigbourhood.
Like all proper places, the top left-hand corner of Wales where Ivor lives and works was not so much invented as coagulated, patted together from a morass of memories, of the many small railways that infest the area, the works of Dylan Thomas, and an indefinable quality which might be called Welshness, but which probably doesn't exist anywhere except in the sentimental imaginings of writers.
Nevertheless, once the Company was formed and the permanent way laid in the minds of its makers, it took on a reality of its own, a reality so exact that a map was made of it, with viaducts, bridges, tunnels, towns, villages, coalmine and gasworks all firmly in place. And from then on the line had to be followed - Ivor could not go to Grumbly Town without passing through Tan-y-Gwlch.
The story is of course absurd - whoever heard of a railway engine wanting to sing in the choir! - but like all proper absurdities it was taken seriously and the task approached with care and kindliness by the ordinarily extraordinary people of that real imaginary place.
It is not an easy task. Such time-tables as the railway tries to follow have to be adjusted to suit Ivor's choir practice, and in any case there is not much chance of keeping to timetables when there is a dragon to be kept red-hot or an elephant in the Gasworks, with a bad foot to boot - and where do you find an elephant's boot?
For more information see: http://www.smallfilms.co.uk/ivor/
Reproduced by kind permision of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin.
Copyright of Smallfilms.