back to article Toy train company bids for West Coast Mainline

We offer the Vulture Central tip of the hat today to toy train outfit Bigjigs for its audacious bid to run the UK's West Coast Mainline rail franchise. For those of you not up to speed on the West Coast Mainline fiasco, entertain yourselves with this blow-by-blow account down at the Beeb as to how the nation that invented the …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Cosmo

    A Top Letter

    And an excellent reply

  2. Code Monkey

    Well done

    Just to prove they're not all joyless moneygrabbing sociopathic lizards.

    [raises a (tiny picture of a) pint]

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Well done

      AND "Aluminium" has been spelled correctly!

    2. Mike Richards

      Re: Well done

      But what's the betting some senior joyless moneygrabbing sociopathic lizard from the Taxpayers' Alliance is even now trying to work out how to discipline Mark Reach for wasting scarce resources?

  3. I Am Spartacus

    Shock Horror

    Human with sense of humour found masquerading as Civil Servant.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Shock Horror

      "Human with sense of humour found masquerading as Civil Servant."

      This defect will shortly be corrected.

      The Ministry of Love

  4. Colin Millar
    Thumb Up

    The competition is looking good though

    Plus this one will help George with his sums

  5. Benchops

    "Your model now adorns my desk"

    Typical. Backhanders in the bidding process.

  6. IHateWearingATie
    Thumb Up

    Why didn't I get any fun letters like this...

    ... to reply to when I was a civil servant?

  7. JimmyPage

    Suddenly I feel good to be British ...

    The original letter was priceless enough, but to get such a marvellous reply ...

    We need the odd story like this - and I would say it's worth a tiny bit of my tax money to cheer everyone up a bit. Maybe this can be included in Camerons happiness index ?

  8. Mondo the Magnificent

    Ah, most excellent

    The type of cheeful and humerous correspondence that put's a big smile on my face and makes me want to go and buy a toy railway set after work...

  9. TRT Silver badge

    I forsee a problem...

    with the power supply. The WCML has been upgraded with catenaries which would make it awkward for the usual "Sky-hand impulse delivery" power system employed by this class of train.

  10. taxman

    Branch Line

    Perhaps, with a slight name change for a subsidary, they could also consider putting in bids to save our pottery industry?

  11. jai


    Restores your faith in corporations and government, doesn't it?

    At least, for a short while.

  12. MJI Silver badge

    Very good response

    And I was ready to have a go (railway modeller) but it was definately a toy.

    But we really need one of the model companies to have a go - then we would see 2 rail electrification

  13. Ed 13

    Whilst it is amusing, I am left wondering that if only the Civil Service applied a proportional amount of effort to processing the original WCML bids we might not be in this SNAFU.

  14. adam payne

    I wish all trains ran on fun!

    Great letters though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Personally I think all trains could run on pedal power. All those city types wouldn't need to go the the gym them.

  15. mark 63 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Human after all!

    "Private Secretary to the Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin"

    wtf is a 'Private' secretary?

    anyway nice to know there are some human beings somewhere in the government, hopefully exposing themselves like this wont lead to extermination by their MO-oid overlords

    1. Mayhem

      Re: Human after all!

      Sir Humphrey:

      Well briefly, Minister, I am the Permanent Under Secretary of State, known as the Permanent Secretary. Woolley here is your Principal Private Secretary. I too have a Principal Private Secretary and he is the Principal Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary. Directly responsible to me are ten Deputy Secretaries, 87 Under Secretaries and 219 Assistant Secretaries. Directly responsible to the Principal Private Secretaries are plain Private Secretaries, and the Prime Minister will be appointing two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries and you will be appointing your own Parliamentary Private Secretary.

      Hacker: Can they all type?

      Sir Humphrey: None of us can type. Mrs Mackay types: she's the secretary.

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Human after all!

      A private secretary is a mid level civil servant assigned to a specific minister with a remit to express his ministers' views, manage the ministerial diary, prioritise and correspond with people who wish to talk to the minister, and most importantly, to record a non political factual notes of decisions and events.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Human after all!

        > "to record a non political factual notes of decisions and events."

        I think you mean they record factual notes from a wide menu of choices of what was discussed in a meeting, and leave a clear record of what was decided, with a clear concience. Assuming they have a taste for such luxuries, of course.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Human after all!

          Oooh, you cynic you.

          Whatever deficiencies our system has, it is miles better than the US system, where they have separate democrat and republican 'civil servants', every time the executive changes, so do a lot of the 'crats.

          1. cortland

            Re: Human after all!

            Actually, the Civil Servants are employees, not appointees -- and IMO they may be all that keeps us on the rails* (so to speak) between legislative dung-flings.

            *As much as we can manage, anyway.

          2. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Human after all!

            >" Oooh, you cynic you."


        2. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Human after all!

          >I think you mean they record factual notes from a wide menu of choices

          Humphrey: I don't think the treasury accepts valuations written on the back of menus

          Bernard: Oh, but it is a very fine menu

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Human after all!

      > wtf is a 'Private' secretary?

      one that can't be directly accessed by any derived classes

  16. Darren B 1



    I experience constant broken rails and have had several bridge collapses and have also been rolling stock derail as rogue object bounces across the tracks.

    Bob Crow will be up in arms!

    1. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: Safety

      Bob Crow would be delighted, just think how many maintenance contracts would need to be put in place! And the strike actions while the drivers' jobs are made safe!

    2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Safety

      And what about the giant cats asleep on the track?......

      No self respecting driver gonna go near them

  17. ukgnome

    A pint for both - I am now browsing Bigjigs (for my sons you understand)

    1. Richard 23

      Just be careful how you spell it.......

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not to be searched for in Ubuntu Unity by slow typists

    2. Thorne
      Paris Hilton

      Damn thats why I couldn't find any train on BigJugs....

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about a PPP bid consortium with Hornby, I hear they do metal. :P

  19. Irongut
    Thumb Up


    that is all

  20. TRT Silver badge

    Bid rejected...

    as the wood was sourced from Virgin rainforest.

    1. Pedigree-Pete

      Re: Bid rejected...

      What, Branson owns the rainforests too!

  21. typeo

    "I am afraid there are some necessary bureaucratic hurdles you will need to overcome before you are able to run passenger services on the National Rail Network"

    Yeah, like a big wad of cash in a brown envelope.

    1. Annihilator Silver badge

      No need for the big wad of cash, just a misleadingly optimistic revenue projection that leads to a big shiny prize at the end of the term (with no obligation to actually pay that)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm sorry, a number of large US corporations cross-licence patents on that to one another. That's why the US Department of Defense spends so much on stuff that doesn't work, and why our own dear Civil Service does the same. Just substitute "savings projection" for "revenue projection" and you've covered 90% of tenders.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In the good old days I would have applauded both the original letter, and the reply. These days... I'm old and cynical, and see it as an attempt on a clever self-promotion / viral marketing campaign for the above mentioned toy thingy. Which, if true, is still worth a pint, as it's original, haven't seen that one before. In which case, I wish to congratulate the minds behind it, particularly for their attention to detail, such as using this washed-out colour home printer to produce the headed paper. The one on the original letter, not one on the reply, from a secretary of the secretary.

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: yeahbutnobutyeahbutnobut

      I'm with you on that. If there had been some withering satire in there, I'd have supported the viral thing. eg if they'd quoted figures on failures and inefficiencies in the private rail sector.

      What I was expecting was Hornby or someone making a public stand against the prostitution of our cherished industrial heritage, the degradation of rolling stock, the poor maintenance of lines etc. Instead I just got told "there's this toy company you've never heard of, and they're getting cheap publicity by spamming the civil service..."

  23. BugMan

    The problem with Wooden trains

    is that they wooden work....

    1. Richard Brown

      Re: The problem with Wooden trains

      I'll call you a taxi

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The problem with Wooden trains

        Looking at their website, the other problem is that just about all the wooden train stuff seems to be out of stock. Perhaps someone did bung them a contract to build and operate a railway system.

        Or perhaps they just had a good Christmas.

  24. Crisp

    I ride that particular section of railway.

    I honestly think that Bigjigs could do a better job than London Midland.

    (tbh, a zoo full of drunken monkeys could probably do a better job than London Midland.)

    1. Chris Hawkins

      Re: I ride that particular section of railway.

      Sir, I think your comment that is demeaning to the management capacity of a zoo full of drunken monkeys!

  25. Horned-Devil

    "We have not, nor never will, have an accident". I think that is a fairly bold claim and one which doesn't appreciate the average 2 year olds capacity to cause harm and damage from the most seemingly harmless objects.


    (father of a 2 year old...)

  26. Valerion


    My sons toy train also has several rigidly attached bogeys.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Ironic

      My daughter currently has several rigidly attached bogeys.

    2. Captain TickTock

      Re: Ironic

      My keyboard now has ... etc etc

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't be any worst than First.

    Come to Aberdeen (headquarters of First) and try their bus service. Noddy would be better at running it. Probably due to no competition in the area.

    1. 0laf

      Re: Can't be any worst than First.

      I'll see your First Group and raise you Stagecoach.

      As useful as an ashtray on a superbike and as miserable as a bulldog licking piss off a nettle.

      1. nsld

        Re: Can't be any worst than First.

        Or for the ultimate full house you could do worse than suffer on First Capital Connect into Kings Cross.

        Dirty, late running, expensive and generally shit.

        The bod they have on twitter does have a sense of humour and some of the paid trolls can be amusing as well but thats the main highlight of what they offer.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can't be any worst than First.

      First bus Aberdeen have higher prices than elsewhere in the country compared to the area covered.

      The drivers regularly go on strike, with the last series of them planned for the run up to Christmas being averted by a pay rise. Not that they need it as they are the second highest paid bus drivers in the UK, London being highest. Throw in all their benefits too (free gym membership and the likes) and its a bloody good deal.

      But I suppose, when someone has to get a job driving, the rest of their skill set must have been low.

  28. Trollslayer
    Thumb Up

    Love it!

    This is the kind of things the brightens up a grey day.

  29. Leona A

    that is great.

    Oh I loved reading that, very clever, I wasn't expecting a reply quite like that, very good and put a smile on my face. We need a bit of fun in our lives, life is far too boring and dull at times, low cost humour, we all could benefit from it. Well done.

  30. Mike Richards


    Who else read it as BigJugs and was slightly disappointed to find out what they actually sold?

    1. Captain TickTock

      Re: Shamefaced

      At least 2 others (not including me)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Richie: It's not very sexy, is it?

      Eddie: No. I must say, I expected a lot more from "The Furry Honeypot Adventure".

      Richie: I think this is for kids you know Eddie. I think those Hussein brothers saw you coming again. Well, what else did you get?

      Eddie: "Big Jugs"

      Richie: [excited] "Big Jugs"! All right!........" [reads box] ".......a history of pottery in the nineteenth century."

  31. SafetyNerves

    82 days for a response!

    Interesting that it took 82 days for a government response. I expect a final decision will be made sometime in November 2029 for the real franchise then!

  32. Oninoshiko

    This may be a joke

    but considering some of the modelers I've seen, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad plan.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    What you need is a distinguished English railway magnate to sort the WCML out.....

    Luckily, I hear Sir Topum Hat is interested!!!

    1. Hellcat

      Re: What you need is a distinguished English railway magnate to sort the WCML out.....

      Unlike Bigjigs, the Island of Sodor has many documented (even captured on video) accidents. Staff ignoring procedures and a culture of cutting corners. There have been multiple run away locos, several bridge collapses, numerous trains hitting buildings and other infrastructure. It's only by the grace of God nobody has been killed.

      As you can see they have nothing to differentiate themselves from the existing companies.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Just wish We could still rate articles

    This one would be off-the-scale wonderful

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    I love the sense of humour of the toy company and the equal humour in the response from the DfT.

    I am a bit disturbed, though, that I didn't see anything odd in the title Toy train company bids for West Coast Mainline and had to read into the letter to realise that it was a spoof.

    Is it my befuddled brain, or has life got so strange that I could be forgiven for taking it seriously?

  36. MacroRodent

    They also follow proper industry standards...

    From the photos, it looks like Bigjigs makes clones of the classic Swedish Brio train system (, which I recall playing with back when in the kindergarten in the 1960's.

    I guess Brio has had some design patent expire, since many toy shops now offer compatible no-name tracks and rolling stock. Much cheaper but often not up to the same quality standards, based on personal experience with supplying my own kid (don't know about Bigjigs, it is not available here). But it is nice that the non-Brio Thomas the Tank Engine locomotives he was a fan of could run on Brio tracks. Industry standard matter.

    1. Risky

      Re: They also follow proper industry standards...

      The stuff does work together. However the IKEA kit using plastic Lugs on the rails doesn't fit it well so avoid.

  37. MJI Silver badge


    Could you imagine someone relaying the WCML in P4?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022