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Alistair Alcock


Sir Topham Hatt, known to Thomas and all the other engines on the Isle of Sodor as the ‘Fat Controller’, started his career as a humble railway engineer. Yet he rose to become the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Railway Board. Sir Topham, of course, inhabited a simpler world than ours. He was not, for example, subject to the strictures of the Combined Code on Corporate Governance that recommends the separation of the posts of Chairman and Chief Executive. Nor was he subject to the slings and arrows faced by his recent real-life equivalent, Gerald Corbett of Railtrack, despite the appalling accident record of Sodor Railways, and of Thomas in particular. In fact there is a website pointing out that the Reverend Awdry’s railway books are really elaborate apologias for capitalism, with the Fat Controller as a benign boss and the engines as recalcitrant, albeit in Thomas’s case cheerful, communist workers.

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