Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways

September 6th 2011

Murder on the Ffestiniog

Her driver, Morgan Williams, is looking for a little R & R, but he means rest and recreation, not Research into his business and Romance into his private life. Inspector Jenkins is looking for a murderer and the pair seem like a good bet to him.

However Sergeant Gareth ap Rhys has other ideas, mainly involving solving the crime before the Inspector arrests the wrong man, or woman; he'd also like to find out why someone buried a body under the railway lines and left the weapon at the scene. Perhaps, if everyone spoke the same language, things might be clearer, but what with Welsh and English, Polish and American Gareth feels as though he's living through a farce, and it's not funny.

Back in the mists of time, Thelma & her family emigrated to Wales. They moved into a rural idyll, a cottage close to the Ffestiniog Railway’s workshops where her husband worked, and she settled down to watch the trains chuff past the window. Literally. They passed so close to the windows, you could almost touch them. However, watching them was not enough, she wanted to play too so she wandered down to the workshops and said so. The Works Manager nodded.

She had visions of driving up the line, admiring the scenery and shovelling coal but had to spend the next few weeks with a dirty rag in hand and a can of degreaser in the other, trying to learn about the locomotives. Why did they have sand on the train? How did the old compressor work? What had that little water glass got to do with the great big tank of the stuff? And where was the coal? Her husband Ken was by now thinking of dynarodding the drains because of the condition of his wife after a day spent 'playing' trains. Eventually though, they let her onto the footplate for more than cleaning the brasses, and after more training from a very patient senior driver, Thelma became a fireman.

In the winter she continued to visit the workshops and was taught how to make fire bricks, use the lathe, and even have a go at gas and electric welding. Then there was the paint and carriage shop and also other departments around the railway. All was grist to her mill. Sadly, the fun had to stop as they emigrated again in '95, but this time it was to New Zealand. Looking for a new career, Thelma went on to do a degree in nursing and found the principles much the same as working on a steam locomotive - maintaining a hydration balance, feeding and clearing away the debris and keeping the bodywork clean and in working order. But she didn't tell her patients that…

Returning to this country in 2005 and she wondered what career to take up next. Writing murder stories seemed like a good idea and she was delighted when the first book was published in Oct '08.

The latest; book no 9, was released this August. Timeline is set on the Ffestiniog Railway; she has buried a body in the famous Cob and created a romance on the footplate. Thelma loved her time on the FR, appreciated the people she met and wanted to thank some of them. They contributed to her education and fun, all of which is very useful for writing books. The book is dedicated to some of the men who helped her to fulfil her footplate dreams.

Thelma will be signing copies of Timeline at Harbour Station on September 17th between 1000 and 1600.

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