The Beauty of Transport Holiday Special (Peppa Pig, ‘The Train Ride’, season 3 ep.18)

If you’re not familiar with the adventures of Peppa Pig, first of all you’re missing out (it’s funny), and second of all you won’t have seen the episode The Train Ride.

Peppa Pig. Likes: chocolate cake, jumping up and down in muddy puddles, and popularising public transport amongst the under-fives
Peppa Pig. Likes: chocolate cake, jumping up and down in muddy puddles, and popularising public transport amongst the under-fives

Peppa’s entire playgroup class are taken on a train ride by their teacher Madame Gazelle, during which they are issued with an activity sheet featuring various objects they have to spot. These include a boat, a tunnel (which they find when it suddenly goes completely dark, a sensation with which commuters on Southern region slam door trains were well familiar in their time), and a signal. The signals on Peppa’s local railway are an intriguing combination of three-aspect colour light signals and semaphore signals – but I’ll leave that to the signal engineers to fathom out.

On arrival at the station, the children are issued with tickets by Mr Rabbit, who has clearly taken some time off from his regular work in Daddy Pig’s office, thus carrying on a grand tradition exemplified by his sister-in-law Miss Rabbit, who fills at least half the local jobs, and is indeed driving the train this time round (in fact, both driving it and firing it – it’s an 0-6-0 steam tank locomotive at the front).

Pedro Pony, who might kindly be described as one of the less academic members of the playgroup, contrives to lose his ticket on several occasions on the subsequent (and eponymous) train ride, to the annoyance of Mr Rabbit, who has joined the train as revenue inspector for the trip – his ticket office clearly only operates at peak times of demand and the station is unstaffed during the rest of the day. It’s a single track, ‘through’ station, which is odd because a few episodes earlier when Peppa’s French penpal Delphine Donkey arrives for a visit (presumably via Eurostar and onward connections), the local station is a terminus. So this is either a different station, a different line, or the line has been extended in the meantime.

Having spotted all the items on their list, the children find themselves back at the same station they started from. As the train hasn’t reversed during the course of the story, we have to conclude that the local rail network operates on some kind of loop arrangement. There appear to be no other stations on the line either, so it’s not entirely clear what transport purpose is being served by the line. It does though lend weight to my theory that it’s a separate line from the one used by Delphine.

And that’s about it. The adventures of Peppa Pig and her friends are generally pretty small-scale. But I like the idea of popularising travel by public transport in children’s TV programmes. Excellent!

Enjoy the holiday season, or whatever your particular local celebrations are at this time of year.

PS – the train in The Train Ride is not to be confused with Grandpa Pig’s so-called train Gertrude, which might be steam powered and steam locomotive in outline, but is road going. As Granny Pig points out, that’s not a train.

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