EAST Lancashire Railway’s (ELR) popular Thomas the Tank Engine weekend hit the ‘buffers’ after bosses refused to bow down to demands to have its 300 volunteers undergo criminal record checks, it has been claimed.

For the first time in 20 years, the Bury-based heritage railway has been forced to scrap the event this Bank Holiday Weekend after being denied a licence by the company which owns the copyright brand for Thomas, HIT Entertainment.

A disappointed ELR general manager, Andy Coward, said: “One of the conditions of the licence was that we had to get enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks for every one of our people who would be on the site. We said we’d have no problem in getting these checks for volunteers who would come into direct contact with children. In fact, we’d positively encourage it.

“But we weren’t prepared to do this for every volunteer on the railway which includes our signalmen and people working on the track who wouldn’t come into contact with youngsters.

“We’ve had it confirmed it would have been illegal to have a blanket CRB check for all our volunteers. If we did that, we’d be breaking the law and we were not prepared to do that.”

Instead, ELR is staging its own inaugural Family Engines Big Day Out event featuring a host of railway-related characters such as Jimmy the Jinty which they hope will prove popular with children.

HIT Entertainment declined to comment.