January 31 2015 Latest news:
Monday, February 24, 2014
Train-obsessed Charlie Baker was chuffed to bits when railway workers made his dreams come true.
The autistic Norwich eight-year-old is simply fanatical about East Coast Trains - and is not interested in any other types of locomotive.
His mum Caroline Briscoe, 39, said his laser-focused enthusiasm can make it a nightmare to buy gifts for him.
She decided to write to East Coast Trains for help and was stunned when three parcels of train goodies, including hats, mugs and mousemats, arrived by recorded delivery in time for Christmas.
And after she wrote to thank staff, they went one better and invited Charlie for a dream day out at King’s Cross Station in London to try out their train simulator.
Miss Briscoe, who lives off Old Palace Road, said the gesture was “incredible” and they went to the capital on Saturday.
“Charlie was so excited he skipped downstairs saying ‘wahey, it’s the 22nd today!’” she said. “That’s also his favourite number - he’s obsessed.
“He talked non-stop all the way there.”
The pair travelled on first class tickets donated by East Coast Trains, and went via Peterborough so Charlie could enjoy an East Coast Train on the way down.
At King’s Cross he was gifted a tailored train driver uniform, a trainee driver name badge and was shown around by driver team manager Neil Gillies.
Charlie, a pupil at Bignold Primary School, tried his hand at the train simulator and was taken onto the cab of a real East Coast Train afterwards where he started the engine.
“They just went so far above and beyond,” said Miss Briscoe. “He didn’t want to take his uniform off afterwards! He’s never going to forget this.
“It’s just incredible and it restores your faith in human nature.”
She said she is not sure why Charlie only likes East Coast Trains, but he is adamant - and even asked for an East Coast Train for Christmas.
She said she tried to explain it would not fit in their house.
“He just likes East Coast Trains,” she explained. “It’s nothing to do with the engine. He doesn’t care about that sort of thing. “Train spotters tend to spot particular engines or carriages, but he likes listening to announcements for departures, and watching level crossing films on Youtube.”
Charlie’s dad Chris Baker, 42, and his sister Arianne, five, attested to his enthusiasm.
Richard Salkeld, of East Coast Trains, said staff first sent Charlie some gifts after his mum emailed them in December.
“We got such a lovely note back explaining how it really helps his autism we thought we could organise a special experience for him,” he said. “It was a really good afternoon and we hope he enjoyed it.”
He said the driver team manager rated Charlie’s skill on the train simulator as nine out of 10.
“He’ll be even better when his legs are long enough to reach the pedals,” he added.