Lovable and Adventurous Percy Is Still Very Much Alive and Safely Riding the Miniature Trains in Scarborough
|Percy with Amy McFarlane of Sea Life|
"I am delighted to confirm that Percy the cat does still visit us here at Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary."
-- a spokesperson for Sea Life and Marine Sanctuary
In spite of the myriad of dangers that ride along with cats whenever they board trains all by their lonesome, an elderly black tom named Percy from Green Howards Drive in the Peasholm Park section of Scarborough in North Yorkshire is continuing to defy all the odds. Specifically, he has been taking the North Bay Railway (NBR) from his home to the Sea Life and Marine Sanctuary in Scalby Mills on a weekly basis for the past eight years.
Best of all, he apparently never has gotten lost on any of his trips. That remarkable feat is attributable in no small part to the uncanny sense of time that he and all cats possess.
"He always knows when the train is coming as well," Sharon Jarvis of Sea World disclosed back in 2009. "He is a very smart cat." (See Cat Defender post of November 14, 2009 entitled "Percy Takes the Train All by Himself in Order to Visit the Penguins at an Aquarium in Scarborough.")
His task of navigating the rails is also greatly facilitated by the fact that the NBR runs only between Peasholm Park and Scalby Mills and does not make any stops along the way. The 1.4 kilometer trip additionally is a rather short one in that it takes less than three minutes from start to finish.
The trains themselves are of the miniature variety that often are found in amusement parks. Furthermore, four of the five locomotives used on the line have been in service since the 1930's.
The only real danger that he faces lies in crossing the street from his house in Peasholm Park in order to get to the train station. Depending upon how congested the area is, there always is the chance that he could be run down and killed by a motorist.
It also is remotely possible that he could be stolen and killed as happened last September 4th to a one-year-old kitten named Derek from the Braeburn section of nearby Eastfield. The kitten, who belonged to eighteen-year-old James Nicholson, was brutally kicked to death and possibly even shot. (See The Scarborough News, September 5, 2013, "Uproar after Pet Cat Is 'Kicked to Death'.")
|The North Bay Railroad's Miniature Trains|
Generally speaking, however, Percy's riding of the NBR appears to be a rather safe undertaking and that is borne out by the fact that he has been doing so for so very long. Numerous videos of him riding the trains have been posted on YouTube, most notably one entitled "Percy: the Scarborough Station Cat." Another video, "Peasholm Park to Scalby Mills Railway" actually takes viewers along the entire route traversed by Percy.
His situation therefore is altogether different from that of a ginger-colored tom named Jasper from North Shields in Northumberland whose guardian foolishly allows him to ride the Tyne and Wear Metro. (See Cat Defender post of January 31, 2014 entitled "Northumberland Shrink Lays Claim to the Title of Being the World's Most Irresponsible Cat Owner by Turning Loose Jasper to Roam the Perilous Tyne and Wear Metro for Weeks on End.")
First of all, the Tyne and Wear Metro is a busy commuter railroad that carries 103,835 passengers on a daily basis. Also, its Yellow and Green lines make stops at a combined sixty stations over an extended 74.5 kilometer route. Its locomotives run on electricity and travel at up to eighty kilometers per hour as compared with the NBR's diesels which on most days could be outrun by a tortoise.
Secondly, there is not as far as it is known any facility or institution that the railroad services that in any way dispenses the type of caring supervision of wayward cats that Sea Life provides for Percy. Consequently, Jasper is therefore totally dependent upon the benevolence of strangers for his safety and well-being.
Thirdly, whenever Jasper ventures aboard the trains he is gone for weeks at a time whereas Percy's adventures are primarily limited to day trips. That should not be misconstrued, however, as to imply that Percy's rambles are completely worry-free.
"He likes to get about and he's always losing the tags with our phone number on them," his guardian, Yale Michael, disclosed to The Scarborough News on October 20, 2009. (See "Percy the Scarborough Rail Passenger Has Always Been a Wanderer.") "Sometimes he comes back in the morning, sometimes at night, but he always makes it home in the end."
Despite the substantial risks posed to his safety by his staying out all night and losing his tags, Michael and the staff at Sea Life know where he is at least part of the time whereas Jasper's derelict caretaker not only never knows what he is up to but, worst still, could care less whether he is alive or dead. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon Michael and his wife, Anne, to do a far better job of watching over Percy.
It never has been disclosed how Percy got hooked on riding the rails. Since he apparently was not shown the ropes by the Michaels, the most logical explanation is that he found his way onto the NBR by accident and thus eventually turned up at Sea Life.
For his part, Michael attributes Percy's Wanderlust to his upbringing. "He came to us from a farm, so I think that might explain it," he theorized to The Scarborough News in the October 20, 2009 article.
Although it likely never will be known with any certainty what exactly precipitated his rambles, there is little doubt as to what it is that sustains them. "He particularly likes watching the penguins but unfortunately they get scared of him so we have to move him away," Jarvis revealed in 2009. "But he's harmless."
Even more appealing than the birds and the fish swimming in their tanks, the staff at Sea Life dotes on him. "We all love Percy and we are sure he will carry on coming here," Jarvis predicted.
Given that cats live such terribly brief lives and coupled with the risks, no matter how small, associated with Percy's riding of the rails, that seemed like a rather overly optimistic prediction to make back then. Besides, all things good and beautiful do not last for very long in this ever-changing world.
It therefore came as quite a pleasant surprise to have recently learned that Percy is not only alive but still taking the train to Sea Life. "I am delighted to confirm that Percy the cat does still visit us here at Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary," the organization stated in a November 4th letter. "As a seasoned regular now, he likes to spend a lot of his time being the center of attention in the staff room."
Since he must be at least nine years old, he may not be riding the miniature trains for all that much longer but for the time being the cognoscenti know only too well that it is precisely him, and not the penguins, seals, otters, and fish, who is the star attraction at the aquarium. He additionally is a big hit with riders of the NBR.
"The train passengers love him and make a fuss of him," Phil Hart, a security guard on the line, told The Scarborough News in the October 20, 2009 article cited supra. "He's a lovely cat."
It would be heartwarming on this terribly cold winter's day to believe that Percy somehow will be able to find a way to continue to chug along forever much like the NBR's ancient locomotives but that would be asking too much of him. He is, after all, a mere mortal and neither time nor tide are willing to wait for any cat.
As sobering as that thought may be, it in no way detracts from the magic and beauty that he brings with him each day to Scarborough for as long as he lives which, hopefully, is going to be for a very long time to come. Although there never could be anything even remotely approaching the intrinsic value of the genuine article itself, Percy's immortality already has been assured.
For that he has Scarborough author Joe Coates to thank who last November gave posterity Percy the Cat at North Bay Railroad. He also is destined to live on in videos, photographs and, most indelibly, the memories of all of those that he has so profoundly touched throughout his remarkable life.
Photos: Scarborough Evening News (Percy and McFarlane), Tivedshambo of Wikipedia (the NBR's old trains), and the NBR on Facebook (the cover of Coates's new tome).