Right; good observation, Ben. The lack of a bell and the most perfunctory of whistle soundings caused me to replace the audio with music as the natural audio--largely dominated by a woman screaing at her family about crossing the street--wasn't very satisfying.
If you watch the video carefully, however, the explanation for the silent bell reveals itself: the fireman was absent from the cab.
I don't recall him from last year, but there's a new conductor--reminds me a bit of Morgan Freeman--who is just phenomenal: great personality, very engaging, really knows how to work a room...or a coach, in this case. A tremendous addition to the crew.
Entirely less satisfactory is that blasted panhandler...still there. It would be one thing if he simply dropped a hat in the middle of the coach after each of his performances and said, for example, "anyone who enjoyed the show is welcome to show his or her appreciation of the on-board talent; all tips are sincerely appreciated," or something to that effect. Instead he approaches each individual passenger and shoves an upside-down tamborine in front of you, standing there, awkwardly, until you at last relent and put something in it. That's appalling.
He did that to me and all I had was a twenty--and he wasn't worth twenty bucks, that's for sure--so I was forced to look like a jerk in front of everyone when I had nothing to give him. And he just stands there and gives me a dirty look, finally uttering a pronounced sigh before walking away, thus making the moment even more awkward. Nobody else seemed too thrilled about this method of guilting-for-tips, either: he was met by nothing but frowning dads, reluctantly opening their wallets...again. It makes for a very uncomfortable moment and they ought to stop him from doing that. Add an extra quarter to the price of each ticket and pay him at the end of the day. That's the sort of thing that makes people not want to return.
To wrap-up on a positive note, they have, this year, moved that wooden platform from the front of Curriers Depot to the rear of it, providing a much more pleasant place to consume hotdogs: in the shade with a view of the train. Very sensible. And in front of the depot, they've replaced the platform with an old luggage cart which has been transformed into a flower bed. It makes for a very nice visual prop.