The Future is Still Silver and Black: 1973

December 1972

Dear Silver Pilot,

I’m glad that you wrote again despite not receiving a reply. I know what that’s like and I’m sorry you were left waiting. That letter would simply have said that I was happy for you to be running again and that you were going to be a big hit for your Members Day. It’s for the best perhaps. That message might have been disappointing after such a setback.

A broken valve spring isn’t too bad though. It should be an easy enough fix and you’ll be pulling your train again soon.

In the meantime, being a static display isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s not as good as taking visitors for a proper ride, but they get to spend more time with you when you don’t have anywhere else to be. Here at the MSI, they can tour my coaches and look at us more closely. If they were still able to eat their lunch in Ceres, maybe they could let visitors tour the rest of your coaches too? Sometimes people even squat down to look at our trucks and get up close to our wheels. They couldn’t do that if we were moving. It’d be too dangerous. Being static lets them admire you in ways they can’t otherwise.

Being stationary can be good that way. It’s a lot like when I was new and we went on tour to let people inspect us before we went into regular service. If you spend a good long while looking over a train, you’re likely to remember him!

I’m sure your volunteers are eager to get you repaired though. You’re so close to being operational and they’ve put so much work in already, they’d be foolish to put it off any further. I’m sure they won’t keep you in suspense like I did.

Your friend,

Pioneer Zephyr

Next Stop… 1973!

Engines in Sidings: Diesel in the Dark

Diesel didn’t much like working in the shunting yard these days. Half the sidings had sad steam engines sitting idle in them. They made him uncomfortable with their long faces and longing looks. When he rolled by to arrange his trucks, they would try to talk to him and ask about the goings on at the station.

“I can’t sit around here with you,” he’d say snidely. “I have work to do.”

He did have work to do, but he also didn’t want any other diesels to see him talking to the steam engines. The diesels were quite proud of how well they were replacing steam. When they worked in the Yard, most of them would leer and jeer and honk their horns at the steam engines. Steam, they said, was going to be abolished soon. Diesel didn’t know what “abolished” meant exactly, but he could guess that the steam engines would all be scrapped because of it.

One night, he was putting some trucks in order for the next day when he heard something along the track out of the Yard. (more…)

Once, and Then, No More

2903 wasn’t sure what possessed him to accompany U-505 up to the roof. On any other night, he would have suspected a trick or trap of some sort. Not that he thought U-505 would actually do anything to him – no one wanted to make trouble for the museum – but there was no reason why U-505 should want to invite him to the roof and it would be foolish not to be wary around an enemy.

He didn’t think U-505 would have asked on any other night though.

Today had been one of U-505’s reunions. Crewmen from the American ships who had captured him would get together and visit him about once every ten years. These events had always been a matter of malcontent for U-505 and he’d be more terse and cutting than usual in the days leading up to them. 2903 had to admit though that U-505 remained professional and would be a good, albeit stoic, sport while their veteran seamen were there. It helped that Pioneer and 999 would turn on their practiced charm and run interference whenever the men would say something tactless or to divert the topic when U-505 chanced to ask what news there was of the ships who had captured him. The ships never attended these parties and he’d stopped asking after them two reunions ago. When the men would leave, U-505 would wait out the rest of the day’s work, then make himself scarce to brood about having to play nice with Admiral Gallery and his rapidly aging crewmen.

This reunion, however, was the first time U-505’s own crew had attended as well.

The Future is Still Silver and Black: 1972

February 1972

Dear 9952-A,

May I call you Silver Pilot? I think numbers are a little impersonal when you have a name.

The docents here at the Museum of Science and Industry suggested that I might like to write to you. They think I get bored out here on the lawn. Conversation with the U-boat still leaves something to be desired and it can be too loud to talk to the steam engines during the day since they’re set so far away.

Congratulations on your acceptance to the Illinois Railway Museum. And to pull the Nebraska Zephyr no less! That’s a magnificent train. (Don’t tell my cars I said that though, haha!) I was very happy to hear that another of us has been returned to service.

And it is service, have no doubt. (more…)

Engines in Sidings: Cracked Up


Duck winced as the rock flew up past his face and struck his funnel at an angle. This wasn’t an altogether unusual occurrence, except this was the first time he felt cool air whistle through to the inside afterwards.

“Oh dear,” he said.

“That didn’t sound good,” said his Driver.

“It doesn’t feel good,” admitted Duck.

“We’ll take a look at it once we get back to the Shed.”

Duck hoped it wasn’t anything serious. The Summer holiday makers would be arriving soon, and the Little Western couldn’t afford to be behind schedule.

Engines in Sidings: The Truck

The rest of the mountain engines teased Lord Harry all night for coming off the rails and jamming the points.

“Old Harry,” chuckled Culdee, “can stand on the points twice as fast as any of the rest of us.”

“And he does it in perfect safety!” added Wilfred. “In fact, the whole line is perfectly safe if no one else can move on it either.”

None of them thought it was funny when they came back from their jobs the next day. While they were out, the Manager had sent workmen to move Lord Harry to the back of the Shed and to take his name away.

Even King Godred had been allowed to keep his name. The other engines were worried for No. 6.

Engines in Sidings: New Engine

Duke had been surrounded by fitters and people from the Railway Board all morning. He was tired of being inside.

“My pistons are stiff,” he groused. “I’ve seen enough of the indoors for a lifetime. I want to feel the sun on my running boards.”

“We can let you into the Yard,” agreed his Driver. “But you’ll have to stay put while we finish the safety checks. Can’t have you breaking down tomorrow on your big day.”

“What cheek!” scoffed Duke. “Are all you Drivers so impertinent these days?” But he was pleased when they released his brakes and let him steam forward out of the Shed.

The Yard was unusually crowded. Most of the little engines had been pulled from duty early for cleanup and general maintenance ahead of tomorrow’s celebrations. Skarloey, Rheneas, Peter Sam, and Sir Handel were happy to see Duke out and about.

Engines in Sidings: Steady Eddie

“Diesel told me the silliest story today while I was helping him get his trucks back in order,” said Percy. He backed into the Shed next to Edward. “It was about you,” Percy told him.

“Really?” said Edward.

“Why are you listening to Diesel about anything?” scoffed Henry.

“Because,” said Percy, “Diesel lies and his stories are funny when you know that. Like today, he said that Edward told this story to him, but I know he was lying.”

“I should like to hear this story I told him then,” said Edward.

“Well,” began Percy. “One day, said Diesel, Edward puffed into the docks. Emily and Gordon were there already. Then The Fat Controller arrived too.”

This Is Mr. Conductor Talking; I Know What I’m Talking About

“Your steam engines are splendid,” said the Duchess of Boxford.

“Don’t ya like them?” asked Sir Topham Hatt. “I do. That’s why they don’t make ’em anymore. They found out I like ’em. That’s the way it is with everything. They find out I like it, they stop makin’ it.”

“The winds be calm,” said Salty sagely.

“Well, if they’re calm,” said Cranky, “they’re not really winds, are they?”

Salty considered.

“Aye,” he conceded.

An angry farmer was telling Mavis just what she could do with her train!

“Why do we assume everyone knows where they can stick it?” asked Mavis. “Suppose you don’t know? Suppose you’re a new guy, and you have absolutely no idea where you can stick it?”

Engines in Sidings: The Favourite

It was to be the Storybook Festival on the Skarloey Railway. People from near and far would come to admire the engines and hear the stories that had been written about them. All the little engines had received new coats of paint for the occasion, and were quite excited.

Rheneas gave Duncan a bump on accident as he was shunting his trucks into place.

“Mind the paint!” hissed Duncan. “I’ll no’ have it scratched before the Festival. Not that I expect anyone will notice if it is,” he huffed. “Every year they come to see the Little Old Engines, not poor Duncan, no sir. All the work I do, and none of the credit–”

Skarloey was sitting at the other platform watching them. He laughed. “Now, now. I don’t think The Thin Controller would be very happy if his favourite engine didn’t look his best,” he said, and he winked at Rheneas, like this.