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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“Ready to be scrapped?” The younger engines gasped in horror.
“Yes,” said Culdee calmly. “It was a strange thing. It’s very sad to us, but he was relieved once he’d decided. One morning, he asked for the Manager to come to the Shed. They had a long talk after the rest of us left for our jobs. When we came back that evening, Godred wasn’t sad anymore. The Manager, he said, had made Arrangements for him the next day.”
“Didn’t you try to talk him out of it?” asked Alaric in alarm.
One evening, the other mountain engines came into the Shed to find Shane Dooiney already there and looking gloomy. They asked him what was the matter.
“A tooth broke off one of my pinion wheels,” he said sadly, ”and they say they have to replace it.”
“That’s not so bad,” said Patrick. “They know how to mend us at the Steamworks now. You won’t have to go to Switzerland like we used to.” Alaric and Eric agreed reassuringly, but Wilfred, Culdee, and Ernest were more sympathetic.
“Those were Godred’s wheels, weren’t they?” asked Ernest.
“Yes. They say they can’t just weld the tooth back on,” explained Shane Dooiney. “They can’t trust it not to break again. They’re going to give me new wheels instead.”
“When you used to tell me about Godred to scare me,” sniffed Patrick, “he sounded quite silly indeed. You ought to be happy not to have his silly old wheels anymore, Shane.”
“He was silly,” said Culdee, “but our Railway might have closed if not for him.”
“How’s that?” Alaric and Eric were listening raptly too.
Edward chuffed into Wellsworth shed, feeling more his age than usual. He was glad to be home and was ready for a nice rest. Duck was already there, but he looked about as tired as Edward felt.
“What’s the matter, Duck?” asked Edward earnestly.
Duck hesitated a moment, unsure how to answer. Edward was patient and gave him time to collect his thoughts.
“I may have stressed the tension in my buffer springs when I helped Henry with a heavy load of cars today,” said Duck, averting his eyes. “I’ll have to get them checked tomorrow.”
Edward laughed, but it wasn’t unkind. “Oh I see!” he said. “You pushed hard at the start of the hills and all the way to the top.”
“I couldn’t tell how much help he actually wanted,” said Duck, lowering his voice a little. “He wouldn’t say what he wanted done.”
“You shouldn’t take that personally,” said Edward.
“They’re not speaking to me at all.”
“They don’t speak to me either when I’m banking them. We’ve all been doing it so long we don’t need to anymore.” Duck was not convinced by this answer, but he didn’t argue. Edward went on.
“What colour paint would you like, Duck?” asked The Fat Controller.
Duck heard the question, but he was certain that he could not have heard it correctly.
“Beg pardon Sir?”
“All the engines on this Railway may choose what colour they would like to be painted,” explained The Fat Controller.
“There isn’t a livery?” asked Duck in confusion.
The Fat Controller laughed. “Not as such, no.”