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.
“Henry’s slow to start when he takes the hills,” he explained. “Let him take the brunt until he’s partway up, then give it all you’ve got. Your buffers will thank you.” He offered Duck an encouraging smile which Duck returned. “You’ll learn more with practice. Each engine has their own way of doing things.”
Duck looked skeptical. “Their own way?” he asked.
“Oh I just mean,” corrected Edward, smiling to himself. “Henry takes the hills gradually, but Gordon likes to run at them all at once. You’ll get left behind or dragged off your wheels if you’re not careful.”
Duck was watching Edward raptly now. “Is that so?”
“Oh yes,” said Edward. Duck’s sincere interest in his knowledge made him feel appreciated. “And James! He likes to slow down well before each station to let the passengers get a good look at his paint, but he’ll speed into curves to make up for lost time. It could give any engine a start to be behind him as he rushes headlong into a sharp turn.”
“Fascinating!” said Duck. Then his face fell. “I’ll remember that if I ever get another chance at it.”
“I wouldn’t give you advice if I didn’t think you’d end up using it, Duck.”
“But what if The Fat Controller sends me away? If I’ve damaged my buffers on top of this mess with Diesel… It’s not very Useful.”
“He wouldn’t send you away over jammed buffer springs,” scoffed Edward lightly. “Why, the accidents those big engines have had…” Edward trailed off, not wanting to gossip. “The Fat Controller has seen far worse and no one has ever been sent away over it.”
“I wouldn’t worry if it was just the springs, but to be thought a nuisance in the Yard too?” complained Duck. “It’d be less trouble to send me back to the Other Railway. And I don’t want…”
“Go on,” prodded Edward.
“You’ll think me silly for it,” warned Duck reluctantly.
“I’m sure I’ve seen sillier engines than you, Duck.”
“If I’m sent back to the Other Railway,” said Duck, “they’ll paint me black again.” His face scrunched up in distaste.
Edward considered. And then he laughed! Duck winced at his chuckle, but Edward told him, “I suppose this is the only Railway that would let an engine keep his paint in the Great Western Way.”
“It’s silly for an engine to mind what color his paint is,” said Duck guiltily. “It doesn’t make a difference to whether he can get his work done.”
“Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t,” mused Edward. “When James gets out of line, The Fat Controller threatens to paint him blue. So his red paint must help James get his work done. James is happier as a red engine too and The Fat Controller does try to keep everyone happy.”
“All the more reason for him to send me away if he thinks I tell tales about the others,” fretted Duck. “If I’ve damaged my buffers as well, he’ll be cross and send me away for sure!”
“You are silly if you think that,” scowled Edward. “He probably has Diesel all figured out and is just waiting for him to derail himself. Just you wait and see. You’ll be back to running that Yard in your own way soon enough.”
Duck had never seen Edward so annoyed before. It startled him right out of his worrying. Duck’s face must have startled Edward too because he suddenly didn’t look annoyed anymore.
“You’re catastrophizing, Duck,” he said patiently. “You’re working yourself into a panic over nothing and wearing yourself out. Go to sleep. Everything will seem less terrible in the morning.” With that, Edward yawned and settled himself for the night.
Duck considered. Edward knew better than most engines. He knew all the little things about the big engines that they likely didn’t know about themselves. He knew Duck wasn’t horrid, when all the other engines thought he was. He certainly knew The Fat Controller better than Duck did. Edward probably knew Duck had exhausted himself with the working and worrying he’d done that day too.
If Edward thinks I’m capsizing, thought Duck wearily, then I must be. He didn’t want Edward to think he was silly, but it was reassuring that he did. Duck closed his eyes and drifted off.