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.

“Maybe he’s meant to be having a Lesson,” supposed Ernest. “There wouldn’t be a point in taking his name away otherwise.”

“Unless they took it because they’re going to send him away,” said Wilfred.

“Wherever would they send him to?”

No. 6 didn’t worry, not even after the older engines told him what happened to Godred. No. 6 thought for sure he’d be let out of the Shed soon enough. The Railway couldn’t run as well without him. The fitters said they could mend him. It’d be a waste to keep him out of service.

He became less sure of this the longer he remained in the back of the Shed.

But you remember that The Manager eventually did let him out of the Shed, don’t you? The coaches didn’t want to be pushed by him so No. 6 was made to push The Truck instead.

The Manager usually reserved the new engines for passenger trains so No. 6 had never met The Truck before. One of the older engines would push it up the mountain early in the morning before anyone else left the Shed. When he first saw it up close, he was surprised.

“You’re… you were…” he trailed off.

“Yes?” drawled the Truck daringly.

No. 6 didn’t want to get off on the wrong wheel with The Truck on his first day back out of the Shed, but he was stuck now.

“You used to be a coach,” he answered delicately.

“That’s right.”

No. 6 tried to think of something to say. The Truck thought of something first.

“I hear,” said the Truck, “from the coaches that you are reckless and go too fast.”

“Those coaches! They’re just-”

“I hope you’re strong as well,” interrupted The Truck. “I’m quite a bit heavier than they are. It won’t do if you can’t get us to Summit in good time. Our train is terribly important, you know.”

No. 6 didn’t know. The Truck didn’t look very important, even once it was loaded with coal and workers. He doubted that he was being given that important job if The Manager was still cross with him.

For important work, the job was very dull. The Truck was indeed heavier than the coaches were and it was slow going pushing it up the mountain. There was a lot of waiting as well. Once they’d delivered all the supplies needed at the Summit Hotel for the day and took the previous day’s rubbish back down, there was nothing more for them to do until it was time to collect the workers.

“Do you miss being a coach?” asked No. 6 to make conversation.

“Not especially,” yawned The Truck. It had been resting its eyes.

“…If you were a coach, then you must have had a name.”

“…Yes.” It didn’t sound like The Truck wanted to tell him what it was.

“I had a name,” No. 6 said instead, ”but they took it away.”

“Some of us,” said The Truck matter-of-factly, “are lucky enough to get named more than once.”

“But I haven’t been renamed,” complained No. 6 sadly. “I have no name at all now. And what sort of name is ‘The Truck’ if you’re so lucky?”

“All of my siblings had names too,” said The Truck, unbothered by No. 6’s pique. “There were five of us, one for each engine. But I’m the only one still here to be Useful. And “The Truck” is a fine name for me as I am now.”

“What did you do then,” asked No. 6, “that they chose you to be turned into a Truck out of the lot?”


“Nothing at all?” he asked incredulously.

“My engine was King Godred,” explained The Truck. “When they decided they needed a Truck, I had no engine so I was available for salvage.”

“Oh,” said No. 6. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be. My job is important and only I can do it. It’s why I’m the only one they kept when they bought the new coaches,” said The Truck evenly. “You can see why they’re afraid to work with you though. None of them want to end up like me. Or like the coaches they replaced.”

No. 6 grunted noncommittally at that, but he looked contrite.

“Do you like ‘The Truck’ better than your old name?” he asked after a while. He heard The Truck let out a snort and he suddenly felt very silly for being preoccupied with names. It took its time answering him.

“I’m different now,” it said carefully. “My old name was for a coach. When I was a coach, I concerned myself with being clean and presentable and comfortable. When I was needed, anyway,” it added ruefully. “What the Railway really needed, though, was someone who could get the workers and their supplies to the Summit first thing. You cannot be worried about dust or bumps then.”

“They could have let you keep your name, at least,” said No. 6 sympathetically.

“They didn’t take my name,” said The Truck lazily. “They forgot what it was since it didn’t fit anymore.” It rolled its eyes at No. 6’s misplaced pity. “They took your name,” it explained, “because they didn’t like how Lord Harry was. So now you are No. 6 instead. If you are clever – and I think you might be – No. 6 will be just the engine they needed.”

No. 6 wanted to be cross, but he wanted to be clever too so he kept quiet.

A few days later, it was bright and clear but very windy. No. 6 pushed The Truck up the mountain to the Summit. The wind didn’t worry No. 6 and it didn’t worry The Truck until it was unloaded. On the way back down the mountain, The Truck was much lighter without its water and coal and stores. The wind beat against its sides with a threatening force.

“The wind is jostling me,” complained The Truck loudly. It almost had to shout to be heard over the bluster. “Could we go faster?”

“Faster?” asked No. 6. Certainly no coach had ever asked him to go faster.

“Please?,” insisted The Truck, “My wheels are practically coming off the rails.”

No. 6 was torn. He didn’t feel as though the wind was that strong and he wasn’t keen on making another mistake so quickly. He was a lot heavier than The Truck was though. All it had to weigh it down was yesterday’s rubbish. Even though The Truck had asked to go faster though, No. 6 didn’t think The Manager would hear of it if anything went wrong.

She doesn’t complain usually, No. 6 considered, so if she says the wind is too strong for her, it must be. And she’s… well, she’s not nice exactly but she hasn’t been afraid to go with me. She’s not silly about it like those coaches are.

No. 6 did put on a little more speed, but he still kept a close eye on the line and listened for any objection from The Truck.

He was lucky he’d been so careful. All at once, he heard a screech of brakes and felt the weight of The Truck lift off his buffer. The Truck was pulling away from him! Impossible! He braked himself, coming to a stop a few yards down the line from it. From there, he could see that The Truck hadn’t pulled away, but had simply stopped. It had only looked like it was going back up the mountain because he had been going faster than usual.

“6?” called The Truck to him worriedly. “6!?”

No. 6 gave two short blasts on his whistle and drove forward back up the line.

“I’m here! I’m here!” assured No. 6. “Don’t worry. I’ve got you.” He buffered back up to The Truck to support its weight. It let off its brakes when it could feel No. 6 holding it up and he resumed their descent.

“What happened?” he asked.

“The wind knocked my guard off balance,” explained The Truck, “and he accidentally threw on my brake.”

No. 6 was relieved. It wasn’t his fault.

“No harm done then,” he said reassuringly. “Don’t give it another thought.” They eased down the rest of the way back to the Devil’s Back station. Their crews checked them over to make sure the sudden stop hadn’t damaged them.

“You were very quick to stop,” said The Truck as its wheels were inspected. “You were paying attention.”

“I didn’t want to be in another accident. I only just got back out of the Shed.”

“You were quick to answer too.”

“You sounded worried,” he brushed off, “I didn’t want you to think I’d leave you up there.”

The Truck hadn’t been worried about that but it didn’t say as much.

That night, No. 6 had pushed The Truck back into the Carriage Shed. When he was gone, the other coaches asked after the incident it’d had.

“You must have been frightened out of your wits.”

“I would be, if I had to rely on Lord Harry.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” said The Truck. “No. 6 is always most careful with me.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.