The Prequel Railway Series no.1
Engines of Sodor and the Mainland
The Island of Sodor is best known for its railways and the engines that operatethere. The Fat Controller's Railway, the North Western, is one of them. It was formed way back in 1914 to provide traffic across the Island. Through the genius mind of one of the directors, Sir Topham Hatt, railway transport was revived inEast Sodor, but the engines were old, or otherwise too small to handle mainline workloads. So thecompany hired seven engines from the Mainland to deal with the heavier eighth was expectedto arrive in spring 1915. I'm sure you all know Thomas very well, and for that reason the first story is about him.
A New Railway
Once upon a time, there was a little brown tank engine named Thomas. He lived in a workshop with five other engines of his class.
They all spoke about how wonderful they were and argued about which one of them was the strongest.
Thomas was finished first, and a small tank engine with a tall funnel arrived to take Thomas away. His name was Boxhill. He was the works shunter and was good friends with Thomas.
"Guess who's going to be working first," boasted Thomas to his brothers and sisters. They all looked at him crossly with envy.
Thomas spoke to Boxhill, "do you know what I will be doing?"
"Haven't a clue," replied Boxhill, "but what I have heard is they are needing goods engines in London,"
Thomas liked the idea of going to London. Many of the most important people and engines lived there.
Boxhill took Thomas to the works manager. "Now number 70," he said, "you have been selected for a special job. A railway is being built on the Isle of Sodor, and you are to go and help them out,"
"Yes,sir!" replied Thomas
"Good. Boxhill, get him ready for Portsmouth."
So Boxhill shunted Thomas on to a siding and an engine picked him up and took him to Portsmouth.
At Portsmouth harbour, Thomas was put on a ship. He didn't like how the ship wobbled beneath his wheels.
He was relieved when they made it to Sodor safely, and was lifted off the ship and on to firm rails. The harbour was much smaller than the one back home, and had only one crane. In front of him was a red engine and a young, stout, nicely-dressed gentleman with a top hat.
"Welcome to Sodor," the gentleman greeted, "I am Sir Bertram Topham Hatt, one of the directors of the North Western Railway. We are pleased to have you here. What is your name?"
"Number 70, sir,"
"Yes, but you must have a name, my dear engine. What do the other engines call you?"
"That's better!" said Sir Topham Hatt.
Thomas was surprised. This smartly-dressed man certainly knew how to speak to engines.
Sir Topham Hatt turned round to the red engine, "Edward," he said, "please take Thomas to the sheds,"
"Aye, sir," said Edward. He was coupled up to Thomas and ran tender-first.
"Wheres you from?" he asked Thomas.
"Ah, yon's a long road away. What's it like?"
"There's a workshop," Thomas began, "and it's full of engines. All my brothers and sisters are there too..."
Edward took Thomas all the way to the sheds. Thomas was tired after his long journey, so as soon as he was shunted into the sheds, he fell fast asleep.
Really Useful Engine
Thomas woke up next morning to the loud hissing of engines getting ready for their trains.
There were four engines next to him, all tender engines. The closest was a proud, red engine, then another red engine, then a green engine, and finally a black engine.
"Oh hullo," said the green engine, "my name is Emily,"
"I'm Frank," said the black engine.
"I'm Johnson," said one of the red engines.
"And I'm Jennifer," said the other red engine.
"I'm Thomas," greeted Thomas.
"So you're t'new engine," said Frank, "you look verra smart,"
"He's a bit small, though, don't you think?" remarked Jennifer.
"Jennifer!" Emily scolded, "there's no cause to be rude!"
"Well I'm just saying," Jennifer began, "that this railway needs main line engines. What makes them think another tank engine would be of any help?"
Thomas was cross, "of no help? Just you wait. I'll show you what a tank engine can do!"
Jennifer laughed, "we'll see about that." Her driver pulled the lever, and she steamed away.
Thomas was soon moved to the coaling plant by Frank, where he was filled with coal, then he was moved to the water tower. Thomas liked Frank and the two engines got on well. Thomas' driver and fireman arrived and they lit his fire. Soon Thomas had plenty of steam in his boiler and was ready to work.
The yard manager came to see him. "Your job," he said, "is to bring the coaches to the station. Emily here will explain everything."
Emily soon told Thomas what to do, and before long Thomas was hard at work pushing and pulling them all day.
That afternoon, Jennifer pulled in to the big station and saw Thomas pulling some empty coaches.
"Pathetic engine," she taunted, "any engine can carry empty coaches, I pull loaded trains!"
"Wait and see!" hissed Thomas, "I'll prove to you I'm stronger!"
Jennifer laughed, "what train could you move that I couldn't?"
It rained hard that night. The engines were kept awake as it beat down on the shed roof. When the engines started their work the rails were still wet.
Thomas went to fetch Jennifer's coaches. The coaches squeaked and complained about the wet rails.
Thomas brought the coaches to the platform, and then went to fetch the coaches for another train. Jennifer backed down on the train. The coaches were sheltered by the station roof where the rails were dry, but Jennifer stood outside on wet rails.
Once the passengers had boarded, doors were shut, and the guard blew his whistle, Jennifer started.
She had barely moved a yard when she came to a standstill, "come along! come along!" she called to the coaches. Her wheels were spinning, but they couldn't grip on the wet rails. She decided to puff harder, "COME ON! COME ON! COME ON!" she called.
The Fat Director, Sir Topham Hatt, ran out of his office to see what was the matter. The stationmaster explained the situation.
"Fetch Thomas!" he ordered
"Who, sir?" asked the stationmaster
"The tank engine from Brighton," the Fat Director explained with haste, "now hurry! The train's late as it is."
Thomas arrived at the station finding Jennifer looking very cross.
"Is the train too heavy for you?" he teased.
"Of course not!" Jennifer snapped rudely, "and even if it was, fat lot you would do to help,"
"Well let's find out," replied Thomas innocently.
Thomas ran round to the back of Jennifer's train and puffed up to it ready to push, "peep! peep!" he whistled, "ready when you are!"
"Peep! Peep!" Jennifer replied reluctantly.
Thomas pushed from behind as Jennifer pulled. Clouds of smoke billowed from Thomas' funnel and his face turned red. The coaches jerked and began to move out of the station. Soon, Jennifer found she could grip the rails and the train gathered speed.
At the next station, a passenger and his son stepped off the train.
"Did you see what happened, Daddy? Another engine had to push the train!"
"Indeed," said his father, "the coaches were too heavy for Jennifer so a tank engine had to push the train for her."
"Humph!" hissed Jennifer as she vanished in a cloud of steam.
The Fat Director was pleased with Thomas.
"Well done, Thomas!" he said, "from now on, I want you to help get the trains going from behind."
"Yes, sir!" Thomas replied.
Since then, Thomas would push behind the big trains to help them get a good start. And since then, passenger trains left the station right on time.