A crack of lightning flashed across the sky, inside Tidmouth sheds the only engines awake (Edward, Gordon, and Henry) nearly leaped in surprise. Outside heavy winds and rains battered the Island of Sodor, all trains going across bridges had been cancelled and as such the three engines were being cleaned for the night instead of taking their trains.
"Blasted storms like a hurricane!." Henry said crossly as wind and rain battered the doors. Gordon and Edward could only agree as another crack sounded out. Then Edward said, "Since we're close together, let us have a chat to take our mind off this storm."
"About what?" Gordon inquired.
"How about stories we don't often talk about or that Thomas is somehow not aware of." Edward replied with a glint of humor. The other two engines grimaced at that, it was bizarre that the tank engine always seemed aware of those tales. "I will start if you don't mind gentlemen. I have had this one simmering in my smokebox for some weeks. My, ahem, victory over 87546." Edward added "I enjoy Ducks company but I haven't had a chance to tell this one because of him."
Henry chuckled, "I bet. No offense to quackers but he dominates storytime." He eyed Duck who was snoring, it almost sounded like quacking. Before he could listen further to confirm it Edward began his tale.
Edwards Postal Rescue
Inside the big shed where Edward stayed with the other big engines was a locomotive named 87546. He was a similar engine to Henry but smaller and considered himself superior than his bigger cousin. However, Gordon and Henry, the biggest engines in the shed were usually entrusted with the most important jobs. As such 87546 often grumbled and made demands of the smaller engines.
"Get moving Old Timer!" He barked one morning. Edward, the engine being coalled in front of the 4-6-0 ignored the seething engine. His driver patted the cab, "We're done, come on old man." Edward complied instantly and sped away. 87546 glared at the retreating engine as the shedmaster came over.
"Due to a derailment Gordon is taking a charter train to the mainland tonight. You will be taking his mail trains to and fro." The man said. 87546 nearly complained about getting no rest but ceased and instead said "I will be happy too. Will there be coaches?"
"Yes there will be." The man said, "No showing off though." 87546 wasn't listening and instead was planning to one up Henry and the others instead. All through the day he swaggered around the yards boasting of his important trains.
The trucks and coaches were very cross with 87546 and thought of ways to pay him out. However the matter resolved itself very neatly that evening.
87546 came in with a passenger train looking rather smug, then it happened. Some points had jammed due to debris from a improperly secured container on a conflat. The signalman had just learned of it and set the signal for the passenger train to danger. However the vain engine sped past it and worked against the brakes.
"No need to brake, nothing to worry about!" The engine chortled. The coaches, alarmed put on their brakes but the engine surged on to the points where he finally realized the danger.
The 75 ton locomotive came off the rails and onto the ballast and sleepers.
"What the? Help me!" He wailed to Thomas who was taking the truck that caused the issue.
"Not a chance! I have my own work to do." Thomas replied with a wheesh. Some time later, 98462 arrived with the breakdown gang and coaches. He took the disgruntled passengers in the coaches while the gang lifted 87546 back onto the rails.
Meanwhile, in Vicarstown station just before the accident. Edward was talking to one of his brothers. Then the stationmaster came up looking perturbed.
"Is everything alright?" Edwards brother asked.
"Terrible, that blasted ten wheeler swaggers around the yard all day and then derails himself because his smokebox door was too far up the exhaust! Now I have to get Gordon steamed up for the Postal train. Won't he be pleased?"
Edward smiled and said "Richard, how good are you at double heading?" The engine looked at Edward inquiringly then his eyes opened. "Very good. Kenneth returned from the works today and is raring for work. Im certain he would enjoy my passenger train. If so Ill be happy to double head. If not, Im certain Kenneth would help."
The stationmaster had listened and as they finished said "I will go and make arrangements now." Some minutes later the crews of both engines rushed over to their engines. Soon, the two former Furness express locomotives shot off towards Tidmouth to meet their postal train.
Later that night in Vicarstown sheds, 87546 was complaining. Next to him Geoffery and Henry looked at him crossly while Thomas was in the yard getting the late night trains assembled so he could sleep through the night. Henry and Geoffery wished they could join him.
"The cheek of the Shedmaster grounding me!" 87546 wailed, "And now no one's taking the mail train." Henry finally decided to assert himself. "Be quiet, the only reason you are angry is because you aren't taking it. Also, the Fat Director probably got Gordon to do it. He'll be insufferable though."
Then they heard whistles, "Alright, LMS engines then."
Then to the shock of the three engines, the postal train passed with Edward and Richard heading it. Edward and Richard before they passed yelled "Boo Snubs!" To 87546.
"How did he react?" Edward asked Henry. The green engine looked puzzled and then confused before saying "Don't remember much." The other two looked somewhat worried, Henry's memory loss of a good chunk of his pre-Sodor days after the Kipper accident was well known and despite Crewes reassurance the big engine was alright, the two engines found themselves becoming worried at times. Then Henry said "Ah, doesn't matter. Knowing him it was fifteen minutes of screaming and twenty of sullen silence from past experiences." The other two looked relieved when Henry said "Still, not as great as the time I proved superior to that rotter Spencer."
"What did happen there? I was at Crewe for my, rebuild, and he or the other engines wouldn't talk." Gordon asked while Edward looked puzzled.
Henry chuckled, "Ah yes, February 1939. You were losing sleep over fears of German bombers and what your siblings would think of the rebuild, James manned up and started pulling goods trains in preparation, Edward was sent for a maintenance and a slight rebuild at Vulcan Works. What an eventful year. If not for the Corporal it would've been a pleasant year." He added ruefully.
Henry the Green Engine roared up Gordons Hill with a full express. He puffed hard and soon was speeding down to Vicarstown. It was a pleasant day despite the chilly weather.
The big engine thus had a good mood as his driver had already agreed to going to the siding in the forest by the sheds for a rest. It was then Henry first saw Spencer rocket past with the Sudrian. The silver engine shot past faster than Henry and with a large express.
Henry shook in surprise, "What was that?" He asked.
The driver, forewarned and thus forearmed replied "Spencer, he's here to take over while Gordons at Crewe. You may know him as Silver Link." "That Silver Link?" Henry replied impressed.
"The very same. It's rumored Topham may buy another locomotive and Spencers here to give him an idea of what to order." The driver responded. Henry sniffed and said "Well, if he's anything like Gordon then he'll be a treat. I can't wait to talk to him."
The driver patted him and said "That's the spirit old boy." Throughout the day Henry went to and fro watching Spencer pass by. All the time planning on what to say to him at the sheds that night.
That night Henry pulled into Tidmouth where he heard an unfamiliar voice talking to Thomas and Percy. "If Sir Topham can't see the problem on Sodor, then why should we support your grubby little railway?"
The green engine sniffed, Those Tank Engines!, he thought. However Spencers comment stung, for all his life Henry thought of Sodor as home. Despite his issues and values, the big engine never considered the mainland as home in the way Sodor was. He knew that mainland engines, intentionally or not, made it clear they didn't hold them on their pedestal ever since FUK and it made him cross. Despite that the tender engine was cross with the tank engines for causing Spencer to spew these words by agitating him.
Thus he went into the shed determined to cause grief to the tank engines.
Inside were indeed the three he suspected, on the other tracks were Molly and Edward looking cross. Henry then whistled and said "Enough, it's time for a good rest. I do apologize Spencer for their behavior. They're usually better behaved."
Before Edward or Molly could warn him Spencer spoke, "This is just another example of the problem on this island. Some measly mixed traffic thinks that he can act like a Express engine! What nonsense is this?"
Henry looked devastated for a moment before coldly saying "Good night." His crew, fiercely loyal cleaned him out with sullen looks on their faces but later hid themselves after they were done. After all the other engines and crews either fell asleep or left Henrys emerged and went up to him.
"Sorry about that Old Boy. Rotten Mainland engines have no manners these days." His driver soothed. Henry snorted and said "Usually most have tact. There has to be a way to remind him to get off the high horse to use a human term."
"Very apt, I have an idea though." His fireman took out a Almanac and showed Henry and driver a page. The three, as they had in the past debated about ideas and soon settled on one. The crew went home while Henry went to sleep satisfied that Spencer would soon be regretting his words.
April is the most hated month on Sodor by the engines and railwaymen. Rain falls almost daily and rails get slippery. However as the clouds of war were getting darker over the horizon the engines and crews worked hard. One evening the engines were in the shed before the night rush when the shedmaster came in.
"Evening you lot. The board of Directors has made an agreement for a special run to Carnforth. James will be taking it so I need Henry and Spencer to run the regular expresses."
The two engines grinned but Spencer cut in with "Shouldn't you get a real express engine to do that work?" The Shedmaster glared and said "I hear the Kipper needs a new engine." The silver engine took the hint and shut up.
"Now, I want to warn you two. The express to Vicarstown is predicted to get real heavy soon with people seeking to escape this weather during the Easter Weekend. Twelve coaches or so." Henry gulped at this and asked "Will we get a banker?"
"Pah! Who needs a banker? On the mainland I could pull that easily." The Shedmaster sighed and said "Yes Henry." The green engine smiled. Partially because it would be appreciated but also because Spencer had walked into a trap.
Gordons Hill is steep and to the engines of Sodor, a massive pain in their reputations. For nessecity the express is smaller than those on the mainland. Most mainland engines thus mock to the Sodor engines for being weaker than them unaware of Gordons Hill. Engines from Lickley and Lindal are the few who understand. Since Spencer was not from either he felt proud of himself for showing up the green engine.
The first run from Vicarstown went well and Spencer boasted loudly while Henry, doing the run to Vicarstown felt exhausted as he came into the station. Then he saw James at the platform looking ready to explode.
"Hullo, what happened?" Henry called.
"Signal box failed! The directors took a bus to the next station where a charter train is waiting and I'm stuck with trucks later!" James roared.
Henry smiled and said "I have an idea, come over here." James came over interestedly and a few minutes later grinned with his crew. "Really Henry, you would do that for me?"
"Yes." Henry replied.
A few minutes later James and Henry were coupled in front of the train. Henry was to bring back James with the express for his freight train.. However the two had arranged for a different schedule.
The two left some minutes later with the Sudrian, the train wasn't heavy but the rain caused one or two hydroplaning incidents. The train was somewhat late as they climbed Gordons Hill, as they came across over the crest, both engines gaped.
Spencer looked sullen and was stuck on the hillside. Around him passengers and the crew milled angrily about. James said "Lets see what happened."
The train slowed and James called "What happened?"
"Bloody fool burst his safety valve trying to climb instead of requesting help." The guard called. Henry and James looked at Spencer who glared but said nothing. Then James said "I'll be happy to do it. My schedules cleared "
The people looked at James happily and the express to Tidmouth shot forward. At Wellsworth, James went to rescue the express after getting turned while Henry went on.
After several long days of work, Gordon finally returned home and Spencer was sent away in disgrace. The engines all agreed they were better off.
"So thats what happened. I was curious about why no one wanted to talk about the A4." Gordon replied. "A pity he couldn't learn sense fast enough." Then he chuckled, "Ah well, we all can't get lucky."
"Well, compared to Great Northern." Gordon blushed in embarrassment as Henry. Thompson's modifications of his closest relative still stung despite both Great Northern and Thompson being long gone.
Then Gordon sighed, "Water under the bridge." The other engines fell silent before a crack of lightning was heard. Then he smiled and said "This night reminds me of my last train on the LNER before being sold."
Henry raised his eyebrows, "You ran?"
"1921 to 1922. I became know as Gresleys Tinker Toy for all the adjustments he did with me." The big engine responded fondly.
Edward smiled, "One more story before we nod off." Gordon looked surprised and said "One more? Oh well, let me think." Henry winked at Edward as the blue engine had maneuvered the larger engine into telling about the final run. Gordon rarely thought up alternatives when put on the spot, at once a weakness and a strength. After a moment the big engine said "I'll tell you about my final run. I can't think of anything else. Let me just say, if not for that run I might not be here."
The two engines raised their eyes and Henry said "Pray tell."
"It all began in April of 1922, fourteen days before you went into the tunnel." Henry glared at Gordon for that. "The final adjustments to my body before the Crewe rebuild had been completed."
April 19th, 1922
"What's our train today Inspector?" The Pacific asked. The Inspector said "Boat Train to the Midland Railway." Gordon raised an eyebrow, "Am I suitable enough?"
"You should be." The man replied thoughtfully. Gordon sniffed rudely, "Bloody small railway will damage me." His driver patted the footplate, "Look on the bright side. Mr. Gresley may find some new principle to test on you." Gordon harrumphed and said "I do want to work eventually."
"Ah don't worry, with Great Northern and Sir Frederick Banbury on the rails it seems like Gresley will calm down on ye." His fireman assured him. Gordon rolled his eyes before a voice said "I don't believe it." next to Gordon was Great Northern who was looking at a paper.
"Whats wrong?" Gordon inquired.
"That blooming Gresley sold 4472 to some pipsqueak railway called the North Western." The younger engine replied.
"The London North Western Railway? That's hardly a small railway." Gordons driver replied.
"Apparently it's so small a special tender is being built for it." Great Northern replied. Gordon chuckled. "We are the future of railways. Of course they need a smaller tender, 4472 has to work on lines that can support him." Great Northern smiled.
"Its all so simple! Bless you Gordon I would certainly never thought of that!" The engine called out. Gordon grinned smugly at the compliment while his driver shook his bearded face.
Soon Gordon left to collect the train and came to the platform. A C1 came up "You be careful young one. The Midlanders aren't like us. They're a silly lot who think we're too big and fat." Normally the big engine would've felt offended at being talked like a child but noticing the exhausted express engines face he smiled kindly and replied "I will. You get some rest miss." The engine smiled and left to the sheds without another word.
Soon Gordon had departed, rain had begun to fall and the warm night sky caused him to drift off several times until….
Gordon jumped knocking the crew in the cab around, "Bloody Hell!" was the nicest of the curses coming from there. Embarrassed Gordon turned his eyes and saw passengers getting off the Cunard Steamer. Remembering his tutors-
"You had a what?" Edward asked disbelievingly.
"A tutor, my siblings and I are high class engines. We would be dealing with high class people. So Mr. Gresley provided us with tutors, some for language, others for reading, others for societal norms-" Henry interrupted then "Really?
"Of course! There was a train loving aristocracy in London consisting of usually lonely divorcees, widowers or widows. I knew one old widow who came up to sheds and would talk with express engines about Homer, Shelley and Ovid for hours. The language was so we could talk to important foreigners like Americans or Frenchmen. I'm certain Duck could assure you that this is true." Gordon protested and explained at the same time.
"With training like yours no wonder you disliked goods trains." Edward admitted. Gordon grinned appreciating the comment. Henry chuckled and said "Glad I wasn't an express engine now. I doubt I could remember all that."
Gordons grin grew broader and he said, with a touch of smugness hidden, "Being an express engine, a true express engine is a lot of work. Now anymore questions?"
Both engines said no and Gordon continued, "The Mauretania had delivered a long line of important people coming for some armament conference and to me, more importantly, a group of important destined to return home on West coast of England."
Gordon felt exhausted, he had been required to assist the workers direct foreigners as the bustle ensured they got seperated from translators. Most knew French but the rest had taxed his constitution as he dug up Greek, Latin, Italian and Russian phrases. As the last door banged the big engine sighed.
"What a nuisance, can't they learn French?" Gordon grumbled as the whistle blew. The driver, sensing that Gordon was inattentive blew the whistle and opened the regulator. Slowly the large express engine departed, as he cleared the docks the speed increased until the wheelers were a mere blur.
All went well and Gordon even got in early enough to see the charter engine come up. The engine was impressed and said "Good timing. I heard you GNR engines had a few too many cream pies but it seems in your case it's all muscle." The crew and engine sniggered at their remark and the big engine groaned as he went to get coalled and watered.
From the nearby sheds Gordon heard sniggering from the darkness in it. Sighing and thinking it was tank engines, the engine stopped at the hopper. After the calling was complete a voice at the top of the ramp feeding the hopper said "Blimey, that tenders huge! You eat a lot don't you?"
The driver responded with "We get our money's worth at least!"
The voice at the top replied "Blimey, maybe we need a few of you lot to make more cash around here!"
"Ah, Im certain Mr. Gresley has a plan for you lot!" Gordon grinned intensely.
Then he heard some chuckling, looking over to where his train was waiting he saw two midland engines coming to take the train to Barrow.
"What is so funny? Was it a joke?" Gordon asked interestedly, they didn't seem to be laughing at him. The two engines sniggered and his driver replied "Ignore them, those wastrels are obviously idle."
As the guard blew his whistle, one of the Midland engines yelled "Look at the tub of lard that thinks he's an express engine!" and laughing both engines departed. Gordon and crew looked at the departing train before laughing.
"That was the best they came up with?" Gordon replied a minute later. His driver slowed the laughter and said "I fear for the smaller engines. It must've taken them a while to think that up. Oh well." Gordon then went to rest in a siding sniggering at the weak insult.
Some time later he heard some shouting and saw the shedmaster for the sheds storming past. "Hello sir. You look cross." Gordon said, "What is the matter?"
"Bloody engines got too cocky and broke their safety valves. I warned them!" The man snarled, "The trains going to be late because of the time to get new engines steamed."
Gordon smiled and said "I'm available. My next train isn't for an hour, you can steam engines for that train." The Shedmaster smiled and said "Let me make arrangements."
Soon Gordon departed and rescued the train without a word to the troublemakers behind him glaring. As he came into Barrow 20 minutes early a smile of triumph came over his face. Not one ounce of damage! He showed those Midlanders!
Out of the carriage came an older man who walked up to Gordon. "Your the engine that rescued this train aren't you?" he asked. Gordon seeing he was a proper gentleman, perhaps a bit eccentric, replied modestly he had.
"A fine piece of work. You seem like a proper locomotive. Your designer must be proud. I wish I could talk more but I must go." He handed the crew 10 pounds each and left to get his train. Gordon smiled at the praise and went to get turned and fuelled.
"Two weeks later, Lord Harwick, the gentleman on my train and head of the NWR convinced Sir Topham Hatt to choose me instead of renting engines from the Furness, Midland, or LNWR until 4472 was available." Gordon replied. The engines looked amazed, "A fine piece of work." Edward replied.
"So thats why we got you. I wondered what happened there. From what I heard it nearly broke the friendship between Harwick and Hatt, ordering a Pacific that is." Henry replied. "The Fat Director always liked to say that his preference was for smaller engines." Gordon said, "Of course time was against him there."
Edward sighed, "Still at least you improved in behavior. Now let's get rest. I suspect some of us will be doing early morning repair trains." Gordon and Henry agreed and fell asleep as the rain continued to pour on Sodor.