The Sudrian Saboteur
Chapter 1: Another day on the NWR.
It was a hot summer morning at Anopha Quarry, and Mavis the quarry diesel was asleep in her shed as her driver walked up.
"Rise and shine, Mavis," he said, gently patting her running board.
Mavis yawned and blinked the sleep out of her eyes.
"Good morning, Mitch," she smiled.
"We've got a busy day ahead of us," Mitch said.
"As per usual, then?" The quarry diesel smirked.
Mitch laughed. "As per usual. Come on, old girl, let's get crackin.'"
Mavis went right to work, marshaling long lines of trucks, pushing them under the chutes to be filled with stone, and then shunting them into the sidings to be taken away.
"This is a large order," she observed, "where's it going?"
"These stones are bound for Knapford," Mitch answered, "Percy's coming up to take them down to Elsbridge, where Murdoch will take them to Knapford."
Just then, a whistle sounded out and the little green engine in question puffed into the quarry.
"Hello, Mavis," Percy smiled.
"Hi, Percy," Mavis smiled back.
"Are these the stone trucks I'm meant to take?" He asked.
"Yes," Mavis answered, "The way I see it, I'll organize them for you and you take them down to Elsbridge. How's that sound?"
"Sounds great," Percy peeped, as he headed to the turntable to get turned round.
All day long, Percy bustled back and forth between the quarry and Elsbridge, where Murdoch picked up the long lines of marshaled trucks for delivery to Knapford Harbour. It was tiring work, but the little green engine made delivery after delivery, becoming noticeably more flustered each time, until only six trucks remained.
But Percy had yet to return, and Mavis was beginning to worry.
"I hope Percy's alright," Mavis said.
"He WAS starting to look sick around those last three deliveries," Mitch concurred, "Perhaps he strained himself?"
Before they could speculate further, the foreman walked up.
"Percy's had a breakdown," he stated, "It turns out that he'd taken on some contaminated water that slowly clogged up his pipes."
"Oh, no!" Mavis exclaimed, "Is he alright?"
"His crew dropped his fire at Knapford and Peter is going to take him to the works on one of his heavy goods trains," the foreman reassured her, "so you'll have to make the last delivery yourself." He turned and walked away.
After coupling up to the trucks, Mavis collected a brake van, and set off down the branch line. As she approached a crossing, she saw a red cargo lorry stopped right on the line!
"What the?!" Mavis cried, braking hard as she came nearer and nearer to the crossing. Finally, she stopped with her buffers mere millimeters from the side of the lorry.
"What in grinding gears is this lorry doing here?!" she shouted.
Mitch climbed down from her cab and walked up to the lorry. After tapping on the window, it rolled down to reveal a rather angry looking man.
"Care to explain why your lorry's blocking the track, mate?" Mitch asked.
"So sorry sir," the man growled, "this blasted thing stalled on the crossing ten minutes ago. Been trying to fix it since."
"Why not just call for a tow?"
"Don't 'ave that kind of money."
Mitch was taken aback. The lorry driver had a certain intensity that made him uncomfortable, and found himself oddly relieved when the lorry's engine started up again.
"Alright, well, just don't let it happen again," he conceded, "Now, clear off, yeah? We're running late as it is."
The lorry driver just glared at Mitch, but rolled up his window and complied. As the lorry drove away, Mavis noticed her driver looked a little unsettled as he made his way back to her cab.
"What's wrong, Mitch?" She asked, "You look like you've seen a ghost."
"I feel like I did," Mitch sighed, "That man seemed...sinister."
Mavis couldn't help but feel a little unsettled herself as they resumed their journey. Why hadn't that man called for a tow? Or, at the very least, tried to push his lorry off the tracks? It certainly was odd, and her mind was still occupied with this as she arrived at Elsbridge, where Murdoch was waiting for the last of the stone.
The heavy goods engine noticed the diesel's troubled expression, and decided to see what was wrong. While normally not the most talkative, Murdoch wasn't one to ignore an engine who looked to be in glum spirits.
"What's the matter, Mavis?" He asked.
"Oh, nothing too important, Murdoch," she answered as she pulled away from her trucks and switched tracks, "A lorry broke down on the crossing. It's why I'm late."
"Oh. That's it?" Murdoch asked, catching Mavis slightly off guard.
"I...was expecting a bit more of a reaction," she admitted as her trucks were coupled to the back of Murdoch's train.
Murdoch would have shrugged, had he the ability.
"Incidents like those are beyond our control. It's not like you could just push it aside," he explained.
Just then, the signal dropped.
"That's for me. Gotta go, Mavis," Murdoch said and puffed away.
"Bye, Murdoch," Mavis sighed and headed back to the quarry.
Murdoch rumbled up the main line with his heavy load of stone, enjoying the peace and quiet that came with solitude while it lasted. Approaching Lower Knapford, he saw an exhausted-looking Alice at the platform with a football train and winced. Murdoch gave a curt but polite whistle of sympathy to the green Atlantic engine as he passed through, getting a whistle back before he left the station behind.
Trundling on, the heavy goods engine savored the last modicum of peace and quiet as the main line terminus at Knapford came into view, and engines bustled to and fro. Bear rushed by with a growl and a roar, a line of maroon coaches behind him. A rather filthy and very grumpy James passed through with a train of oil tankers. Douglas sat outside the terminus on the line leading to the Little Western with a goods train, chatting with Lily, who was waiting for her signal to take her delivery of empty cattle trucks and grain hoppers to the farms along Thomas's Branch Line.
The black, Scottish tender engine and the maroon, Victorian tank engine gazed lovingly at each other as they spoke.
"So, I hear Jinty's been adjusting to Knapford Harbour quite well," Lily said, as Murdoch tried desperately to escape all the noise and large amounts of people and engines, traveling as fast as the speed limit would allow as he rumbled through the station and toward the harbour, vanishing from sight.
"Has she, noo?" Douglas replied.
"Yes, Diesel's been helping her get a lay of the land, from what Peter's told me," Lily explained, "He sure was happy when she arrived. So was Reginald."
"Aye, we all were, loove," Douglas smiled, "It's alwus nice tae have another Midi here on oor wee island, nae?"
"It sure is," Lily agreed.
"Oi! Are we gonna get movin' 'ere, or are you two just gonna keep gazing into each other's eyes?!" Shouted one of Lily's cattle trucks.
"Yeah!" A box van at the front of Douglas' train agreed, bumping the Scottish engines tender, "Get a move on, lover boy!"
"Ach! Haud yer wheesht!" Douglas snapped, holding his brakes firm, "In case ye gits haven't noticed, baith av oor signals are red!"
"Indeed! I don't know about you prats, but I have no interest in causing problems!" Lily sharply agreed before a smug grin formed on her face," Besides, I'm quite content to chat with my Douglas until the signals do change. Speaking of which, I'm assuming you're headed back up The Little Western?"
"Aye. I'm takin' thes load av supplies tae th' wee engines in Arlesburgh," Douglas said.
Just then, the signal turned green, clearing Douglas' path.
"Sorry, Lily, cannae stay any longer," Douglas said, as he slowly pulled out of the station.
"Bye, Douglas. Love you!" Lily called.
"Loove ye, too!" He called back.
Leaving Knapford behind, Douglas set off down the Little Western, soon arriving at the town of Carlden, where he would pass through the station of said town. As he neared the station, he saw Rachel the Collette Goods engine, a friend of Duck, Oliver and Toad's from their Great Western days, waiting at a signal with a line of flatbeds loaded with lumber.
Giving her a whistle, Douglas puffed through as Rachel gave a whistle of her own.
As Douglas traveled down the line toward Tidmouth, he took in the sights around him. While he and his twin had been assigned to the Little Western for nearly fourteen years, there was something about the costal Branch Line that never ceased to amaze.
By the time his contemplation had reached this point, Tidmouth was in sight, and waiting at the platform was Donald with a passenger train.
"Afternoon, Dougie!" Donald called to his twin as he passed through.
"Afternoon, Donal'!" Douglas called back. The Scottish twins grinned at each other before Douglas rumbled through, now allowed to put on more speed.
Between Tidmouth and Tidmouth Hault, there is a junction that leads to Knapford Harbour, and just beyond that is a single-track tunnel with Tidmouth Hault directly on the other side, where the track splits into two to accommodate trains running in both directions.
Douglas was nearing this junction as he continued his journey, and he began to think about the stories that Colin, Lily and Adam had told him about how they had helped Thomas, Toby, Edward, Glynn and Samson build it during the Great War and chuckled to himself. To hear the three W&S engines tell it, one would think they had done all the work while the five FM&K engines sat on their wheels.
"Somethin' funny, Dougie?"
"Ah, jist thinkin' about a story tha' Lily tauld me."
"I'm sure that's not the only thing you're thinking about, then," his driver smirked.
"Ah, haud yer weesht, Aaron," Douglas chuckled as they entered the tunnel.
As they came out the other side, they saw Oliver and Toad with a train of ballast trucks on the line opposite theirs.
"Afternoon, Oliver, Toad!" Douglas whistled as he passed through the Hault onto the costal run.
"Hello, Douglas!" Oliver greeted warmly.
"Hello, Mr. Douglas!" Toad called as the Scottish engine snorted away.
The costal portion of the route came into view as the two tracks of the Hault converged into one again. Douglas sighed contentedly. He never understood why Daisy complained about this part of the line. The ocean view, the sea air, the white, sandy beaches and the lush countryside. All her talk about it being "Bad for her swerves" sounded like a load of rubbish to the Caledonian.
But not even Daisy's inane screeching could dampen his spirits, and he whistled long and loud as he rumbled through Haultrough. Unfortunately, trouble lay ahead.
Up at Bluff's Cove, Duck was waiting at the platform with his three slip coaches, Johnny, Becky and Steven, for Douglas to pass through. The slip coaches had many passengers on board, including Sir Topham Hatt, who had come from a meeting with Mr. Duncan, the controller of the Arlesdale Railway, and was on looking forward to a supper of bangers and mash.
Douglas snorted along the coast as he came into view, letting out a long whistle as he crossed the bridge between the signal box and the station.
But that friendly whistle of greeting turned to one of shock and horror when he suddenly swerved into the siding!
"Losh sakes!" Douglas cried as he smashed through the buffers, ploughing through the grass, rocks and earth before coming to a rest on the beach, tipping over onto his side.
"Bloody Nora!" Johnny cried.
"Blimey!" Becky screamed.
"Great fires of London!" Steven shouted.
"Douglas!" Duck shouted as Sir Topham Hatt ran over to inspect.
Douglas lay sprawled on his side. His driver had a concussion and his fireman had broken his arm. Duck's crew quickly helped them up to the station and called for an ambulance.
Douglas' train was in a right mess. The three box vans at the front of his train lay about the beach behind him, while the three coal trucks behind them remained upright, but sat in the grass in front of the siding. The next two vans and the small flat carrying pipes between them had been the last trucks to derail, coming only slightly off the tracks. By great fortune, the two fuel tankers, the last box van and the brake van had remained on the rails.
"Douglas?! DOUGLAS!" Sir Topham Hatt shouted.
"Oh, thank goodness," he sighed before continuing, "I realize that this is a foolish question, but are you alright, Douglas?"
"'ow's me crew?"
"They're injured, but they'll survive. An ambulance has been called down to take them to hospital," Sir Topham Hatt reassured him, "Now, how are you holding up?"
"I've bin better, Sir. I'm in a lot av pain, and I'm awfully confused. Why waur th' points sit tae th' sidin'?"
"I don't know, Douglas," Sir Topham Hatt said, anger entering his tone, "but I intend to find out."
The Fat Controller stormed over to the signal box, marched up the stairs and opened the door. When he looked inside, all his anger fell away and was replaced by shock and horror.
There the signalman sat, tied to his chair and gagged with a cloth.