Backlog and Backing Down
A week after BoCo's departure, the down trodden branch line was greeted with good news: the container ship had had its hull repaired enough that it would soon be able to be towed to a special shed at Norramby where it would be repaired properly. Everyone was overjoyed that they would soon be back to a regular schedule, but this didn't mean that everything was fine.
Edward was still rather short with everyone. He was happy that the ship would be gone, but there were still a lot of supplies to be moved during this time. The blue engine continued to rush around with his trains, and despite the fact that Cole and the twins were trying to help Edward saw them all as being unhelpful.
Cole was trying to be as friendly and helpful as possible, but Edward had still not forgiven the saddle tank, still thinking he was trying to replace him. Cole hoped that they would eventually be friends, but decided not to push the situation and simply hope that things would work out for the best in the end.
Now that BoCo was gone and Bill and Ben usually stayed at a shed at the China Clay quarry, the sheds were usually thick with tension. Edward kept asking if he could stay somewhere else, possibly the old shed or go to Tidmouth, and his driver kept sternly reminding him that he had to think about the firelighters and the coal used, and staying with Cole did not waste resources or anyone's time. Edward would agree in the end, but would not talk to Cole at all, either shutting his eyes and pretending to be asleep, or staring pointedly at a spot on the wall and glaring at Cole if he tried to talk.
After a week and a half of this happening, Cole was getting pretty tired of it. He was use to chatting before going to sleep, and didn't want to be in a cramped shed in the presence of another engine and simply be ignored.
"I spoke to Trevor today. He said that the vicar brought a new cart, warned me not to hit this one," Cole said jokingly. Edward simply shot him a glare and looked away once more. "Trevor is quite nice. He told me about how you helped rescue him from the scrap yard: that was a very nice to do," Cole added, refusing to take Edward's stare. The blue engine simply made a noise in response. "I was nearly sent to the scrap yard a while ago. One of the heritage railways I was on, a port line, was shut down and I was left on a siding. Spent about two months there with diesels and electric engines glaring at me as they past, local people coming past eyeing me as a large amount of scrap metal they could harvest. It was truly terrifying, but I was quite relieved when some men came by and said they would take me to my new home."
Edward remained silent during the story, but found his eyes moving towards Cole and taking in his words. He had not given a second thought to where the engine had come from or what experiences he might have had, and many days had been wasted where they could have been discussing things like this. Cole smiled warmly at Edward, hoping he was finally getting through to him.
"I am tired, please leave me alone," Edward said suddenly and shut his eyes. Cole was rather surprised and then disappointed, but simply sighed and looked away. He had noticed Edward's tone had been a lot different when he spoke this time: maybe he was finally getting through, and Edward was finally going to accept him.
The next day, Edward was taking one of his daily passenger trains to Wellsworth Station. He had avoid talking to Cole this morning, but the story about him being left in the siding had been harrowing to hear and it kept playing on his mind. Edward wasn't sure quite what to make of the saddle tank yet, but was beginning to rethink his initial judgement.
As they approached the station, Edward suddenly saw a man standing on the side of the tracks, waving a red cloth. He was going to call out of his driver, but he was on it and Edward began to slow down as they rounded a bend, where the source of the problem became obvious: a horse was on the tracks, neighing and whinnying. Edward came to a complete stop several metres away, nearly colliding with the people trying to control it.
"That horse has always been trouble," a voice said, and Edward turned to see Trevor was next to the fence. He had been so lost in his thoughts he didn't realise where he had arrived, and quickly realised the horse must have jumped the fence.
"It's alright, I think I'm making good time anyway," Edward said with a smile. "How are you doing after that crash?" Trevor's aging smile faded to a thin line as he gave his friend a rather knowing look.
"I am fine, but that new fellow seems pretty shaken up," the traction engine said, and Edward sighed. "He said what he thinks he did to upset you, and it sounds like a big misunderstanding from my view."
"I know it seems that way, but… well, even I'm not sure at the moment," Edward sighed. "Maybe once all of this stress is gone I can re-evaluate things, but at the moment I am too busy and losing sleep over it all. Cole will just have to wait." There was a gleeful shout from the people by the horse as they successfully restrained it and led it back towards the fence, allowing Edward's train to continue.
"Just do not sever too many ties before that happens," Trevor warned as Edward prepared to leave. "With BoCo gone, I know you don't want to replace him, but you can't afford to not to either." Edward simply whistled in farewell and he took off towards Wellsworth, thinking about Trevor's words as he went and if he was being too harsh to Cole…
Unfortunately, by the time Edward arrived at Brendam Bay with some fresh passengers, things had not improved.
The horse had caused Edward to be delayed by a few minutes, but Henry had been early and the passengers were all waiting when Edward arrived. They seemed to think that Edward should have been early as well and began complaining, and the passengers he was dropping off complained about the horse. The blue engine was frustrated when he headed back, only to find that there was a traffic jam caused by a car crash, and a mistake with the gates had caused the cars to move ahead and leave Edward trapped, getting very impatient and very annoyed with each second that went by.
By the time the traffic had cleared so that Edward could past, the train was running about twenty minutes late, and Edward had to go his fastest to try and get to Brendam on time. As he pulled into the small station though, red in the face and body aching, Edward still heard the passengers complaining about the delay.
"Ungrateful," Edward mumbled angrily. He usually cared for the passengers and did his best to satisfy them, but his temper was always close to erupting these days and having his efforts ignored only made him angrier.
"Edward!" A voice called, and the blue engine stared as the stationmaster came running forwards, his crew leaning out of the cab to see what was happening. "The container ship is about to be moved," the stationmaster explained, and Edward felt relief wash over him, glad that a lot of his work and stress would be disappearing. "However, there is some more fish and produce that needs to be taken to the Main Line urgently. Do you think you could assist?"
"If no one else is around, I guess we'll have to," Edward's driver said. The blue engine simply sighed, knowing he was right but not really willing to do such another long journey, hoping to get a rest in before his afternoon train. He reluctantly took his coaches to the sidings and headed towards the trucks.
"My my, the blue one's looking fairly tired."
"Might not even make it to Wellsworth!"
"Another one for the scrap heap!"
"Be quiet!" Edward yelled, bumping the trucks furiously and making them burst into laughter. Edward had built up a fierce reputation amongst the trucks and was known for keeping them under control, but there was nothing he could do to stop them from being bored after some of them had spent weeks trapped in these sidings. The blue engine sighed as they were coupled to him, listening to their laughter and having half a mind to bump them again.
"These trucks really are being troublesome." Edward stared as Cole pulled up alongside, smiling slightly as he sorted some empty trucks into place. Edward was getting angrier by the second, and thoughts of making it up with Cole disappeared as he stared at his effortless shunting. "You look red in the face, are you sure you can manage this?" Cole asked, sounding concerned, but Edward blew steam in his face.
"Is that an old joke?" He grumbled, and Cole gasped as he realised what he said. "I am perfectly capable of taking this train, just like I have been for years, and I do not need any help from you!" The guard blew a whistle, and Edward disappeared in a cloud of steam, taking his giggling, misbehaving trucks with him. Cole sighed as he watched Edward leave; wondering if there was any hope of becoming friends now.
Edward thundered down the track, moving the fastest he had done in a while. His entire body shaked as he moved, his wheels and pistons working their hardest, grey smoke rising up into the clouds. The driver had made jokes about Edward trying to break speed records or falling to bits, but the blue engine didn't care about this.
I will show them I am still a capable, reliable, useful engine, Edward said as he shuddered past cottages and fields of green. Cole will see I am not going to be replaced any time soon! It's only trucks – I've taken countless numbers of trucks before, it's nothing new, nothing too hard.
"Come on grandpa," the lead truck called, "we don't have all day!" The trucks began to laugh again and began calling out a chorus of 'Grandpa, Grandpa!' Edward didn't usually let the trucks get to him, but he was already angry and decided to show them.
"Slow down Edward!" His driver called, trying to gain control, but Edward was going as fast as he possibly could, even though he was tired and sore, eager to show them all what he was really worth. Edward was certain he could do it, but was finding he was getting thirstier and thirstier.
"I need a drink!" He called hopefully, but suddenly found himself slowing down.
"You've run your tanks dry: there's barely any water left!" The driver called, applying the brakes so Edward would come to a proper stop. The blue engine was shocked: he never caused his tanks to go empty. But here he was in the middle of his line, stuck with trucks laughing at him, no water tower in sight and feeling terribly foolish.
"We are going to have to call for help," the driver said.
"There's a cottage over there," the fireman said. "I'll see if we can borrow their hose or something." Edward gasped, the idea of having to get water from a garden hose rather silly and embarrassing.
If only I hadn't tried to go so fast… Edward thought sadly, wondering if he was getting too old. Suddenly, a whistle sounded behind him, and Edward wondered if Bill or Ben were taking some clay trucks to Wellsworth. He looked over excitedly, but was surprised to see Cole pulling up.
"Looks like you could use some help," the saddle tank said with a smile. Edward simply beamed, never been so happy to see this engine.
In no time at all Cole was coupled to the front of Edward and they were taking off once more. His crew explained that a call had come up for a backing engine to help with a heavy freight train on Gordon's Hill, but they were willing to help get the train to Wellsworth. Edward didn't see why due to how he had treated Cole, and thought now was as good of a time as any to make peace.
"I probably look very stupid at the moment," he said, and didn't get annoyed when Cole laughed in agreement. "I am sorry for being so horrible to you Cole. All this stress with BoCo leaving and the container ship has just gotten to me, and I swear I am not usually this horrible."
"I know your not," Cole said. "Trevor, BoCo, Bill and Ben, some of the engines from the Main Line all say you're a very nice, kind, helpful engine. I can understand why you were annoyed: I probably could have chosen some better words!" The two engines began to laugh, and both of them were rather relieved: Edward was glad to have made a new friend, and Cole was happy to see he wasn't as disliked as he thought.
By the time they had made it to Wellsworth, the two had been talking like old friends. Cole shared tales from his railway days, and Edward made him laugh with tales of Bill and Ben's tricks over the years and Gordon's incident with the cow. They came peacefully into the station, where BoCo was waiting to collect the trucks.
"Isn't this a pleasant sight," the diesel said with a smile, and the two steam engines beamed as well as Cole helped shunt Edward into a siding with a water tower.
"I better go deal with that freight train," Cole said. "See you all later," he called with an added whistle, and Edward and BoCo whistled and honked in farewell. BoCo slid around to the other track and was coupled to the trucks, and gave his friend a knowing look.
"Looks like I have left the line in better order," he said, and Edward smiled.
"I think I will be alright for now," he said, and BoCo chuckled as he set off with the trucks.
Over the next few days, the Wellsworth Branch Line began to get back into order. Edward and Cole collectively got the trucks sorted out, and once all of the ships began to return things went back to normal. Bill and Ben played a trick on Cole that ended up with him covered in china clay, much to Edward's annoyance, and Cole got revenge by tricking them into taking an unnecessarily heavy train of his to Wellsworth. Edward had a good laugh during both occasions, and could feel the stress and tiredness rapidly fading away. The aging blue engine was quite happy with his new set up, and though he did want BoCo to return, he was happy with who was on his line for now.
I hoped you enjoyed this story and enjoyed meeting Cole. Look out for more Railway Series Books over the next few months as well as this year's Christmas special in a few weeks!