Hello all! I hope you all enjoy this year's Christmas special, this year set on the Narrow Gauge railway. Please note that I will go with Railway Series coats of paint, though I may end up accidentally writing the wrong colour at some point, so don't tell me off if I do :P
Chapter One: Winter Blues
It was Christmas time on the Island of Sodor, and the entire Island looked the part: it had been snowing for weeks, and a thick blanket of snow had turned the Island into a giant white wonderland. Christmas decorations, ranging from rainbows of fairy lights to towering pine trees covered in baubles and tinsel, helped to spread the holiday spirit as the days counted down to the big day.
The many railways were getting involved in the holidays as well. Many coaches already had tinsel and baubles strung up in the corridors, and The Fat Controller had arranged a decorating contest for all stations on the North Western Railway, giving the passengers a bright, wonderful place to be as they sheltered inside from the unfortunate cold that came with the beautiful snow. Every engine was excited as they geared towards their railways Christmas celebrations, and they didn't even mind having to work harder, either taking extra passenger trains to deal with those coming or going for the holidays, or taking extra trucks of coal and timber to be used in fires. No matter the extra work, it seemed that every person and every engine was enjoying the holiday season
On the Skarloey Railway, everything looked picture perfect. The lake had partially frozen over, giving it a lovely glisten and a sparkle that helped to make the engines journeys. The stations were all decorated as well, with fairy lights twinkling in the early hours of the morning and the late hours of the night, and each on had at least one Christmas tree that the passengers early in December had helped to decorate. Snow helped to add to the beauty: everything from the trees and bushes that surrounded the tracks to the giant boulders around the slate incline had been covered with snow, and made the simplest and blandest of things look simply beautiful. Every engine was enjoying travelling down the lines with bubbly tourists and families, all of them in the happiest of spirits in one of the happiest times of the year.
And surprisingly, Duncan was just as happy as the rest of them were.
It was three days before Christmas, and the snow clouds had disappeared to allow the sun to shine above the Island. Duncan was meant to be shunting at the incline, but Duke had derailed after hitting a rock hidden by the snow and the well tank had been called out to bring his passengers home. Most engines would be annoyed about doing dirty work at this time of year, but Duncan didn't mind, as he knew he would soon be getting his special train.
After years of misbehaving with the coaches and blaming them for his accidents, the Thin Controller had devised a way earlier in the year to help keep Duncan focused: if he behaved for the whole month, than on the 24th or 25th, depending on the schedule, Duncan would be given the task of taking a special passenger train. It could be enthusiasts, it could be photographers, it could be children, it could very important passengers, but either way Duncan was excited at the opportunity of having his own train, and had been on his best behaviour for years. If he didn't behave, than the train would be taken by one of the other engines or cancelled all together, but Duncan had not let this happen yet. His 'Duncan Day' trains, as the other engines liked to call them, had become a special thing to look forward to. And due to the placing of Christmas, Duncan knew that this month's Duncan Day train would probably be the greatest one yet.
"Someone look's fairly happy," Elizabeth the lorry called as Duncan steamed into Glennock Station, having to stop here as several of his passengers were being picked up by their tourist bus here. Duncan's face was indeed shining as brightly as his paint, and didn't mind it being pointed out.
"I was just thinking about this month's Duncan Day train," he explained. "It is going to be around Christmas, and I just know the Thin Controller will have something special lined up for the occasion!"
"You and that silly train," Elizabeth scoffed. "You'd think for an engine that acted as rough and tough as you do, you'd get excited about something a little less stupid."
"What do you have to look forward to this year?" Duncan snapped back, though the smile stayed on his face. "Won't you just be locked up in your shed, listening to the rest of us having a good time?" Elizabeth had been working around the Skarloey Railway for several years now, having been brought by a company that specialized in doing special deliveries, and she had come to know the little engines well. Most of them found her rudeness and crude sense of humour off putting, but she and Duncan got along brilliantly and were always taking shots at each other.
"Anyway Duncan, I must be off now," the lorry said. "Some of us actually have proper work to do. Bye bye!" And she honked her horn cheekily as she reversed and rolled out of the station car park. Duncan simply laughed and blew his whistle in response, which timed perfectly with the shrill cry of the guard's whistle. A few moments later he was setting off once more, and Duncan couldn't help but stay smiling as he headed back towards Crovan's Gate.
The main terminus of the Skarloey Railway was always a busy place. There were always Lorries ducking in and out of the large workshop, delivering parts needed to repair the engines. It was the only station where the Express stopped: the engines had been rather startled by the strange sight that was Pip and Emma at first, but they soon bonded quite well with the High Speed Engine, though Sir Handel continually moaned about Gordon being unfairly dismissed of his duties. Colin the crane was usually unloading something from either a lorry, their trucks or trucks from the main line, and they had to be careful to avoid him and his loads. And all of the little engines were busy moving around here as well: shunting and collecting trains, resting in the sheds, helping with small jobs, trying hard to avoid the Lorries that would sometimes sneak across their tracks. It was a very busy and hectic place to work, but the engines were able to survive.
As Duncan moved into the yard for the last leg of his journey, he reflected on how the snow didn't make things easier. The trucks and coaches constantly complained about the cold, making them more restless and more difficult to deal with. Some patches of track were very icy, and thrice over the past few weeks an engine had slipped on an icy patch and nearly had an accident. The Christmas season always made things busier, and there were more trucks than the rest of the year and more lorries delivering supplies, especially since a collision on the Main Line had left several engines at the works and needing to be repaired before the holiday season got too out of control.
"Busy down the tracks?" Rusty called as he raced by with trucks loaded with supplies.
"Not as busy as it could be," Duncan replied, the smile still on his face. Despite the fact everyone was more stressed and everything was a bit out of control, he couldn't help but be happy: he had been on extra special behaviour this month, and was not going to let anything take his Duncan Day train away from him.
The station itself had Christmas spirit as well. Two heavily decorated trees stood at opposite ends of the platform, signalling a break between the two sides. Tinsel was hanging high on the shelter, away from where small children could pull it down, and glittering lights had been strung up along a wire on top. It wasn't as grand as some of the other stations were, but the engines were all happy with it and that was what mattered greatest to them.
"Good morning James," Duncan called as he came to a stop on his side of the platform. James had been staring into space and looked down at the engine in surprise.
"I thought Duke was taking this train," the red engine huffed. "And why are you so happy? You're usually moodier than Henry."
"It's Christmas!" Duncan said happily, but James simply scoffed.
"Christmas is one of the worst times of the year, probably worse than the summer holidays," James grumbled. "With all this extension work the Fat Controller is doing, there are lorries and men constantly running around and piles of supplies to deliver but not enough engines, not since Henry, Bear and that main line diesel had their little accident. I'm practically run off my wheels trying to get all of this extra work done! You little touristy engines don't know how hard it can be!" Duncan was rather taken aback by this, and usually would have a comeback at the ready, but didn't want to say anything to endanger his train. "Anyway, what are you so happy about?" James continued. "I've seen you grumpy at Christmases past: why is this one so special?"
"My Duncan Day train is either going to be on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day," Duncan explained proudly. "I don't know what the Thin Controller has planned, but I know that, being the holidays, it will be the best one yet." Duncan looked up at the red engine for his response, and was startled to see he was laughing. "What's so funny?"
"It's just… it's just that… I've already been told that I'll be bringing a special train here on Christmas Eve," James explained, "because I'm red so they think I'll like the sleigh or something awfully cheesy and stupid like that. Anyway, to keep the 'red sleigh' theme going, Skarloey and Rheneas are taking over afterwards." A shrill whistle from the guard signalled it was time for James to go, and the red engine blew his whistle at Duncan as steam rose up around his laughing smile. "I don't think there are going to be two specials happening, are there?" Duncan's mouth dropped, unable to believe what was being said.
"ARE YOU SURE?" He called out to James as he moved off in the distance.
"I'D CHECK THINGS IF I WAS YOU," the red engine yelled back. Duncan's face began to twist in anger, and he angrily gave his coaches a small bump as he began to move forwards.
"Don't worry… I will," Duncan growled under his breath, and he moved off to the sidings to shunt his coaches, feeling a lot less cheerful than he had a few minutes ago.