There was silence as Cole dwelled over these words, and BoCo smiled contently to himself, staring up at the skies above and wishing it was cloudy once again. It's not as hot as the hottest day…,the diesel thought to himself, but he would wait for Cole to speak before finishing his story.
"So James sort of had a reason for distrusting you, didn't he?" The saddle tank said after a minute, and BoCo nodded. "I still think it was unfair of him to let that all out on you when you hadn't even done anything to him yet!"
"In a way, yes, it was quite rude of James, but that is simply his personality and he did not know better at the time," BoCo replied. "His words were not that hurtful and I was able to brush them aside, and in the end, I believe James learnt his lesson and began to trust me, and that is the only really important thing to take out from his rudeness: he judged me harshly at first, but after he let his feelings out and I proved myself a friend, James began to respect me and see me as a colleague." Cole pondered over this, and BoCo had a feeling that his story was starting to sink in.
"Did James ever truly start trusting diesels?" Cole asked.
"In time, yes, though it took a while longer for him to trust all diesels, but that is a tale for another time," BoCo said with a smile. "I still have one more story for you Cole, and by the time I have finished, we will hopefully be able to go on our ways, and you will hopefully have seen the purpose to this all." Cole looked a bit confused as he was not sure what he was meant to be learning, but BoCo shut his eyes as he formed the scene around him, continuing to smile as it all came rushing back to him.
"During the last few weeks of summer, Edward took another enthusiast's train. Unfortunately, while rushing to ensure he got his passengers back, his side rods broke, though Edward managed to complete his journey on time. The Fat Controller was so impressed that he allowed him to have a break by getting a proper check over at the Works while his side rods were replaced.
"In his absence, the Fat Controller put me in charge of the line. I found it a great honour as I had only been there for only around two months at the time, but I promised to him and myself that I would the line running smoothly. It meant a lot more work, but I was kept solely on the branch line, which was a much needed break from the lingering awkwardness on the Main Line. There was still the hint of tension with Henry and James, and Donald and Douglas continued to not talk to me, so I was pleased to be able to get to know the line I had been brought to help run and leave the Main Line behind.
"There had been a storm during Edward's enthusiast's train, but it seemed to have been the last of the season: there had been no rain since, and the day's kept getting clearer and hotter. It was a pain to be so hot, and the passengers, coaches and trucks moaned constantly, the only thing the three have in common, but at least I could experience the line in glorious brightness and sunshine. The fields and trees surrounding the line were at their greenest, and the ocean was as a dazzling plain of blue. I became so busy that all thoughts of what had transpired on the Main Line left me, and I when I slept, I became so tired that I simply fell asleep, and sleepless nights brought me only thoughts of my day."
"I did not speak with that many engines during my stay there except for a few that paused briefly at Wellsworth to collect or drop off their trains and passengers. However, a week after I had started working at Wellsworth, I arrived at the station on a day like today with a long line of Hoods behind me. I was not able to take the trucks to Tidmouth myself as there were the passenger trains to work with as well, so I would bring the trucks to Wellsworth, leave them in the sidings, and another engine would soon collect them. But when I arrived on that day, I found Douglas simmering at the opposite platform with nothing coupled behind him.
"Now, as I said earlier, I have never had a proper conversation with either of the Scottish twins, so I felt quite nervous as I came to a stop at my platform. It seemed as though there were miles of track sitting between the two of us, and the air was heavy with something other than heat. I came to a halt and waited as men came forwards to uncouple me, knowing that it would be over soon. Douglas was glaring at me, not even trying to hide it, even when I looked across at him. It felt as though his eyes were drilling into me, and in a moment I was drawn back into the awkwardness and tension I thought I had finally gotten out of.
"However, I knew that I could not keep avoiding the twins. If I did, I would never end up talking to them, and every time we met would be as awkward as that moment was. The workers were going quickly, and I suddenly wanted them to slow down as I struggled to think of something to say.
'Nice weather, isn't it?' I said, and instantly froze, realising it was the first thing that had come to mind. I looked nervously at Douglas to see how he would react, but his face remained the same expression of stony anger that it had been for the past minute. Silence filled the air to join the tension and heat, and I remember willing the workers to go faster now, realising than that I had made a serious mistake.
'You may have won over Edward, Duck and Gordon, but you will not win me and my brother over as easily,' Douglas replied, his voice as cold as ice. 'I do not trust diesels, especially ones that force their ways into my life and infiltrate my friends. Leave me and Donal' in peace, and there will be no need for us to talk again, but try and annoy us further, and we will both make you sorry.'
"It took me a while to get back to Brendam to collect my coaches. In reality, it would have gone faster than I thought it had, but Douglas' words weighed down on me, and I became lost in my thoughts for the whole journey back. I had thought up until then that I had been making a lot of progress with the engines, but Douglas only brought me back down to earth. I realised then that there was still a long way for me to go to be fully accepted as a part of this railway, and I rolled slowly back to Brendam wondering if I would ever be able to achieve that."
Cole had fallen silent as BoCo's story had progressed, and the diesel could see that he was looking quite uncomfortable, an expression of not knowing at all what to say. BoCo smiled at him, pleased to see that Cole was potentially being humbled by his tale.
"Don't worry, we know how this is going to end, don't we?" The long diesel said with a twinkle in his eye, and Cole smiled, instantly looking more relaxed. "Funnily enough, my fears were about to be proved unfounded within a very short period of time.
"The storms and rain had been a welcome relief from the intense heat that threatened to melt us all, and none of the engines had complained at all about it. However, I had overheard the old Wellsworth station master telling me driver that the raging water was causing troubles in Tidmouth. There was a threat that the storm water and debris washed up into the river were going to get into the water supply, which would have terrible consequences on the steam engines if things got into their pipes.
"A few days after my awkward and upsetting encounter with Douglas, I was sent to Tidmouth Station to take my Hoods. I was so preoccupied thinking about what the Scottish engine had said that I saw nothing suspicious in my orders being changed for the first time since Edward had left, and as I rushed along the Main Line with my trucks rattling behind me, I could only think to myself if I would be able to be accepted into the line, and did not notice that there were not any other engines waiting at the other stations.
"I neared Tidmouth Station, but I could hear it before I got there. There was a general loud buzzing of noise I would have expected late in the day, but it was only early morning. I slowed down upon my approach and saw the platforms were crowded with passengers, every one of them yelling at nothing in particular. It felt strange to move between crowded platforms of screaming people, with all of them turning to look and point at me as I passed, and I felt as though I was moving through them to be condemned. I looked around for signs of any other engines, both found no one else was there.
'This seems a bit suspicious,' my driver said from my cab as we moved out towards the sidings. 'I will stop you here and go back to see what is going on.' I agreed as it seemed quite curious, but I noticed several figures rushing towards me: The Fat Controller, the stationmaster, the railway inspector whose car I had driven into and another man who I presumed was a second inspector. My fears of being sent away or scrapped rose at that point, but the Fat Controller looked stressed rather than angry, and he beckoned for my driver.
'Our water supply has been shut off,' the controller said bluntly. 'The water company tells me that their equipment has been damaged by large pieces of wood and rubbish being washed up from the storms, and it will take several hours to repair. They have to keep the rest of the water on tap for the fire department, as summer always brings with it an increased risk of fire, but that leaves me in a serious pickle. There are all these passengers here waiting for dozens of trains that I cannot possibly give them, as well as fish and fruit piling high across my harbours. The best solution I have is to get these passengers to Crovan's Gate as extras on the Express, and then have buses take them from the Narrow Gauge railway.'
'And you want BoCo to be the engine to pull the train?' My driver asked, and the Fat Controller nodded. Everyone turned towards me, and I froze in shock. This would be one of the biggest tasks an engine could possibly receive, taking more coaches than I had ever done before and trying to save the line and its image.
'But sir, I deal better with trucks, I am not familiar with coaches.'
'Nonsense, you took the Express beautifully when James was indisposed a few weeks ago, and I have had good reports about your work on Edward's line,' the Fat Controller replied with a warm smile. 'You are the best engine for the job, and it is lucky that you happen to be the only engine. The railway needs you BoCo, so I hope you will be able to do this.' I looked between all the men staring at me, their eyes intent and their faces solemn. I thought of how the engines would react, wondering if they would be angry for me taking their trains or grateful for what I would do, but the pressure was piling on, and I knew there was only one answer the Fat Controller wanted to hear."
"Duck was on hand to take my trucks away to Tidmouth Harbour, where he was going to help organize the trucks so they would be ready to take away as soon as the water system was working again.
'Don't worry about this, your strong; you will be able to handle these coaches easily,' the Great Western engine told me as I backed down onto my long line of coaches. I had not even seen how many there were, but I knew how long the Express was, and extra coaches had been added. I smiled back at Duck, but found myself unable to put a sentence together, my mind focussing upon how hard this would be, and how much was riding on this.
'Good luck and have fun!' Duck said before he left. 'We are all cheering you on!'
'All of you?' I asked uncertainly, but Duck was saved from an awkward reply by the guard's whistle. Time seemed to have suddenly sped up, as I remember it seeming like only a moment had occurred between being coupled up and the whistle blowing. Duck reversed away to take the China Clay trucks, and I sighed and readied myself for the train. I can do this, I told myself. I will take this train and show Donald, Douglas, James and Henry what a diesel engine is capable of doing, and how much they care.
"I went forwards, and instantly felt my strength vanish: it seemed as though I was pulling three different freight trains behind me, the weight of what felt like fifty coaches threatening to hold me back. There was a moment where I thought my wheels may slip or my engine would blow and this whole operation would be a failure, but I slowly started forwards, the coaches swaying behind me. It took a moment to gather speed, but I quickly became use to the weight, and within two minutes I had cleared the station and was starting off down the line."
"So the trip went well then?" Cole asked optimistically, but BoCo chuckled to himself.
"Do they ever?" He replied, glancing around at the grumpy passengers that still filled the platform. "Things went well for the start of the trip. I was able to gather speed as the line ahead was going to be clear and I was not going to stop at any stations except for Crovan's Gate, and once I was moving quickly and smoothly, the coaches followed reliably along behind me. I didn't even feel the weight of them behind me for most of the journey, though I was very aware of what was behind me and what lay before me if I succeeded or failed with this. I tried not to think about Donald or Douglas or any possible cruel remarks that may be delivered at my expense, and instead focussed on trying to keep moving forwards and get the passengers to their buses.
"But than I reached Gordon's Hill. I am not sure if you would have had to cross this hill, but it is the steepest section on the Main Line and probably within the entire North Western Railway. This bump has been the bane of many engines in the past, and when I realised I was going to have to go over it, I became filled with dread; Gordon had gotten stuck there with a train much less heavy than mine, so how on earth was I supposed to get up it?
"My driver must have had the same fears, but he did not voice them to me as we began to climb, as he probably did not want both of us to fret. The hill looked even more daunting from the very bottom, and once I began to climb it, the weight of the coaches quickly began to increase. I don't think the first six coaches had even began to climb before I started to struggle, the weight slowing me down, and by the time ten had gotten up, I was truly slowing down.
'This is going to be a struggle BoCo,' my driver called out. 'I would slow things down if I could, but I think we will need as much speed going up as possible to keep the train moving.' I was working too hard to reply, the weight of the coaches threatening to tear me in two. I could already feel my engine grumbling, and as I slowed down despite my wheels spinning the same speed, I wondered if I would make it to the top. I was getting closer, but it was slow and painful, and I had no idea if all the coaches were even following me up. My engine started to grow loudly and more audibly, and I thought that something was going to explode before I had even neared the top. The sun was shining down on me, and the rails were hot as my wheels refused to grip them properly, and for a moment I thought the hill might be a mirage and the top was even further than I expected.
I must do this, I must do this, I must do this, I told myself as I shut my eyes and surged forwards as much as possible with every ounce of determination I could muster. I knew that I had to reach the top, get over this hill and reach Crovan's Gate and Vicarstown. If I didn't, than there was not telling what the consequences may be.
"With every bit of effort I could possibly muster, using all the power at my disposal, I forced myself up the last few metres. I opened my eyes as I felt the ground level out before me, and I saw the sight of the town lying below, the rails curving down the hillside, the wide world that lay ahead, and I knew at once that I had succeeded.
"The rest of the trip was a blur as my elation and relief washed over me. I remember vaguely sailing down the hill, but the rest until Crovan's Gate was simply trees and houses mixing together into one. I was too happy about getting over the hill in one piece to even care about how everything else might go, and I kept thinking about what the other engines would think when I returned.
"I arrived at Crovan's Gate as a cloud passed over the sun, sending me temporarily into light darkness as I slowly rolled up to the platform. I noticed a strange noise in my engine, but I did not worry about it as I finally stopped, and a second later the doors were flung open and the passengers poured out onto the concrete, overflowing it within seconds. Haggled stationmasters and porters had to shout and use flags to signal where people had to go for their respective buses, but the noise all seemed happy to me.
'You look relieved,' a voice said to my left, and I remember being stunned, not thinking anyone other engines was around. I looked down though at the thinner tracks and saw a small red saddle tank, a miniature you, and I quickly worked out who it was.
'You're Skarloey, aren't you?' I asked. 'I have heard a lot about you.'
'Same here,' the old engine replied with a kind smile. 'Many of the engines have talked about you BoCo, though I hope you do not mind me saying that their words have not exactly been kind.'
'I would not have expected them to,' I replied, my joy slipping away.
'They are beginning to change, if that is any consolation,' Skarloey replied as the passengers thinned from the platform. 'The engines are young by my standards and are not use to change, but they will bend eventually, don't you worry. One of our engines, Duncan, could not cope with our diesel Rusty, but he was worn down in time, so your engines will change as well. However, we Narrow Gauge engines are much wiser,' he added cheekily, and we both laughed. A guard's whistle sounded, and I thought it was time for me to leave, but Skarloey suddenly jerked forwards, steam issuing all around him. 'I hope to see you again BoCo, and I imagine by the time we meet again, you would have been accepted.'
"I still remember Skarloey's smile as the little engine trundled down his line and disappeared around the corner and up within his line that I will never be able to experience. The smile reminded me of Edward, a smile composed of wisdom and kindness, and I knew then that I truly succeeded that today. I sat them for a few more minutes, letting the sun wash over me as the cloud parted away, the warmth welcome and glorious. For the first time, in that moment, I knew that I had the chance to get past all of this and make a difference. And you know what Cole… I was right."
BoCo finished speaking as a door slammed open to his left, and he looked away from Cole to find the stationmaster rushing onto the platform with a relieved look on his face.
"The track ahead has been cleared enough for the railway to get moving once again!" He told the waiting passengers with a smile on his face, and many of them cheered in delight and relief. "Your train will be leaving shortly if you would all like to get back onboard." There was a mad rush for the coaches that nearly sent the stationmaster flying, and BoCo smiled as he thought back to the similar rush of passengers trying to get out of the coaches.
"Of course the line would be cleared just as you reached the end," Cole laughed, though he was sad that the tale had ended. "I am going to guess that there was a happy ending to this story?"
"Would I be here if I wasn't?" BoCo laughed. "When I brought the coaches back to Tidmouth, tired and weary, the water supply was slowly being turned back on, and I was able to be showered in praise from Duck, Gordon and Henry. I did not see the Fat Controller for a few days, but he made the journey to Wellsworth to praise me on my achievements and how I was a credit to the railway, and promised I would have my groaning engine properly checked once Edward returned. It was all flattering, but I was not taken aback until I took a train to Tidmouth due to other delays and saw James, Donald and Douglas all at once. They all appreciated what I had done, and James was the first to praise me. Donald and Douglas were slower to come around, but the barrier had fallen, and I was able to talk to them properly for the first time. By the time Edward returned as proud as possible with what I had done, I had befriended all the engines on the Main Line, and for the first time, I felt accepted."
The passengers were nearly all onboard, but BoCo wished they would slow down. He looked across at Cole and saw the saddle tank was staring intently at the rail in front of him, not paying attention to anything else but his thoughts.
"I hope you saw what I was trying to get across," the diesel said as the last of the coach doors slammed shut behind him. "Bill and Ben will begin to respect you eventually, but you must let them settle into it. As I may have shown you, the opportunities to fix them will present themselves, and you will have an easier time with winning them over than I ever did with the Main Line engines. Respect must be earned, not forced upon the other engines, and first you must build a friendship and let them see you are not trying to replace me." BoCo smiled briefly at the irony of that, but his thoughts were interrupted as the guard blew the whistle behind him, and BoCo roared into life once again.
"I shall see you again soon Cole," the diesel called out as he began to move forward. "I hope you consider my words carefully."
"Goodbye BoCo, thank you for the story," Cole replied with a kind smile, and BoCo smiled back as the platform and the saddle tank slid away, the station being replaced with trees, roads and cottages once more. Another engine would have been glad to be moving once again, but BoCo could not think of the journey ahead. His mind remained in the sixties, and BoCo smiled to himself as he thought of the journey he had been through. Decades had passed, but BoCo would never be able to shake the feelings he had had during his first weeks on Sodor, nor would he ever forget the delight of when he was finally accepted by everyone.
Cole does not truly know what it was like, none of the engines do, BoCo thought to himself, but I cannot hold that against any of them. Skarloey was right… he is much older and wiser than many of them. BoCo laughed to himself, and the smile remained on his face as he continued on his journey, glad to know he was able to look back on that time with fondness and that he had made it to where he was today.
I hope you all enjoyed my latest Railway Series offering. I wanted to write something focussed less on dramatic accidents and more looking at the engines, so hopefully I pulled it off :P There will be less time until my next RWS one comes out, most likely in December, so see you all again then!