Long Ago was my very first attempt at an ERS volume, and quite the challenge it was. Fortunately, the Ffestiniog's
personal wiki proved a great source of railway research and unusual accidents for me to use. The focus on the Mid-Sodor Railway,
as well as the relatively small cast of characters, was intended as an homage to what is possibly my favourite Railway Series
book, Duke the Lost Engine.
Written for the original ERS library back in 2008, the book was intended to
appear in the revamped line-up from the get-go, but wound up one of the last ones to be added as everyone kept forgetting
about it - myself included!
LITTLE BIG ENGINE
is enamoured by the tall tales of the Big Engines who visit the Exchange Siding at the Harbour. He talks endlessly about them
to the other engines, and often wishes he could join them on the Main Line. He later regrets this when he's asked to pull
the 'Horse and Cart' after a sleepless night and the trucks give him a wake-up call he doesn't soon forget. This story was
inspired by an incident on the Ffestiniog Railway in 1907, where Welsh Pony accidentally fell into the standard gauge
lines in Minffordd Yard. The image of a narrow gauge engine on a standard gauge line was too funny not to use.
ALL SHOOK UP
The Manager, noticing the engines are feeling
overworked, purchases a new engine for a trial period. Said engine is Janus, an cocky old Double Fairlie who's convinced he
is still the cutting-edge of locomotive design. This cockiness proves his undoing when his first trip ends with a blown steam
pipe and an undignified derailment. Many of the early Fairlies in real life had a tendency to derail or break down frequently,
due to their still rather unstable designs. The oft-repeated tale of the very first Fairlie, Little Wonder, "shaking
itself to pieces" over time helped to inspire the character of Janus and his embarrassing end.
WHEELS OF MISFORTUNE
The Manager decides to fit Falcon with trailing wheels, something
Falcon is quick to boast about - until he realises he can't bounce his cab around anymore with them. Determined to get his
'bounce' back, Falcon makes a deal with the trucks to bump him all along the line and shake his new wheels loose. Naturally,
things don't go according to plan. This story is based on information on the Mid-Sodor Engines' histories acquired from the
Real Lives of Thomas website, as well as another Ffestiniog mishap from 1876, in which a wheel tyre fell off one
of the wagons at Harbour Station.
DUKE OF THE NORTH
is winter on the Mid-Sodor, and Duke is starting to feel his age after slipping off the rails on an icy patch. He has little
time to feel sorry for himself, however, when Stuart and an unwell Falcon are cut off by a deep drift in the middle of a snowstorm.
It's up to dear old 'Granpuff' to brave the elements and help the workmen clear the line before the last boat leaves the Harbour.
While Duke's snow rescue is entirely fictional, his icy accident at the beginning was based on a similar slippery incident
at Tan-y-grisiau in 1879, involving the Ffestiniog's Princess.