This story has been around as an idea for a long time. Initially it involved
Sir Handel, but was changed to Mike instead to replace the original first story from the Small Railway Surprises book. The Small Controller is holding a ‘Family Fun Weekend’, which are quite
commonplace on Heritage Railways in the UK, to entertain the visitors. Mike isn’t
keen on the idea because no-one is paying him any attention, and when he arrives back at the top station, decides to startle
a clown who is entertaining the visitors. The clown decides to get his own back
by painting Mike’s face with a big broad clown smile, complete with white makeup paint – and to make matters worse
for Mike, he’s on first turn and there’s no time to wash it off. Very
soon, everyone begins to notice Mike, but not for the reasons he would have liked!
THE BURSTING BALLAST TRUCK
This was the first prelude to the Norramby Miniature Railway coming in. We have
aged rolling stock being refurbished and re-gauged for them, and the Small Railway is also providing ballast from their lead-spoil
mine. Donald’s train of empties is delayed on the return journey from Norramby,
and Oliver is struggling to find a set of trucks for him to take the load from Jock’s train. The only ones they can find have been (unknown to Oliver or Jock’s knowledge) condemned. The moment that the lead spoil pours down and hits the inside of the first truck,
it breaks apart. Oliver and Jock find the situation most embarrassing, although
Donald, who was due to take the trucks for scrap, finds it a great time saver!
A hot air balloon is giving people rides across the Island of Sodor and above the Isle of Man.
Frank soon becomes interested in the idea of flying, but is silenced and discouraged by the other engines. Then, one day, Rex is flagged down whilst hauling his passenger train, when they find that the hot-air
balloon has run out of gas and landed on the railway line ahead of them. Frank
brings a flat-truck and takes the balloon back up the line to safety. The men
in charge of operating the balloon are grateful, and although they cannot let Frank fly himself, they do let him see photos
of what it is like to look down at the world from a hot air balloon!
This story is the first instance within the Railway Series story continuity that Bert’s rebuild is acknowledged. The opening part of the story has him being brought out for some photography to be
done. Bert then proceeds to tell the photographer about the trouble he was having
before the Small Controller had him rebuilt. One particular morning, Bert is
amused to see the Farmer using a horse and cart to take a load, instead of a tractor.
But while his Driver tells him that horses can be useful too, Bert remains unconvinced.
It isn’t until he stalls with no steam to carry on, that he truly realises the value of ‘Horse Power’
– when a horse called Trojan hauls him up the line and allows him time to build his fire again to make more steam. But although Mike and Rex find the situation amusing, it provides the Small Controller
with a worry which he must set right at once.