It was a beautiful day on the Island of Sodor, continuing a remarkable
“I do love the fact that it’s summer for three quarters of the year,” said Thomas as he
puffed along the line with Annie and Clarabel. “If it weren’t for these sudden snowfalls we get every winter,
and those horrific storms now and again, the weather would be perfect.” He went back to Tidmouth Sheds, where the other
engines were waiting.
All the engines were excited. The Fat Controller had announced that he needed an engine for a special
job that night.
“He’ll choose me,” said James. “There’s nothing better than a splendid red
engine for special jobs.”
Toby looked at him. “James, can you actually explain how your red paint makes you
superior? I mean, I can understand how being strong might help an engine, or being fast, or being experienced… but red?
It’s just a colour.”
“I am the brightest engine on the line!” protested James.
like passive racism to me,” said Percy.
“You’re just jealous because you’re not red like me,”
“Oh, why don’t you just join the National Front right away, Adolf the Racist Engine?” snapped
“Now, stop all this arguing,” said Edward. “James is right that he is the brightest engine on
the line, and Percy is right that James is a small-minded bigot. Let’s leave it at that.”
all this, then?” said the Fat Controller.
“They’re saying I’m a racist!” complained James.
“Just because I like being red.”
“No, that’s more of a political disagreement,” said the
Fat Controller. “But they are right, I will not tolerate Commies on my Railway.”
“Anyway, Duck is far
more racist than me,” said James. “It’s all ‘Great Western this’ and “Great Western that’…”
and when did you last see Duck around here?” said the Fat Controller. “Anyway, I need an engine for a special
job at midnight tonight.”
“Me! Me! Me!” cried the engines in unison.
“It’s on one of those
abandoned branch lines,” said Sir Topham.
“Oh, forget that, then,” said the engines in unison.
I have decided that you will perform the special task,” said the Fat Controller.
“Aw, man,” said Thomas.
night, Thomas puffed along the haunted branch line. The Fat Controller and Farmer McColl were with him.
said Thomas, “why aren’t my driver and fireman with us?”
“This is a special job just for us,”
said the Fat Controller. “There’s no point getting other people involved.”
“Oh. And why does Farmer
McColl have a bag over his head?”
“Why is he tied up and struggling?”
and see.” Thomas was puzzled as he continued puffing along the line.
“Sir,” he said at last, “did
you really get rid of Duck because he was racist?”
“No,” snapped Sir Topham. “I got rid of him
because he was a stupid engine who didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut, get me?”
said Thomas, and continued in silence. Eventually they reached an abandoned station, and the Fat Controller stopped Thomas.
out, you piece of filth,” snarled the Fat Controller, kicking Farmer McColl on to the platform. He shoved him into the
station building and shut the door. Thomas strained to hear the conversation going on inside.
“So, Farmer McColl,
I hear you’ve got a brand new lorry.”
“What’s this? The railway not
good enough for you now?”
“It’s just… I can’t afford to keep chartering special trains for
“I think the question you’ve got to ask is, can you afford not to?”
heard a muffled bumping noise.
“Aaagh! My kidneys!”
“And there’s more coming if you keep using
“Please… it’s hard enough to keep going since the foot-and-mouth crisis… I promise
I can send some of my goods by rail, but you charge so much!”
“What we charge for is peace of mind. Rail is
much safer than road. For one thing, when you send your goods by rail, you’re one hundred per cent less likely to come
home and find your farm burnt to the ground.”
“Are you threatening me, Sir Topham?”
just warning you about what can happen if you’re not careful these days. If you’re sensible, you’ll get
rid of that lorry tomorrow. Anyway, I’ll leave you here to think about it until tomorrow.”
The Fat Controller came back out, dusting himself off. He climbed into Thomas’ cab.
Thomas, time to go back,” he said.
“What about Farmer McColl?” asked Thomas.
“I made him an
offer he couldn’t refuse,” said Sir Topham. “He’s just thinking about it.”
“Sir,” he said eventually, “are you running some sort of a racket?”
The Fat Controller
sighed. “Look at it this way, Thomas. Why do you think everyone travels by rail? Why does everyone send their goods
by train, when it’s cheaper and easier to send them by road?”
“Because we’re Really Useful?”
Dream on. No, because everyone respects me. I keep them safe and, yes, maybe I do a little racketeering.”
“No, you’re na´ve. Didn’t you think it was a bit odd when the Lorries came
and all of them had ‘mysterious accidents’ within a few days? Haven’t you ever wondered how I manage to
avoid all of British Railways’ directives? How you manage to break so many rules without any trouble? How I’m
allowed to built blatantly unsafe lines?”
“Because you’re a good Controller?”
this railway is an expensive business- especially when you engines keep crashing all the time. So I needed a little bit of
extra income. At first I got it by illegally dumping toxic waste at the abandoned lead mine- that’s why I just happened
to be there when you had your accident. But it wasn’t enough, and so I moved into crime. But I’d never harm you.”
about Duck?” said Thomas.
“You can’t prove a thing. Okay, I’ll admit that I’ve had to ‘dispose’
of the odd engine, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.”
“Wait, all these times
when you’ve just happened to be there when an engine is in trouble…”
“Oh, a lot of them weren’t
entirely coincidence,” said the Fat Controller. “For instance, I had to pull a few strings to get Stepney. And
he was going to squeal, but after scaring him up a little he saw the light.”
“Ah, so that’s why you just
happened to be at the smelter’s at midnight,” said Thomas.
“Yes, but you see why I have to do these things,”
said the Fat Controller.
“To avoid confusion and delay, and so we can stay Really Useful!” beamed Thomas.
they arrived in Brendam Docks, where a Japanese engine was being unloaded from a ship.
“Oh no!” gasped Thomas.
“Defend your honour, Topham-san!” cried the engine.
TO BE CONTINUED….
OR MAYBE NOT.