For the two super original frens who suggested we start with The Three Railway Engines... here you go! [RWS #1]
Pilot episode pilot episode pilot episode—
Objectively the very worst book that RWA ever offered. He was an amateur and it Shows. (And condensing the first two stories is surely one of Britt Allcroft’s top 10 editorial moves.)
I still like it, though. Why?
1) The Sad Story of Henry. “It makes no damn sense!… compels me, though.” And it gets worse every time Awdry tried to open his mouth and rationalize it! It wasn’t meant to be rationalized, and yet it’s so much fun to try and do so.
2) It’s also fun to try to get into the mindset of some rando in 1945, experiencing this universe for the first time. (You’d certainly never expect it to one day get as deep as it did! That’s for damn sure!)
3) Any fanfic writer has to get a confidence boost from this. Yup, this is the standard bar. Yeah, that thing. The one that’s on the floor. Here are your binoculars. C’mon. We can write at least as well as Rev. Awdry did when he was published, guys. We’ve got this!
4) Reading this in conjunction with Duke the Lost Engine is just mind-blowingly cool. They form a beautiful set of “bookends” to the series. (What about Tramway Engines, Jobes? Well, I like to compare/contrast that one with Thomas the Tank Engine, soooo… two sets of bookends. Rev. Awdry’s mind is a neat place to explore!)
Per Moon’s request, I’ll do Main Line Engines next, but I’ll put Duke in the queue after that so anyone who wants to can see for themselves. <3
purple text = just things i wanted to draw attention to, mostly details not in the TVS adaptation that have made me rethink various headcanons
strikethrough = i couldn't resist making editorial jokes
Also, pics only of the first page of each story. The illustrations are all available elsewhere.
EDWARD’S DAY OUT
ONCE upon a time there was a little engine called Edward. He lived in a Shed with five other engines. They were all bigger than Edward and boasted about it. “The Driver won’t choose you again,” they said. “He wants big, strong engines like us.” Edward had not been out for a long time; he began to feel sad.
Just then the Driver and Fireman came along to start work.
The Driver looked at Edward. “Why are you sad?” he asked. “Would you like to come out today?”
“Yes, please,” said Edward. So the Fireman lit the fire and made a nice lot of steam.
Then the Driver pulled the lever, and Edward puffed away.
“Peep, peep,” he whistled. “Look at me now.”
The others were very cross at being left behind.
Away went Edward to get some coaches. Because we weren't imagining it, guys — kinda looks to me like the No-Where Railway really did have a one engine in steam situation during this time. At least, it did at this depot. WTH. Locomotive crisis, indeed!
“Be careful, Edward,” said the coaches, “don’t bump and bang us like the other coaches do.” So Edward came up to the coaches, very, very gently, and the shunter fastened the coupling.
“Thank you, Edward,” said the coaches. “That was kind, we are glad you are taking us today.”
Then fortunately Rev. Awdry ran out of morals that he wanted to stuff into tonight's story, so they went to the station where the people were waiting.
“Peep, peep,” whistled Edward — “get in quickly, please.”
So the people got in quickly and Edward waited happily for the Guard to blow his whistle, and wave his green flag.
He waited and waited — there was no whistle, no green flag. “Peep, peep, peep, peep — where is that Guard?” Edward was getting anxious.
The Driver and Fireman asked the Stationmaster, “Have you seen the Guard?” “No,” he said. They asked the Porter, “Have you seen the Guard?” “Yes — last night,” said the Porter. I ship it.
Edward began to get cross. “Are we ever going to start?” he said.
“Just go! lmao,” shouted a boxy tank engine, several sidings over.
Just then a little boy shouted, “Here he comes!” and there the Guard was, running down the hill with his flags in one hand and a sandwich in the other.
He ran onto the platform, blew his whistle, and jumped into his van.
And that's it. That's all the suspense you are going to get during this story.
Edward puffed off. He did have a happy day. All the children ran to wave as he went past and he met old friends at all the stations. He worked so hard that the Driver promised to take him out again next day.
“I’m going out again tomorrow,” he told the other engines that night in the Shed, because, good Lord, this pre-Thomas version of Edward sure seems okay with stirring things up. “What do you think of that?”
But he didn’t hear what they thought, for he was so tired and happy that he fell asleep at once.
Power Move Rating: A+ 💯
EDWARD AND GORDON
ONE of the engines in Edward’s Shed yeah that’s right punks. it’s now Edward’s Shed now and the rest of you just live there was called Gordon. He was very big and very proud.
“You watch me this afternoon, little Edward,” he boasted, “as I rush through with the Express; that will be a splendid sight for you.”
Just then his Driver pulled the lever. “Goodbye, little Edward,” said Gordon, as he puffed away, “look out for me this afternoon!”
It’s an eternal mystery to me whether he’s trying to bully or flirt but either way he’s really rather bad at it.
Edward went off, too, to do some shunting.
Edward liked shunting. It was fun playing with trucks. He would come up quietly and give them a pull.
“Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!” screamed the trucks. “Whatever is happening?”
Then he would stop and the silly trucks would go bump into each other. “Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!” they cried again.
Edward pushed them until they were running nicely, and when they weren’t expecting it he would stop; one of them would be sure to run on to another line. Edward played till there were no more trucks; then he stopped to rest.
Presently he heard a whistle. Gordon came puffing along, very slowly, and very crossly. Instead of nice shining coaches, he was pulling a lot of very dirty coal trucks.
“A goods train! a goods train! a goods train!” he grumbled. “The shame of it, the shame of it, the shame of it.”
He went slowly through, with the trucks clattering and banging behind him.
Edward laughed, and went to find some more trucks.
Soon afterwards a Porter came and spoke to his Driver. “Gordon can’t get up the hill. Will you take Edward and push him, please?”
They found Gordon halfway up the hill and very cross. His Driver and Fireman were talking to him severely. “You are not trying!” they told him. And if you think the only mechanical trick engine-men on this railway have is scolding their engines, oh you just wait until next story!
“I can’t do it,” said Gordon. “The noisy trucks hold an engine back so. If they were coaches now — clean sensible things that come quietly — that would be different.”
Edward’s Driver came up. “We’ve come to push,” he said. “No use at all,” said Gordon. “You wait and see,” said Edward’s Driver.
They brought the train back to the bottom of the hill. Edward came up behind the brake van ready to push.
“Peep, peep, I’m ready,” said Edward.
“Poop, poop, no good,” grumbled Gordon.
The Guard blew his whistle and they pulled and pushed as hard as they could.
“I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t do it,” puffed Gordon.
“I will do it, I will do it, I will do it,” puffed Edward.
“I can’t do it, I will do it, I can’t do it, I will do it, I can’t do it, I will do it,” they puffed together.
Edward pushed and puffed and puffed and pushed, as hard as ever he could, and almost before he realised it, Gordon found himself at the top of the hill.
“I’ve done it! I’ve done it! I’ve done it!” he said proudly, and forgot all about Edward pushing behind. He didn’t wait to say “Thank you”, but ran on so fast that he passed two stations before his Driver could make him stop.
Edward had pushed so hard that when he got to the top he was out of breath.
Gordon ran on so fast that Edward was left behind.
The Guard waved and waved, but Edward couldn’t catch up.
He ran on to the next station, and there the Driver and Fireman said they were very pleased with him. The Fireman gave him a nice long drink of water, and the Driver said, “I’ll get out my paint tomorrow, and give you a beautiful new coat of blue with red stripes, then you’ll be the smartest engine in the Shed.” Because that's the normal purview of an engine driver. I guess.
THE SAD STORY OF HENRY
ONCE, an engine attached to a train
Was afraid of a few drops of rain —
— It went into a tunnel,
And squeaked through its funnel
And never came out again.
The engine’s name was Henry. His Driver and Fireman argued with him, but he would not move. “The rain will spoil my lovely green paint and red stripes,” he said.
The Guard blew his whistle till he had no more breath, and waved his flags till his arms ached; but Henry still stayed in the tunnel, and blew steam at him.
“I am not going to spoil my lovely green paint and red stripes for you,” he said rudely.
The passengers came and argued too, but Henry would not move.
A Fat Director who was on the train told the Guard to get a rope. “We will pull you out,” he said. But Henry only blew steam at him and made him wet. Y'know, he sure has a lot of steam to spare for an engine that most of us headcanon as having just plain run out of steam this day.
They hooked the rope on and all pulled — except The Fat Director. “My doctor has forbidden me to pull,” he said.
They pulled and pulled and pulled, but still Henry stayed in the tunnel.
At last another train came. The Guard waved his red flag and stopped it. The two Engine Drivers, the two Firemen, and the two Guards went and argued with Henry.
“Look, it has stopped raining,” they said. “Yes, but it will begin again soon,” said Henry. “And what would become of my green paint with red stripes then?”
So they brought the other engine up, and it pushed and puffed and pushed as hard as ever it could. But still Henry stayed in the tunnel.
So they gave it up. They told Henry, “We shall leave you there for always and always and always.”
They took up the old rails, built a wall in front of him, and cut a new tunnel.
Because these No-Where people are insane and have absolutely no sense of priorities, that's why. *shrug* Hope this doesn't turn into an ongoing island stereotype!
Now Henry can’t get out, and he watches the trains rushing through the new tunnel. He is very sad because no one will ever see his lovely green paint with red stripes again.
But I think he deserved it, don’t you?
EDWARD, GORDON, AND HENRY
EDWARD and Gordon often went through the tunnel where Henry was shut up.
Edward would say, “Peep, peep — hullo!” and Gordon would say, “Poop, poop, poop! Serves you right!”
Poor Henry had no steam to answer, his fire had gone out; soot and dirt from the tunnel roof had spoilt his lovely green paint and red stripes. He was cold and unhappy, and wanted to come out and pull trains too.
Gordon always pulled the Express. He was proud of being the only engine strong enough to do it.
There were many heavy coaches, full of important people like The Fat Director who had punished Henry.
Gordon was seeing how fast he could go. “Hurry! hurry! hurry!” he panted.
“Trickety-trock, trickety-trock, trickety-trock,” said the coaches. They had not yet learned Sass.
Gordon could see Henry’s tunnel in front.
“In a minute,” he thought, “I’ll poop, poop, poop at Henry, and rush through and out into the open again.”
Today, you see, Gordon was to learn about the Unspoken Plan Guarantee.
Closer and closer he came — he was almost there, when crack: “Wheee ——— eeshshsh,” he was in a cloud of steam, and going slower and slower.
His Driver stopped the train.
“What has happened to me?” asked Gordon, “I feel so weak.” “You’ve burst your safety valve,” said the Driver. “You can’t pull the train any more.” “Oh, dear,” said Gordon. “We were going so nicely, too… Look at Henry laughing at me.” Gordon made a face at Henry, and blew smoke at him. Siblings, all right. I don't need to cite The Lore. This is the most sibling dynamic ever.
Everybody got out, and came to see Gordon. “Humph!” said The Fat Director. “I never liked these big engines — always going wrong; send for another engine at once.”
While the Guard went to find one, they uncoupled Gordon, and ran him on a siding out of the way.
The only engine left in the Shed was Edward.
“I’ll come and try,” he said.
Gordon saw him coming. “That’s no use,” he said, “Edward can’t pull the train.”
Edward puffed and pulled, and pulled and puffed, but he couldn’t move the heavy coaches.
“I told you so,” said Gordon rudely. “Why not let Henry try?” he added sarcastically.
“Yes,” said The Fat Director, “I will.”
Gordon: shocked pikachu face
“Will you help pull this train, Henry?” he asked. “Yes,” said Henry at once. “Yes, yes, oh please yes thinly-disguised God figure I'm literally disintegrating in here with nothing but the spiders and rust for company what are you nutters I'll do a n y t h i n g."
So Gordon’s Driver and Fireman lit his fire; some platelayers broke down the wall and put back the rails; and when he had steam up Henry puffed out.
Seriously. What is going on here. How fast did they raise Henry's steam? Couldn't they have sent Edward on with the first-class coaches at least? Couldn't everyone have walked to Vicarstown by this point? Are all the passengers having a cookout? Was this the You Had To Be There social event of the '20s?
He was dirty, his boiler was black, and he was covered with cobwebs. “Ooh! I’m so stiff! Ooh! I’m so stiff!” he groaned.
“You’d better have a run to ease your joints, and find a turntable,” said The Fat Director kindly.
Too little too late.
Henry came back feeling better, and they put him in front.
“Peep, peep,” said Edward, “I’m ready.”
“Peep, peep, peep,” said Henry, “so am I.”
“Pull hard; pull hard; pull hard,” puffed Edward.
“We’ll do it; we’ll do it; we’ll do it,” puffed Henry.
“Pull hard we’ll do it. Pull hard we’ll do it. Pull hard we’ll do it,” they puffed together. The heavy coaches jerked and began to move, slowly at first, then faster and faster. This scene works so much better in extended written form, wth, somehow it really does make me feel more like I'm beside a starting train than the TVS version.
“We’ve done it together! We’ve done it together! We’ve done it together!” said Edward and Henry.
“You’ve done it, hurray! You’ve done it, hurray! You’ve done it, hurray!” sang the coaches. This part is still lame tho.
All the passengers were excited mostly because after hours and hours of delay they were finally moving again good God the Nowhereland-people sure have some bad Stockholm syndrome. The Fat Director leaned out of the window to wave to Edward and Henry; but the train was going so fast that his hat blew off into a field where a goat ate it for his tea.
They never stopped till they came to the big station at the end of the line.
The passengers all got out and said, “Thank you,” and a few unprintable things pro’lly, and The Fat Director promised Henry a new coat of paint.
“Would you like blue and red?”
“Yes, please,” said Henry, “then I’ll be like Edward.”
The Togetherness™ is strong in this one.
Edward and Henry went home quietly or at least as quietly as two steam engines can wend, and on their way home they helped Gordon back to the Shed.
All three engines are now great friends. No, seriously. Great friends. Besties. Stop laughing!
Wasn’t Henry pleased when he had his new coat? He is very proud of it, as all good engines are — but he doesn’t mind the rain now, because it sure beats the extended tunnel nightmare because he knows that the best way to keep his paint nice is not to run into tunnels, but to ask his Driver to rub him down when the day’s work is over.
A concept that apparently no one thought to explain to him during all the arguments back on page 42.
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