Book 16 - Branch Line Engines - 1961
Summaries by J Smith
The 1961 edition to the Railway Series draws our attention to the Ffarquhar branch line, where there is ‘never a dull moment’. Thomas has an amusing accident, and so a diesel-railcar is drafted in to take care of his duties whilst he is being repaired. But she proves to be awkward and lazy. Toby and Percy also have their share in the drama. This was the first volume to feature a ‘female’ engine – Daisy, who is also the first diesel engine to become a permanent member of the Fat Controller’s fleet.
Thomas Comes To Breakfast
Thomas knows his branch line very well, and becomes highly conceited when his driver jokingly tells him that he knows it well enough to manage without a crew. Thomas boasts about it to Percy and Toby, who think he is foolish to ever imagine such a thought. This makes him determined to prove them wrong, and his chance comes early one morning when he wakes up early whilst Percy and Toby are still asleep. Nudging his pistons forward, Thomas slowly begins to move out of the shed with the intention of ‘wheeshing’ his friends, thinking he is doing so by his own will – but he is only moving because of a careless cleaner meddling with his controls. Unable to stop himself, Thomas rolls helplessly through the yard and comes off the rails at a road, crashing head-on into the wall of the stationmaster’s house - just as the family are sitting down to breakfast. The stationmaster, his wife and the Fat Controller are all furious, and Thomas is depressed to learn that a diesel will be doing his work whilst he is having his front-end mended.
A few days later, the Fat Controller introduces Percy and Toby to Daisy, a chic diesel railcar who will be taking over passenger duties in Thomas’ absence. They do their best to make her comfortable, but Daisy is extremely awkward and hard to please. She makes heavy demands for a suitable shed and even insults Annie, Clarabel and Henrietta – having them removed from the carriage shed so that she can occupy it herself. The next morning when she begins work, Daisy blows a fuse when she learns that she must pull a milk van to the dairy (one of Thomas' every-day duties). She tells the stationmaster and the passengers that her fitter has forbidden her to pull for the sake of her swerves. This is not true, but Daisy manages to convince them and purrs away knowing that she can now get away with whatever work she chooses.
Daisy pities Toby for having cowcatchers and side plates, convinced that they are merely symbolic of his fear of meeting a stray animal on the line. Daisy has never been in such a situation before, but she is certain that the ‘proper’ way to deal with stray animals is to 'toot and look them in the eye'. Her opportunity to put this tactic into practice comes when a bull called Champion escapes his farmer and strays onto the line for some breakfast. Daisy toots and leers, but when Champion finally looks her in the eye, she looses her nerve and backs hastily away. Toby comes to the rescue and ‘shoos’ Champion to the crossing. Later when some boys taunt Daisy with a packet of sweets called ‘bull's-eyes’, she scuttles away mortified to veil herself in the shed.
Daisy remains lazy and slack, and after leaving the milk behind yet again, Percy realises that he must make a special trip to deliver it. He feels as if he has nothing better to do then shunt and handle trucks, but Toby takes pity on him. They arranged a ‘switch’ - Toby takes the milk whilst Percy heads to the quarry, but having never been to Toby’s quarry before, his lack of experience with the trucks leads to disaster. After recklessly ordering them about, the trucks get their own back by sending Percy hurtling down the quarry line out of control and into an idle train of stone trucks waiting in the yard. The Fat Controller makes Percy realise his mistake as he sits perched upon the remains of the smashed brake van – for now only there are only two engines avalible to run the branch line. He then turns his attention to Daisy and threatens to send her away on account of her laziness, but after her assistance in the aftermath of the accident, he agrees to give her a second chance under Toby’s tuition. All is well when Thomas returns from the works and Percy is sent for repairs. Soon after, all four engines become strong friends and Daisy is now a welcome member of the branch line family. She can even ‘shoo’ stray animals – the proper way!