Book 13 - Duck & The Diesel Engines - 1958
Summaries by J Smith
This remarkably epic volume was the first to elaborate upon the character of Duck, who had appeared briefly in ‘Percy The Small Engine’. This was also the first volume to see a diesel engine on the Fat Controller’s railway. Yet, this diesel was to be the Railway Series’ first true villain – a specific characteristic that stressed Awdry’s strong opposition to the modernisation of railways with diesel traction. The stories tell of how the baneful visitor makes Duck highly unpopular with the other engines and has him briefly exiled. The Great Western hero must win back the trust of his friends by preventing a serious accident. Additionally, this volume was the first to ‘guest-star’ a ‘real’ engine -‘City of Truro’.
Important visitors have come to inspect the Fat Controller’s Railway, and they have brought their own private engine with them. Duck makes the acquaintance of the visitor, who turns out to be the famous record-breaking ‘City of Truro’. The pair are soon talking ‘Great Western’ well into the night, but despite Duck’s praise when the visitor leaves next morning, Gordon is not convinced by his achievements. He stubbornly claims Truro untrustworthy due to the absence of a dome - for one should never trust a ‘domeless engine’. Of course, Gordon is secretly jealous. A few days later whilst purposely trying to out-beat his rival’s speed record, Gordon gives himself such a ‘knocking’ that he loosens his dome and a strong wind blows it clear from his boiler as he passes over a viaduct. There is little talk of ‘domeless engines’ after that.
Pop Goes The Diesel
City of Truro’s visit makes Duck proud to be Great Western. The other engines soon grow tiered of his patriotic pride and are glad when a visitor arrives on trial – a black Class 08 diesel shunter. Duck is asked to show the visitor around – but despite his good manners before the others, Diesel begins to show a more sinister side when he and Duck are alone. He tells Duck that there is no need for him to learn the ways of the Fat Controller’s engines, for diesels are ‘revolutionary’. Duck decides to put the diesel’s statement to the test. Later, he returns to the yard to find the new-comer trying to move some old trucks from a siding – but despite his heated attempts, the trucks refuse to move. Eventually their brakes snap and the gears jam in the sleepers, leaving Diesel humiliated and unable to move them any further. The yard soon fills with the sound of laughter, as the trucks strike up a song - 'Pop Goes The Diesel'
Duck is outraged by the behaviour of the trucks, but Diesel firmly believes that Duck set out to humiliate him on purpose. He begins to plot vengeance – and spreads vicious rumours around the goods yard about Gordon, Henry and James, claiming to have heard them from Duck. Knowing that the trucks won’t stay silent, Diesel’s plan works perfectly and the rumours quickly reach the three bigger engines. They confront Duck at the sheds and bar him from entry after he returns from a hard day of work. The Fat Controller arrives to split up a bitter argument, but cannot solve the mystery of who started the rumours. He decides to send Duck to Edward’s branch line for a while. Our hero rolls sadly away as baneful Diesel smirks triumphantly in the darkness of the shed.
A Close Shave
Edward makes Duck feel welcome on the branch and he quickly settles down, but the three bigger engines still refuse to talk to him. One day Duck helps a goods train up an accent, but as he is making his way back to the yard, his driver hears a warning whistle. They look back in horror to see a breakaway hurtling down the hill after them. A dramatic chase commences, and the trucks eventually catch up with Duck. With the heavy trucks surging behind them, both engine and crew fight for control to bring the runaway train to a stop. Quite unexpectedly, they are diverted onto a siding after a near-miss collision and into a goods yard – moments before Duck ploughs front-first into the wall of a barbershop. The barber is furious, and lather’s Duck’s face all over – but the Fat Controller arrives and explains that Duck and his crew had prevented an even worser accident. The barber apologies to Duck and the Fat Controller proudly informs him that he is welcome home to the yard. Duck is surprised – for the others favoured Diesel, but it turns out that Diesel had tried the same tricks on Henry and was sent away in disgrace. So with his new paint shining, Duck returns home to a heroic welcome from his friends.