Book 23 - Enterprising Engines - 1968
Summaries by R Healy
The darker of Awdry's works, Enterprising Engines was written in the same year that steam was to be abolished officially on the Main Line network in the UK. It also brings the realisation that scrap is a definite threat to engines on the mainland as we meet Oliver, an engine so terrified of being scrapped that he's run away and trying to make his way to Sodor for a better life. On a lighter note however, the locomotive icon that is Flying Scotsman gives Gordon all the reassurance he needs that everything is well in spite of what's happening on the Mainland when he drops in for a visit. Sadly the last Main Line volume of the original series, it does a splendid job of wrapping up loose ends as a result!
Tenders for Henry
Gordon is feeling upset, and the other engines can only laugh about his problems, suggesting it's boiler ache from the water columns on the Other Railway, but Gordon knows his problem lies deeper than that. The Diesels on the Other Railway have been boasting that they've abolished steam, and the Fat Controller can only confirm it's true.
Gordon is sad, but the Fat Controller knows what to do to cheer him up again, and decides to bring Flying Scotsman, the only other surviving member of his class, to the Railway for a visit.
The two are photographed together and exchange stories between one another, but Henry feels jealous of the fact that Flying Scotsman has two tenders. Duck decides to use this for a trick, and bargains with Henry to take his tenders, which turn out to be old, dirty and filled with boiler sludge! When Henry passes through the yard that evening, he's hardly a pleasant sight!
A visiting Diesel, 199, from the other Railway causes bother for the engines with his boasting. Duck argues that steam engines are much more reliable than Diesels and is proved quite right the following day!
Henry has lost his regulator and is being brought home slowly, tender first. He arrives at a signalbox where 199 is waiting with a train of Oil Tankers, only to find that the boastful Diesel has failed himself! The Signalman urges them to take the "Spamcan" away, to which 199 takes umbridge! But he's soon put in his place when the Signalman threatens him with a tin-opener!
But 7101, the other Diesel is having troubles of his own with "The Limited" and subsequently fails himself! His train's ejector fails and half a mile away from Henry, he grinds to a halt too.
Henry relishes the prospect of moving two "Dead Diesels" and their trains, and duly takes up the challenge despite being ill himself. He gets between the two trains and moves them both to the next station, where the passengers praise Henry for his actions. Soon, Henry and 7101 head back to the shed together, whilst 199 is sent home in disgrace.
On a trip to the Other Railway with a Midnight Goods, Douglas finds he's due to take back more than he bargained for! He hears something close by and discovers it's a steam engine called Oliver, who's escaping from Scrap with his brake van, Toad, and auto-coach, Isabel.
Douglas isn't the least bit apprehensive and without a second thought, helps the engine escape. But their journey isn't flawless, a Diesel alerts a Foreman at the mouth of the station, and they're stopped and searched before they can continue on. After a thorough inspection, the Foreman allows them to pass and they forge ahead until they reach home once more.
The Night Foreman catches them as they slip into the works, but is kind enough to help them out by finding a place for Oliver to be kept in the meantime. As Douglas leaves, he recalls his own past and how much he has in common with Oliver. Had he not escaped with Donald, he would have been scrapped too...
Flying Scotsman leaves to go back to the Mainland, and when the time is right, Douglas tells the other engines all about Oliver. All the engines agree that the Fat Controller should know about Oliver for his own safety.
He overhears the conversation and Duck pipes up that they need another engine, which is why the Fat Controller has seen fit to give 7101 another chance. But Gordon pushes for a "real" engine, to which the Fat Controller discourages the engines further by mentioning the rarity of such an engine. But when Douglas makes a desperate plea to let him know that one has escaped from scrap, the Fat Controller tells them he knows all about it.
The engines are delighted. Oliver and Isabel are given a job on Duck's Branch Line, and Toad has volunteered himself as Douglas's brake van.
7101 is put to work on the Main Line, and becomes one of the family by being christened as "Bear" because of the growling noise he makes, and soon learns "our ways".
Oliver, Isabel and Toad are repainted in full Great Western livery and the Fat Controller rescues three more auto-coaches to serve along with them - Alice and Mirabel became Duck's coaches, whilst Dulcie joins Oliver and Isabel.
The others made a joke of their line, and called it "The Little Western", as a result, the name stuck and Duck and Oliver could think of nothing more fitting.