Very Old Engines
Reviewed by SkarloeyRailway01
Very Old Engines has been a favourite of mine for as long as I can remember. As I'm sure many of you have deduced, I'm a big fan of the Skarloey Railway. Most of my favourite RWS books are surround these characters, and Skarloey has always been my personal favourite.
One of the main reasons this book stands out to me, is it is the only Railway Series book that is primarily focused on Skarloey. Every other Skarloey Railway book, the spotlight is largely shared, so it's kind of cool to zoom in on the character for whom the line is named. It's very cool to see the contrast between the cool, calm, collected old engine who we have come to know over the years. The difference is very fun to see play out and it shows some real development in the character's history. The same goes for Rheneas, but to a lesser extent.
The other element of the book that I adore is the glimpse we get into Sudrian history. This is an amazing world building book, and takes us way back in time for majority of the book. How cool is it to see the Sodor and Mainland Railway? Or cabless Skarloey and Rheneas? Or Sodor before all the "core" cast arrived? Never before or since (with the exception of expositional dialogue in KOTR) has the franchise explored Sodor's past, and it really shows how thoroughly Awdry had imagined and established this world. I'd kill to see this book adapted for the Railway Series, in no small part because of how much it expands the history of Sodor.
Besides all this, there is one element of the book that really takes the cake and pushes this book above and beyond any other RWS book, and that's the relationship between Skarloey and Rheneas. Growing up in a household with three younger brothers, I think this story very accurately portrays the love/hate kind of relationship that brothers can have. Skarloey and Rheneas aren't all "buddy buddy" throughout the story. They have very real differences and very real conflicts that are explored over the course of two incredible stories, and it shows that it’s okay when friends or brothers fight, so long as they are able to move beyond it and have a good laugh at the end of the day. The struggles and the emotions of the two engines feel very real and very human, and it's the kind of relationship that we don't see explored too often in the RWS or TVS. On top of that, the celebration in Duck and Dukes is the perfect wrap up and celebration of the two Little Old Engines.