Book 5 - Troublesome Engines - 1950

Summaries by J Smith

First published in 1950, the fifth book of the Railway Series sees Henry, Gordon and James getting ‘above themselves’, which results in a frustrating time for the Fat Controller. We are also introduced to cheeky Percy the Small Engine – who would later become a firm favourite among fans.

Henry & The Elephant
With Thomas now working on his branch line, Gordon and Henry must fetch their own coaches. Despite help from Edward, James gets caught in the negative harmony and all three are soon grumbling terribly. The arrival of a circus only brightens their mood temporarily, for it is James who is chosen to pull the special train away. Later, Henry is sent with some workmen to clear a blocked tunnel on the main line. The workmen enter the tunnel, only to come rushing back out again, claiming that the blockage ‘grunted and moved’. Reluctantly Henry rolls bravely into the tunnel to investigate – only to be pushed helplessly back out again by an angry elephant that had escaped from the circus. Whilst waiting for its keeper to return, the elephant sprays Henry with water in alarm when he lets off steam. The men think it a great joke, but Henry is deeply upset. Gordon and James take great pity on him. 

Tenders & Turntables
A turntable is situated at either end of the line so that the bigger engines can turn around, yet from the way Gordon was speaking to Thomas one day, one would have thought he had a tender merely to look important. But when his awkward temper jams the table, Gordon must pull his next train backwards – which makes a group of boys think he is a tank engine. James laughs, but is soon silenced when a strong wind spins him helplessly around on the turntable like a top. Gordon, Henry and James hold an indignation meeting, and come to the conclusion that they have been humiliated for long enough. They make a plan…

Trouble In The Shed
The following morning, the Fat Controller arrives to find the platform buzzing with angry passengers. Henry has still not arrived to pull his first train. He immediately goes to the shed to investigate and discovers that the three big engines are on strike – refusing to work unless their coaches are brought to them. Edward is summoned and the days work runs smoothly, but when the three big engines upset Edward, the Fat Controller realises it is time to draft in a new tank engine. The new arrival, a quaint little saddle-tank engine called Percy, settles down instantly and Thomas is called back to help Edward run the main line trains. Meanwhile, Gordon, Henry and James remain locked in the shed, sad and silent. 

Percy Runs Away
Several days later, the Fat Controller decides to let the three big engines out of their shed on the basis that they promise to behave. He then sends Thomas, Edward and Percy off to the branch line to play for a few days. Thomas goes to take Annie and Clarabel for a run while Edward takes some ‘empties’ to the quarry. Percy is left to busy himself with shunting in the yard and enjoys being cheeky to the bigger engines as they pass. But in his excitement he forgets Edward’s warning to whistle for the signalman to switch the points back to the yard from the main line. All too soon, Gordon appears in the distance, thundering towards Percy with the Express. Gordon stops just in time, but Percy – in a state of shock – finds himself speeding backwards on a helplessly joyride. A kind signalman sends Percy onto a siding and ends his adventure in a bank of earth. He realises that it is most important to be careful on the main line, but he is still cheeky as he is still that sort of engine.

Troublesome Engines

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