Sodor Academy: College Students

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The lazy days of summer had long since arrived. It was a beautiful day, with not a cloud in the sky. All the children in town were taking advantage of it and having great fun.

Except for 15-year-old Thomas Southampton.

He played amongst the rest, but he was always worried and fretful. Sometimes he would fiddle with his wavy brown hair, or just stare out into the distanec. Why? He was waiting for a letter in the mail. A letter that would end his life or begin it anew.

That afternoon, the mailman appeared to be taking an extra long time getting to Thomas' house. When at last he had deposited all of his letters in the mailbox, Thomas was almost sweating. He nonchalantly sauntered down the front walk, opened up the mailbox, and peered inside. Taking out a particularly bulky envelope, he ripped it open and pulled out the letter.


He sprinted towards the door, and flung it open in ecstasy.

"Mom! Dad! I've been accepted!"

His mother looked up from her book. "That's wonderful, dear!" "Well done, son," added his father.

"I wasn't sure, but . . ."

He held up the letter.

"When does it begin?"

"Well, first day's in two weeks."

"That's plenty of time to get a ticket, and for you to get packed."

Thomas rushed off to his room.

"Goodbye, Thomas!"

Steam filled the station as the whistle blew, almost drowning out his mother's words. He stared out the window at them as the train roared out of the station, gaining speed. His mother, his father. Even Annie and Clarabel, his little sisters, were waving. He would miss them all, he knew. Then the train rounded a bend, and they disappeared from view.

Tired from the long journey, Thomas dragged his bags off of the taxi. It had been a long day, and he was looking forward to a res after the welcome. He saw several other kids walking up the front steps. He ran up to greet one, a small boy in a green shirt with blond hair.

"Hi, I'm Thomas. Are you one of the new students?"

The boy smiled.

"Yeah. I'm Percy. Nice to meet you."

Together, they pulled open the door and stepped into the lobby, which was bustling with people. They merged with a group of kids about their age. A staff member was leading them down the hall to the cafeteria. Apparently, the older students had already arrived. The faculty member went into the cafeteria, leaving them alone in the now-silent hallway. Thomas walked around, meeting some of the other students.

"Toby McEastern." An older looking guy in brown shirts and blue jeans and a Yankee ccap.

"Emily Stirling." A tall, dark haired girl with green eyes.

"Montague Quinley. Call me Duck." A short, dirty-blond haired boy with brown eyes.

"Rosie ." A short girl with pink-streaked raven hair.

"Molly Hamilton." A thin girl with blond hair and hazel eyes.

"Gronk Diesel." A boy with black hair and sunken eyes. He looked eternally angry.

Just then, the door reopened, and all were summoned inside. Within, there were only a few more students.

"Oh look. New shrimps," said one boy wearing sunglasses and a red jacket.

"Quiet, James," said another, with blond hair and an all-blue wardrobe.

After everyone had been seated, the principal stood up for an announcement. He was a large man, in a suit and top hat.

"Greetings, everyone! I am Sir Topham Hatt, for those of you who don't know me. I would like to welcome you all to Sodor Academy. You have been selected by us for a very special reason. You are train people. Sodor Academy prides itself on educating the best and brightest railway designers in the world. You are very lucky. There are few like you anywhere. We will take your ability and take it as far as it will go, and beyond. For you are now part of Sodor Academy. Welcome!"

A loud cheer echoed through the school.

The next few weeks went by quickly. The engines were given basic mechanics, as well as the general design of trains. Most of them already knew this.

They were also given lessons in locomotive driving. Victor, the workshop overseer, taught them one-on-one n his own little shunting locomotive. Thomas was a fast learner, and was driving Victor's engine like a professional in no time.

Gronk, or Diesel as everyone called him, had a harder time. He would often be reckless and didn't listen to Victor's advice. Lessons were put on hold for three days when Diesel accelerated too quickly and damaged the engine's cylinders.

Percy, the boy Thomas had met, also had trouble. He was easily confused and often made mistakes. Thomas began to wonder why he was accepted to the Academy.

"I came on scholarship," said Percy, when Thomas asked him about it. "I never thought of myself as much of a train person, but when I took the exam, my scores were so high they let me in almost immediately."

Thomas had already recieved his room in the dormitory, where he roomed with Percy, Duck, and Toby, the older boy. Duck was quite nice, but could be a bit of a smart aleck. Toby was also very friendly, and always helped Thomas out whenever he didn't understand something.

It was early October when the day that they had all been waiting for arrived. Sir Topham Hatt addressed them personally.

"In Sodor Academy, we pride ourselves on not teaching our students on rote memorization and theory. If they must drive a locomotive, then they must drive it. What use is knowing the diameter of a brake pipe if you can't stop a locomotive?"

James, who could be a bit of a suck-up, guffawed loudly. Everyone else was silent.

"That is why we allow our students to build their own locomotive. Each of you will select an engine class and design a locomotive based on it. However, you may make modifications. Come May, we wil test your locomotives. I expect that each and every one of you will design a good engine."

The students were excited by this announcement. Using the school's extensive archives, each selected their own class. Thomas and the others were there.

Gordon, Molly, Toby, Emily, and Henry were at LNER & Crewe.

"What's your class, Thomas?"

"I don't know, Percy. How about you?"

"I'm selecting a generic industrial shunting saddle tank engine. I've got some great ideas."

"What about the other engines?"

"Gordon's doing an A1/3 prototype. James is experimenting on an L&YR class 28, and Emily's trying out a Stirling Single. Molly's a Claud Hamilton. Toby this tram. Those Scots are building CR 812's."

"I haven't found anything yet, but I'll keep looking."

As Percy hurried off to his next class, Thomas tried to keep looking. But he didn't know what he wanted. He was entering the section labeled SOUTHERN RAILWAY CONTRIBUTORS when Diesel ran by, bowling Thomas over. "Outta my way, Tommy!" Thomas was thrown against the shelf, and a shower of papers rained down on him. He started to pick them up, when he noticed one particularly interesting photograph.

It was a little tank engine, shunting in a harbor. It It had a short, stumpy dome, a short, stumpy, boiler, and six small wheels. There was a scribble reading "LB&SCR E2 CLASS".

Thomas pocketed the paper thoughtfully. "Maybe I do know what I want."

The rest of the month came and went. Thomas decided on the E2, and began construction of the undercarriage. The other students also started on their locomotives.

With the end of the month came the arrival of Halloween. Trick-or-treating was not common in the Sodor Junction (the village around the academy), but none of the students liked missing out on the chance to scare everyone else.

On the 30th, everyone gathered in the cafeteria for some midnight storytelling. Thomas, Percy, and several others were listening to Edward's story which he laid out in extreme detail:

"And so, one by one, the mooring ropes that held the old barge in place slipped away. The boat disappeared downriver, lost into the storm. It was found the next day, beached on a sandbar, with its bottom ripped out . . . and there was no one there, not a soul. The mate had his revenge. But next year, the day the barge had been found, the mate was found with his throat slit. No one knew who, or why. But every year, on Halloween night, the boat sits by the pier, and woe be to the ones onboard when it drifts away, for they never come back."

Diesel chuckled. "That's such a stupid story. Ghost ships on Halloween night . . . make believe."

Edward smiled. "There's something to be said for make believe, Gronk."

"Hmmph." Diesel pursed his lips.

"If you're so sure," put in Emily, a girl in Thomas' class, "why don't you go and see?"

"Well, I-"


"No, but sneaking off school grounds? Kind of risky, no?"

"Sure, but it's not that bad. I'd do it. I'm sure someone else would too."

Everyone stood back, except for Thomas, who had dozed off. "No way," said Toby. "Find someone else," added Henry. "What are you looking at me for?" finished James.

"Well, if none of you will go, then how about Thomas?"

"Yeah, sure watev- zzzzzzzz" said Thomas drowsily.

"See you tomorrow night, then."

The moon was full on Halloween night. The mist hung low. It was the perfect setting for a ghost story.

"Thomas, why do I have to go?" Percy groaned.

"You could've woken me up. Besides, I need backup."

"From what?"

"One never knows," said Thomas mysteriously. "Here they are."

All four students crept through town, over to the old pier.

"See? Nothing there. Let's go home." Diesel appeared anxious.

"It's not midnight yet," cut in Emily. "Still a minute 'til."

The four sat down on the dock, counting down the seconds.

"It's exactly midnight. There's nothing there." Emily sounded disappointed.

"Come on, let's get back. I know a shortcut."

Percy led them through a matrix of wooden walkways, ropes, and oil barrels. "Just up ahead." Suddenly, he vanished into the night.

"Percy?" Called Emily, walking forward. Suddenly, she too was gone, with only a high-pitched squeal.

"Where did they go?" wondered Diesel.

"Wait," said Thomas. "Percy told me about a shortcut through south harbor once. But this isn't south harbor, it's north harbor. There's the fish warehouse. That means we weren't at the right pier. It should be right . . ." He leaned forward. The ground was no longer there, grabbing Diesel for support, he tumbled downward.


They were lying on a bed of what appeared to be large rocks. Thomas could here Percy groaning a few feet away.

"We're on a boat." said Thomas.

"No duh."

"And judging by the texture of these rocks, we're on a coal barge."

A lantern went on, and the boat was illuminated. It was white, and filled with coal. But it appeared very old and shaky. And there were voices, getting louder with each second.

"Oh no."

Emily jumped up, baring her fists as if to threaten the ghosts. Diesel shrank back. Thomas and Percy stood up, bewildered. Footsteps echoed along the planks, closer and closer . . .

"'ey, what's this, Sid?"

"We got some stowaways."

"Stay back, ghost!" called Emily.

"We ain't ghosts, we're people!"

"Then why are you operating a white old barge at midnight on Halloween?"

"We ship anthracite. Extra cheap if you can take the hours. As for the color, well, it's a lime shipper by day."

"Like that story from Terry the Train Car!" said Thomas.

"You watched that garbage?" said Diesel skeptically.

"It was great! There was a story where Perry the little engine got covered in lime and scared the other engines!"

"Well, toddler's shows aside, what are we gonna do with you? You're from the Academy, ain't ya?"

The barge workers lifted them out, and they walked back to the Academy. Sir Topham Hatt was stern, but you could tell he could hardly keep from smiling. He gave them two weeks' detention.

"It isn't that bad." laughed Percy.

"Yes it is," moaned Emily. "My mom will kill me when she hears."

"Well, at least we get to say we rode in a the ghost barge!"

And they all smiled.

After Halloween, the engines settled down somewhat. Lessons continued, and the students were allowed to help out with the workshop locomotives.

The students also continued construction of their own locomotives. Thomas' E2 was coming along nicely, and he was finishing work on the undercarriage. The older students made much faster progress. Gordon, a large, brown-haired boy, was already starting work on the boiler. Meanwhile, Percy was still struggling with cylinders.

Diesel was one of the few students who chose to build a diesel engine, an 08 shunter. The other diesel builder, Boco, was a year ahead and didn't work with them.

One day, Thomas had finished tightening the undercarriage axles, and was taking a short break. He saw that Diesel, who was close by, was wiring the motor.

"Hey, Diesel. You're not doing it right."

"How would you know?"

"Well, your main cables frayed and it overlaps the wheel drivers. You could have a short circuit."

"That's impossible."

"Prove it."

Making sure that Victor was nowhere near them, Diesel grabbed a cable and hooked it up to the feed. Then he plugged it in to the main circuit board.

"Watch and learn, Tommy."

He started the motor. At first, the system ran perfectly. The motor hummed pleasantly, and the wheels turned slowly and rhythmically. But suddenly, there was a loud buzz, and sparks started to fly. The wheels began to move faster and faster.

"What's happening?" called Diesel apprehensively.

"I told you the main wire was frayed!"

The motor hummed louder and louder. The noise started to attract some of the other students.

"Diesel's testing his engine!"

"It doesn't look too good."

"There could be an explosion!"

Thomas ran over to the circuit board, but the cable could not be wrenched from the outlet. The motor went haywire, the wheels spinning so fast they were a blur. The humming got higher and louder still.

With nothing else left to try, Thomas grabbed a pair of wire cutters and leaned over the overheating motor. Smoke was pouring from it, clouding Thomas' vision. He reached in, and with a quick snip severed the main wire.

For a minute nothing could be seen but thick, black smoke. Over the coughs and mutterings of the other students, he heard the whine of the motor getting quieter.

When the smoke had cleared, it revealed a scowling Victor looming over Diesel.

"What's the meaning of this test, Diesel?"


"That was incredibly stupid. And the wire was very badly frayed! Why didn't you do it correctly?"


Thomas thought he should say something. "Sir, I-"

"Jackson, that was good work, cutting the main wire. Don't try to stand up for this fool."

Everyone went back to work. At the end of class, Thomas ran over to Diesel.

"Diesel, I'm sorry about the test. I'll help you rewire, if you want me to."

Diesel said nothing, so Thomas walked away.

Under his breath, Diesel muttered, "You'll pay for this, Jackson. You'll see!"

A few days later, the students were preparing for work in the yard.

"Gordon, Emily, Toby, you'll be taking the workman's train. James, Henry, Molly, you'll be taking the mixed goods."

James muttered something about "stinkin' goods trains".

"Percy, Rosie, Duck, you'll be shunting, and Diesel and Boco, you'll be taking the MOW train."

Thomas was confused. "What about Edward and I?"

"You get the day off."

Diesel scowled. "Lucky."

Thomas wasn't very happy either. "I wish I could take out an engine."

Then he noticed that there was another engine. It was a big diesel engine, with an odd roof.

"Could I take this one?"

Sir Topham Hatt looked up briefly. That one? No, of course not. Enjoy your day off."

"Why not?"

Edward grabbed Thomas' arm. "I'll tell you. Come on."

They went out into the village. Edward showed Thomas the Station Cafe, a small cafe next to the railway line.

"Excuse me, miss," he called to the young waitress. "We'll have a-"

"Water's fine."

"One water and one triple cappuccino." Thomas was puzzled. "I'm a coffee addict," said Edward, smiling.

"What's the story about that engine?"

Edward grew serious. "That's the engine of Diesel 10."

"Who's Diesel 10?"

"He was a student at the academy a while back. I was just starting. I don't know his real name. Everyone just called him Diesel 10. He was a diesel major. A brilliant student, too. He poured his heart into building his engine. When it was unveiled on testing day, it was a marvel- a great feat of engineering. But then Diesel 10 showed off the greatest feature of all: a metal claw, which could be used to lift things."

"A claw?"

"That's right. It worked well at first. Then, suddenly, it malfunctioned. Sir Topham Hatt was badly injured by it. And all of the officials wanted it scrapped. It was too dangerous. But Diesel 10 didn't listen. He refused to destroy his prized creation. The night the engine was due to be scrapped. He went to the workshop, and drove the engine out. What happened next, no living person knows. But the next morning, the workshop was ashes. Three people- including a chairman of the school board - were lost in that fire."

"They caught Diesel 10, of course. He's in jail now. Maximum security. But he's gone mad, and they say he spends all his time plotting his revenge. And to this day, no one touches his engine."

"Interestingly enough, Diesel 10 lost his right arm to that fire. They gave him a prosthetic instead, with a little claw for a hand. Maker became creation."

"Sad story."

"I know." Edward stood up. "I have to go. I wanted to do a little shopping, take advantage of the day off. My engine needs a couple of non-standard parts. Meet you at the Academy gates at four?"


Thomas was sitting on the platform, watching the trains go by. Sodor Junction was a small town, so not many stopped. The local was just pulling up when someone sat down next to him.

It was the waitress at the cafe. She looked to be about Thomas' age. She was tall and gangly, but elegant in her own way. Her golden hair hung down to her shoulders, framing her face and gray eyes.



"Wanna see a magic trick?"


She held out a deck of cards. "Pick a card, any card." Thomas selected and drew a jack of clubs.

"Draw again." This time a queen of spades.

"Draw again." This time a king of diamonds.

"Now put them all back in the stack." He did so. She made a great spectacle of shuffling them, then placed them flat. "Watch." The top card was the jack of clubs. Next came the queen of spades. Then the king of diamonds. Finally, she drew the top card with a flourish, revealing an ace of hearts.

"That's amazing. How do you do it?"

"A good magician never reveals her secrets."

Thomas glanced at the clock. "It's almost four- I have to go. Nice to meet you. By, the way, I'm Thomas."

"Call me Polly. If you ever want me, I'm staying here."

"See you later."


Thomas hurried down the platform. When he looked back, the enigmatic girl was gone.

November passed by in a haze of smoke, and soon it was December.

"Snow's late this year," muttered James.

"That's lucky," replied Toby. "The snows can get really deep through the winter."

The students were progressing well on their locomotives; Thomas had started his E2's boiler. The only one who was behind was Diesel, who thanks to Thomas had to rewire his entire undercarriage.

It was also holiday time. Sodor Academy was famous for its elaborate decorations, and all of the students pitched in. Thomas enjoyed, after a hard day's work, looking at all the new decorations.

The front plaza was the most elaborate of all; the surrounding buildings would be bedecked with lights, framing an enormous Christmas tree covered with tinsel and elegant ornaments. Each of the students would receive their own present underneath.

There was only about a week left until Christmas. Thomas was surprised to open the mail and see a box of his mother's homemade gingerbread cookies. They had always been a holiday highlight for Thomas. He shared some with all of the other students.

"Delicious," said Gordon.

"Superb!" added Edward.

"Simply magnificent!" finished Duck.

Thomas suddenly noticed that Percy was nowhere to be seen. Searching the dormitories, he found Percy on his bed, sadly staring out the window.

"What's the matter, Percy?"

"Well . . . I, just, your cookies were great. Spectacular. You must really have a loving family that really cares a lot about you."

He sighed.

"I don't have a family. My mom died when I was a baby, and my dad lost me on a train when I was five or six. No one knew where he was, so they put me in an orphanage. But why didn't my dad find me? Did he not care about me? Was he glad I was gone?"

Percy started sobbing. Thomas didn't know what to say. He put a reassuring hand on Percy's shoulder, but Percy shrugged it off. Thomas left the room. I wish there was something I could do for Percy, he thought.

The next morning SIr Topham Hatt himself came to see Thomas.

"Thomas, there's an emergency. The shipment for the front plaza's in the station yard, but everyone's too busy to fetch it. I've heard good reports on your driving from Victor, and I'd like you to go and fetch it with one of the workshop engines. Just drop it off in the workshop yard, and Victor will take it from there. Can you do that?"

Thomas was so proud he thought he would burst. "Yes sir, of course sir!" He hurried off to fetch an engine.

Thomas had just arrived at the station house. He was waiting for the trucks to be coupled up, and went around back to the brake van to check the brakes. It was short trip, but important, and wouldn't let anything go wrong. He was climbing into the van when he saw a familiar face walking down the street.

"Hey, Polly!"

The golden-haired girl turned her head, and seeing Thomas, walked over to him.

"What are you doing?"

"I've got the Christmas shipment."

"Wow. Isn't that a bit much for a first year student?"

"Not for me! I won't let anything go wrong. Here, come inside."

The two were standing in the brake van. Thomas was showing her everything, but he got the sense Polly already knew what he was telling her. He was heading over to the other side when he tripped. Reaching out blindly for support, he grabbed the brake lever and used it to stop his fall. There was a loud screech.

Polly looked alarmed. "I hope we're coupled to the engine."

"Oh no."

The trucks started to roll backwards, onto the main line.

Polly and Thomas hung on for dear life as the runaway sped down the main line. Polly was screaming. Keeping himself from doing the same thing, he grabbed the radio and set it to Victor's frequency.

"Vict-or, hel-p!"

"Thomas, my friend, what's going on?"

"Loose - brake lev-er," Thomas grunted, "runaway- main line, help!"

Victor's line went silent for a few seconds, then came back to life.

"I've called the signalman for this section. He'll divert you onto an old track. It should stop you in a bit."

"Why don't we just use the brake lever?" called Polly from the back of the van.

"Oh. Right." Thomas had completely forgotten about it.

Screeching loudly, the train rattled on for several more miles before clattering to a halt in an abandoned yard.

"Are you all right? Good. I'll send an engine as fast as I can, but it could take a while."

"Thanks, Victor, you're a lifesaver. Literally!"

"Nothing to it. See you soon!"

Thomas and Polly disembarked from the brake van. Everything seemed in order, and they walked around the yard, waiting for another engine.

The yard was very old. There were some old coal trucks, and a rusting tender. Thomas had just turned away from the train when he heard a loud, rasping cough.

"Who-who's there?"

"Just me."

The two teen turned again, and saw a man standing across the line. He had black hair, which hung down his head in straggled locks. His clothes were torn, and it looked like he hadn't taken a bath in years. His left leg was bent into an awkward position, which made Thomas wince just looking at it.

"Funny of the railway men to send kids to find me. And what a way to do it! What's an old hobo to do?"

"We're not with the railway. I'm at the academy, and she stays in the village."

"Oh, the lovebirds took a joyride on some loose trucks."

Polly looked fed up. "Listen, you old crook. We're here by accident. There's an engine on the way right now. We could turn you in as soon as they get here."

The hobo smiled. "Ya got spunk, kid. I like that. I'm Bill Avonside. How do ya do?"

Polly slapped him. Suddenly, Thomas had a revelation.

"Are you related to Percy Avonside?"

The man froze. "Percy? Dear lord, ya know him? How is he?"

"You do know him?"

"I figure I should. He's my son."

It was Christmas Eve at the Academy. Everything was decorated, and there was a generally merry feeling in the air. Christmas dinner had just been eaten, and all of the students were gathered in the plaza, singing Christmas carols. Thomas had asked Victor if Polly could come, and Victor had agreed most heartily.

"That girl showed a lot of sense the other day. Almost made up for you not having any!" he had said jokingly.

At last, it was time for the Tree Presents.

"All right! An all-brass dome! Perfect!" shouted James.

"Just the right size for my tram," said Toby, looking over his new sideplates.

Thomas himself had received a cylinder casing. It was nice, but he had been a little disappointed.

Only Percy did not receive a present. He stood by the side, watching the other students.

"Percy, come get your present!"

"I didn't get one, remember?"

"Yeah, ya did, kid."

Percy wheeled around. "Dad? DAD!" He ran over to him, and they embraced.

"I'm sorry I didn't getcha, son. My leg was hurt, and I was dead broke. I can't tell you how many days I spent wishing I could see you."

Sir Topham Hatt stood up. "I've given Mr. Avonside a job as a workshop helper. He'll stay in the village."

Percy grinned from ear to ear. "It's a Christmas miracle!"

And to top it all off, snow started falling out of the dark winter sky.

Polly and Thomas watched from a distance.

"I'm glad Percy's happy," said Thomas.

Thomas smiled.

"I got you a present." Polly handed Thomas a tiny, but well-wrapped box.

Opening it, Thomas discovered a little whistle.

"For your engine," said Polly.


They hurried back towards everyone else and they began singing "SIlent Night". Snow covered the plaza.

After the first snow at Christmas, the weather got steadily worse. The drifts piled higher and higher. VIctor and Mr. Avonside had to work very hard clearing the paths between buildings.

One morning, there were ominous clouds on the horizon. Throughout the school, the P.A. crackled.

"Attention, students. Due to excessive amounts of snow, all classes have been cancelled for the day. We do not recommend exiting the dormitories, as a severe blizzard appears to be approaching."

All of the students heard this except:

James, who was sleeping,

Gordon, who was listening to his favorite band, "Express Trains", at over 100 db,

Henry, who was on his way to the nurse's office,

and Duck, who was busy trying install a superheater on his 57xx tank engine, which he'd been working on all night.

"Ugh," said James miserably. "This snow is too deep."

"You'd think they would have cancelled classes," added Gordon.

"I'm going to contract pneumonia!" moaned Henry.

They slung off their bags and began work on their locomotives just as the blizzard broke outside.

"So they're all too lazy to come to class." said James. "Not even Victor's here!"

"What is that godawful noise?" cried Henry, putting his hand to his ears.

It turned out to be Duck, who was welding tank s to a boiler. The other students tried to get him to stop, but the noise was too loud.

Suddenly, the lights went off, and with them, the welder.

"Hi guys. What's going on?" said Duck, noticing them for the first time.

"Look's like the power's out," said Gordon.

"We'd better report it to fat Hatt," grumbled James, who started for the door. He pushed as hard as he could, but the door wouldn't open. "Huh?"

Duck peered through the windows, where nothing could be seen but whiteness. "It looks like the snow's blocking the doors."

"We're snowed in," finished Gordon.

"WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!" shouted Henry.

"We're not gonna die," said James nonchalantly. "Just because we're snowed inside a workshop with no power, no heat, no food, and no water- oh no . . . "

"WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!" shouted James and Henry in unison.

"Please," said Duck. "Let's just look for food. We can drink the snow."

"You can't drink snow! Snow isn't water!"

"Sure it is!"

"No it's not!"

"All right, let's look for food. We can light a fire with the firelighter's tools."

Soon the four were gathered around a small fire. Gordon was roasting a can of baked beans. James was playing a harmonica. Henry was breathing into a paper bag.

"What's up with Henry?" asked James.

"He's hyperventilating. Does it all the time," said Gordon.

"Has anyone here read Lord of the Flies?" said Duck suddenly.

"No. Why? A fly king isn't going to help us."

"It's a book about kids who get stranded on an island and slowly kill each other. Considering that we're trapped here with limited food and no plan of action except to wait for the snow to melt, which could take days, even weeks, I think we need to find a way to agree that we won't start having homicidal thoughts."

Gordon sounded interested. "What are you going to do?"

"I thought maybe we could draft a contract."

James snorted. "A contract? Please. Don't go confusing us with your namby-pamby contracts. If we're going to agree on it, I say we use the time-honored tradition of spitting on it." He spit on his own hand and held it out. Henry and Gordon did the same. Disgusted, Duck obliged. They all shook hands.

About a day had passed. James and Henry were playing a makeshift game of checkers with bolts, with Duck advising Henry.

"Jump this one. From there, you're all set up to king yourself, and he can't touch you."

A few minutes later, Henry had captured all of James' pieces.

"Hey guys, come look at this," called Gordon.

They walked over and saw a battered old lorry.

"What are you going to use this for?"

"I figure if we get it running we could bust our way out of here."

Soon the lorry's engine was sputtering promisingly, and Henry had cleared a path to the door.

"Um, I don't think this will work," said Duck.

"Why not?" said James.

"Well, I've been calculating it, and ramming the doors would burst them open, but it would also make them collapse. I say we don't risk it."

"Listen, Quackie," growled James. "We're trying to get out. We finally come up with a way and you smash it with your stinkin' science. I say enough! Are we gonna listen to this do-nothing? NO! So SHUT UP, SMART BOY!"

With that, James picked Duck up and threw him into the bed of the truck. "Let's go."

Gordon pressed down on the gas, and the lorry shook and rumbled. Suddenly, it roared forwards towards the door. Henry pulled out his paper bag. James and Duck held on for dear life. With an earsplitting crash, they flew towards the doors. They crumpled on impact, and the lorry sped forward into six feet of snow.

"Come on, baby," said Gordon. He pressed down as hard as he could. The door frame rumbled.

Duck moaned. "To use a very tired phrase, I told you so."

Gordon gunned the engine. The lorry jumped forwards, and Duck tumbled out. He clutched the bumper with one hand, but was lying on the floor. The door frame started to collapse.

"James!" shouted Duck. "Help!"

James started to, but then thought about it. He pulled back his hand. Gordon gunned the engine again. With a roar, it burst through the snow. Duck lost his grip, and the last James saw of him was the small boy about to be crushed by the falling door frame.

"You were so brave, James!" said Percy in admiration.

"I tried my hardest, but Duck just couldn't hold on I nearly fell with him, but-" James sighed. "He let go. If only I could've saved him."

"You did the best you could, James," said Thomas.

The three had returned safely. No one had seen James abandon Duck, so he had put his own spin on it. IT had worked. James was showered with praise, and there was a feast held in his honor.

That night, James went to bed smiling, thinking of how everyone loved him.

But he couldn't sleep. In his mind's eye, he saw Duck, the weird little kid, staring at him. Saw him holding on, saw himself ignore his cries for help. Then, there was a loud buzz, the noise of Duck, welding the tank. James jumped up.

"I tried to save him. I did. He couldn't hold on!" The buzz got louder.

"James, what are you babbling about?" groaned Edward.

"I TRIED! HE DIDN'T HOLD ON!" The buzz continued.

"I DIDN'T MEAN TO! I WAS STUPID! PLEASE! NOOOOO!" Still the buzz went on.

Maddened by the noise no one else could hear, he threw open the door to his room and dashed into the hall.


The other students groggily shoved their heads out their rooms.


"No, you didn't."

James jumped out of his slippers. There, before him, was Duck, his green clothes tattered, his shirt missing, his hair charred and caked with snow, but alive.

"DUCK! YOU'RE ALIVE!" James hugged him, then awkwardly stood back.

"What is going on?" There stood Sir Topham Hatt, dressed in his XXXXXXL pajamas, his top hat on his head.

"IkilledDuckcausehewasannoyingIdidn'thelphimanditwasstupidandthedoorframefellonhimbutheshereandhesaliveandI just told yo everything, didn't I?"

"Yes, you did. But you'll be punished later. Duck, how did you survive?"

"When the frame fell, I crouched in the lorry's rut, so it didn't kill me. I survived by drinking snow-which is water, by the way-and came up with an escape plan. First, I dug a tunnel as far as I could. Then, I removed my shirt, and stuffed it behind me, into a puddle of gasoline that leaked from the lorry's tank. After making a blast wall between myself and the puddle, I lit the shirt, using it as a fuse. When the flame reached the gas, it exploded, turning the tunnel into a cannon, and sending me flying to safety.

"Makes sense," said Edward, "except for one thing. The flames from a gasoline explosion should have killed you. Why are you alive?"

"My only guess is that the door frame, and the walls around it, contained asbestos, which sufficiently dulled the heat of the blast."

"Who would use asbestos in a workshop used almost daily by kids?"

No one noticed as Sir Topham Hatt left the hall, because they were too busy cheering as Duck and James shook hands and smiled.

After several weeks, the snows started to subside. Classes were back on their normal schedule, and the school was running well.

One morning, as Thomas was looking at his "Classic British Trains" calender, he noticed something.

"Oh no."

"What?" called Percy, who was reading a book.

"Today's the thirteenth."


"Tomorrow is Valentine's Day!"

"Oh right. Hatt gave us the day off."

"Do you realize what this means?"

"Absolutely nothing, unless you let the cheesy commercialism convince you that you need a date?"

"I need a date!"

Unfortunately for Thomas, there were no girls who were willing to date him.

"Will I die alone?" he asked in desperation.

"Thomas, don't worry about it. You're fifteen."

The students were lined up at the yards, waiting for work assignments.

"Thomas, a mainline engine's broken down. I need you to take the milk train with Rosie. No runaways this time."

As Thomas pulled the engine out of the shed, he wondered about Molly. They didn't have any classes together, and rarely saw each other on campus.

He found out soon enough. Molly did her work without fuss. They reached the dairy without one word being spoken. On the way back, Thomas felt uncomfortable.

"So, where are you from?"

"I lived in the east."

"How about you?"

"I live in London with my parents and sisters. My mom says I'm related to a designer named Billington. I might as well be, as I'm building one of his designs, an E2."

"I'm doing a Claud Hamilton."


The idle chatter went on for a little while, when there was a loud racket from the front of the engine.

"What's happening?" asked Molly in alarm.

"Sand box must be empty."

"I'll do it," said Molly, grabbing the sand bag. She leaped nimbly out of the cab and onto the sideplates. From what Thomas could see from the window, Molly was moving as quickly as she could along the side of the engine. The girl had nerve!

Soon the sandbox was full, and the mechanism was running well. Molly was on her way back. She was just climbing onto the footplate when she slipped. Thomas watched in horror as she hung from the handrail, her grip slipping as she tried to keep herself from falling onto the rails.

Thomas reached forward and grabbed her hand. With great effort, he pulled her to safety. She stood for a few seconds, catching her breath, then grabbed the shovel.


"Don't mention it."

"Hey . . . Please don't tell Mr. Hatt. I know I was reckless, but . . . I-"

"I understand."

So much for conversation. They arrived at Sodor Junction just a few minutes later, and returned the engine without incident. Thomas went to sleep thinking about the girl who had been so daring.

The next morning, Thomas slept late, thankful for the day off. Percy shook him repeatedly, and when that didn't work, dumped a glass of water on his head. That got Thomas up.

"What was that for?"

"It's ten o'clock, slowcoach."

Keeping himself from punching his friend, Thomas got dressed and walked out onto the campus. There wasn't much to see. Most of the snows had melted, but the trees hadn't budded and the flowers hadn't sprouted.

Thomas was on the main plaza, thinking about the oddly overcast weather, when he bumped into someone and landed on the ground in a heap.

"Oops, sorry."

He looked up. It was Molly. He marveled at how the wiry girl had been able to knock him over so easily, before noticing she was carrying a large sheet of steel.

He got up, and brushed himself off. "What are you doing with that thing?"

"Working on my engine. Day off, I know, but I've got nothing to do."

Thomas had an idea. "You don't have a date?"


"Well . . . I don't really have anything to do either. Maybe, you know, we could have lunch in the village, as friends?"

Her face lit up. "That would be great. Meet you at twelve thirty?"


Thomas was walking by the shops on main street when he saw Molly walking down the road. He checked his watch. Twelve thirty, on the dot.



"Where do you want to eat?"

"I don't know. Hey, I know a place down by the station. Great food."

"That sounds fine."

They sat down to lunch at a table by the platform. They chatted idly about their engines and friends, well, Thomas' friends, and ate their lunch. They were just finishing up when he heard a voice behind him.

"Hello, Thomas."

Thomas nearly jumped out of his seat. It was Polly! He had forgotten that she worked here. He nervously turned to face Molly.

"Molly, this is my friend Polly."

Molly looked up from the newspaper she had picked up. "Hello, Polly."

Thomas sensed tension. "I'd better go pay." He hurried away from the table. He had to get himself and Molly out of there as soon as possible. He hadn't seen Polly's temper, but it was best not to tempt fate.

When he got back, the two girls were talking like old friends. Except that Polly's left eye was twitching slightly. She was clearing the table, and it was a miracle the glass she was holding wasn't broken.

Molly was cheerfully oblivious, and telling Polly about how her life in the Academy.

"Molly, let's go."

"What, oh, of course. Goodbye, Polly. It was nice to meet you."

As they were heading towards the door, Molly spoke up. "Thomas, did you see this article in paper? It was talking about how a criminal escaped from jail. It called him 'Diesel 10'. What a funny name . . ."

There was a muffled sob from behind them, followed by a a horrible smash. They both turned around. Polly was standing over the table, which was lying on its side. The other diners were gazing upon the scene in surprise.

Polly, with clenched fists, stormed out of the restaurant, slamming the door behind her.

Thomas found her on the bridge over the station. She was staring at the cloud of smoke rising on the very edge of the horizon. A train was coming.

Thomas had walked out with Molly into the street, and then let her head back to the Academy. Thankfully, she didn't say anything about Polly's behavior.

Thomas gingerly walked up beside her. "I'm sorry."

She stared at him. "About what?"

"Molly. I didn't know . . ."

"No, Thomas. It wasn't that. Or at least it wasn't mostly that."

"What, then?"

"Do you remember what Molly said about the criminal escaping?"

"Diesel 10?"

"Yes. Well, he was my brother."


"My dad owned the Academy, with Mr. Hatt. Never had time for me, really. But he loved me. Mr. Hatt watched over us more. He was like an uncle to D and I."


"My nickname for my brother. His name was Rudolph Diesel Gladstone."

"Rudolph Diesel?"

She gave a rueful smile. "My dad had an affinity for weird names. Like mine. Lady Polly Gladstone. 'Lively Polly', he'd call me. After a little engine he'd seen."

She fell silent. Thomas hated to ask, but he had questions. "What about Diesel 10?"

"He was enrolled in the Academy. You've probably heard his story. He showed me the claw, when he was making the engine. Gave me rides in it." Again the rueful smile.

"I was pretty young when he tested his engine. But I remember that day like it was yesterday. He showed off the claw. It was grabbing a metal girder when it got a workman instead. Tore up his arm and head. But D didn't admit it was his fault. Said the man had gotten in the way. He went crazy when he heard his engine, his pride and joy, would be torn up. That night, he came into my room with a box of matches and a container of kerosene. Kissed me on my forehead and told me everything would be all right. My dad was in the workshop that evening."

A tear rolled down her cheek.

"I saw the smoke, I heard the sirens. But I couldn't figure out why Dad didn't come back."

"After the funeral, Mr. Hatt gave me a home at the station. The fire had taken so much of the school's money that he couldn't afford to take care of me himself. He watched over ,e from the Academy, and that's what I needed. He's a good man. But he stopped visiting. He didn't greet me, or let me know he was there for me. Sometimes, I wonder if he's forgotten me. Just like Dad, just like D . . ."

She started crying in earnest. Thomas put a reassuring arm around her, and she collapsed in his arms. From below, there was a rattle and a roar as the two o'clock express roared through the station. They were covered in soot and ashes as it passed, then disappeared into the distance.

They stood there, like that, for a little while. Then Polly pulled herself away. She had stopped crying, but her face was red. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to-"

"I understand."

They looked at each other, both covered in black soot. Polly stared into his eyes, then looked down at the track.

She looked at Thomas. "You ought to be getting back to the Academy."

There were several hours left, but Thomas didn't say anything.

"But before you go," she added, "let me show you a magic trick."

With a flourish of her hand, she smiled and put her hand on Thomas' shoulder. Almost instantly, his shirt was spotless. He looked at her incredulously.

"How did you do that? That was no card trick!"

"A good magician never reveals her secrets."

Thomas turned to leave. "Goodbye, Polly."

She smiled. "Call me Lady."

Part 2

Thomas finished his boiler and cab and his E2 was done. He went to get Edward to see it. When they returned, the cab roof had a huge hole. Thomas raced inside. The inside of his cab rood read: "Diesel wuz here" in spray paint.

"Hmmm. Seems fixable," said Thomas.

"What are the dimensions of your roof?" asked Edward.

Thomas told him.

"I think I have enough for a new roof. Take of the old one, I'll go cut a new one." said Edward urgently as he raced out.

He returned and they put it in place.

"Why don't we go see the others?"


They stopped at Gordon's room.

"I can use a Fowler" he said into his phone.

"Hello you two."

Edward: "You're using a Fowler tender?"

Gordon: "Yep."

Thomas: I think there's an extra that Henry threw out.

Gordon: "Thanks."

They went to Henry and James next. Henry was painting his tender and James was coupling his up.

Thomas: "You're done?!"

Henry: "Heck yeah."

They went to Percy, Toby and Duck.

Percy: Thomas! Where have you been?

Thomas: What is it?

Toby: You said you were going to get him a funnel.

Thomas: Here you go.

Duck: We're done now.

The five went to the Scot room.

Donald: Och, Douggie, pass the wrench!

Douglas: Och, aye!

Edward: My word! Your engine is impressive!

Douglas: Ya ot to see Danni's CR locomotive.

Thomas, Percy, Duck, Edward, and Toby continued to see other engines until they left to thier rooms. Thomas kept walking. He entered a large room.

Thomas: Anyone here?

Brittany: Just me, Brittany.

Thomas: You look like my sisters.

Brittany: Are they twins?

Thomas: Yes. What are you building?

Brittany: A coach.

Thomas: The younger kids are making coaches?

Brittany: Yeah.

Thomas: Why are you so sad?

Brittany: I lost my family when I was young. But I have a picture of my parents.

Thomas: Can I see?

She showed him.

Thomas: Ummm...... I-well-I'm your brother and these are my parents.

Brittany: Really?!!

Thomas: Yes. How about when I go home for summer break I take you home?

Brittany: Yes, yes, yes!

April rolled in soon. Sir Topham Hatt told everyone to bring their engines to the exhibition.

Sir Topham Hatt: Follow me officials.

They walked to Gordon.

Official 1: This looks like an A1/3.Why is not an exact replica?

Gordon: The Fowler tender, I used it when no others were available. The footplate is my own design.

Official 2: Okay.

They took notes. The day went on like this. Molly, Emily, Thomas, Percy, Toby, Diesel, Edward, James, Henry, Oliver, and Danni were all tested.

Sir Topham Hatt: Fifth place: Edward and his modified FR K2 modification. Fourth place: Montague and his GWR 57xx. Third place: Gordon and his A3. Second place: Percy and his saddletank. And first place is Thomas Jackson and his LB&SCR E2 with a modified running plate!

Everyone cheered for Thomas. Polly walked up to Thomas later.

Polly: Thomas, Diesel 10 is rebuilding and fixing his locomotive!

Thomas: Impossible! Let's go to Sir Topham!

Thomas ran to his office. He reached a door labeled Sir Topham Hatt I.

Thomas: Sir, sir!

Sir Topham Hatt: Yes Thomas?

Thomas: Diesel 10's lococmotive is back!

Sir Topham Hatt: No! Gather the students at the assembly hall.

Thomas had the students rounded up three hours later.

James: Right, we're all here for what reason?

Toby: Not to hear you complain for what that's worth.

Sir Topham Hatt: Silence! This is an emergency!

Everyone quickly shut up.

Sir Topham Hatt: Diesel 10 was here years ago and built a diesel with a claw. Now he is back! We need to find him a destroy it. I need you to drive your engines into battle. Coach students, you will team up with engien students and get the younger students to the mainland! Hurry!

Gordon and Henry, and this kid named Spencer who built an A4, gathered some coaches and drove there engines to London.

Henry (conductor/guard): All aboard! Lat train to London!

Spencer (fireman): Right away, cousin.

Gordon blew the whistle.

Gordon: Let's go then.

They steamed off on their long journey. Meanwhile, Thomas, Percy, Edward, Victor. Duck, Mr. Avonside, and Sir Topham Hatt were discussing battle plans.

Edward: He's here, and we're here, so we go-

Thomas: right here.

Mr. Avonside: No, one group here, and two from here and her.

Sir Topham Hatt: Perfect.

Victor: Edward, Thomas, and Duck, gather three groups and go here, here, and here. Thomas, I'll be with you. Sir, go with Edward. Mr. Avonside, with Duck.

They ran to gather groups. Thomas burst into the girls' room.

Thomas: Edward, take Emily, Bridget, Quinlee, Danni, and Rosie. Molly, Flora, Wendy, Helen, Jasmine, Pip, Emma, Daisy, Mavis, let's go!

Thomas' group raced to other rooms and recruited Percy, Stanley, Toby, Boco, Derek, Arthur, Salty, Hank, Murdoch, the Stinkers (Whiff and Scfurr), and Dennis, Bear, Harvey, Bill, Ben, Zack, Hiro, Charlie, Billy, Kenny, and Marty.

Thomas' E2 led the way, Victor was fireman and Thomas was driver.

Victor: When I blow the whistle, we charge!

Others: Yes, sir!

Sir Topham Hatt blew the whistle from far and Edward's group charged. Thomas' and Duck's charged as well. Polly jumped into Thomas' E2.

Polly: Thomas! Tell the others to stop! I'll talk to Diesel 10.

Thomas: Victor, can we risk it?

Victor: We can try. I'll radio the others. {on radio} Sir, Mr, Avonside, stop now!

Polly walked to the entrance of the scrapyard. Diesel 10 stepped out.

Polly: D.

Diesel 10: Lady.

Thomas was puzzled.

Diesel 10: You should not have come. I am bent on destroying the academy.

Polly and Sir Topham Hatt: Why.

Polly: Dad? I, mean Uncle Topham? When did you get here?

Sir Topham Hatt: Just now. {to Diesel 10} Why?

Diesel 10: My engine has been dishonored.

Sir Topham Hatt: It will be honored. But the claw--

Diesel 10: That's it? I'll do it. NOT!

Sir Topham Hatt: That's all we ask. Then you will be welcomed back.

Diesel 10: NO!!!

Sir Topham Hatt: Victor, charge!!!

Victor and Mr. Avonside charged with their reenforcements.

Mr. Avonside: Nephew! You are the one behind this?

Diesel 10: Uncle Bill? You are fighting me? After you helped me?

Sir Topham Hatt: Bill Avonside! You helped him with his creation?

Mr. Avonside: I didn't know what he was going to do with the claw!

Meanwhile, he was pressing a button behind his back on a remote. The button read "SELF DESTRUCT"

Mr. Avonside: If only you knew there was a self destruct function!

Diesel 10: What? Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He raced back in and drove his engine out.

Diesel 10: Heh. Whaddya know. It's intact.

Sir Topham Hatt: Diesel 10, you are now allowed to return to the Sodor Academy.

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