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- “You're a gallant little engine! When you're rested, we'll mend you ready for tomorrow.”
- ―The Thin Controller talking to Rheneas
Gallant Old Engine is the seventeenth book of the Railway Series.
On the second page of Four Little Engines Rheneas was taken away to be mended. He was away for a long time, but has now come home.
All the Little Engines are together at last. They are delighted. Rheneas is their hero. He had saved the Railway…
There is a real engine like Rheneas. His name is Dolgoch and his home is at Towyn in Wales.
Some years ago he saved the Talyllyn Railway. We are very proud of our gallant old engine.
Peter Sam's funnel is still loose after his accident with the Slate Trucks, and he longs for his new one. When winter is approaching, a washout sweeps a bridge away. Rusty and the workmen manage to repair it by the next market day, during which time the weather becomes frosty. Peter Sam, who is taking the passenger train, has his funnel knocked off by an icicle in the tunnel. His crew replace it with a drainpipe, until his new funnel, a "Giesl ejector", arrives. Although the engines tease him about its design at first (Sir Handel and Duncan continually ask him why he sat on it), the engines soon become jealous of it, as it allows Peter Sam to work more easily than ever.
Sir Handel is always slipping between the rails, so he is given new wheels with broad tyres. The engines nickname him "a steamroller", until Skarloey tells him about George, the anti-railway steamroller working near the line. The next day, Sir Handel is taking a special train when he sees George rolling home. Sir Handel tries to pass, but George refuses and eventually they crash. Rusty and Mr. Hugh arrive to clear the mess, and next day, after a fence is put up to separate the road and rail, George leaves. Sir Handel thinks he made George go away, and is more conceited than ever - at least until some boys start talking about the "race".
Nancy, the guard's daughter, is giving Skarloey a polish when Duncan asks if he can get polished too. Nancy does not have the time, however, and Duncan starts to sulk. Later that day, one of Skarloey's coaches derails and Duncan is sent to take the passengers home. He arrives in time for his own train, and is so annoyed that he doesn't even try to build up steam, and he eventually stops right on the viaduct. Skarloey comes to take him to the top station, but the passengers are furious at the delay and say it is a bad railway. Duncan, however, does not care.
Duncan is still complaining, so Skarloey tells him and Peter Sam the story of Rheneas…
The year before Peter Sam and Sir Handel came, the Skarloey Railway was facing hard times and was at a possibility of closing. Skarloey was tired, so Rheneas offered to do some of his work too. Then, one day, he was pulling a full train home when his valve gear jammed. The Thin Controller and Mr. Hugh managed to fix him so he could struggle to the next station. It was hard work, but he managed to get there. The passengers were so grateful that they promised to come back with all their friends. Duncan realises he has been silly and thanks and apologises to Skarloey.
The next day, Edward brings Rheneas back to the Skarloey Railway, and a huge celebration ensues. But Rheneas feels the happiest when he is with Skarloey.
- Sir Handel
- Peter Sam
- The Thin Controller
- Mr. Hugh
- The Little Boys
- The Crovans Gate Policeman
- Edward (does not speak)
- Agnes, Ruth, Lucy, Jemima and Beatrice (do not speak)
- Gertrude and Millicent (cameo)
- Ada (cameo)
- Cora (cameo)
- JTK 62 (cameo)
- Dolgoch (mentioned in foreward)
- Refreshment Lady (mentioned)
- The Fat Controller (mentioned)
- Rheneas Bridge
- Hawin Doorey
- Rheneas Tunnel
- Skarloey Railway Engine Sheds
- Ben Glas
- Rheneas Viaduct
- Crovan's Gate
- Talyllyn Railway (mentioned in forward)
- This is the final Railway Series book illustrated by John T. Kenney, as his eye sight was beginning to fail.
- This and "Thomas Comes Home" are the only Railway Series books to have a titular story. Coincidentally, George appears in both those books.
- In the sixth illustration of "Steamroller", a blue car with the number plate "JTK 62" can be seen. This references both the initials of the illustrator (John T. Kenney) and the year of publication (1962).
- Awdry acknowledged assistance by members of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society in the preparation for this book.
- In addition, Awdry acknowledged permission given by P. B. Whitehouse and L. T. C. Rolt to allow two incidents mentioned in their own books to be adapted into the stories "Steamroller" and "Gallant Old Engine".
- The collision between George and Sir Handel is based on an event that took place in Muskerry, County Cork, Ireland in 1927.
- The events of the final story are inspired by events that occurred on the Talyllyn Railway in 1951.
- The fourth illustration of the chapter, Gallant Old Engine, was recreated for the 1986 single cover of Oh L'amour, a song by English synth-pop duo Erasure.
- The events of this book take place in 1961, Skarloey's story in Gallant Old Engine takes place in 1952.
- Throughout the book, the engines' lamp-irons repeatedly disappear and reappear.
- In "Passengers and Polish", Skarloey is missing his brass dome.
- In the "Oh L'amour" cover, Beatrice is illustrated as a coach.
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