- “I really can't think what all the fuss is for. They were only little branches, after all - nothing to get prickly about, surely.”
- ―Duncan teases Peter Sam
Great Little Engines is the twenty-ninth book of the Railway Series.
Sir Handel has been helping on the Talyllyn Railway, at Towyn, in Wales.
"You could write a book about it," he said when I went to see him.
Sir Handel was conceited before he went: whatever would happen, I thought, if he had a book all to himself? But some of his adventures were too good to waste, so I mixed them with stories about the other engines. That ought to keep everyone happy.
Patience is a Virtue
Sir Handel is delighted to have been chosen to visit the Talyllyn Railway, but cannot leave until Duke's restoration has been completed. When summer comes, Sir Handel's trains become longer. One day at the waterfall there are not enough coaches and some passengers have to crowd in Beatrice. Sir Handel becomes impatient waiting for the guard to check all the tickets, and when he can finally go Sir Handel leaves without the guard. Luckily, a passenger presses Beatrice's emergency buzzer and Sir Handel realises his mistake. Sir Handel collects the guard and races home, and arrives at Crovan's Gate on time, where the guard reminds him "patience is a virtue".
Peter Sam and the Prickly Problem
With Duke fully restored, Sir Handel leaves for the Talyllyn Railway. Meanwhile, men have been trimming bushes so the passengers can see the scenery, but Rusty does not have enough time to pick up the branches and so they remain where they are. One day, Peter Sam sees some branches on the line, and, not wanting to miss James' train, recklessly ploughs through. Unfortunately, they become jammed in his valve gear and although the worst is cut out Peter Sam's front feels very sore for several days afterwards.
Some boy scouts are camping near the Skarloey Railway and the scoutmaster arranges for them to do work on the line. One sweltering day, Duncan is stopped by the scoutmaster, who is afraid the Scouts will become cross if they do not get their soda. The Refreshment Lady has run out of soda, but another tea-shop has enough to spare, and Duncan delivers the soda to the grateful scouts.
Sir Handel Comes Home
Sir Handel returns from the Talyllyn and tells the engines about his adventures. Some members of the royal family came to visit during his stay, and although Sir Handel did not get to pull their train he did get to pull a party of wedding guests. When Peter Sam talks about his incident with the branches Sir Handel remembers a similar incident: he was puffing to Nant Gwernol when a fallen tree hit him in the face. Although his eye was not badly hurt, his crew made a huge fuss about it and even went so far as to bandage his eye and give him an eyepatch. Sir Handel loved his trip, but is glad to be home.
- Sir Handel
- Peter Sam
- The Thin Controller
- Talyllyn (does not speak)
- Rusty (does not speak)
- Agnes, Ruth, Lucy, Jemima and Beatrice (do not speak)
- The Boy Scouts (do not speak)
- Gertrude and Millicent (cameo)
- Henry (mentioned)
- James (mentioned)
- Mr. Hugh (mentioned)
- Refreshment Lady (mentioned)
- The Thin Clergyman (mentioned)
- The Fat Clergyman (mentioned)
- The Prince (mentioned)
- Skarloey Railway Engine Sheds
- Crovan's Gate
- Rheneas Bridge
- Lakeside Junction
- Talyllyn Railway
- The title of the book was inspired by a campaign by the Talyllyn Railway called "Great Little Trains".
- The third locomotive on the Talyllyn Railway, Sir Haydn had been painted in the guise of Sir Handel between 1982 and 1984, and the final story in this book regards an actual event that happened during the event. The Prince and Princess of Wales' visit to Tywyn in November 1982 is also mentioned.
- This book marks Duke's last speaking role in the Railway Series.
- According to the book, Sir Handel was sent to the Talyllyn Railway because Talyllyn was feeling ill, however according to The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways, as well as promotional material for the real event, he was sent because Sir Haydn needed repairs.
- The first two stories take place in 1982, "Pop-Special" takes place in 1983, and "Sir Handel Comes Home" takes place in 1984.
- Sir Handle Comes Home is based on a real event on the Talyllyn Railway when Sir Haydn (who was playing the role of Sir Handle, and is actually the latter's basis) ran into a tree near Dolgoch, and damaged its "face".
- Sir Handel appears in the last illustration of "Peter Sam and the Prickly Problem", but he was supposed to be at the Talyllyn Railway.
- Sir Handel is missing his coal boxes throughout the book.
- “Quite right," said Gordon. "It's a great responsibility being indispensible."
"Gordon says I'm . . . er . . . insensible," Sir Handel boasted to the others.
They were amused, but not impressed.”
- ―Sir Handel makes a pronunciation error