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“We may be small, but we're quite efficient!”
Rex to Duck

Small Railway Engines is the twenty-second book of The Railway Series.

Foreword

Dear Friends,
Some lead mines up in the hills have long been closed, but their waste-heaps still spoil a lovely valley.

The Fat Controller has now found that this waste is good weed-killing railway ballast. He talked to the Owner and Mr. Peter Sam of the Skarloey Railway, and other important people. They "went shares" and built a Small Railway to fetch it away.

The Small Engines are managed by a Controller. They call him the Small Controller, but that is only in fun. He is bigger than either of the others!
The Author

Stories

Ballast

New ballast is being laid in the trackbed of the Fat Controller's Railway. Donald and Douglas bring it from a line that starts at Tidmouth, and all they say is that "verra wee engines" bring it down from the hills. Duck is curious and asks to take some trucks along the line. There, he meets a small green engine called Rex, who tells him about the "chute" that loads his trucks. The next time Duck visits, Rex introduces him to two other engines, Bert and Mike. When Duck discovers that they do not have any passengers yet, he leaves, promising to bring some for them.

Tit for Tat

Bert's driver tells the engines that two clergymen are coming to take pictures of them and put them in a book. Bert thinks he will be physically stuck in a book, and is apprehensive, but cheers up when he meets them. However, he gets cross again when they do not wave at him while taking pictures, and the final straw is when they accidentally drench him with muddy water when they pass him in their car. Bert plans revenge, and at a hilly part, he creates steam, soaking his driver and the Fat Clergyman, who is riding in the cab. The Small Controller hears about what happened and sternly sends Bert to the shed. But later, after both parties make up, Bert tells the others they will be in the book along with him.

Mike's Whistle

Duck's whistle is faulty after his crew use it to cook eggs, and Mike makes fun of him, saying "engines without whistles aren't proper engines at all." The others tease Mike about his whistle, and when he blows off steam he is chosen to take the passenger train. Mike is furious and is in a bad temper all day. When a cow strays onto the line, Mike tries to 'shoo' her away by whistling, but all that happens is that his whistle shoots off into the sky. Everyone tries looking for it, but to no avail, and they have to make the whistling noises for him. Mike is sent to work at the quarry for the rest of the day, and to top it off Bert and Rex tease him again in the shed.

Useful Railway

After an encounter with a flock of sheep, Mike calls them silly and cannot understand why Rex calls them useful. The Small Controller arrives and tells them they are now arranging to take wool trains for the local farmers. Rex is chosen to take the first train. Rex is over-confident but gets his comeuppance when a tractor's load spills onto the line, derailing him. Bert and Mike tease him but say sorry when they come to take him home, and the Small Controller tells them their railway is more popular than ever.

Characters

Ballast

Tit for Tat

Mike's Whistle

  • Bert
  • Rex
  • Mike
  • Fergus Duncan (not named)
  • Duck (does not speak)

Useful Railway

Locations

Ballast

Tit for Tat

Mike's Whistle

  • Arlesburgh West
    • Arlesburgh West Shed
    • Arlesburgh Works
  • Arlesdale
  • Marthwaite Quarry (mentioned)

Useful Railway

Trivia

  • Mike's Whistle may have been the inspiration for the sixth series episode Faulty Whistles. The story was later adapted in the twentieth series along with Tit for Tat and Useful Railway, making them the first stories of The Railway Series since the fourth series episode Mind that Bike to be adapted for television. Ballast was not adapted due to the Arlesdale engines already being introduced in the special Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure.
  • This is the only book of The Railway Series to be adapted into the CGI series without being adapted into the model series first.
  • Tit for Tat and Mike's Whistle are based on real events that occurred during Wilbert Awdry and Teddy Boston's visits to the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.
  • At the end of Useful Railway, there is a short message that says "If you have enjoyed these stories, you will also enjoy a trip to the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway in Cumberland." A similar message about the Talyllyn Railway appears at the end of Four Little Engines.
  • The events of this book take place in the former half of 1967.
  • In September 2020, a copy of this book made headlines after it was returned to Basingstoke Discovery Centre some forty-eight years after it was originally taken out in 1972.

Goofs

  • The blurb on the 2015 back cover incorrectly refers to the Arlesdale Railway as a branch line of the North Western Railway.
  • In the fifth illustration of Ballast, Duck's left tank is shorter than it should be.

In Other Languages

Language Title
Japanese 小さな機関車たち
Korean 작은 철도의 기관차들