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- “The bluebells are coming! Oh-ho, oh-ho!
The bluebells are coming! Oh-ho--”
- ―Percy singing before Douglas cuts him off.
Stepney the “Bluebell” Engine is the eighteenth book of the Railway Series.
Percy is a kind-hearted little engine. He feels sad because many fine steam engines are cut up on the Other Railway (B.R.).
Percy's ideas, however, though natural for an engine, are a little muddled. British Railways Officials are not cruel. They are sad to lose faithful steam friends and glad to help engines to go to places like the Bluebell Railway at Sheffield Park in Sussex, where they can be cared for and useful and safe.
Percy is singing about bluebells when Douglas comes up and tells him that his song is daft. Percy is cross and tells him about the "Bluebells of England" and how the engines on the Other Railway suffer from the cruel-spirit of their controllers and how they are sent to the scrapyards to be cut up, causing Douglas to remember how he might have met the same fate if he had not escaped. Percy then goes on to inform Douglas about the Bluebell Railway, where steam engines are much safer and that their engine Stepney is coming to Sodor, when Stepney suddenly arrives and the two welcome him with a chorus of whistles.
After talking to Edward about the Bluebell Railway, Stepney goes to Tidmouth to help Duck. Thomas has just left with his last train when he is stopped so Stepney, with a V.I.P. in tow, can pass. Thomas is furious, but when Stepney explains the next morning that he was running a Special and flatters Thomas by complimenting his knowledge of branch line life, Thomas is happier and begins talking about his branch line.
Percy takes pity on Stepney when he reveals he misses trucks and offers to share his train with him. Stepney later passes the Elsbridge Cricket Field when a batsman hits a six and the ball lands in one of his trucks. Stepney does not hear the cricketers shout, so four of them pile into an old car named Caroline and race after them. At Ffarquhar, they find the ball and as Caroline is exhausted, Stepney takes them all back with Caroline on a flatbed and stays to watch the match. After that, Caroline does not mind trains anymore.
Stepney's stay is almost over, but in his place a rude diesel arrives and insults the engines, by boasting about how he is more up to date. Although the engines have no idea of what to do, the Diesel soon gets his just desserts when an Inspector's bowler hat lodges in his air intake. Duck and Stepney have to take his train and they reach Cronk in record time. Stepney leaves the next day in style, with the engines asking him to return and Donald and Douglas making everyone sing Auld Lang Syne, while the Diesel creeps away in disgrace.
- Donald and Douglas
- The Fat Controller
- The Elsbridge Cricket Club
- The Inspector with the Bowler Hat
- Class 40 (not named)
- Bluebell and Primrose (do not speak)
- Adams (does not speak)
- Cromford (does not speak)
- Captain Baxter (does not speak)
- British Railways Diesels (three; do not speak)
- Annie (does not speak)
- Stepney's Controller (does not speak)
- The Important Visitor (does not speak)
- The Scrap Engines (does not speak)
- Daisy (mentioned)
- Rusty (mentioned)
- Clarabel (mentioned)
- The Other Railway
- Bluebell Railway
- Tidmouth Sheds
- Ffarquhar Sheds
- Elsbridge Cricket Field
- River Callan
- Hackenbeck Tunnel
- Gordon's Hill (mentioned)
- The third illustration of "Bluebells of England" is based on the illustration Peter Edwards did for the Graham Greene novel, "A Gun For Sale".
- This is the first book in the Railway Series illustrated by Gunvor and Peter Edwards.
- The carriages that Stepney brings to Sodor are the Bluebell Railway's well known Metropolitan coaches.
- The Reverend acknowledged the help given by members of the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society in the preparation of this book.
- In the third illustration of Bluebells of England, Stepney does not have a face. This is because Wilbert Awdry thought it was best that the engines only have faces on Sodor unless it was important to the story that the engines interact with other characters.
- From this book onwards of two things:
- Duck's smokebox is black and his safety valve bonnet is brass.
- Donald and Douglas are painted blue.
- The events of this book take place in 1962.
- This book marks the last appearances of Percy and Toby in the Railway Series until Tramway Engines.
- Stepney's Special is based on an event in The Railway Gazzette in 1905.
- Train Stops Play is based on an incident that occurred in Stroud, Gloucestershire in May 1960.
- Bowled Out is based on an incident in The Railway Gazzette in the early 1960's.
- Throughout the book, Duck is missing his sandboxes.
- In the third illustration of "Bowled Out", Class 40's eyebrows are missing.
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