Journey Through Wonder story

Chapter 39: Mountain Base

The Culdee Fell Railway is a mountain railway that travels up Sodor’s tallest mountain, Culdee Fell. It is a rack-railway, meaning that there’s a third line with teeth that allows the trains to climb the 8-mile trip to the summit with one or more cog wheels. The engines boilers are tilted down so the water would be level when climbing the mountain. There are no turntables, so the engines push their loads up and then carefully go backwards down the mountain. Because of the dangers, even the trucks that make up the goods trains don’t dare play tricks on the engines. They’re the only railway to not have a number one engine. The engines don’t like to talk about it. Right now, it was a beautiful morning and the weatherman said it would be a calm day for the area. Irina and Sira were getting their engine, the railway’s number four named Culdee after the railway and mountain, ready for the day’s work. Culdee’s fire was burning nicely and he had plenty of steam. It was time for his morning passenger run. Once he was ready, Culdee and his crew set off to collect their coach, Catherine. He buffered up to Catherine and pushed her to the platform. The passengers then boarded the coach and the guard blew his whistle. “Right away!” called Sira. The train then set off with Culdee pushing from behind.

“I’ve never been on a mountain railway,” admitted Irina as she checked Culdee’s fire.

“I have,” said Sira. “Quite a few exist in my universe.”

“Perhaps you and Culdee can tell me why only one coach. Surely, we can do two.”

“Only on a trial run. Even then, the coaches have to be empty. This line’s pretty steep for two fully loaded coaches.”

“And it’s because it’s so steep,” continued Culdee, “that we’re only allowed one. That’s why the coaches look ahead to make sure everything’s all right. Catherine here is so clever that I know at once if anything’s wrong.”

“That’s got to be a load off your mind,” mused Sira.

“Not his buffers!” laughed Catherine. “It’s hard work for-CULDEE, STOP!” Culdee quickly put his brakes on.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“There’s an engine on the line ahead of us!” Irina and Sira poked their heads out of the cab to see the engine. It was shaped like Culdee and had a blank face. The Guard then stepped out of Catherine.

“Excuse me!” he barked. “You’re not supposed to be on the line! Explain yourself!” The engine didn’t reply. “I’m talking to you!” Still no response. “Right! That’s it! You’re coming with us down the line! Where’s your crew?!” The engine stared silently. “All right! I’ll be taking your controls! Culdee, you lead the-!” As the Guard attempted to climb into the cab, his hand passed through the engine’s outer metal! Once that happened, the engine vanished! The Guard was stammering at the whole thing. “Wh-wha-what…? What just-?!”

“I think it’d be best,” said Catherine, “if we get to Shiloh at once and explain what happened.”

“G-Good idea!” The Guard quickly got back into Catherine and the train set off again. As they reached the next station, Culdee was deep in thought.

“It couldn’t have been. …Could it?” he muttered to himself.

The rest of the day went without incident, but the story of the engine spread up and down the mountain. Patrick, the number six engine, scoffed at the idea. “Rubbish!” he said when everyone was at the sheds at the foot of the mountain.

“It’s not rubbish!” argued Sira. “It was there! We all saw it!”

“Sira, did anyone see any number on it?” asked Culdee.

“…I didn’t see anything.”

“Neither did I,” replied Irina.

“Oh, come on, Culdee!” remarked the number two engine, Ernest. “It can’t be his ghost! We’d have seen him during the beginning!”

“Well, around this time IS the anniversary of his accident,” replied Culdee.

“Who are you talking about?” asked Endram.

“The former number one engine,” said Culdee. “His name was Godred, named after King Godred of Sodor. I’m sorry to say that the prestige that went with the name went into his smokebox. He never kept a good lookout. He’d roll down the line and look anywhere but the track. I warned him to be careful, but he wouldn’t listen. He’d always depend on his automatic brakes and his driver’s air brakes.”

“That’s dangerous!” shuddered Irina. “How could he obey his driver’s controls if something goes wrong?”

“That’s what I tried to tell him. So did his crew and the Manager at the time. They took him apart and put him back together to see if anything was wrong, but he still carried on in the same way.”

“…Is that why there’s no number one engine on your railway?” asked Glanthel. “That attitude of his did him in?”

“Yes. In the deadliest way possible. It was a miracle his crew, passengers, and Guard didn’t suffer any injury. I saw it happen. It was on the fourth of June in 1900, a month after the railway officially opened. He was coming back down the mountain when he derailed on Devil’s Back and rolled down the mountain. The Guard braked the coach to a halt and Godred’s crew jumped clear. Unfortunately, Godred was damaged beyond repair and it would have been too expensive to fix him, so he was scrapped and…and cannibalized for parts so we could be mended until our overhauls in Switzerland. That was later in 1962, and Patrick, Alaric, and Eric were bought to help.”

“And Godred’s accident,” continued Patrick, “was used as a cautionary tale ever since. But his ghost?! Come on! You never mentioned that you believe in such things!” Irina leaned against the shed wall and pondered.

“Maybe we can get the Ghostbusters to help,” she mused.

“Ghostbusters? What are they?” asked Endram.

“They’re like pest control, but they deal with ghosts.”

“You know, the ghosts of my home,” remarked Yufantel, “would take offense to being compared to pests.”

“This is absurd!” snapped Patrick. “There might be ghosts where you’re from, but here on Sodor, there’s no such thing! Now, I’m going to sleep! Good night!” He promptly fell asleep.

“While I don’t agree with his tone,” muttered the number three engine, Wilfred, “I think Patrick’s right. We need some sleep to puzzle this out. Good night.” Everyone wished each other good night and the engines drifted off to sleep while their crews headed for home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *