The Little Old Engine

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The Little Old Engine

"The Little Old Engine" is the fourteenth book in the children's book series The Railway Series by the Rev. W. Awdry. It is the second book to feature engines from the Skarloey Railway, and the first book in which we meet Rusty and Duncan.


Sir Handel feels that he is overworked. Gordon laughs at him when he sees him shunting. Sir Handel complains about shunting. When Gordon gives him the idea to pretend to be ill, Sir Handel is all too happy to go along with that plan. The next morning, whne his driver and fireman come, Sir Handel pretends to be ill. Peter Sam and Rusty must now take his slate trucks for him. Peter Sam drops off some empty slate trucks at the quarry, then later comes back for some loaded ones. However, the loaded trucks didn't see him properly and thought he was Sir Handel. They pulled hard enough on the rope of the incline to break it, then they ran down the incline and crahsed into Peter Sam, cracking his funnel and damaging most of the front of his body. Rusty soon arrives to help clear the mess. Peter Sam limps home. The Thin Controller has some strong words for Sir Handel that night.

Home At Last

Peter Sam wants to go back to work again, but the Thin Controller tells him that he needs to rest. He also tells him that he has a surprise for him. The surprise turns out to be Skarloey, who has returned from the works. Peter Sam tells Skarloey all about Rusty and how he has helped to mend the line. He also tells him about the new coaches, Millicent, Gertrude, Ada, Jane, Mabel, and Cora. It is then that Peter Sam tells Skarloey about Duncan, a new engine with a bad temper ans often strong language. A little bit later, Skarloey's driver comes by and tells him that they must get Duncan out of a tunnel. When they arrive, Duncan is very cross, claiming that the tunnel is too small. Skarloey helps Duncan out, but Duncan grumbles dreadfully all the way home. That night, the Thin Controller tells Duncan that if he doesn't shape up, he will cut off his cab and his wheels. After that, Duncan behaves, for at least the rest of the night, anyhow.

Rock 'n' Roll

Rusty has mended almost all of the bad bits of track, except for one just beyond the top station. He informs Skarloey of his concerns that an engine, namely Duncan, will come off at those points. Duncan comes in just in time to hear them say his name, and tells the two to stop whispering in corners. Rusty tries to tell Duncan about the bad bit of rail, but Duncan doesn't listen and calls Rusty a smelly ol' diesel. At the top station, James complains that Duncan is late. Duncan blames Rusty. James boasts about the time a diesel came into the yard and tried to order the engines about, and claims he sent the diesel packing. This causes Duncan to think about trying to send Rusty packing. Duncan becomes even more careless than usual, and rocks so much that he comes off the rails. When Rusty first hears of Duncan's accident, he doesn't want to help out. However, Skarloey soon reminds him that the passengers shouldn't have to suffer just because Duncan is rude. Rusty goes to help Duncan get back on the tracks. Taht night, Duncan and Rusty made amends and agree to mend that bad bit of rail the next morning.

Little Old Twins

For several days, the Thin Controller had been showing men with cameras various parts of the line. The men talked about taking things. This leads Peter Sam to the conclusion that they are going to be sold. When he brings his fears up to the Thin Controller, the Thin Controller tells the engines that the men with cameras are doing a television special on their railway. All of the engines are excited about it, except Sir Handel. Sir Handel tries to get out of it by pretending to be ill, but it backfires when the Thin Controller orders for Sir Handel to be taken apart to see what's wrong inside of him. Peter Sam gets the task of pulling the train with the viceo cameras. He stops at one point by Rusty, so he and Mr. Hugh can tell them about how they've mended the line. They then stop by the works station to see how progress on Sir Handel is coming. Needless to say, Sir Handel did not enjoy thier visit. The trip ends back at the sheds, where the Owner tells the men all about Skarloey and says that he is a very unique engine. Skarloey says that this has all been such a surprise, but that he has a surprise for them. While he was away being mended, Skarloey met his twin Talyllyn. He is the exact same age as Skarloey, and works on his railway in Towyn, Wales. The Owner is most surprised by this revelation. Skarloey tells the men with cameras to go visit Talyllyn and wish him "dry rails and good running from Skarloey, his little old twin".


  • This is the first appearance of Rusty
  • This is the first appearance of Duncan
  • This is the first appearance of Talyllyn, although he is only seen, never given a speaking role.
  • The idea of the Skarloey Railway having a television special was taken from the fact that, at the time the book was written, a TV special was being made about the Talyllyn Railway.

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