Saturday 23 April 2016

Gustav the Railway Gun

Image credit: Unknown, but let me know if you know who created it!

Gustav the Railway Gun hadn't always lived on the Island of Sodor, although he had been there for many years. Even after so much time he dreamed of the days when he and his friends conducted their grand tour of Europe. He enjoyed the excitement and the noise as they travelled to all the famous cities of Europe. He even travelled to Russia and the city of Leningrad.

He was a lucky engine, although these days he didn’t think so. When the grand tour of Europe came to an abrupt end his Prussian owners were due to dismantle him to prevent ownership by the rapidly approaching Russian engines. He remembered how crazy things had become, and was sad to learn that he’d never steam along a railway track again.

He was saved by the Fat Controller who had been busy making arrangements for some of his friends while visiting from Switzerland. When he saw Gustav he knew that he had to bring the giant engine back home to the Island of Sodor with him. As the Prussian Train Company was in so much trouble they agreed to let him take Gustav with him.

When he first arrived at the island Gustav was amazed by the vibrant colour of the landscape and even more so of the engines. He saw that they were bright blue, distinguished green and even fancy red! He had his own siding and watched as the other engines of the island pulled shiny coaches and dirty trucks along the tracks.

He would call out an eager greeting to them in his deep, gravelly voice, but they ignored him. Even worse was when they did answer him, and they mocked him for his dull, grey paintwork.  As well as dull, they called him a ‘useless engine’ because he never pulled any coaches, or even trucks.

In the evenings the Fat Controller would visit him, and polish his paintwork. The Fat Controller always wore grey overalls when he visited, and didn’t seem to mind that Gustav wasn’t brightly painted like his other engines. He asked the Fat Controller if he could join the other engines and pull coaches or trucks around the island. He explained that he felt left out and wanted to make friends.

The Fat Controller always shook his head sadly and said that Gustav wasn’t like the other engines. He was special, and belonged only the Fat Controller. There would come a time when Gustav would be needed, and when that time came he would be more important than any engine with trucks, or even coaches. Those words always saddened Gustav, but the Fat Controller visited him every day and at least provided some company.

Years passed by and Gustav retreated further into himself. He barely heard the taunts of the steam engines anymore. Thomas was the worst, he really was a cheeky little engine. Then came the day the diesels arrived. They weren’t brightly coloured like the steam engines. They were gruff and dirty, although not quite as grey as he was. Here, he thought, were engines he could be friends with.

But they were worse. They ridiculed him for his slowness when he crawled along his lonely track. Gustav was massive, weighing over 1300 tonnes. They called him fat and slow and laughed at his grey paint. Thomas had been mean, but the diesels were relentless. They even changed their routes so that they could spend more time insulting him.

Gustav wasn’t alone though.

The steam engines didn’t like these rough diesels and a campaign of pranks quickly ensued. Naturally Thomas was the worst, and the cheeky little tank engine soon incurred the wrath of the diesels. The low intensity conflict continued for days, and Thomas wasn’t intimidated by the diesels’ greater strength and speed. He mocked them and played childish tricks on them. Gustav watched them fight, relieved that he was no longer the sole target of both sides.

It came as no surprise to anyone when Thomas pushed the diesels too far, and they plotted revenge for a showing of oil that he’d lured them into. Two of the larger, and meaner diesels prepared their own trap as Thomas steamed happily along his branch line. As he chuffed a happy song to himself he saw a diesel blocking the line and slowed so that his buffers wouldn’t touch the smelly diesel.

It was then that he was rammed violently from behind as another diesel charged into him, and pushing him into contact with the diesel in front of him. Thomas was trapped! And then the diesels took him for a ride so hard that Thomas’ wheels still hurt when he thinks about it. They pulled him like a dirty truck and called him names that no engine should ever be called.

All day they abused the little tank engine until he was drained of all steam and the fire had gone out of his bunker. Still they dragged him up and down the branch line, ignoring his whistled pleas. The other diesels soon learned of the sport and joined the instigators and with their speed and numbers soon clogged the network. Edward was next and ravaged in the same manner as Thomas. The other steam engines tried to save their friends, but even Henry and Gordon weren’t strong enough to pull them free.

The Fat Controller acted swiftly and attempted to communicate with the diesels. He spoke to them sternly and ordered them to cease their behaviour immediately. But their oil lust was hot and couldn’t be cooled by mere words. They laughed at him in the same way they chuckled at the other engines’ effort to save Edward and Thomas.

And the Fat Controller smiled and told Gustav that it was time.

For the first time since he had arrived on the Island of Sodor Gustav puffed onto the mainline. He belched black smoke and wheezed as he crawled along the branch line. His mighty boiler pushed great clouds of steam through his pistols as behemoth like, he approached the rebellious diesels.

Once again, the Fat Controller ordered the diesels to stop their naughty behaviour and they laughed even harder as they saw Gustav moving painfully slowly towards them. They could move too quickly for Gustav to catch. That might have been true, if not for the 31 ½ inch siege gun that weighed the giant engine down. From that massive gun he could fire seven tonne shells. He could only fire one, but one is all it took as the diesels tried to run.

His gun thundered louder than the darkest storm, and the blast from the shell’s impact scattered the diesels like toys across the landscape. He had adjusted his aim so that the two captives only caught a fraction of the blast and unlike the diesels remained on the tracks. The steam engines tooted their whistles in celebration.

The Fat Controller smiled and said, “Gustav, you are a very special, and really useful engine.”