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Behind the Gate is the nineteenth story of the first volume.

Behind the Gate
Season X, Episode 19
BehindtheGate
Air date 21 October 2019
Written by MainLineEngines
Directed by MainLineEngines
Episode guide
Previous
Motivation
Next
The Monster of Brendam

Foreword

Dear Friends,

The old Skarloey Railway Quarry is owned by the Ministry of Defence. They have their own engine working there and the work that is done there is very classified. Recently, there was an increase in speculation on what goes on in there. This lead to a very unfortunate incident . . .

I have been lucky enough to publish this story. Due to incident that occurred, I have been asked to exclude several details. However, I hope the story will be just as interesting.

The Author.

Plot

Paxton was at the Transfer Yards. Luke had brought slate trucks and he was being unloaded.

"Looks like a very busy day so far," observed Paxton.

"There's always plenty of work," replied Luke. "But you know," he went on, "slate used to come from another place."

"Really? Where?"

"Oh, it was an incline railway used until the early 50s. Then, the Ministry of Defence took over the quarry. All the slate was taken away and now it is used as an ammunition dump."

"Very interesting. I didn't know that."

"Well, you learn new things every day, don't you."

Paxton was almost ready to leave.

"You know," said Luke, quietly, "the reality is no one really knows what goes on at the old quarry."

"Is it some sort of secret?" asked Paxton.

"Kind of," replied Luke. "The Ministry of Defence also owns an engine but no one has ever seen it."

"Have any of you ever met the engine?"

"I believe none of us have."

"Why?"

"Well, when we approach the site. The engine only comes out after we have steamed well away."

Just then, Paxton's trucks were fully loaded.

"I have to go now. Interesting stuff about the old quarry," said Paxton.

"Yeah, so much stuff unknown," replied Luke as he watched Paxton roll away.

Luke returned to the Blue Mountain Quarry. Along the way, he passed the spot where the line diverged to the old quarry. He stared thoughtfully.

"You know," he said to his Driver. "It's kind of weird that no one will ever be able to see what's behind the gates."

"Some things are best kept secret," replied his Driver.

Even so, Luke could not stop thinking about what went on behind the gates.

That night, at the sheds, all the engines were talking about the day. Except Luke.

"You're rather quiet today," observed Rusty.

"Well, I have a lot on my mind," replied Luke.

"Are you all right?" asked Rheneas.

"I'm fine. It's just . . ." He paused for a moment. "I've been wondering about the old quarry. Like what goes on behind the gates."

"None of us have been there ever since it closed," said Peter Sam.

"And we better keep it that way," added Skarloey. "I do not want to say what could happen if anyone went down there."

"Why not?" asked Duncan. "Surely it can't be that big of a deal."

"It is a big deal," affirmed Skarloey. "The Ministry of Defence probably has good reasons to not disclose what goes on. That's their work, so let us concentrate on ours."

All the engines had gone silent.

"I agree with Skarloey," spoke Rheneas, at last. "We have jobs of our own to do."

"Indeed," said Skarloey. "So let's get some rest. We've another busy day tomorrow."

Now, Luke had even more thoughts about the old quarry.

Sir Handel, Duncan, and Peter Sam also had a lot of thoughts.

"Like, why is everything so secret?" asked Duncan.

"Could have something to do with possible conflicts that could arise," said Peter Sam.

"What do you mean by 'conflicts'?" asked Sir Handel.

"You know, outbreaks of war and such," replied Peter Sam. "Remember we used to transport gunpowder wagons on the old Mid-Sodor Railway with Granpuff."

"Yeah. Perhaps they test new types of machinery for 'conflicts'."

"Do you think anyone will ever get to see what goes on there?" asked Duncan.

There was a moment of silence.

"I'd rather not find out," said Peter Sam.

"I guess anything could happen," put in Sir Handel.

"Impudent scallywags," grunted Duke, clearly talking in his sleep. "It's those voices again. I hope I'm dreaming."

"We can talk more tomorrow," whispered Duncan.

With that, everyone fell asleep.

The next day, all the engines set off to work.

Rheneas was going to take some tourists along the line.

"We'll show them everything," Rheneas told his Driver. "All the bridges, stations, rest stops, sights, and more."

"Maybe you should talk to them about everything!" laughed his Driver. "You know everything. You could stop without me applying your brakes."

Rheneas chuckled. He knew his Driver was only teasing.

Meanwhile, at the platform, Ivo Hugh was waiting for some trucks from the North Western Railway.

Presently, James steamed in.

As the men transferred the goods from James's trucks to Ivo Hugh's, he noticed that everything was concealed.

"This is to go to the Ministry of Defence," said James.

"Really?"

"Yeah. You know the place, right. Even though from what I heard no one know what goes on in there."

"Quite right," agreed Ivo Hugh. "None of us are allowed down there. Skarloey implied that there could be serious consequences if we do."

"I wouldn't be surprised. The work that goes on there is better left to the Ministry."

When Ivo Hugh's trucks had been loaded, he set off carefully. He was pushing the trucks, so he could be uncoupled quickly at the gate.

He passed Rheneas, who was ready with his coaches.

"I'm off to the old quarry," called Ivo Hugh. "Do well with your tour!"

Rheneas whistled back cheerfully.

"The old quarry," thought Rheneas. Then, he set off to the station.

Henry was already there. "There you are! I thought I might have to give the tour myself," he teased. "But these are your guests. Do you plan on showing them everything? Even the old quarry, perhaps?"

"Well, we're not allowed down there."

"Maybe just give it an honourable mention."

"Perhaps," replied Rheneas.

Just then, Henry heard the Guard's whistle.

"I have to go now. Later!"

In no time at all, it was time for Rheneas to leave. The journey was splendid. It was clear day with few clouds in the sky. He showed the visitors many beautiful sights.

Meanwhile, Ivo Hugh was approaching the old quarry. He noticed dead grass on the side of the line, and weeds emerged from the rails. This hardly looked like the rest of the railway.

"Driver? Fireman? You're still here, right," called Ivo Hugh. He was beginning to feel nervous.

His crew felt nervous too. The Fireman drank some water.

"Are you all right?" asked the Driver.

"Just felt a bit light-headed," replied the Fireman.

They passed a skull and crossbones and an amber lamp.

Ivo Hugh chuffed slower and slower.

The Guard waved his red flag. Ivo Hugh stopped. The Guard got out of his van, uncoupled Ivo Hugh, clambered into the cab, and they were away.

Once Ivo Hugh was out of sight, the electronic steel gates opened. Another engine which can only be described as "beetle-like" was coupled to the vans. The engine pulled them away, then, the gates closed with a clang.

Ivo Hugh was now back at the station, having a drink of water.

"I feel much better," he sighed. "I have to admit. That was scary."

"No doubt about that," agreed the Fireman.

"Thank goodness there's so much protection. I would never want to go past the gate."

"We never will," concluded his Driver.

Just then, Rheneas puffed in.

"We continue along the loop line which was finished in time for me and Skarloey's hundreth birthday," announced Rheneas. "And over there, is our newest engine, Ivo Hugh - named after our former Foreman."

"Indeed," smiled Ivo Hugh. "Glad to be back from the quarry."

"Just up to the gates, I assume."

"Yes."

"Isn't there a new quarry?" inquired some visitors.

"Yes, the Blue Mountain Quarry. The Ministry of Defence owns the old quarry. It is used as an ammunition dump, but not much else is known."

"Why not?"

"All I can say is that everything that happens behind the gate stays behind the gate."

Despite some more inquiries, Rheneas and his crew could not completely answer visitors' questions.

Soon, he headed back to the Works station.

"Had a good trip?" asked Henry.

"Yes," replied Rheneas. "Lots of questions about the old quarry."

"Isn't that common?"

"Well, yes, but it felt like there was more than usual today."

Later that night, Rheneas told Skarloey about this.

"I understand it might be interesting to some people and some might not like not having answers, but we must obey orders," said Skarloey.

"But surely we could get some answers," suggested Duncan.

"No!" boomed Skarloey. "You could cause a million accidents at the Blue Mountain Quarry but you must all promise me and the Thin Controller that you will never even attempt to see beyond the gate, and none of you shall ever pass the gate."

Everyone was silent.

"Now," said Skarloey, more calmly. "All these questions will probably blow over as usual. Now, let's get ready for another busy day tomorrow by getting rest."

However, more people inquired about what was behind the gate and even went as far as to see if they could send cameras past the gate.

One day, the Thin Controller was in his office, enjoying some coffee when the telephone rang.

"Hullo . . . Yes, I see . . . Okay then . . . No, it usually dies down. But some people are more curious than others. I reckon it'll blow over in no time at all."

He put the telephone down, wiped his face and sighed.

"I did not expect a call from them."

Later, Skarloey saw the Thin Controller at the Works station.

"Hullo Sir. How's your day?"

"Fine. Except for one thing."

The Thin Controller told Skarloey about the phone call.

"I'm not surprised," said Skarloey. "And I agree that the Ministry has their reasons for keeping everything a secret and that should be respected."

"A lot of attention is the last thing they need," added the Thin Controller.

Skarloey agreed. Then, it was time for him to go.

Over at the sheds, some of the engines were talking about the Ministry of Defence.

"Impudent scallywags. If you went past that gate - it would never suit His Grace," said Duke.

"Come on, Granpuff. We'll have some fun," chuckled Sir Handel.

"Skarloey didn't mention exactly what might happen, but I fear it could be something horrible," put in Peter Sam.

"What, like scrap," suggested Duncan. "The Thin Controller would never allow that."

"It may not be the Thin Controller's decision," said Duke.

Sir Handel and Duncan were quite convinced that nothing bad would happen if they went behind the gate. Peter Sam was concerned.

"I hope they don't do anything stupid," confided Peter Sam to Duke.

"Falcon and Duncan would never do anything. That line gives me the chills," replied Duke. "Look alive Stuart!"

"Okay. I kind of want to move on from this whole 'Ministry of Defence' mystery," added Peter Sam.

"Now get some rest before your next train, Stuart."

"Thanks Granpuff."

The following week, Peter Sam was sent to collect some trucks from the old quarry line.

As the little green engine ventured onto the line, he did feel a sense of curiousity. He approached the vans and was being coupled up when he shouted, "Who's there!"

But there was no reply.

"All right. Let's get the heck out of here," decided Peter Sam.

Later, at the sheds, he told Sir Handel about his trip up the old quarry line.

"I didn't feel scared for one moment. But then, there was an eerie silence that just made want to get away from there."

"You're right. I think it should remain a mystery. Gives us something to talk about every now and then," said Sir Handel.

So, talk about the Ministry of Defence died down.

But one day, it was Sir Handel's turn to collect some trucks from the Ministry of Defence.

"It'll be a quick journey," he thought and as he passed the junction.

As he passed the amber lamp and skull and crossbones, the Driver tried to apply the brakes, but nothing happened!

The Driver and Fireman were horrified.

"I can't stop!" wailed Sir Handel. "No!"

Sir Handel bumped the trucks and the trucks crashed into the gate!

No one was hurt, but Sir Handel was scared.

"What's going to happen to us?"

"We can only hope for the best," answered the Driver.

The Thin Controller was soon informed of the news.

"Oh deary me," he groaned. "This is bad. Real bad . . ."

The Ministry of Defence accused Sir Handel and his crew of deliberately trying to pass the gate. However, the Skarloey Railway was able to defend that by inspecting Sir Handel and it was discovered that the brake-handle was almost broken because both Driver and Fireman had pulled it in despair. Therefore, the railway was only required to pay for the damages. In addition, Sir Handel was temporarily taken out of service. The Ministry also decided it'd be best to keep this incident in the dark and only the Thin Controller was allowed to give a statement.

As for the incident itself. It's most likely Sir Handel saw and possibly even met and talk to the engine that works for the Ministry of Defence but Sir Handel has never talked about it. Most likely, the Ministry forbids him to do, but this cannot be confirmed.

In the end, people and engines alike have come to terms that there are likely logical explanations for concealing what goes on behind the gate.

Characters

Locations

Trivia

  • The story takes place in 1998-99 after the events of New Little Engine.
  • An early idea for the episode title was The Mysterious Engine.
  • This episode confirms that in Adventures on Rails, the Blue Mountain Quarry replaced the old slate quarry. It is also implied that there are no standard gauge tracks to the Blue Mountain Quarry.
  • This is the second episode to have a foreword.
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