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Pilot Engines is the eighth story of volume three.

Pilot Engines
Season X, Episode 58
Air date 11 April 2021
Written by MainLineEngines
Directed by MainLineEngines
Episode guide
Edward and Jenna
Help Wanted


One morning, Jessie was puffing down the branch line when presently, she stopped at the Junction and saw Toby there.

"You're up early," said Toby. "Are you heading to the Big Station?"

"Yes," replied Jessie. "Norman has been sent to the Works for some routine maintenance and in the meantime, I will be the designated pilot engine there."

"The big engines need someone!" chuckled Toby.

"I suppose so!"

"Anyways, take care up there. We'll see you back soon."


Then Jessie puffed away.

Once she arrived at the Big Station, she set to work shunting the coaches for the other engines and once that was done, she went to the shed.

"Let's see if they're up yet," murmured Jessie.

The other engines were getting ready for the day when Jessie puffed in.

"Wake up," called Jessie as she puffed in. "The trains are waiting."

"Very funny Jessie," scoffed James. "I am in a good mood today though."

"Really?" puffed Henry. "Last night, you were complaining about the curve before Kellsthorpe Road."

"Yeah, yeah. That was last night. Today is a new day."

"He woke up and now he's wiser than ever," chuckled Bear.

All the engines laughed except for James.

"Ha ha. Very funny," said James sarcastically. "I get the last laugh however as I have the first passenger train today."

With that, he puffed grandly out of the shed.

"He didn't even ask me how I've been since the last time I came down here," joked Jessie after James had gone.

"Well, how have you been?" asked Gordon.

"Ah, all is well. There's plenty of work on the branch line but hey, when you need me, you can always count on me!"

"So I suppose ye'll be here for quite a while," said Donald.

"Wait, there's no other pilot engine?" Jessie paused dramatically. "Okay fine I'll stay!" she laughed.

"Och, if it weren't for ye, there really would be no-one else," put in Douglas.

"Unless we could convince James to go back to his roots and resume shunting duties," said Henry.

"And the probability of that is very low," added Gordon.

"Some help would have been nice, but I guess I'll manage," said Jessie.

"Dinna fash yersel," said Douglas. "Donal' and I will be around."

"Then I suppose there's nothing to worry about," finished Jessie.

With that, the engines slowly went out to start their jobs for the day.

Jessie worked hard over the next few days. By now, she was used to the hustle and bustle of the station. Passenger trains would come in and she'd take the empty coaches away to the sidings. Goods trains also came in and she would have to sort the trucks. Occasionally, Donald and Douglas stopped by to help but Jessie didn't mind the work.

Then one day, she had to fill up with coal but there was a long queue at the coaling stage.

Then she remembered. "There's a coal bunker in the yard." So she filled up with coal there.

She was shunting some empty trucks for Molly when she started to feel "stuffed up".

Molly could smell the black smoke.

"I think you had a bad lot of coal," said Molly. "I think there was a bad lot last week. Perhaps some of it didn't get removed."

"I'm sure I'm fine," replied Jessie though she was now having trouble making steam and she was puffing thick and black smoke from her funnel.

Jessie's Driver was concerned too.

"The last thing we want is for you to be out of service," he said.

"I still have steam," protested Jessie but she was feeling worse and worse by the minute.

Molly puffed away, still concerned. Later, she saw Edward who was heading to the Big Station. She told him about Jessie.

"Hmm, I know Norman is at the Works so perhaps I can help out for a short while till Jessie's firebox is cleaned out."

Edward knew that the station needed a designated pilot engine.

Meanwhile, Jessie tried to keep working but it was no use. She didn't have enough steam.

David was waiting for his trucks.

"I wonder where Jessie is," he thought. "She doesn't usually keep us waiting."

Then Jessie's Driver ran up and explained what had happened.

David helped Jessie to the shed.

"I can fetch my trucks," he told her. "So don't worry about that." Then David puffed away.

Jessie was relieved but she knew that trouble was brewing.

"The other engines won't be glad to hear that now I need repairs," she told her Driver.

Just then, Edward bustled in.

"Hullo Edward. Are you ready for your evening train?"

"Actually, I heard from Molly that you had a bad lot of coal."

"Yeah . . . I did . . ."

"Never mind. I'll be glad to help out whilst you have your firebox cleaned out," said Edward.

"Thanks," replied Jessie, softly.

So Edward helped out at the Big Station till late at night. Meanwhile, Jessie's Driver, Fireman, and several fitters help clear out all the ashes and coal from Jessie's firebox.

"I do feel a lot better," sighed Jessie at last.

The other engines were glad to hear this.

"You really had us worried there," said Henry.

"Well, the last thing you needed was your auxiliary pilot engine out of commission too," put in Jessie.

"Yeah, who would fetch our coaches then?" asked James.

"Eh, never mind that. We're just glad you're in good working order," said Bear.

"You're all too kind," said Jessie. "Now let's get some rest, shall we?"

The next day, Jessie felt fine as she set to work but as the day went on, she began to feel worse and worse.

"I can't believe this is happening," she sighed.

She struggled to bring some coaches to the station then she headed off to the shed.

"No more work for you today," said her Driver, grimly.

Jessie felt awful.

"Your train is ready," she said to Henry.

"Wait, what about my trucks?" asked James.

"I haven't shunted those, so I suppose you're going to have to fetch them yourself," replied Jessie.

James was not happy to hear this and he fumed away.

"I expected that," sighed Jessie.

"Yeah, so did I," put in Henry. "To be fair, we're not exactly experts at shunting."

"Actually, I'm more lenient with you and Gordon but if I'm not mistaken, James was the pilot engine at some point," said Jessie.

"He was pilot engine for a short while. Eventually, we all got fed up of having to shunt. Then Percy arrived, the strike happened, and we've slowly gotten over our disdain for shunting. Well, some of us better than others."

"I can tell," huffed Jessie. "To be fair, James is better at pulling both goods and passengers. Honestly, I'm just cross that I help out a lot around here but some of you won't help me out."

"I get that," cut in Henry. "And I'll definitely help out if you need it."


"I'm sure the others will too."

"Except James but you know what, that's not my problem. I just want to repaired soon."

Meanwhile, James was waiting at Edward's station.

"Imagine me having to shunt in the yard again," he complained to Jenna.

"Well I can't say I'm surprised to hear that," chuckled Jenna. "You always need help!"


"It's true though. You need Jessie to shunt trucks, Dodger to shunt the coal trucks, and me and Edward for help up the hill!"

"I can do things by myself though," protested James.

"It doesn't really seem like it," said Jenna simply.

"Then I'll show you and everyone just what I can do."

"So you don't need help up the hill? Good, I can get some rest."

"Wait, hold on. I do need help with this train."

"Good thinking there." Jenna laughed and helped James up the hill.

James spent the rest of his journey thinking about what Jenna had said.

The next morning, all the engines were getting ready for the day.

Then they noticed something.

"Hey, where's James?" asked Bear.

"I have nae seen 'im since last night," said Donald.

"He's probably avoiding any shunting duties," smirked Jessie.

"Unless he had an early train," said Duck.

Then, James puffed into the shed and onto the turntable.

"Good morning everyone," said James.

"Where have you been?" asked Henry.

"Ah well, I know that Jessie breaking down is most inconvenient and I'm sure you all know that shunting isn't exactly my favourite job."

"I think everyone knows that," chuckled Duck.

"Despite that, I realised that in these times we must help each other out and so I have prepared all the morning trains since I don't have any trains till the evening. Then perhaps Douglas could help out."

"Nae problem," said Douglas. "I'll be back from Brendam by then."

"I'm glad we have that sorted out," finished James.

"I'm heading out now," said Henry. "Thanks for shunting my train James."

"Yeah. No problem!"

As the other engines went to work, they all thanked James for his work.

Eventually, James was alone with Jessie in the shed. The two engines sat their silently.

At last, Jessie broke the silence.

"I must admit that I did not expect you to take on shunting duties."

"I know and I'm sorry about yesterday. Like I mentioned earlier, I realised that you needed my help."

"Thanks for doing so."

"Eh, it's the least I can do. Shunting isn't my favourite job but it's glad I'll be to help you whilst you're repaired."


"Sure but just for a little while!"

"But you're going to be so good at this," teased Jessie. "I'm just joking!"

"I know," replied James.

So whilst Jessie was repaired, James took in turns with Donald and Douglas as pilot engine. It meant a lot more work for him but he knew he was doing the right thing.

Meanwhile, the Fat Controller had heard about everything. He was pleased James was helping out but it got him thinking.

"I need James on the Main Line. He can't be here all the time," he said to himself. This got him thinking and soon, he started making arrangements.

One day, James took some trucks to the Junction and saw Percy.

"So I heard that you took on shunting?" asked Percy. "How did that happen?"

"Well, Jessie is being repaired so I have stepped in," explained James.

"Really? Well, good for you and from what I've heard you are doing a splendid job," continued Percy.

"I don't mean to brag, but I am doing well. After all, I am very versatile myself."

"Maybe you should do it permanently!" teased Percy.

James just ignored him.

"I'm just joking!" laughed Percy.

"I know, I know," replied James. "Besides, Jessie will soon be back at work and everything will go back to normal."

Then the two engines heard an unfamiliar whistle. From the tunnel emerged a small saddle-tank engine. The engine stopped at the platform right besides the two engines.

"Hey James! Hey Percy! It's me, Pug!"

"Pug?" Is that really you?" asked Percy.

"Of course!"

"It's just been so long since I last saw you. It's great to see you again."

"It's great to see you too," replied Pug.

"And what brings you here?" asked James.

"Well, I heard that you need help at the Big Station with shunting," explained Pug. "So I have come to help out."

"That's great to hear," said James. "Now I can get back to my regular duties."

"Yeah. I better get to Tidmouth," said Pug.

"I'm heading there too," put in James. "I'll show you the way."


"In that case, I'll see you around Pug," called Percy. "I'm really glad you're here now."

"It was great to see you too Percy!" replied Pug.

Then, James and Pug headed down to the Big Station.

To be continued . . .




  • This marks Pug's first appearance in Adventures on Rails.
  • This story was originally meant to be about James taking over pilot engine duties for a while. Eventually, the idea to introduce Pug came in. The story's draft title was James the Pilot Engine.