Real Engines is the twelfth short of Adventures on Rails. It was released on the 29th of September 2018.

Real Engines
Season B, Episode 12
Air date 29 September 2018
Written by MainLineEngines
Directed by MainLineEngines
Episode guide
That's What Friends Are for
Work and Play


Dear Friends,

It has been fifty years since the end of main line steam on British Railways. Not one of the most happiest moments, but during my last visit to Sodor, I spoke to Dodger who told me quite a bit about his experiences prior to coming to Sodor. I also spoke to the Fat Controller and upon going over some records, I realised that there were some inaccuracies regarding Dodger and David. To make it short, a casual visit ended up giving me plenty to write about and to clarify a bit about the history of Dodger and David formerly BR Numbers 68899 and 64354.

In addition, I have obtained more about Molly's prior life to Sodor which as it turns out was actually a bit of a mystery to the Fat Controller. I hope you enjoying reading a bit more about these three engines' life prior to arriving on the North Western Railway.

The Author.


Molly, Dodger and David recall their early days before arriving for work on the North Western Railway.

It was a windy night on Sodor. David had delivered his final goods train to Vicarstown.

"It's chilly out here," shivered the J11. "Anyways, I'll soon be at the Sheds and you two will be drinking freshly-made hot cocoa."

"Not so fast. I make better cocoa at my house," chuckled the Fireman.

"Sez you," teased the Driver.

David arranged his train and puffed over to the Sheds. Molly and Dodger were already there in the warmth.

"Evening," called Dodger. "Glad to see you again."

"Same," replied David. "You haven't slept at Tidmouth a lot lately."

"Well, with Molly helping out with coal deliveries, I haven't had to go to Tidmouth all that often."

"But she's been handling those trucks well, haven't you?"

"I've learned the ropes all right," commented Molly.

"Well anyways," said Dodger, changing the subject, "these windy nights remind of my days in York in 1942."

"You needn't make us sad," interrupted David.

"I know," smiled Dodger. "There are much more pleasant things to talk about."

"Like our time at Norwich Thorpe," suggested Molly.

"Exactly," murmured Dodger.

"Although, I don't remember so much about your early life."

"Well, this wind is keeping us awake, so why not?" Then Dodger began. "I was built at Doncaster in 1914. Yes, you heard right. Never mind Mallard, Dominion of Canada or even my designer's named locomotive, Sir Nigel Gresley. A good portion of my brothers were built there. I was of an earlier batch and sort of an experimental. Under the Great Northern Railway, I was number 167."

"Speaking of Mallard," interrupted David, "it's been eighty years since he set the world record for a steam locomotive."

"Yes indeed. That was a great landmark for the LNER," commented Molly.

"Straight from Doncaster, that's right," chuckled Dodger. "Anyways, I had a poor weight distribution. This was solved by blanking part of the side tanks. A new water tank was placed underneath my bunker. Further members of my class had larger bunkers. I also had a sixteen-element Robinson super-heater."

"Robinson? Isn't that your designer, David?" asked Molly

"Yes indeed. He designed a variety of parts such as the super-heater that were used across the LNER," replied David.

"Also, what is the difference between a J50 and J51?"

"Well, between 1929 and 1935, pre-Grouping J51s were fitted with a larger boiler and thus re-classified as J50," explained Dodger. "After I was built I was sent to Ardsley where I spent the majority of my time. My sloped tanks gave me the strength to work those steep grades and marshal even the longest train. 'Submarines' we were nicknamed due to our sloping boilers. I don't recall when or how I got my name." He paused then continued. "My stay at Ardsley came to an abrupt end with the out-break of the Second World War. But that's another story. Well, after Nationalisation, I was re-numbered from 3167 to 68899." He paused again. "Guess that's the only thing I have remaining of my BR life." Then he continued. "I was allocated to Doncaster in 1948 where I had the privilege of sharing the Shed with Flying Scotsman although he was a bit down at that time. His glory days of the LNER were over but nevertheless, I enjoyed reminiscing old times."

"I should know where you went next," chuckled Molly.

"Of course," replied Dodger. "I arrived at Norwich Thorpe in May 1949 and in 1952 was joined by BR No. 62592, who is of course, yours truly." And he gestured towards Molly.

"You were unnamed back then?" asked David.

"Yes, but I eventually became very goods friends with Dodger."

"And since there where like a dozen 'Claud Hamiltons', I needed a way to distinguish her."

"So you named her?"

"Well, together we did." Then he explained. "See, I remembered my Driver's daughter and sometimes he would bring her and his wife to the station just to watch us shunt. I grew quite fond of her since she liked to see steam engines but then again, who didn't back in the 1950s. His daughter's name was Molly and it was really the first name I thought of. Honestly, I can't think of anything better!"

"Indeed! I can't imagine having any other name."

"We remained close friends for about five years."

"Until I was re-allocated to Cambridge."

"I stayed at Norwich until 1960, but by then, withdrawals of my brothers and sisters was well under way." He paused and thought for a moment. "Though I never reached the scrap yard, I've never felt more scared in my life. Knowing that one day could be your last and your side-rods are removed and chimney covered, paint chipped off and then you're off to Stratford . . ."

David and Molly stopped for a moment to let the J50 contemplate alone.

Then Dodger smiled. "If weren't for Molly of course, I might not be here! I will admit, it was though to say good-bye to one of my brothers. I called him Don, after where we were built. He was of the second batch, number 68905. He worked at Ardsley prior to Nationalisation and we met again at Stratford. I was transferred to Sodor in January 1961. I think that if the Fat Controller had requested me a month later, it would have been too late." He paused again. "I still think about Don and I'm proud to carry on the legacy of all the J50s."

"So Molly, you told the Fat Controller about Dodger?" asked David

"Yes. He was looking for a J50 due to their expertise in handling shunting and being able to work steep grades such as those at the coal mines and remembered him and most importantly, his number," replied Molly.

"And you spent most of your time at Norwich."

"I was built at Stratford in 1910, originally designed by James Holden and worked mainly passenger trains. Unnamed back then, as I mentioned but numbered 1801 under the Great Eastern Railway until the Grouping Act of 1923 when I became LNER No. 8801 and was allocated at Norwich. Now, there are various variations of 'Claud Hamiltons'," explained Molly. "I was built as a D15 as I was fitted with a Belpaire fire-box. In 1929, I was rebuilt into a D16/2 since I fitted with a new boiler, vacuum ejector and extended smoke-box. After the War, I was fitted once more with a new boiler and classified as a D16/3. In 1949, after Nationalisation, I was numbered 62592 and allocated at Yarmouth Beach, still on the Eastern Region. Then I returned to Norwich in 1952 and met BR No. 68899."

"You guessed right, that's me," smiled Dodger.

"I spent brief periods at Melton Constable, twice and Yarmouth Beach until 1957 when I was re-allocated to Cambridge. D15s and D16/2s had already withdrawn and my classification was well under way in 1945. In April 1958, I was withdrawn at King Lynn and set to be cut up at Stratford, where I was built. During this time, my paint was scratched off and even my builder's plate were discarded. You probably wouldn't recognise me and because of that, it was actually a bit of a mystery to the Fat Controller which number I was. I remember workers at the scrap yard would deliberately delay cutting up locomotives. Certainly, they thought that BR was making a mistaking in withdrawing some many fine locomotives." She paused then continued. "I came to Sodor in late July of 1958, restored and proud to be the only 'Claud Hamilton' still in working order."

"Your class was one of the finest of the Eastern Region," concurred David.

"I would've expected more than one of you to be saved," added Dodger.

"Well, something I've heard from my Driver is that a group known as the Claud Hamilton Locomotive Group is planning on building a D16/2 named 'Phoenix'."

"Well, you remember 'Tornado', the new Peppercorn A1 'Pacific' No. 60163," commented David.

"Yes, somewhat similar to that."

"That would be most interesting," Dodger chimed in.

"Well, looks like it's your turn," commented Molly.

"All right," replied David. "I started and almost ended my career at the same place: Gorton. Part of a second batch of J11s, I had a saturated boiler, over thirteen feet and a four-thousand gallon tender. They called us 'Pom-Poms' due to the similarity of our exhaust noise to that of quick-firing guns of the same name in the South African War. After I was built, I mostly worked around Leicester along with several of my brothers."

"Is that why you were most excited when Leicester City won the Premier League two years ago?" asked Molly.

"Of course! I liked the city a lot for its artwork and football team too. I actually remember them being runners-up in 1929."

"Also, most of your class took in your Driver's name." commented Dodger

"Yes. My first driver was named 'David' and I quite liked it. A lot of us simply did that. Of course, it wasn't officially recognised by the Great Central or later the LNER, but in the BR days, it would save having to say five numbers."

"64354, try saying that five times fast," challenged Dodger.

There was a moment of silence.

"All right. I guess not," Dodger broke the silence awkwardly. "Continue."

"My first number was under the Great Central Railway was 177, incremented to 5177 in 1923. Most of my work consisted of trucks but we were so efficient that we often took on suburban trains and albeit rarely, expresses. I think we ran comfortably at sixty miles per hour so we handled passenger services efficiently. Earlier J11s used slide valves but a good portion of us were later fitted with piston valves."

"So you originally had slide valves?" asked Molly.

"Yes, during the Second World War, I was first fitted with a superheated boiler and brought down to under thirteen feet and two years later, fitted with piston valves. Not all my class received piston valves so the older slide valves were among the first to be withdrawn." He paused. "At Nationalisation, I was allocated to Annesley and numbered 64354. I still had a lot of life in me, compared to some of my brothers and sisters that is. In 1957, I was moved to Colwick, withdrawals of slide valve J11s had already started. In 1961, withdrawals of piston valve J11s started. I had been allocated to Retford in 1960. Anyways, withdrawals of J11s continued through 1962 and by October of that year, I was the last J11 still in service. People photographed me; after all, we had been a very successful class. I'm sure if Sir Robinson was around, he'd been proud too. It all came to an end too soon in October. I was taken straight back to Gorton. I felt I was there for eternity. What's funny is workmen would purposely delay cutting me up, usually going for some old trucks instead."

"How long were you in there?" Molly asked quietly.

"I actually didn't know until I was transferred here and was being restored at the Works. I remember I had been withdrawn in October and it was now June 1963, so about seven months, I was simply waiting around. I was pretty lucky too; by the end of 1962, most of my class had already been cut up but as I mentioned workmen sometimes deliberately delayed scrapping."

"I'd been scared too if I was there," sighed Dodger.

"Yes it was frightening. You know," he went on mysteriously, "I had a very strange dream one night that I just can't seem to forget." He paused. "Maybe another day."

There was silence with the only being the wind that kept howling outside.

"You know, may we be from three different pre-Grouping regions," began the J50. "I'm from the North."

"Eastern Region of course," said Molly.

"Great Central," put in David. "But we all are LNER locomotives."

"And the last of our class," said Dodger.

"We've lived through a lot," continued Molly. "From nearly being scrapped to being in full working order."

"Agreed," murmured Dodger.

"And if people want to, they can come see us at work here."

"As long as the Fat Controller's around, steam will live on," said David.

"Hasn't he said that before?" asked Dodger.

"Well, yes and thank goodness too."

Finally, Molly said, "we've talked a great deal tonight haven't we?"

David and Dodger agreed.

"Is there any other reason we talked about our past today?" asked Dodger.

Molly and David thought for a moment.

"I don't think so," said David at last.

"Yeah, let's get some rest now," added Molly

"Suit yourself. It's this wind. I can even feel it coming under the door," complained Dodger.

Molly chuckled.

"Just close your eyes," smirked David.

"Fine then."

"Good night," called Molly.

Then, the three engines happily fell asleep, still thinking about old times and friends but also their current life on the North Western Railway.


Well, this is the result of over a year of work and research and just trying to get things right. Any ways, take this as my version of The Island of Sodor and Reading Between the Lines. In other words, it's mostly to retcon and clarify their backgrounds. I'll still be working to revise a couple other episodes such as Molly's Special Job to coincide with the information established in this short and I'll elaborate more in forty-eight hours when I post some updates.

It just goes to show that research is essential when writing for Thomas the Tank Engine or even Railway based stories. Below the trivia, I've included some links to some sites that have been very helpful and I've used them extensively to gather the allocations, technical details, building dates and more. If you ever need inspiration for a new engine, check out the LNER Encyclopaedia and BR Database. Not everything is complete but it provides a good starting stone and very useful info.

Sip up the last of that coffee! That's pretty much all I have to say. Take care.


  • Molly
  • Dodger
  • David
  • Tornado (mentioned)
  • Sir Nigel Gresley (locomotive; mentioned)
  • Dominion of Canada (mentioned)
  • Mallard (mentioned)
  • Dodger's Brother No. 68905 (mentioned)
  • Sir Topham Hatt (mentioned)
  • Sir Nigel Gresley (mentioned)
  • James Holden (mentioned)
  • John Robinson (mentioned)


  • Vicarstown
  • Ardsley
  • Doncaster
  • Gorton
  • Norwich Thorpe
  • Stratford
  • Cambridge
  • Leicester
  • Kings Lynn
  • Retford
  • Annesley
  • Colwick
  • Melton Constable (mentioned)
  • Yarmouth (mentioned)


  • This short was written to clarify the pre-Sodor life of the three featured engines and also change a couple things including Dodger's arrival date and David's number.
  • The short serves as a memorial to steam since it has now been fifty years since the end of steam on British Railways. As a result, this short takes place in 2018.
  • The writer originally announced that David's new number would be BR No. 64311 but after some thorough research he changed it to BR No. 64354: "I chose 64311 since there were plenty of photographic references despite a lack of allocation information. I had really wanted David to be the last of his class but for some reason I had lost the number so to speak. However, after going over notes and looking through the fleet of J11s, I realised that BR No. 64354 was the last J11 still in service and was the last to be scrapped. This number had more allocation info and actually worked out better since the scrapping date is further from Dodger's arrival. So, 64354 is David's new number."
  • Dodger makes a reference to Night Bombing, which the writer considered already canon. This short further establishes that.
  • The short takes place in 2018 as it is mentioned that eighty years have passed since Mallard achieved the record for the fastest steam locomotive. In addition, that event was originally referenced between Molly and David's stories.
  • David references the football team Leicester City. The team plays in the Premier League (first division football league in England) and their first place finish in the 2015-16 season is one of the writer's most memorable and favourite events in football.
  • This is the first short to feature both a foreword and afterword.

Credits and Really Useful Sites

Thanks to these sites for information and allocations on the LNER D16 "Claud Hamilton", J11s and J50s/J51s.

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