Tenderfirst is the second story of the first volume of Adventures on Rails.

Season X, Episode 2
Air date 11 March 2019
Written by MainLineEngines
Directed by MainLineEngines
Episode guide
Dirty Sidings
Signals Crossed


It was a sunny morning and James was preparing to take a goods train back to Tidmouth.

He had to wait for some trucks from the Other Railway.

"What's the hold-up?" James grumbled.

"The diesel bringing the goods train has been delayed," explained the Stationmaster.

James could do nothing but wait.

Finally, the train arrived and Dodger arranged the trucks.

"You'd better mind the trucks," called Dodger, as he shunted the trucks into place, "they can get pretty annoyed with your behaviour."

James was still in a bad mood when he set off but as he crossed the Viaduct, he was running well.

"Let's get a good run at the hill," said James's Driver.

The Fireman shovelled in more coal and James puffed his hardest up the steep grade. In no time at all, he found himself at the top.

"It'll be easy now," thought James. But he was so relaxed, he forgot to be careful. The weight of the trucks pushed him on.

"Oh, dear!" he cried.

Quickly, the Driver checked the speed and the Guard set on his brakes but he still gathered speed down the hill and raced right past Edward who was waiting at the station. He swerved into the Yard and stopped just in front of the buffers.

"Phew!" remarked James's Driver. "That was close."

"Indeed," agreed the Fireman.

The Guard went to tell the Stationmaster and Signalman what had happened.

James was growing impatient.

"What's taking so long?" he grumbled.

"I don't know," replied his Driver but the Guard came back soon.

"There's trouble," he began. "The points to the Main have locked."

"Oh no! Not the trap-points!" cried James.

"I'm afraid so," replied the Guard.

"So, we're stuck on Edward's Branch?" asked the Fireman.

"They don't know when they'll be able to mend the points," continued the Guard. "They've telephoned the Fat Controller and we're more likely be taking the train to Brendam."

"Suits me," said the Driver. "It'll be a nice change of scenery."

"Maybe so," smirked James.

Soon, everything was ready. James was to take his goods train down to Brendam.

"It's a shorter route," said James's Driver. "So you won't have to rush as much."

"That's a mercy," conceded James.

They were soon on their way and as his Driver had anticipated, it was a lovely journey and James felt a lot better. Finally, they reached the Terminus.

"Ahoy there!" called Salty. "Look who's visiting."

"Well, James," called Cranky. "Didn't expect you today."

"I know, but my presence is always a pleasure, isn't it?"

"Having a good day, are you?" asked Salty.

"I am now. I have to say that was a lovely journey."

Then, he heard two high-pitched whistles.

"Look, Bill, it's a new engine!"

"Another engine? The Fat Controller already has so many!"

"Ah! Never mind. It's only James."

"Switched here by mistake?"

"Well, sort of. The trap-points at Edward's station have locked so I am stuck here for the time being."

"No! Not the trap-points. Now we won't be able to go on the Main," the Twins complained.

"I guess I did Gordon a favour," James whispered to himself quietly.

Then, the Dock Manager came up.

"Since, BoCo cannot come onto the Branch, you're going to have to do his jobs."

"That's no problem. I can surely handle branch line work," replied James.

"Very well," concluded the Dock Manager then explained to James's Driver, the work-orders.

Now, James usually pulled his trains facing the direction of travel.

"We just have to turn round now, don't we?" James asked his Driver.

"Turn around? What do you mean?" asked Salty.

"Don't you have a turntable?"

"Well, no."

"What about Edward? Does he pull his trains tenderfirst?"


"So, not only am I stuck here for the time being but I now have to run trains to Wellsworth tenderfirst!"

"Pretty much, yes."

"Never mind. You know we keep a good look-out," soothed his Driver.

"Well, of course you do, but it's not the same," he groaned.

However, there was no help for that and it was all soon arranged.

James buffered up to the trucks.

"What's this?" asked the front truck. "You know, it'll be a much pleasant journey if you don't make sulky faces."

"Never mind him," called another truck. "He's just excessively proud of his face . . . for some reason."

"And these hoods are nice, aren't they?"

"Well, yes," stammered James, not really sure what to make of the trucks' conversation. "Can we just keep things normal?"

"Well, this is normal," replied the trucks. "We talk about aesthetics."

"Like for example, your paintwork. Nice colour, really .  .  ."

"And instead of being able to ignore them with them behind, now I'll have to listen to literally every word they say," thought James.

Soon, the Guard blew his whistle and James steamed away.

He stopped at Suddery to wait for Edward's train.

Presently, he steamed in, gently.

"Hullo James," he called, kindly. "Bit of an experience for you, isn't it?"

James was rather embarrassed.

"Never mind," he chuckled. "The trucks are acting well, I see."

"They are," replied James. "Their conversations are a bit abnormal, you might say."

"They can talk about all sorts of things," continued Edward. "Better than them banging about, anyways."

"Keeping a good look-out?" called Edward's Driver.

"Indeed!" replied James's Driver. "Been a while, but I wouldn't be here if I couldn't drive an engine tenderfirst, right?"

Then, Edward's Guard blew his whistle.

"Best be off," called Edward and steamed swiftly away.

James reached Wellsworth safely and began to organise the china clay trucks in the Yard.

"Thank goodness there's a turntable here," thought James.

Once he was finished shunting the trucks, he steamed onto the turntable and his Driver and Fireman turned him round.

"That's better," he sighed. "Now, I can face the direction of travel on the way to Brendam."

With Edward's Branch cut off from the Main Line, there wasn't much to do.

The next day, Edward let James take his coaches.

"At least we can still keep passenger trains going," said Edward.

Twice a day, Edward's train from Brendam would go through to the Big Station, but with no access to the Main Line, passengers wanting to go there exchanged trains at Edward's station.

In the morning, Henry arrived.

"Well, well, well. Look who's here again," he chuckled. "Is the work on the Main too hard for you?"

"Certainly not. In fact, I was having such a good run that I got trapped here," retorted James.

"Sez you," replied Henry.

Soon, both engines went on their way. James rested at Brendam before heading back. He fetched his coaches and ran round ready to head off, tenderfirst again.

He made good time and reached Edward's station just as Molly arrived. She was surprised.

"James? Is that you?"

"Erm, yes, of course, who'd you think it was?"

"Oh, it's just I'd never seen you run tenderfirst," she added, trying to hold back a fit of giggles.

"You can go ahead and laugh, soon I'll be an expert at running both forwards and backwards."

"Fair enough," smiled Molly.

That night, James was pleased with himself.

"You know, I used to think running backwards was disgusting, but now, I see it can come quite in handy."

"Of course," replied Edward. "But it's not so easy . . ."

"Just let them laugh," interrupted James, "I'll show them a thing or two."

I'm sorry to say, James got pretty conceited about this.

A couple days later, he was allowed to go to the China Clay Works.

All the engines were there. Marion was loading trucks for Timothy and Bill and Ben were shunting.

"Look, Timothy, it's that new engine we've been telling you about!" exclaimed Bill.

Timothy chuckled. "Hullo, James. They're just teasing."

"I know and at this point, I don't mind. Soon, I'll know how to run tenderfirst better than any other tender engine."


"Of course."

"This train is loaded," called Marion. "Better put those 'hoods' on now."

"Indeed," agreed Timothy.

"Bill and Ben! Bring me more trucks! I like to keep digging!"

Bill and Ben brought some empty trucks and a couple tankers.

"What are the tankers for?" asked James.

"That is for wet clay," explained Marion. "I load dry clay onto trucks. But first . . . Let's play a game!"

"I think I shouldn't . . ." began James.

Bill rolled alongside.

"Just go with it," he whispered.

"All right, let's play 'Guess what's in my shovel'!"


"Yes. The rules are simple. You get three guesses to determine what's in my shovel. Easy, right?"

"Uh, yes. Can't I say the correct . . ."

"Just guess wrong twice," interrupted Bill, quietly.

"Okay," replied James, then he spoke up. "Is it toothpaste?"

"It's a product of it, but no. Keep guessing!"

"Oh, how about a chair?" guessed Bill.


Bill winked at James.

"China clay!"

"Yes! And of course, it's useful for many things. No wonder we're usually busy."

"I forgot how talkative she can be," thought James.

Despite that, Marion soon had his train ready.

"Just a moment. Ben's bringing the brake van."

James was ready, when Timothy came up.

"We have loop line here if you'd like to turn around," he offered.

"No need!" James replied, confidently. "I am an expert running like this now."

"Suit yourself."

James made good time and soon reached the Docks.

"I'll just shift these trucks over to Cranky and the ship will be off before you can say 'scrambled eggs'," he thought.

But the trucks had grown tired of James's boasting. They whispered and chattered quietly.

James's brakes came on as he entered the Docks. That was the signal for the trucks.

"On! On!" they urged.

James's Driver and Fireman were knocked over in the cab. Before they knew it, James ran onto the points leading to the sea!

The Driver got up and lept for the brake. The Guard too, checked the trucks.

James's tender hit the buffers and he hung with just one pair of wheels off the edge.

"Help!" cried James.

Salty raced over, coupled on and pulled with all his might. James was still in steam and he was soon safely back on the track.

"Phew!" sighed the Driver. "So much for your tender. You nearly lost it!"

"Yes. It isn't all that easy, right?"

The Driver agreed.

That night, he told Edward what happened.

"Well, I would've warned you to be careful," said Edward.

"Yes. Sorry about that. I reckon it took time for you to learn too."

"Of course," replied Edward. "Just don't get too careless or the trucks especially will look for a way to trip you up somehow."

After that, James was much careful running tenderfirst. Two days later, the points had been fixed and he returned to the Big Station. Of course, his story was there before him.

"Did you hear about that new engine on Edward's line?" chortled Henry.

"I heard he can run tenderfirst," added Gordon.

"Och, must hae been a rest cure for him," put in Donald.

"He got so good, he nearly got rid of his tender," continued Henry.

"Very funny," interrupted James, sarcastically. "You're just jealous I'm better at that than you."

"Lucky for you, there is a turntable here," chuckled Jessie.

"Thank goodness," sighed James. "I've decided that I never want to run tenderfirst ever again."

And that was that. James was glad to be back pulling his trains the way he was most accustomed to.




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