Mickey Mouse scratched his head in confusion. A portly gentleman approached him offering a deal between his railway and Disney. “Disney already has a railroad,” he told the gentleman earlier. “I don’t think any other can match ours.”
“You'd be surprised at the engines themselves,” said the gentleman with a smile. “I would be honored if you would come to my island with another and allow me to show you instead of giving it away by telling you and risking disbelief.” He gave Mickey his business card. “If you need me, there’s my number,” he said. He then stepped through the portal that Yen Sid set up and disappeared. As the portal evaporated, Mickey started looking over the card. It had a multiversal number as well as his usual phone.
“What do you think?” Mickey asked Yen Sid.
“Let us see what he means by why we would be surprised at the engines,” said Yen Sid. “We’ll go from there.” Mickey mulled over the thought for a few days, then called the portly gentleman and said that he would like to arrange a meeting.
After the call, Mickey and Snow White stepped through the portal into the gentleman’s office. “Ah, splendid!” said the gentleman. “I believe that now’s the time to go to the engine shed.” The gentleman took them to his car and they drove from the office to a roundhouse shed holding a blue 4-6-2 LNER A3 class engine, a green engine of a similar but smaller design and a blue 4-4-0 “Larger Seagull” engine. All the engines had faces that had the eyes closed. Mickey was unimpressed.
“Why are there faces on the front of the engine?” he asked. “Sir, I’m sorry, but I’m not impressed. Yes, they're cool looking. Yes, the faces add to the illusion that they can be alive. I can assure you, my railroad can do the same.”
“Er, Mickey,” said Snow White as she pointed to the big blue engine. Mickey looked in her finger’s direction and saw the face yawning. The other engines yawned as well.
“Never mind,” said Mickey, “that’s impressive.”
“What are these engines?” asked Snow White. The big blue engine’s focus came to him first.
“Ah, good morning sir!” he said.
“Good morning!” said the portly gentleman. He turned to his visitors. “Sir and Madam, I would like you to meet Gordon, the big engine, Henry, the green engine, and Edward, the blue engine.”
“Visitors?” said Henry.
“Hello, my friends!” said Gordon. “Welcome to the North Western Railway on the Island of Sodor.”
“I don’t believe it!” said Snow White. “Talking steam engines!”
“You seem excited,” said Henry.
“Snow White and I are something of train enthusiasts,” said Mickey.
“Snow White?” asked Gordon. “As in Princess Snow White?”
“The very same,” said Snow White. “And you’re a 4-6-2 LNER A3 class engine, right?”
“That, and Doncaster Drawn!” said Gordon proudly. “Although, strictly speaking, your highness, I’m supposed to be the first A0.” Snow White turned to Henry.
“You seem to be of a similar build, but I can’t place you,” she said.
“Well,” said Henry, “I used to be a cross between a GNR/LNER Class A1 and a GNR C1 Atlantic.”
“Didn't that give you a small firebox to work with?” asked Snow White.
“Well,” said Henry as he turned red from embarrassment, “yes, it did. I’m now built like a LMS Stanier ‘Black 5’ 4-6-0 with a Fowler tender as well!” Snow White then turned to Edward.
“And you’re a 4-4-0 ‘Larger Seagull’, right?” she asked.
“That’s right,” said Edward. “I’m amazed that you know so much about us just by looking at the shape.”
"My father, the late Walt Disney, was a big supporter of rail roads,” said Mickey. “There’s been talk that people in the United States want to get rid of passenger trains.”
“What?” said the gentleman. “Why?”
“Apparently, it’s too expensive,” said Mickey. He then dismissed the thought. “Ah, well. I think we need a run with one of you engines.”
“I can take them!” said Gordon. “An important express engine such as me should give them a splendid ride.”
“I’m a mixed traffic engine!” said Henry. “I can take the train!”
“Mixed traffic?” said Gordon. “I've only seen you pulling trucks! You’re only a goods engine!”
“I pull coaches too!” snapped Henry. While the two engines bickered, Snow White looked at Edward. He looked sad.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“It’s nothing,” said Edward.
“Forgive me,” said Snow White, “but I don’t believe you. Why are you sad?” Edward sighed.
“I've been in this shed for a long time without pulling trains,” he said. “Gordon and Henry tell me that the driver won’t pick me, he wants big, strong engines like them. I just want to go and do work. That’s when an engine is most happy, when he or she knows that what they’re doing makes them Really Useful Engines.” Snow White felt sad for Edward. Then, an idea formed in her head.
“Would you like to take Mickey and I around the island?” Edward felt a glimmer of hope.
“Yes, please,” he said. Gordon and Henry heard that and lost their voices in shock!
“Here’s what I propose,” said Snow White, “I will be your driver for today, and Mickey will be your fireman.”
“Er, are you sure you wish to do so?” said the gentleman.
“My clothes are woven with dirt resistant threads,” said Snow White. “I can handle the coal dust.”
“Well,” said the gentleman, “If you’re sure. I started as an apprentice driver. I can show you how the controls work.” The gentleman, Mickey, and Snow White boarded Edward’s cab. The gentleman showed Mickey how to light the fire and showed Snow White how to start Edward.
“Seems simple enough,” she said. She pulled the lever and Edward started towards the turntable smoothly.
“Does this look familiar?” he called after Gordon and Henry. The two engines then thought back to 1922 and remembered when Edward was shut up for a long time. They decided to keep their complaints to themselves.
Edward arrived at Knapford station. His coaches were ready and waiting at the platform. The station pilot pulled up beside him. Edward laughed. “Well now!” he exclaimed. “Returning to your old job?” Snow White identified the engine as an E2 0-6-0 Billington tank engine. It was blue with red trimming, and had a big yellow 1 on its side tanks.
“Thomas?” said the portly gentleman. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be on your branch line?”
“Actually sir,” said Thomas, “that’s the real reason why I’m here. The rails have buckled and bent in the summer sun again. I can’t do my passenger duties. The stationmaster at Dryaw said he left a message for you an hour ago.”
“I must have been at Tidmouth sheds at that point,” said the gentleman. “I shall see to it that the rails are repaired immediately.” He turned to Mickey and Snow White. “Will you two be all right?”
“Of course,” said Snow White. The gentleman tipped his hat.
“Wait, I never got your name!” said Mickey. The gentleman stopped and turned.
“My name is Sir Stephen Topham Hatt, the ‘Fat Controller’ of the North Western Railway,” he said, and he turned around to talk to the Dryaw Stationmaster.
“Well then,” said Edward, “I guess we wait for the Guard.”
“He should have blown his whistle two minutes ago,” said Thomas.
“Er, guard?” asked Mickey.
“I think the American version of the position is the Conductor,” said Edward.
“Ah,” said Mickey. Snow White’s hand still hovered over the brake handle. She saw someone on the platform.
“Excuse me,” she said, “Have you seen the Guard?”
“Last night, yeah,” said the man.
“There he is!” said a little girl as she stuck her head out the window. The Guard was running down to the station with a sandwich in one hand, his flags in the other and the whistle in his mouth. He jumped into the van, waved the green flag, and blew his whistle.
“Right away!” said Snow White. She gently took the brakes off and opened the regulator. Edward soon steamed out of Knapford and set off on his run. He enjoyed having the chance to stretch his wheels again. He still had his stops in his memory. Edward had a wonderful time. After the day’s work, Mickey and Snow White met up with the Fat Controller at Knapford station again.
“Sir, that was the best engine ride I've ever had!” said Mickey. “I think we can work out something between us.”
“Splendid!” said the Fat Controller. “Shall we discuss this in my office?”
“An excellent idea,” said Mickey. They headed to Knapford Station again while Edward talked about his day to the other engines. It was only him, Thomas, Henry, and Gordon.
“It was the most exciting thing ever!” he said. “Not many engines can brag about royalty at the controls. She didn’t even complain about the coal dust!”
“That is exciting,” said Gordon who decided it was best to be happy for Edward. The chatter died when they heard a familiar whistle. They saw a tender engine back onto the turntable and get turned around to its berth. It was a red L&YR Hughes Class 28 2-6-0 hybrid with a Fowler tender like Henry. It had a number five on the tender and it appeared angry and covered in tar from smoke box to cab. The others knew this engine’s vanity knew no bounds.
“Here we go,” said Edward.
“Why are you covered in tar James?” asked Thomas.
“I decided it would go well with my red paint,” said the engine sarcastically. “WHAT DO YOU THINK HAPPENED!? Those stupid trucks pushed me down Gordon’s hill and I crashed into three tar wagons this time! THREE!”
“Sad that it wasn't two like last time?” laughed Henry.
“Shut up!” snapped James. “It wasn't funny back then, and it’s not funny now!” He didn’t like to be reminded of when he was pushed down Gordon’s hill by his trucks and crashed into two tar wagons in 1951 after he made rude remarks to a tram engine named Toby after he became the railway’s number seven.
“In any case,” said Thomas, “I’ve never known that the magic railroad could connect to Mickey Mouse’s world.” James became puzzled.
“Mickey Mouse?” he asked as he forgot the tar on him. “Thomas, what are you talking about?”
“The Fat Controller arrived at the sheds earlier today with Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse and his version of Snow White,” explained Gordon. “They chose Edward to take them around the island for some odd reason that escapes me. The thing is, Mickey became Edward’s fireman and Snow White was his driver for today.” James was surprised.
“A princess as your driver?” he asked Edward.
“Yes indeed!” said Edward excitedly. “It was a splendid run.”
“I’m glad they didn’t see me today,” said James.
“That brings up a question,” said Thomas, “why weren’t you cleaned after your accident?”
“The wash down tower was clogged somehow underground,” said James. “It’s going to take all night to fix it and a good part of the day tomorrow. In other words, we will have to go without a wash until the afternoon.” The idea didn’t sit well with Gordon.
“A big, important engine like me should look his best while pulling the Express!” he rumbled. The other engines rolled their eyes.
“We’ll just have to make do until tomorrow afternoon,” said Thomas, and he went to sleep. Gordon was the last one to fall asleep, and he grumbled as he did so. But tomorrow would hold many surprises for the engines. They were only familiar with Disney’s Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. They will certainly be surprised by the arrivals. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the North Western Railway!