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- “The Owner has just bought two more engines. He told me I was a Very Old Engine, and deserved a good rest. He gave me this shed so that I could see everything and not be lonely. But I am lonely all the same. I miss Rheneas very much. Yesterday one of the new engines pushed him on a truck, and now he's gone to be mended. I wish I could be mended too, and pull coaches again.”
- ―Skarloey talking to Edward
Four Little Engines is the tenth book of the Railway Series.
Sir Handel Brown is the owner of a little Railway which goes to Skarloey and Rheneas. Skarloey means "Lake in the Woods", and Rheneas means "Divided Waterfall". They are beautiful places, and lots of people visit them.
The Owner is very busy, so Mr. Peter Sam, the Thin Controller, manages the Railway.
The two Engines, who are called Skarloey and Rheneas, grew old and tired, so the owner bought two others.
The stories tell you what happened.
Edward meets his old friend Skarloey, a narrow gauge engine. Skarloey talks to him about his friend, Rheneas, who is being repaired on the mainland, the two new engines, Sir Handel and Peter Sam, his coaches and his work, and when Edward goes to the workshops Skarloey dozes off in the sunshine.
The two new engines have arrived. Peter Sam is good natured, but Sir Handel is in a bad temper. The next morning he insults the furious coaches by calling them "cattle trucks", and they get vengeance by holding back on a hill. The Thin Controller scolds Sir Handel, and he behaves until he is sent to work at the quarry one day. He purposely derails himself, and when he is put back on the rails, he is sent to the shed in disgrace.
While Sir Handel is left in the shed, Peter Sam has to do all the work himself. One day he has so much fun getting ready that he is late, and Henry threatens that he will leave without Peter Sam's passengers if it happens again. Peter Sam is so worried that at the lake he starts off without the Refreshment Lady. She is rather miffed, but bursts out laughing when she hears Peter Sam's story, and explains that Henry was joking. Peter Sam is furious, but Henry has wisely left!
It is Market Day, and Peter Sam is away for maintenance, so Sir Handel has to take the coaches. They still do not trust him and when he has to stop suddenly they are bumped, so to pay him out they derail him at the points. Skarloey offers to take the train home, but a spring breaks and Skarloey tilts. Despite this, he braves the journey home, and the Owner sends him to be mended. Sir Handel then learns a lot from Skarloey about how to handle the coaches and hopes for him to come back soon.
- Sir Handel
- Peter Sam
- Agnes, Ruth, Lucy, Jemima and Beatrice
- The Thin Controller
- The Owner
- Refreshment Lady
- Rheneas (does not speak)
- Mrs. Last (does not speak)
- James (mentioned)
- Sir Topham Hatt (mentioned)
- "Peter Sam and the Refreshment Lady" was inspired by an incident that occurred on the Talyllyn Railway. However, it was not the engine's fault but the fault of the guard - who happened to be the Rev. W. Awdry - and the woman left behind was in fact the driver's mother-in-law.
- At the end of "Old Faithful", there is a short message about the Talyllyn Railway; "If you have enjoyed these stories, you will enjoy a visit to the Tal-y-llyn Railway at Towyn in Wales".
- Sir Handel's derailments in this book were inspired by a similar occurences with his basis, Sir Haydn, who kept falling between the rails due to the trackwork being half an inch wider than 2'3" to accomadate Talyllyn and Dolgoch's long wheelbases.
- This is the first book that Thomas does not appear in since his introduction in Thomas the Tank Engine.
- The events of this book took place in 1952.
- In the second illustration, the engines' numberplates are oversized.
- In the first illustration of "Sir Handel", the brick part of the engine sheds appears smaller than later illustrations.
- In "Sir Handel" and "Peter Sam and the Refreshment Lady", Agnes is a third-class coach.
- In the second illustration of "Peter Sam and the Refreshment Lady", no sidings can be seen behind the sheds.
- In the third illustration of "Peter Sam and the Refreshment Lady", Henry has no handrails on the side of his boiler.
- Sir Handel's face changes size in the second illustration of "Old Faithful".
- In the fourth illustration of "Old Faithful", Skarloey is pulling five coaches instead of four.
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