"It's not fair!"
"What isn't fair?"
"Letting Branch Line diesels pull Main Line trains."
— Gordon grumbling to Edward
Main Line Engines is the twenty-first book of the Railway Series.
Bill and Ben are a shameless pair. I meant to write about Main Line Engines, and give the twins a treat by letting them into the first story. But I couldn't keep them in order! Before I knew it they had crept into the others. They even wanted me to change the book and make it about them!
But I have been very firm. I am still calling it Main Line Engines. That will serve Bill and Ben right for ragging poor Gordon so disgracefully.
He hasn't got over it yet!
Bill and Ben are tank engine twins that work at the China Clay Workings on Edward's Branch Line. One day they leave some cars in a siding and leave for more, but return to find them all gone. Their drivers determine it was a "diseasel" that took them, and when Bill recalls a sign saying "coughs and sneezles spread diseasels", in his words, Ben blames him. Their drivers quieten them and formulate a plan. They find the diseasel on a siding, and manage to confuse him so as to make him giddy, but when Edward comes along he reprimands them and tells them to apologise to the diseasel, who calls himself BoCo. Edward sends them away, and he and BoCo joke about the twins.
Duck and BoCo are talking about Bill and Ben. Duck tells BoCo he has nicknamed them "The Bees", when James, who just arrived, claims he would simply blow smoke at bees to shoo them away. The next day, two porters are pulling a trolley with a beehive on top when it falls off and bees swarm out. They decide to rest on James' boiler, but when one burns its feet, it stings James on the nose, and James runs away. In the end, BoCo takes the Express, and that night the others talk about a red beehive on wheels.
Although the big engines are forbidden to go on the branchlines because of their weight, Gordon claims he is forbidden because they are "vulgar", and leaves to take his late train. He misses his "path" after a lady with a large floppy green hat confounds the fireman into thinking the guard had waved his flag, and in the end Edward's train leaves ahead of Gordon. However, this creates a huge disruption as the Wellsworth signalman isn't informed, and Gordon is left on a siding at Brendam. The next day, Bill and Ben come into the yard, and tease him by "mistaking" him for scrap and arguing about how to dispose of Gordon. Gordon thinks they're serious, and when BoCo arrives, he asks for help. BoCo sends the twins away with his trucks, and Gordon has had great respect for diesels ever since.
Edward reprimands Bill and Ben for what they did to Gordon, but told Gordon that he deserved it. He is later set to take some enthusiasts home, but finds it hard to move the train. After meeting up with Bill and Ben, Edward takes the enthusiasts away, but stops when a crank-pin breaks, battering his splashers and frame. His crew take both crank-pins off, and Edward manages to struggle home. Edward is sent to Crovan's Gate, and BoCo does his work so well that he single-handedly changes Donald and Douglas' opinion about diesels!
- Donald and Douglas
- Bill and Ben
- The Fat Controller
- Fred and Bert
- The Lady with the Floppy Green Hat ("does not speak")
- The Enthusiasts
- Thomas (does not speak)
- Annie (cameo)
- Despite its name, a majority of this book takes place on Edward's Branch Line.
- This marks the first appearances of Bill, Ben, and BoCo.
- In the first illustration of "Wrong Road" Thomas' valence is curved.
- In the sixth illustration of "Wrong Road" Bill and Ben are taller and thinner than they should be. Their faces are also shaped like ovals instead of circles.
- In the first illustration of "Edward's Exploit" James' dome is red and his roof is black.