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- “As I thought. Rotten wood, rusty frames. Unserviceable before it came. Don't tell the trucks that; bad for discipline.”
- ―The Fat Controller
Oliver the Western Engine is the twenty-fourth book of the Railway Series.
We both wanted to call this book Little Western Engines; but Publishers are stern men. They did not approve.
They, of course, don't know the trouble we've had with Oliver. We hope he has learnt sense, but goodness knows what will happen when he finds he has a book all to himself....
I know! If Oliver gets uppish, we'll set Messrs. Kaye & Ward on to him. That'll teach him!
The Fat Controller re-opens the Arlesburgh branch and asks Duck to run it for him. Duck is proud, and one night talks so much about his responsibility that Donald, at the end of his tether, makes quacking noises and says Duck's laid an egg. Duck, furious, makes a plan to get revenge, and his crew put a duckling in Donald's watertank. She pops out the next day at the water tower, and Donald realises it was Duck's pay-back. The duck is tame, and rides with Donald for a fair while, until she gets off at Haultraugh. Donald and his crew, plotting a last ploy, place a nestbox with an egg in it behind Duck's bunker. Duck acknowledges defeat, and nowadays the duck lives happily at Haultraugh.
After Oliver was rescued, he and Isabel were repainted in Great Western colours, joined by another coach called Dulcie, who was also rescued, and start working on the Arlesburgh branch. The big engines are amazed at Oliver's adventures, and say approving things to him, making him proud and over-confident, but Oliver meets his match after a load of disgruntled ballast trucks push him into the turntable well. After Duck, Donald, Douglas and the Fat Controller speak to him sternly, he is left feeling very silly.
After Oliver is mended, the trucks, led by a wagon named S.C. Ruffey, make rude songs about him. The others try to get them to shut up, but no avail. Toad makes a plan and asks Douglas if he can share it with Oliver. Duck is apprehensive at first, but Oliver feels he must make things right, and so it is arranged. Oliver lines the worst trucks up, with guidance from Toad, and starts. S.C. Ruffey, who is at the front, tells the others to hold back, and they do, but Oliver is so determined that he abruptly tears S.C. Ruffey apart. Although the Fat Controller attributes it to S.C. Ruffey's poor condition, he tells Oliver to keep it quiet. It is for a good reason, too, because the trucks are so afraid Oliver will pull them apart that they never trouble him again.
It's Bank Holiday, and Duck meets a left-wing doubledecker bus who is determined to scrap all railways. Oliver tells Duck that he should not be taken seriously and nicknames him Bulgy, but is worried when Bulgy's friend arrives, leaving Bulgy to take their passengers with the promise of a faster way home and the lie that he accepts railway tickets. Duck is crossly puffing home when he is stopped by a bridge where Bulgy has wedged underneath. Duck carefully makes it across, and takes the passengers home. In the end, Bulgy ends up staying under the bridge until it is mended, but continues to lie, and eventually is turned into a henhouse.
- Donald and Douglas
- Isabel and Dulcie
- Alice and Mirabel
- S.C. Ruffey
- The Fat Controller
- The Railway Foreman
- Mike (does not speak)
- Rex (cameo)
- Bert (cameo)
- Fred Pelhay (cameo)
- Rickety (cameo)
- U.L.P. (cameo)
- Stepney (mentioned)
- Bulgy's Friend (mentioned)
- Arlesburgh Shed
- Crovan's Gate
- The Railway Works
- Tidmouth Sheds
- Bulgy's Bridge
- Bulgy's Field
- The Rev. W. Awdry wanted to name this book "Little Western Engines", but the publishers insisted on having an engine's name in the title. In the foreword, Awdry joked that if Oliver started to get conceited, he would set the publishers onto him.
- "M." to whom the foreword was addressed to, is Margaret Awdry, the Rev. W. Awdry's late wife.
- This marks Toad, Isabel, Alice and Mirabel's last appearance in the Railway Series and Dulcie's only. This is also Oliver's last speaking role in the Railway Series.
- Oliver's accident in "Resource and Sagacity" was based on a real life event where a Lancashire and Yorkshire 2-4-2T tank engine from the London Midland and Scottish Railway also fell backwards into a turntable well.
- The events of this book took place in 1968.
- Haultraugh is misspelt "Haultreath" in "Bulgy."
- In the second illustration of "Bulgy", Rex is incorrectly drawn as a 4-8-0 and Bert is incorrectly drawn as an 0-8-0; they are also both missing 'Arlesdale' on their tenders.
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