- “I'm very glad to be home again. Thank you Sir, and all, for your nice surprise. Now I'll surprise you. Listen! When I was mended in England, I found my Twin!”
- ―Skarloey surprising the crowds
The Little Old Engine is the fourteenth book of the Railway Series.
You remember in Four Little Engines that Sir Handel Brown, The Owner, sent Skarloey away to be mended. These stories tell what happened when "The Little Old Engine" came home.
Skarloey is not real. You can only see him in these books. But there is a real engine just like Skarloey. He is very, very old, and has been mended. His name is Talyllyn, and he lives at Towyn in Wales.
You would all enjoy going to see him at work.
Peter Sam and Sir Handel are given buffers and a new diesel named Rusty arrives, but Sir Handel continues to act in his same old way. Gordon sees Sir Handel shunting and advises him to get out of work by pretending to be sick. Sir Handel does so next morning, and Peter Sam and Rusty take his trucks for him. Peter Sam later goes to the slate mines to collect more trucks. Some mistake him for Sir Handel, and decide to play a trick on him. They snap their chain and run into him. Peter Sam is rescued by Rusty and goes to the shed. Sir Handel apologises and the Thin Controller punishes him for his lying by making do Peter Sam's work as well as his own. Sir Handel is then left wanting to give Gordon a piece of his mind.
Peter Sam, still recovering, is delighted when Skarloey returns. They talk about the going-ons of the railway while Skarloey was away, including new coaches, and new engines such as Rusty and a bad-tempered steam engine named Duncan with strong languages and rough manners. They are interrupted when Skarloey's crew arrive to tell him that Duncan has gotten stuck in the tunnel. Skarloey takes some workmen to pull Duncan out and takes his train home. The Thin Controller rebukes Duncan, who behaves for the rest of the evening.
Skarloey meets Rusty and compliments him on his work on the line. Rusty confides that the line before Cros-ny-Cuirn is dangerous and he is afraid Duncan will derail. Duncan overhears and insults Rusty. The next day, Rusty, who is still cross at Duncan, leaves him to get his own coaches. Duncan is late, and James tells him about the time he "supposedly" made Diesel leave single-handedly. Duncan is impressed, and is so focused on sending Rusty packing that he comes off at the dangerous line. When Rusty hears, he grudgingly assists and after Duncan apologises for being rude, the two become friends.
Little Old Twins
Some men are coming to look at the line, and Peter Sam and Sir Handel remember that people did that on their old line and that it was later sold. The engines are miserable, until Peter Sam's driver tells them the men are producers from the BBC who will be filming the engines for a television documentary . Everyone is happy again, except Sir Handel, who tries to weasel out by playing sick again; the Thin Controller simply asks his crew to take him apart to show the producers how an engine works. Peter Sam is given the honour of pulling the television equipment, and, after a circuit around the line, stops to film Skarloey making a speech. To everyone's surprise, Skarloey reveals that he has a twin, Talyllyn, and that he met him while being repaired.
- Sir Handel
- Peter Sam
- The Thin Controller
- The Owner
- Mr. Hugh
- The BBC Television Producers
- Agnes, Ruth, Lucy and Jemima (not seen)
- Talyllyn (does not speak)
- Ada, Jane and Mabel (do not speak)
- Gertrude and Millicent (do not speak)
- Cora (does not speak)
- Beatrice (does not speak)
- Henry (cameo)
- Diesel (indirectly mentioned)
- Crovan's Gate
- C.G. Slate Company
- Skarloey Railway Slate Quarry
- Skarloey Railway Engine Sheds
- Hawin Doorey
- Rheneas Tunnel
- Rheneas Viaduct
- Talyllyn Railway
- To date, "Little Old Twins" is the longest story in the Railway Series, at 790 words and 9 illustrations, and is tied with "A Close Shave" for the most illustrations.
- Little Old Twins is the first Railway Series story which was not planned to be televised or be mentioned in a Thomas & Friends episode.
- The Reverend acknowledged the help given by members of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society in the preparation for this book. He also acknowledged the help given by John Adams (Publicity) Ltd in the preparation for the illustration of Talyllyn.
- There were some new illustrations of "Trucks!" done by Loraine Marshall when Mr. Perkins was reading for both The Thomas Way UK DVD and Spills and Thrills US DVD, the liveries of the engines were changed to the television series versions, although an original illustration of Trucks! with Peter Sam and Rusty's original red and black liveries was briefly seen in the book Mr. Perkins was reading from.
- The events of Home at Last where Duncan scraped a tunnel with his cab due to his "Rock-n-Roll" were inspired by how his basis Douglas' large cab had a tendency to scrape against the tunnels he went under. The events of Rock 'n' Roll were also inspired by how his basis had a short wheelbase, which caused him to be a rough rider.
- Awdry's treatment of the stories and characters in the introduction differs from the norm. In all previous introductions, he treats the engines as if they were real; in this book, he admits that "Skarloey is not real. You can only see him in these books." The only other book in The Railway Series in which he treats the stories and engines as fictional is Enterprising Engines.
- The events of this book took place in 1958.
- Despite this book being made before The Twin Engines, in the Compilation Railway Series Book released in 2005 featuring all the Railway Series books up to The Twin Engines, they put The Twin Engines in instead of The Little Old Engine, this may be because The Little Old Engine is the longest book, or it's because The Twin Engines is a more popular book.
- Although Skarloey returns from his repairs at the beginning of "Home at Last", he is not illustrated in his rebuilt shape until the eighth illustration of "Little Old Twins".
- James has his old cab roof with a red top again.
- In "Home at Last":
- Peter Sam has round buffers.
- In the third illustration, Sir Handel has red wheels.
- Duncan is not coupled to his coaches in the sixth illustration.
- In the fifth illustration, Skarloey's face is bigger than it should be.
- Peter Sam's funnel does not appear to be broken in any story, except the first.
- In the second illustration of "Rock 'n' Roll", Skarloey's face is bigger than it should be.
- In the fifth illustration of "Trucks!", Peter Sam's face is slanted.
- In the fourth illustration of "Rock 'n' Roll", James appears to be smaller than Duncan.
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