Percy & The Complaints

The Fat Controller is finding that despite his best efforts, the passengers STILL aren't satisfied!  But can Percy help to bring things into perspective?

One morning, Percy arrived at Knapford Station with the Mail Train.  There were lots of letters and parcels to be unloaded, and a special sack which was to be taken to the Fat Controller’s office.  The Fat Controller received lots of letters about the railway, and quite often, the passengers would give him their thoughts on how they felt things could be improved.

“I’ve been receiving an awful lot of letters about Duck,” he told the Station Master.  “Maybe it’s time to take a bit of weight off the other engines’ buffers and let him help out more around the railway again.”

“Good idea Sir,” agreed the Station Master.

In no time at all, Duck was helping out across the railway again.  The response was so popular that the Fat Controller had Harvey, Bill, Ben and Oliver working additional services as well.

“It’s great to be working on the Main Line again,” Duck gushed proudly to the other engines, “makes me feel really useful, and it means we can get things running in the old Great Western way again!”

“A lot’s changed around here though,” chuckled Oliver when he looked at the yard.

“We’re over the worst of it,” puffed Thomas, “thankfully.”

The Fat Controller was very pleased.  Everything was going well, the engines were all very happy and worked well together as they had done before. 

But one morning, Percy puffed into Knapford Station with the Mail Train again looking anxious.  “What’s the matter, Percy?” asked Thomas.

“The Post Master said that there’s a special bag of letters for the Fat Controller, and it’s very heavy.”

Thomas looked in dismay as the Porters hauled the bag out of Percy’s Mail Truck.  The bag was bulging fit to burst and marked ‘Complaints’.  “But why would there be so many complaints?  It’s not as if we’ve lost any livestock, endangered the lives of workmen or acknowledged the existence of Misty Island recently.”

“I don’t know, Thomas.  I thought the Fat Controller had made a lot of improvements, he’s been listening to the feedback from the passengers.”

The Fat Controller goggled at the letters in the sack.  Duck... “Great Western way”... pompous... arrogant... “maybe you should relegate him for a few years and see if improvements occur when he next returns...” Oliver... “shorter than I remember him”... “we see more of his brake van than we do of him”... Marion... “doesn’t shut up”... well, we all knew that one didn’t we?”

Percy and Thomas looked sad, “You wouldn’t send Duck away again, would you Sir?”

The Fat Controller was fuming, “Duck’s workload is scheduled well in advance – I’ve got two years worth of jobs for him to be getting on with!  And to boot, I’ve even had Donald, Douglas and Daisy overhauled to help out as well!  And even there, there’s people who don’t want any more old faces popping up again!”

He reached in and pulled out another letter.  “Dear Sir Topham, do you really need to operate this Island’s Railway network like a real railway again?  I miss seeing Thomas going past with some weird object on a single flatbed...” He buried his head in the letter, sobbed a little, sucked air in through his teeth, looked at the station roof and returned to reading the letter again.

“And someone explained to me that you have something called Signalmen who work the points on your railway?  I thought it was done by magic.  Can you bring back the magic so the engines can go wherever they like again...?”

Thomas and Percy looked at one another.  Then they looked at the Fat Controller again.  He looked as if he was about to burst.  “Surely they knew that...” but Thomas was sharply interrupted as the Fat Controller reached into the bag again and pulled out another letter.

He took a deep breath and read again.  “Dear Sir Topham, can you settle an argument?  I could have sworn I saw Ferdinand heading out from Knapford a few weeks back, but some of the lads down the pub say it was Porter...”

Percy was curious, “I thought Ferdinand couldn’t come round here anymore?”

The Fat Controller and Thomas were a bit flustered, “Erm... yes, well, we didn’t think he could either, didn’t we Thomas?”

“Yes, erm...” Thomas chuckled nervously, as if he was hiding something. “But we can’t talk about it, you know?  There’s a good reason why Ferdinand shouldn’t be able to come around here anymore, Percy...”

The Fat Controller rocked on his feet, trying to be sheepish, “We’d tell you why, but someone might lose his job if we did... it’s all very hush hush!”

“But the tunnel’s still there, and I’m sure that he could...”

“Anyway, apparently, this ended in a big fight, apparently the Blue Bird bar is a virtual wreck...”

“I thought you said people fight in there all the time, Sir?”

“They do, Thomas, it's getting almost as bad as the Red Square Cinema, and you know what they're like up there!”

Thomas was concerned.  “What are you going to do, Sir?”

The Fat Controller sighed heavily, “Tell Duck, and the others, to go and do the boring mundane work on the branch lines again.  Then I’ll get on the phone to Mr Bubbles and see if he wants a bouncy castle delivered from the Docks – you can pick whatever route you want to take, Thomas... I’ll remind him to order three, and make up some kind of rhyme - something like 'This bouncy castle won't give me any hassle' or such.”

The Fat Controller began to walk sadly back to his office.  “Sir, you’re wrong.”

The Fat Controller turned around and looked at Percy.  He was surprised.  Percy looked stern.  “What did you say, Percy?”

“You’re wrong, Sir.  Do you remember when Diesel came to work here again?  And never left?”

The Fat Controller mopped his brow, “You know I do, I was inundated with complaints on that one.”

“Do you remember when I regressed quite a bit between 1998 and 2002?”

“Oh, don’t even get me started on that one, Percy...”

“Do you recall what happened when Emily came in and Duck disappeared?”

“We had to get an extra truck for all those letters, didn’t we?”

“And do you remember what happened when you had everything rebuilt from the ground up a few years back?”

“I’ve blocked a lot of it out, but yes.  Yes, people went out of their minds when we first made the announcement, but then... when they saw it... they really liked what we’d done.”

Percy looked at him again, and in a softer voice, he asked, “Do you still get complaints about those things?”

The Fat Controller pondered.  He was silent for what seemed like forever.  “No... no, we don’t... people have grown to love Emily, she’s even got her own little fan club!  And you’re right, no-one cares that Diesel’s still here!  Maybe you’re not as daft as we all thought, Percy!  Thomas!  Go and collect some empty trucks – we’ve got a special delivery for Whiff’s Waste Dump!”

“Well done, Percy!” whistled Thomas, “You might have saved us from reverting back again!”

Percy was very proud.  “And I have a very important job for you, Percy,” said the Fat Controller, “Go to Farmer McColl's farm and collect some straw to take to the people writing these complaint letters.  They'll need something to clutch!”

Everyone laughed.  Percy knew that some people would always find a reason to complain, but eventually, things would settle down and they'd find something new to whinge about...