Rounding off the events covered in volumes #197 and #199, the title
acts somewhat as a give-away as to the events that happen here. It wasn't always my intention to have a happy ending but quickly
felt it was justified and required. That's not to say there weren't some surprises left...
FORGIVE AND FORGET?
Here we really return to Jock and his feelings of guilt ever since the fire which saw severe damage befall
his three friends, Mike, Bert and Rex. Mike returns first but it is soon clear he has suffered badly from the fateful night
and is in no mood to forgive Jock for his recent behaviour. Finding himself teamed with newcomer Rockland Broad, the visitor
soon takes Mike to task over his attitude to Jock, but will Mike be convinced to let bygones be bygones? This, as per the
chapter 'Frank's Passengers' in #199, gave me a chance to really play on Rockland as a character - it is certainly
a desire to bring him back soon for his own adventures and misdemeanours!
Frank's story of pulling passenger trains gets further development here as he
is entrusted with two new services - 'The Early Bird' and 'The Sunset Special'. Again this was all based on my experiences
of the R&ER but the twist - with the Blisters and Frank finding himself sleeping in a marquee - was my added whimsy in
order to show Frank up! Ivan returns in this chapter too, just in time to rescue his stricken friend and in doing so finds
redemption for his previous behaviour.
Of all the engines of the railway, Bert was the one who seemed most overlooked in this entire piece. Therefore it
seemed only fair to give him his own chapter as he returns to traffic... but not at his home railway! With Rockland disappointed
at leaving Sodor before meeting Bert and Rex, he is assured a warm welcome should he ever return. Back at home a Gala is about
to commence and he's delighted to meet up with former friend Delilah once more... and a certain blue liveried Sodor engine!
The trilogy started in winter and ends the following Christmas, the three books detailing in brief a year
on the Arlesdale line. Rex is due home in time for the Christmas Eve services but disaster strikes when he fails his boiler
exam. Jock is to deputise but this causes some resentment from others and embarrassment on his part. So it is that Jock speaks
to the Small Controller and arranges a little surprise. Possibly a too fanciful and 'fairy tale' ending, but after the events
that befell the characters I felt it deserving that they go out on a high!