Railway Cuttings

"We can do it! We can do it! We can do it!" puffed Simon the Strong Engine as he hauled the Express up the hill to the Big Station at the End of the Line.

All the passengers cheered. Two girls from he Village had come to wave encouragement to Simon as he went past.

"Peep! Peep! Peep!" he whistled back happily.

As soon as he had past, the two girls brushed the soot out of their hair and went back to the Village where they had always lived.

Their mother was there to welcome them.

"Now, what have you two been up to?" she asked.

"We've just waved at Simon," said Jemima excitedly.

"Yes, and he whistled back!" giggled Patricia, who was always laughing, for some reason.

"Now, you rest there and I'll get you some tea and cakes!" smiled their mother, disappearing into the kitchen.

She emerged again immediately with a big cup of tea and ten massive round cakes.

"Now, you enjoy this!" said the girls' mother.

"Ooh, thank you!" said the two sisters together.

They had ten current massive cakes each followed by six cups of tea, all from the same small teapot and jug of milk, both of which seemed to keep replenishing themselves.

Their mother took the crockery away and put it by the sink, from which it transferred itself instantly to the appropriate racks on the wall and hung there gleaming.

"Now, your father will be home soon. Why don't you go to meet him?" asked the girls' mother.

"Ooh, yes, let's!" they both chanted together.

They put their pale green coats with their dark green belts on and their pale green hats, too.

They hurried along the lane that led to the Little Station. They heard the sound of a whistle and saw steam rising above the hill.

When they arrived at the Little Station they had to sit down at once. Dear me, those poor girls had been rushing so much that they were quite out of breath!

By and by their father's train arrived - it was a Very Important Train for their father was the Deputy Head of the Railway.

They saw his brown moustache and brown tribly hat through the smoke as he pulled the window down, reached out and opened the door.

"Hello, girls!" he enthused and gave his daughters a hug. They smiled up at him. Each girl helped to carry one of their father's many cases. That made them feel Very Important.

On their way up the hill, Jemima had an idea.

"Father, why don't we take a train to the Big Station at the End of the Line?"

Her sister and father stopped in their tracks.

"WHAT?" thundered her father. Neither girl had ever been to the Big Station at the End of the Line before.

"I think it would be jolly interesting, I mean to say!" she said, her accent starting to develop a slight North-East London twang to it as the sentence progressed.

"That won't be possible," said their father, regaining his composure, "as we are working on more Railway Cuttings up there so it's not a safe place at all for Little Girls."

"Oh, of course, Father - how silly of me!" said Jemima, returning to her usual middle-class voice.

"Let's see what your mother's prepared us for dinner! Come on!" he chuckled and they all walked blissfully along the lane that led back to the Village.

When they arrived, their father kissed their mother, who had started up a welcoming fire, even though it was the middle of the summer. That didn't matter: nobody sweated in that household.

"Now, I've got your supper ready," smiled their mother.

The girls removed their green coats and hats to reveal their dark green skirts and their blazers, which were covered in dark purple and pale purple stripes.

All four members of the family washed their hands and then sat down to eat what the Deputy Head of the Railway's wife had prepared: eighty massive current cakes (no more than twenty each were allowed due to rationing) and as much tea as they wanted.

"My dear, you have surpassed yourself!" said the Deputy Head of the Railway delightedly. "That was the best supper I've ever eaten."

"Now," said his wife and, unable to think of anything else to say, she just said, "Now" again.

"Indeed," beamed her husband and they all went to sit on bright red seats that were even nearer the fire.

"Now, this is cosy, isn't it?" said the girls' mother. "Now," she continued, "I'll just get us some tea to wash down that meal with. It's good for the digestion. Now, you must have had an interesting day. Now, you tell us all about it. Now," said the Deputy Head of the Railway's wife.

"Well, my dear, Steph refused to pull a train today because she thought the people looked common and would mess up her nice green paint!" said the Deputy Head of the Railway.

"Now!" laughed his wife.

"And we're building more Railway Cuttings. I was telling the girls on the way here. It's a Very Important Project."

"OMG!" exclaimed Jemima.

Everybody stared at her.

"I mean goodness me," she corrected herself.

As their father talked pleasantly, the girls were delighted to hear the kettle whistling like Simon. Their mother brought them in some more tea and cakes to enjoy while their father was talking.

By and by it was seven o' clock and so time for the girls to go to bed.

On their way up, their mother gave them each a candle to light their way and a cake and a piping hot cup of tea each.

Despite the massive inrush of carbohydrates, the entire family stayed slim and nobody needed any indigestion remedies.

"Now, good night," said their mother, kissing them both and then returning to the Big Bedroom, where they could already see their father lying in his pyjamas, a pipe in his mouth and his glasses at the end of his nose while he read his newspaper.

"Patricia," asked Jemima. "Do you need the bog?"

"What's one of those?" giggled Patricia.

"The loo?"

No response but more confused giggling.

"The toilet?"

Again, nothing.

"The John? The head? The can? The dunny? The karzi? The WC? The restroom? The lavatory?"

She gave up at this point, impressed with herself for knowing any of those terms, let alone all of them, but noticing her sister's distress.

"It's just that we've eaten a lot today and it's like proper proper unhealthy, right, and yet we're all slim, right, and we never need to go to the toilet."

Patricia seemed on the verge of tears.

"Why are you talking like that? I hate it when you talk like that. Oh, please, Jemima - do talk normally. Talk the way we've always talked or I shall be fearfully upset."

"You're right," said Jemima, her personality returning to one suitable for this world. "Sorry, old stick. Sleep well."

"You too, Jemima," giggled Patricia, her temporary misery forgotten. 

In the middle of the night the girls were woken up by Martha the Noisy Engine going past.

"PEEP! PEEP! PEEP! KEEP UP WITH ME! KEEP UP WITH ME!" she chanted to her coaltrucks.

"Patricia," said Jemima.

"Do you remember someone called Jeremy? Only I keep thinking I have a brother, not a sister, and that he's called Jeremy."

This brought fresh tears.

Jemima, correct voice back, said, "I say, Patricia, I've thought of a good wheeze: let's pop down and take a shufty at the New Railway Cuttings?"

Nervously Patricia agreed to join her sister. They climbed out of their window and jumped down onto the brilliant green grass. They weren't hurt at all, despited the long drop.

They crept along to the place where Martha had thundered past. They then hesitated before following the track along, making sure to stand next to it and never touching any rail.

By and by they came to the Little Station.

As they neared it Jemima hushed her giggling sister: for the Stationmaster was walking back and forth, back and forth, singing his old seashanty and with a red lantern burning in his hand.

Once they had evaded his constant patrol they ploughed on up the line, Patricia pleading to go home all the while.

By and by they came to the New Cuttings. There were workmen everywhere and engines huffing and puffing like anything.

"Oh!" laughed Patricia nervously. "I really don't think we're supposed to be here - let's go back to the Village, Jemima - PLEEEEEEASE!"

Jemima engineered it so that they detoured around the workmen and ended up just the wrong side to be able to go back home along the line.

Patricia complained and whimpered all the way but her sister was having none of it.

Eventually they reached the Big Station at the End of the Line.

They gasped when they saw it. It really was a Very Big Station indeed. It had many, many platforms, not like the Little Station that they knew, and a number of locomotives asleep, whisps of black smoke and dreamy steam pouring out of their funnels. They got up onto one of the platforms and sneaked quietly between a little 0-4-0 shunter and a massive Canadian Pacific with a cowcatcher shaped like a grey beard.

They looked beyond it. Maybe it was dark but there seemed to be... nothing. That can't have been right. They inched further towards the Place Beyond the Big Station at the End of the Line. Still nothing.

They got right up to it. Nothing. It felt like nothing, it smelled like nothing and it looked like... well, nothing.

Suddenly out of the nothingness a man appeared. He wore a black top hat, a black coat with a golden watch chain, yellow-and-black check trousers and a monocle and had something they'd never seen before: a big tummy.

"Crumbs!" said Patricia.

"Oh... my... days!" exclaimed Jemima.

"Well, well, well, Little Girls," said the Head of the Railway. "What am I going to do with you, ay?"

The End

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