November 1, 2006

I like to occasionally write stories for children, so a while back I wrote this one for the two hardest ages to navigate, growing up and growing old. Most train stories for kids are always compared to The Little Train that Could, well that's o.k. too, enjoy the story whatever you think.

a fable for any age


By Jim Kittelberger

The Blue Engine Line pulled into the station at Littletown, Ohio. It belched one last puff of smoke, and one last shot of steam, which created a very large cloud obscuring the little station house. If trains were people, it would seem that blue engine was ready for the train retirement home, or as was the fact, for the scrap heap. Blue train had been working very hard for many, many years, carrying passengers from their homes into the big city. It was good at its job. It would proudly announce its arrival at each station with a loud toot of its whistle, and carry the people safely to their destinations. But times became hard for all the people in Ohio including the farmers and they had to work much harder to have enough money to feed their families. The owners of the Blue Engine Line also had less money, so they cut back on upkeep on their trains. Well, Blue train just like people needed someone to keep it clean and neat and pretty and oiled and in topnotch mechanical shape. But the owners didn’t have the money so Blue train started getting a little dirtier and shabbier and not in very good mechanical shape, until finally it was so tired and uncared for, it acted old. So as time passed and the company had more money, it was decided that instead of fixing up Blue train, it should be retired and shoved aside. They would purchase a new shiny train, a red one, the Red Engine Line.

Blue train was oh so blue and sad as it sat on the siding of the station, but at least the owners had not send it to the trash heap, but instead just ignored it. So it sat there day after day, month after month, year after year. Children would come with their parents and climb up into the engine and pretend they were engineers speeding down the tracks. Blue train liked that, but he was sure he had some more miles left in him, but the owners had forgotten all about him. That is until one day when the most important man in Ohio, the Governor of the state and many mayors were aboard the Red Engine Line on the way back to Capital city to sign a very important bill that would help all the people of Ohio. The night was moonless, and dark. Snow was swirling around the big train as it barreled through the night, speeding them to the Capital. When all of a sudden with no warning, it started slowing in spite of anything the engineer could do, until finally it stopped in the middle of nowhere. The big engine wheezed and sputtered and started to make the oddest noise the engineer had ever heard. It stated making noises like a coffee maker, it sounded like water boiling and percolating and getting louder. It was the great boiler building up a huge head of steam and not being able to use it for moving the train. Something had broken and the steam kept building until something was going to blow soon. The engineer, not knowing what to do, ordered all the workers off the engine and he followed them soon after, and they ran off to a safe distance, and stood in the blowing snow waiting for whatever was about to happen. Well it finally did happen. The boiler, not able to contain its hot steam one moment longer, blew out a huge hole in the bottom of the boiler and the steam and fire exploded under the big locomotive. Farmers, who saw it, later reported that the sparks that came out of the boiler were better than any Fourth of July fireworks show they had ever seen. And the steam created a cloud bigger than four of Zeke Smiths biggest barns.

The owners, who were riding with the Governor, were mortified. Here sat the most important man in Ohio with a very important job to do sitting here in the middle of pastures and cornfields, still many miles from the Capital, not moving. They huddled together and got out their maps of all their tracks and stations, arguing and discussing and arguing again. They finally decided they needed the closest train available to get here and rescue the governor and the mayors. They looked again and again, and decided that the closest station to them was a little town called Littletown. So the call went out. Get up steam on any available train and send it as soon as possible to rescue the very important people. The Littletown stationmaster replied yes sir, yes sir twice because he was so nervous. He looked at his manifest and was aghast, he had said yes before he realized that all his trains were out of the station at other places. That is, all except, the Blue train. But it had not been used for years and was old and tired. But he had no choice now, because if he called back and told them, they would surely fire him for not realizing he had no trains available.

Blue train was in the middle of another nights long sleep, when he noticed a small army of men coming in his direction. Before he knew what was happening, they had lit his boiler and the steam was making the old engine come alive again. As quickly as possible Blue train was connected to the main line. The engineer pushed the old throttle and the Blue engine started to move. At first it was like an old fellow with stiff muscles getting on his feet after sitting for a long while, he groaned and moaned; but soon, as the steam ran through its lines and twists and turns it started to feel good, until he was flying down the tracks feeling as if he were a teenager again. Soon, it seems in record time, with all its lights blazing and its horn tooting and whistle whistling, it came around the final turn and there was the Governors train. The Governor could not stop thanking the owners for their great wisdom in sending for this fine train, and the owners could not stop thanking the stationmaster for his wise choice in sending this fine old train.

So, I wish I could say that old Blue train was back to work on a daily basis, but time could not be reversed and old Blue was just that, old. But old Blue was given a special siding all to itself, and banners proclaimed that this train was the train that rescued the Governor of Ohio in a snowstorm and carried him to Capital city where he signed important bills that helped all the people of Ohio. He was a hero.

There is a moral to this story. We all get old and our bodies may become smaller and less robust, but inside all of us dwells a spirit that burns eternally bright, just like Old Blue Train in Littletown Ohio.

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