Hi Darren. Here is, as promised, Aston's story.
GavinThomas and Astonâ€™s Big Adventure
It was a lovely, sunny day and Thomas the Tank Engine was on his summer holidays. Thomas, Annie and Clarabel were on a boat, on their way to the island of Starlingford from their home on Sodor. Thomas was very excited â€“ he was sure he would make new friends! He was also sure, because his driver had promised him, that he would go to Starlingford Castle, where they made the best ice cream in the world. It was to be a special holiday treat, his driver warned him, but Thomas didnâ€™t care â€“ he loved ice cream!
Soon Thomas, Annie and Clarabel arrived at Starlingford. They were lifted by a big crane up off the boat and onto the quayside. â€œPeep peep! Goodbye!â€ Thomas whistled. â€œBYE BYEEEâ€ boomed the shipâ€™s foghorn. Thomas set off down the quayside to find the main line. He passed beneath the castle â€“ â€œJust think of the ice cream!â€ he sighed â€“ and under the bridges, and soon he found a branch line that would take him up to the main station.
The big station on Starlingford was called Perdido Street, and Thomas had to wait there while other, bigger engines rushed past with important expresses. â€œToot toot! Coming through!â€ said the Flying Scotsman. Thomas was glad he wasnâ€™t a big engine â€“ it looked like far too much work. He was small, and on his holidays, and he liked that just the way it was.
Standing on the platform was a family. â€œHello,â€ said Thomas, â€œIâ€™m Thomas! Are you here on your holidays too?â€
Mummy and Daddy looked at each other and smiled, because Aston stepped forward and answered. â€œYes Mr Thomas,â€ he said, because Aston was a very polite little boy, â€œMe and Mummy and Daddy and Alicia and Cole are all here on our holidays, and weâ€™re going to go to the castle for some ice cream!â€
â€œSo am I!â€ said Thomas, â€œand you can just call me â€˜Thomasâ€™. Would you and Mummy and Daddy and Alicia and Cole like to come with me? Thereâ€™s plenty of room on board.â€
Aston checked with his Mummy and Daddy â€“ because he was sensible, and he knew to ask them before climbing aboard a strange steam engine â€“ and they were about to get into Annie when they all heard an engine whistling behind Thomas.
â€œToot toot! Let me past! Iâ€™m late!â€ It was Tina the Slim Engine, and she had a train full of grumpy people who werenâ€™t on holiday waiting to get out at Perdido Street Station.
â€œOops!â€ said Thomas. â€œSorry!â€ The nice family stepped back to let Thomas clear the station, but then Thomas did a very silly thing. He heard the points change behind him but he didnâ€™t look to see if they were the right points. The signalman had made a mistake and changed the wrong set, and Thomas was in too much of a hurry to see for himself. He went racing backwards out of the station and, instead of going into the Yard, he went rocketing up the coal drop.
â€œStop! Stop!â€ called the driver, and put on Thomasâ€™s brakes, but they were going too fast. â€œLook out!â€ cried the guard. â€œWeâ€™re going to hit the buffers!â€ Thomas slithered backwards, and Clarabel went head first into the buffers at the end of the siding. CRASH! went the buffers. â€œOUCH!â€ went Clarabel. She broke right through the buffers and bounced down the hill. Annie hit the end of the line too, jumped off the rails and rode up on top of Clarabel. Thomas managed to stop before he went off the rails, but it was a close thing.
â€œOh no!â€ said Thomas, as the dust settled. â€œAre you two all right?â€
â€œOh my bruised axleboxes!â€ said Annie.
â€œOh my poor nose!â€ said Clarabel. Her voice was muffled by the weeds. â€œThere are grasshoppers jumping up it!â€
Thomas was very sorry to have hurt Annie and Clarabel, but very relieved that they were mostly all right. â€œWhat are we going to do now?
â€œYou need a crane,â€ said Tina, who had seen everything. As Thomas rolled slowly down the hill she looked to the other engine on the far side of the station. â€œArthur, do you know where the crane is?â€
â€œCrane?â€ rumbled Arthur. â€œHmm. No, no crane here. Iâ€™ve got a brand-new combine harvester â€“ Iâ€™ll give you the key.â€
Thomas felt very sad. â€œThatâ€™s kind of you, sir,â€ he said, â€œbut I really need the crane.â€
Arthur looked at Thomasâ€™s sad face. â€œDonâ€™t you worry, young â€™un,â€ he said kindly. â€œIâ€™ve remembered. Jones the Welsh Engine has the crane. Heâ€™s who you need to find. Why donâ€™t you try looking the Yard?â€
â€œWill you come with me? I donâ€™t want to go by myself,â€ said Thomas.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, Thomas, but Iâ€™m on a special boat train this afternoon. I canâ€™t help.â€
Thomas looked very glum indeed. â€œExcuse me Thomas,â€ said Aston, â€œbut I can come with you and help you look.â€
Thomas cheered up and hurried into the station. Aston jumped on board, and they set off into the Yard. â€œDonâ€™t worry girls!â€ Thomas whistled as he went past Annie and Clarabel. â€œAston and I will find the crane and get you back on your wheels again!â€
The first thing Thomas had to do was to get turned around so he could search the Yard properly. He rolled backwards onto the turntable and was about to turn to face the Yard when Aston pointed in the other direction. â€œLook, Thomas! Behind the hill,â€ Aston said. Thomas peered round the hill as the turntable swung him to face where Aston was pointing. Thomas saw the engine sheds that Aston had seen and realised what his new friend meant. â€œOther engines!â€ Thomas said. â€œMaybe Jones is there!â€
Thomas wasted no time and hurried over to the biggest engine he could see, a blue one that reminded him a little of Gordon at home. â€œExcuse me,â€ he said. â€œBut are you the engine they call â€˜Jonesâ€™?â€
Thomas blushed as the engines around him started laughing. â€œAm I Jones?â€ the big blue engine spluttered. â€œI am the Lady Patricia!â€ she said haughtily. â€œI am a passenger locomotive. A Princess! And you are a very cheeky little engine!â€
â€œIâ€™m very sorry Maâ€™am,â€ said Thomas meekly. â€œBut I need to find Jones and his crane. My friends have had an accident.â€
â€œOh! Well, thatâ€™s different,â€ said Lady Patricia. Thomas realised she wasnâ€™t nearly as scary as he had thought at first. â€œYou might like to try the Yard on the other side of the turntable. I hope you find him,â€ she added.
â€œThank you maâ€™am,â€ Thomas said. He scurried back to the turntable, swung around and rolled into the Yard.
Thomas hadnâ€™t gone very far when he found two engines shunting wagons. One of them had a smooth sloped back, and the other was the smallest engine he had ever seen â€“ he couldnâ€™t be Jones! â€œExcuse me!â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m Thomas the Tank Engine, and this is my friend Aston. Weâ€™re looking for Jones and the crane. Have you seen him?â€
â€œHello Thomas,â€ said the curvy one. â€œIâ€™m Sally the Saddle Tank â€“ â€
â€œ â€“ And Iâ€™m Piglet the Pug,â€ the tiny one interrupted.
â€œ â€“ and, yes, this is Piglet. Iâ€™m afraid we havenâ€™t seen Jones this morning. Maybe heâ€™s at the far end of the Yard, over by the factories?â€
â€œThank you both,â€ said Thomas. â€œIâ€™ll try there next.â€ Thomas puffed past them and on to the last section of the Yard.
â€œLook, Aston!â€ said Thomas excitedly. â€œAn engine with a crane!â€
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ said Aston, doubtfully, â€œitâ€™s an awfully small crane...â€
â€œAre you Jones?â€ asked Thomas when they reached the engine.
â€œAh! You must be Thomas!â€ said the other engine. â€œMy driver got a telephone call about your mishap. No, Iâ€™m afraid Iâ€™m Jeffrey, not Jones. But I did see Jones not all that long ago. Better try that way!â€ he said, looking back the way they had come. â€œHeâ€™s not in the Yard anymore.â€
â€œPhew!â€ whistled Thomas as they rattled back through the Yard. â€œThis is hard work!â€
â€œI think weâ€™ll have earned our ice cream by the time this is over!â€ said Aston.
â€œNo luck?â€ asked Sally as Thomas went past.
â€œNo luck! Must keep going!â€ puffed Thomas.
â€œWAIT!â€ barked one of the tanks on Sallyâ€™s train. Thomas stopped obediently. â€œYouâ€™re Thomas, searching for Jones?â€
â€œYes sir,â€ said Thomas.
â€œTecumseh the Tank, at your service,â€ said the tank. â€œI heard Jones was going to my base this afternoon, with his crane, to lift a gun for one of the forts on the cliff. You will find him there.â€
â€œOh thank you!â€ said Thomas. â€œBut how do I get to the camp?â€
â€œGo straight through the station, and turn left in the tunnel. But â€“ â€ the tank whispered â€œ â€“ donâ€™t tell anyone I told you. Military secret. Mumâ€™s the word, eh, Thomas? Loose lips, and all that?â€
Neither Thomas nor Aston had any idea what Tecumseh was talking about, but they both nodded. â€œWe wonâ€™t tell anyone. Thank you! Pip pip!â€ Thomas whistled.
â€œHave you seen Jones?â€ whistled Thomas as he ran through the station.
â€œSorry Thomas,â€ answered George the Royal Engine, â€œJones went through here just a few minutes ago.â€
â€œWhere was he going?â€ asked Aston.
â€œTo the base,â€ George answered. â€œBut he was going very slowly. Listen, thereâ€™s a loop in the line up to the base. If you go left when you get into the tunnel, you might come out ahead of him.â€
â€œThank you!â€ said Thomas and Aston together. They hurried through the tunnel and panted up the steep hill before eventually coming to the camp. â€œPhew,â€ wheezed Thomas as he eased into a short siding. â€œWhat a climb!â€
Thomas looked around. â€œJones isnâ€™t here!â€
â€œBe patient, Thomas,â€ said Aston. â€œWe must have overtaken him on the loop in the tunnel. Iâ€™m sure heâ€™ll be here shortly.â€
Sure enough, a few minutes later a very big engine pulling a crane appeared.
â€œHello,â€ said Thomas. â€œAre you Jones?â€
â€œHello Thomas,â€ said the big engine. â€œYes, Iâ€™m Jones. And what can I be helping you with, boyo?â€
â€œMy carriages had an accident and ran off the end of the coal drop. Can you bring your crane and help them back up?â€
â€œOf course, Thomas. Weâ€™ll go right now.â€
Thomas and Jones put the crane next to Annie and Clarabel. â€œThereâ€™s lovely, now, boyo,â€ said Jones. The crane swung up and around and some of the workmen tied thick ropes around Annie for the crane to hook onto. â€œYou get on up that hill there, and when Annieâ€™s wheels land on the rails you pull her clear,â€ Jones instructed Thomas. Thomas scurried up the hill and, when Annieâ€™s wheels touched the rails, he started to pull her back.
â€œStop! Stop!â€ whistled Jones in alarm. â€œYou canâ€™t do that, Thomas! Youâ€™ll pull the crane over! Annie has to be let down again, and you have to pull her up the bank.â€
Annie was lowered onto the bank, and Thomas tried to pull her up, but his wheels slipped and spun. â€œIâ€™m not strong enough!â€ Thomas said. â€œJones, can you come and help me?â€
â€œI canâ€™t climb that hill, boyo,â€ said Jones. â€œIâ€™ve got too many wheels! I was built for the beautiful valleys of Wales, not the hills.â€
Thomas felt very sad when he heard that. How was he going to get Annie back up on the rails now?
â€œLook!â€ said Aston, pointing. Coming out of the Yard, and out of the engine sheds, were all the tank engines Thomas had seen all day.
â€œPeep peep, Thomas!â€ said Piglet the Pug. â€œWe think, if we all help, we can pull Annie and Clarabel back up!â€
So all the tank engines steamed up the hill behind Thomas and, with all of them coupled together, sure enough they pulled Annie back onto the siding. â€œOh thank goodness,â€ sighed Annie. â€œAnd thank you too, everyone!â€
Then it was Clarabelâ€™s turn. Again the crane lifted her up, to make sure her wheels were straight, and again all the tank engines working together pulled her back onto the siding. â€œThank you for rescuing me, everyone!â€ she said as they all rolled back into the station.
â€œWell done, Thomas!â€ said Jones, and whistled in approval. Everybody else joined in. â€œWell done, Thomas!â€
â€œWell!â€ said Thomasâ€™s driver. â€œWhat an adventure! But I think I know what we all need now...â€
â€œWhatâ€™s that?â€ asked Thomas, as Astonâ€™s family finally climbed aboard Annie.
â€œI know!â€ said Aston. â€œIce cream!â€
So Thomas and Annie and Clarabel, and Aston, Mummy, Daddy, Alicia and Cole, went to the castle, and discovered all the stories were true: it was the best ice cream in the world!