• Member Since 15th Feb, 2012
  • offline last seen Jul 10th, 2019



The Barrier has made landfall at various points on the east coast of North America, allowing rates of egress to Equestria to skyrocket. However, with the encroaching wall of magic comes the dangerous no-man's-land of lawless roads and abandoned towns. The last few miles to Equestria are among the most dangerous for newfoals, and with the fresh overflow of emigrants, it often falls to small teams of humans, collectively known as the Railroad, to escort the ponies to their new paradise.

Chapters (6)
Comments ( 65 )

I like it. Very good writing style and so far an enthrawling storyline with rounded charectors. You recieve my like and track. Keep up the good work! And a story not in first person too! Hard to find attributes there. And i like where the story is going.

This is excellent stuff. Just superior. The concept, the fear, the suspense. Very brill premise, and characters. Great job.


But that's what the description does! You have me at a loss!


Thank you! I hope you continue to enjoy it. :)


I'll try and keep it up, then! Characterization is always something I focus heavily on, and probably to a fault, since I tend to get heavy on dialogue and have to reel myself in. If I didn't edit myself, I would happily write characters that just talk all day long and never get around to what they're supposed to be doing plot-wise.

Another great chapter. I liked the idea of the conversion bureau. But taking this, ponies, and humans. And putting them in a lifelike situation like this gives a wonderfull sense of realism. I odnt know why but the idea of ponies and humans together is just plain cool. I loved this chapter. You built plenty of suspense and the dialouge was great. I certianly hope you keep this stroy going because you got yourself a dedicated follower. I love your writing style too. Keep up the good work!

Man is the Ape that Adapts. A human who cannot imagine themselves doing something new or different is already dead. Perhaps Balthazar still has some life left in him. I guess we'll see.

I have yet to hear - from anyone - a convincing argument for staying human. I wonder, sometimes, if there actually is one. I certainly can't think of one. I keep asking though.


I actually did want to explore how incomprehensible a mindset choosing to remain human might be to ponies. Most humans would see Equestria as deliverance, while the soldierly mind would see only shameful capitulation followed by a life of lonely mediocrity. The way I see it, humans—no matter their affiliation or personal beliefs—who would choose to operate right on the cusp of the Barrier have a kind of death wish already, a comfort level with dangerous conditions most people never need to cultivate. From there, it becomes a kind of bizarro refuge for those who have no ties to Equestria, no loved ones waiting for them there, and nothing they think they can offer it.

I am loving this story. The writing is genious, the story is enthralling. This is one of the best fics i have read in a very long time. Keep up the good work, cause i'm loving it all the way.

This story is just awesome. I want you to hear that. I just think this story is incredible, and I am Muffin LOVING it. It's exceptional. I am really getting into these characters and their motivations and positions. Without question, you have created the first believable - to me, at least - humans who have valid reasons for not getting ponified. Valid, noble reasons, in their own way. Thank you for that.

This is just the best pony caravan underground railroad adventure. Yay. Double yay.

You make me feel proud to be a TCB story writer, doing fiction like this.

336669 Dangit Chaty, you stole all my compliments! :rainbowlaugh:

Really enjoying your character interactions, can't wait for what comes next :twilightsmile:

336669 337522

Wow, thank you so much! It's like you're reading my goals back to me—what I set out to accomplish with this story—and that's hugely fulfilling. It was a joy to read and feedback like this is really the core of why most of us sit down and bother to write about cartoon ponies at all: other people might enjoy it! And hey, who doesn't like that, huh?

The way I see it, ponies were designed from the ground up (by Celestia or Ms. Faust, depending upon how meta you want to be) in such a way that humans are reduced to quivering piles of cooing mush upon seeing them. From the human perspective, they are childlike in word, thought, deed, and appearance. People smarter than I am have given that phenomenon the name "neoteny," which are characteristics we generally associate with the notion of cuteness. Humans have a very strong innate desire to protect any creature, not just humans, that exhibit neotenic traits. In other words, it's an instinctual drive to preserve innocence. Plenty of people would be willing to take on these traits themselves in a sort of "return" to innocence, but what about people who identify through the protection itself, who have embraced their loss of innocence and are trying to harness it into positive action? Answering that question is what I plan on trying for this last chapter, or depending upon how it flows out, an epilogue.

Not much to say other than what the two above me did. I feel lucky to have seen this in the new story section and figured, "hmmm, why not." Found myself a great story. Loving it so far.

Wow. I don't know what to say. I feel like some part of me has been hit by a mortar.

In the end, I find I admire the humans of Raliroad Seven Three, and I hear what they have to say about the stands they take, but when all is said and done, I just look upon them all and feel pity. To every standard and metric in me, they were, ultimately insane. They were so addicted to the thrill of conflict that that addiction outweighed even the basic animal urge to survive.

Their justifications ring with truth and falsehood both for me. I have no doubt that they loved conflict, battle for its own sake. That once they tasted that extreme experience, they could not do without it, just as a junkie needs their heroin. But to couch it in the true enough fact that the way they got their jollies helped others... I saw that that as empty self-justification. For me the most telling moment was when Balthazar claimed the newfoals were escaping to a soft life... yes, true enough, but the soldiers also were running, escaping. Escaping from the even more terrible responsibility of living, of being around, of trying to find something in joy and peace and kindness that was worth existing for. They... play a kind of slow Russian Roulette with their existence, masking it as a noble struggle. And Balth, deep down, clearly knew that. He basically said that.

And that was muffin brilliant. Just brilliant on your part. Balthazar knew what he was saying was bullshit, yet he was trying so hard to believe it, and you conveyed that so well. These poor souls wanted to die, but they were too cowardly to just shoot themselves, so they made a game of it, and used that game to help those they could. But they knew the outcome. Death. Sweet, sweet oblivion, because being was too much. Playing games that cannot be won... or rather, where every soldier wins... the prize of not being anymore.

Brilliant. I cannot stress that enough. Brilliant.

Having Melchior come close to accepting the temptation to live, to avoid her inevitable fate, was such a window into this too. And the HLF, knowing they cannot win, just causing trouble because the point is fighting while they race to their inevitable doom. Wow. The human death-wish, all bundled up and tied with a bow. The lure of the void. The ultimate escape to nothing. That took both guts, and insight to write. I am so, so impressed. Beyond impressed. Awestruck. And you pulled it off, too. That's not a simple thing to say. You pulled it off brilliantly.

So, now I wait breathless for the next chapter, where we find out what the Big Hidden Secret that softly smiling Sugar Spoon just can't shut up about. I have many guesses, but they are all probably wrong. I have to say, you have just been stellar with this story. Stellar.

I admit to some sense of inadequacy in my portrayal of humans compared to yours. It's easy enough to write nice humans, but writing convincing, believeable ones is something that takes a gift, and you definitely have it. Kudos :twilightsmile:

Also, I'm looking forward to what Sugar Spoon has in store :rainbowlaugh:

"He was the strife of humanity given form, anger and resolve and fatigue, the deadliest creature to have ever existed, so fearless and resentful that they even used their own deaths as a statement of defiance."

I... that... it just... it... I'm going to quote this. Somewhere, somehow, I'm going to quote this. And then I'm going to tell everyone who has the sense to listen: 'Before you think of doing a Conversion Bureau style fiction, read Railroad 7-3 by Defoloce to learn how it should be done.'

Fillies and gentlecolts, I am an avid reader and this is the greatest story to bless FIMFiction. Absolutely brilliant. I really hope you can grace us with more of this kind of high quality work in the future.

My praise to this story cannot be portrayed in words. I litterally cried. I can't give any deep analysis like the ponies who commented above. But this is by far the best story i have ever read on fimfiction AND TCB. I don't know why I dediced to click this random story on the new story page. It was just some hunch that it might be good. And i am so glad that I did.


It's so awesome to hear the impressions readers get laid out in such detail. You took the time to write this comment, so I'm going to take the time to address it.

Early on, I fell into a stalemate of rhetoric between the human characters and the ponies: "You don't understand me." "Yeah, well you don't understand me either." There were two big hurdles to understanding I wanted to have in place: a hurdle between human and pony, of course, but also a hurdle between soldier and civilian (which I sort of beat readers over the head with in chapter 5, but I'm working on honing my elegance). The challenge at that point was figuring out how to have characters trying to leap those hurdles in a convincing way.

Even if one happens not to be a pony, it can still be hard to wrap one's head around the warrior mindset. In the real world and in this fictional TCB world alike, soldiers are already a breed apart from the species. That was already in place before Equestria even entered the equation. They have their own culture, their own language, and their own ethos, all of which can seem nearly incomprehensible to outsiders. You mentioned the animal instinct to survive; soldiers are trained to suppress that instinct, to willingly put themselves in harm's way, to focus on the mission over all else. In the dangerous world humans live in, this is a rare and useful ability, and it defines who they are and what they contribute to society, for better or for worse. It's their place in the world.

Equestria is a place largely free of danger, and it's especially free of conflict on such a scale that would require soldiers of the sort that Earth has bred. When such a large part of one's identity would be rendered moot with going there, Equestria can actually seem rather frightening. "We don't have a use for you as you are," comes the message, "but just give up and we'll fix you and make you all better." That would be amazingly off-putting and condescending to anyone, and doubly so to someone conditioned not to give up the fight under any circumstances.

That's the core concept I put behind imagining all of these former soldiers, these warriors without an army, being naturally drawn to organizations like the HLF, the Railroad, and the Cordon, all while setting new missions for themselves in the places on Earth most inhospitable to humans. Serve something. Use your talents while you still can. There are still missions to carry out, and there's still some impact to be made. There is no tomorrow, so what threat is death? Get out there and see what you can do.

It's true isolation, a way of thinking apart even from other humans. They can't understand it any better than the ponies can.

I'll be attempting to show the other side of this coin in the next entry. I hope you enjoy it!


The generally-accepted interpretation of the TCB Celestia is that she's not necessarily giving humanity what they want (though I'd think plenty would want it anyway), but what they need. She's not the only one capable of this, however. Humans do that too, and I wanted the ponies' trip from the Bureau to the Barrier to be an experience they needed to keep a good perspective while moving into their new lives in Equestria.

The core tenet of moral relativism is that there is no good, and there is no evil—there are only opposing forces. You are always good, and your enemies are always either evil or misguided. There is no stronger driving force than righteousness perceived. If they become good, they are no longer your enemies, and if you change your ways, then it is because you saw the light and came to your senses and now you're truly one of the Good Guys. It's all about you, no matter who "you" happens to be.

Try writing characters from that perspective. That would be my advice. People do right by themselves first and foremost—or at least what they believe is right by themselves. Even characters with self-sacrificial tendencies, like the Railroad team, must by definition hold some ideal higher than their own safety. Striving to that ideal is how they do right by themselves; that is the source of their fulfillment.


I'm glad you liked that passage, though to be honest I thought it was a little too flowery for the rest of the prose. I left it in because I really hadn't gone nuts with poetic-sounding stuff in a while, and hey, when all is said and done, it's all just for fun anyway.

Don't go pulling a muscle trying to quote it! Much like humor, it always works better when you don't force it. The exposure would be welcome, of course—I ain't gonna play the part of saint here, I want more people to read my stuff! I haven't tried to keep up with the TCB Ponychan thread in months, and I know that's where a lot of story interest first gets generated, which translates directly to readers over here. I'd feel a little cheap and shameless hopping in at this point, when I have a story to plug.

I'm happy to hear you're digging the story! Stay tuned, there's a bit more left to tell.


Well I'm glad you did too!

I've been a follower of TCB since the start, and a much larger body of work has taken up my writing time (which isn't much) in between Ten Rounds and now. I had to put this other, larger story on hold so that I could get Railroad Seven-Three out of my head and into text before I went bonkers. Now here's hoping I can keep it up! Thanks for reading!

350966 Whatever you post, I will read.

I went to start writing the next chapter, and I realized that I had used the wrong lyrical interlude in chapter 5. Chapter 5's interlude was supposed to be for chapter 6, and vice versa. Oh well, consider it a sneak peek. I swapped them back.

An excellent end to an excellent story Defoloce. As much as I wanted Balth and Melchior and Gaspar to live, I know why you didn't go that route and am glad to a point that you didn't. :twilightsmile:

I really liked this story. I hope to see more of your work in the future!:twilightsmile:

Wonderful story, and brilliant. Thank you so much for writing it!

And the reference to Fetlock made my day. Hee!


Great, thanks! I hope to have something ready for you! There's something else in the works right now, a big one, and no ETA on its publication, but I'll definitely be putting the whole shebang up here when it's ready.


Yep, that's your Fetlock! Sugar Spoon actually first mentions her hometown in chapter 1, in the cafeteria scene. I needed a village name anyhow, and shout-outs are always fun, so in it went!


Hope is the important thing. The way I figure it, Celestia and Luna are capable of seeing a progression of events for a person beyond life and death. While humans are free to decide whether or not to enter Equestria, they still have to actually make that decision at one point or another, and running from the Barrier doesn't count as a decision. The princesses would just be happier to see it made before someone has to go through the traumatic experience of dying first.

Took me a while to get around to this. Amazing ending. One of the ebst sotries i have found on this site.

Man, what does it say about me that I thought that Gaspar, Melchoir, and Balthasar were a Chrono Trigger reference? It took me a minute before I was like "oh yeah, the Bible." :facehoof:

Excellent story; one of the better TCB stories I've seen without a doubt. So many of them wind up being repulsive due to the overwhelming racism of the ponies, and to be truthful I was all set for Sugar Spoon to be a dyed in the wool sample of more of the same. But I was pleasantly surprised when I reached the end. She really didn't hate the humans, or want them to convert because they disgusted her and it would be a 'sanitary' way of disposing of them. She genuinely did care about them and want to alleviate their suffering - which with this group, is obviously an idea with some merit to it. Sugar was a very forceful, opinionated character, and not above deception to further her goals. But her actions were clearly motivated out of a desire to do good - and not some nebulous 'the good of all' type concept, but a deeply personal commitment to a group of individuals.

In this story you did what I've only ever seen in one other TCB fic to date: You made a pro-ponification pony both sympathetic and agreeable, and even made the conversion movement seem like the right choice... all without writing any particular party wildly out of character or exaggerated to the point of parody. It's the more personal touch in human / pony interactions, I think, that makes the difference. Very well done, sir or madam. And let me just say that given you also wrote Ten Rounds, you've displayed quite a bit of range here as well.

(The other fic I mentioned that pulled this off is Change of Life, as a side note.)


Thank you for your comment!

Sugar Spoon was intended to be torn between her loyalty to Celestia's wishes and her natural pony desire to help directly. I'm sure Celestia would figure a lot of her subjects would try to "help" in the manner that Sugar Spoon considered, which is why she pleaded with all of them just to have faith in both her and the humans.

Sugar Spoon couldn't really wrap her head around the idea that someone would freely choose the sort of life the Railroad led. However, just as she couldn't imagine finding fulfillment constantly having to live and fight day to day, neither could Balthazar imagine finding fulfillment doing something like painting birdhouses. Neither side could see the other's perspective, and that's where I wanted the conflict to come from rather than simply having ponies disdainful of humans and humans hateful towards ponies. Realistic conflict isn't usually as stark as all that.

When putting the story together, I started with the question of what sort of person would feel as though Equestria didn't have a place for them. I wanted the answer to be based on a practical response rather than an emotional one (i.e. "grr I sure do hate them ponies"). This would make their position more sympathetic to the reader, and a good setup makes the interactions much, much easier to write. I really didn't think I'd find a better answer than soldiers, people who embody the natural warrior mindset most humans have. We thrive in conflict, even if we'd be hesitant to admit it to ourselves. Take people whose entire existence centers around conflict, and you have the perfect foil to the cute, colorful, happy ponies who just want to be friends.

Another night of having no better things to do ends me up with this interesting piece of fanfiction.
First of all, I like it because our writing styles are quite similar. Secondly, I'm not delving into the things already mentioned in these comments such as human and pony nature etc. Putting it short, I initially thought the pathos of the story was very unbalanced (some dialog suffers from a ridiculous overdose, while the rest is delightfully subtle), but after reading these lengthy comments I've reconsidered - maybe it was more thought out than I thought. But as I said, we're somewhat done with all that.

Narrative speculation is a go! The tragic fates of Mel, Balth and Gas (whoops... spoilers?) are very well written; their job just eats them up like nothing. Another great element is the almost insane enthrallment the ponies have for Equestria, and how well it's presented in the dialog and thoughts. But the last chapter... ouch. It has barely nothing to do with the rest of the story, it isn't really an ending at all, it's just serious, boring dialog and most of it is stuff I would've liked to think for myself instead of being plastered on my screen with no choice but to huff silently at the bland ending that's not really an ending. I think you could've done better, but I can see why this is how it is. The need to overarch got ya? To me, this ending is the beginning of another story (that's not bad, I did the same with my recent TCB one-shot), but that other story has to go through a bottle neck of restrictions this last chapter introduced.

I hope my comment makes any sense or is even readable in the first place.


Hi, Microshazm! Thanks very much for your thoughts.

At the risk of sounding like I'm handwaving, the last chapter was meant to be a bit jarring. It sounds like perhaps it was jarring to the point where the narrative never recovers, which I didn't intend. What I wanted was to mislead the reader a bit, to make them think that Rockheart was either Balthazar or Gaspar via a rather lame it-was-all-just-a-dream plot device, then reveal that I hadn't used one after all. In hindsight, I probably didn't let it twist in the wind for long enough (plus I don't even know if it actually worked).

All in all, yeah, the story probably could have stood without the last chapter. The ending just felt a little too unsatisfying without chapter 6, though it grew a little too cumbersome WITH chapter 6. I try to take lessons from both self-assessment and comments, so it seems like I need to work on striking a better balance between ambiguity and resolution.

Again, thanks for commenting!

Giving up ones pride to me is cowardice, and sincerely anyone that want to convert to a pony for forgiveness is someone that can't stand up for himself and is just running away form their responsibility. Those that ran away to ponies not because of death but shame from their own nature are those than want their problem fixed for them, instead of overcoming and becoming better.


It was just a plot device thought up sometime last year in the first batch of additional TCB stories to come out. I don't remember the first story that used the idea of an expanding Barrier, but it really changes the relationship between humans and ponies, doesn't it?

As to the why, that's largely up to the writer of the individual story. Sometimes the why doesn't matter, other times it's part of the plot. Usually, if Celestia is making the Barrier expand, the story will say so, because that's kind of a big deal for her characterization. A catch-all explanation could simply be that the two universes are simply colliding with each other, and as they compact together, Equestria overtakes Earth. Again, though, if understanding why is not important to the story, it generally won't be explained.


People come in all types. Some want to be delivered from hardship, others want to have only what they can earn, and still others try to hang onto whatever semblance of normalcy and stability they can. One man's heaven is another man's hell.

637824 You see, that's the beauty of this universe though; it has some many different viewpoints and philosophies, and all of them equally valid. You're very right, it can be pretty disgusting that people would sacrifice their pride and everything they've accomplished to run away from their problems - which is undoubtedly what a lot of the characters in TCB stories do.

On the other hand... pride can also be an incredibly self-destructive and limiting emotion. The past can chain you down with regrets. Have you ever heard of or played the Fallout: New Vegas DLC, Dead Money? I love that entire storyline to death and consider it some of the strongest writing I've seen in a video game. Basically, the entire theme of it is the dangers of obsession, and the importance of letting go, lest those feelings consume you. So ask yourself this: Are the members of Railroad Seven-Three being admirably loyal to their world and their creed, or are they luddites throwing away their one chance to finally find peace?

To put it yet another way... is it stronger to stay true to your beliefs, or to accept that those beliefs may be wrong and take a leap into the unknown? Resistance, by itself, is not strength.

That's why I love this story so much - a compelling argument can be made either way.


I would argue that they do what they do because they don't feel there's any peace to be found in Equestria for them, not that there is peace and they are throwing it away. They're holding onto the stability they have, the normalcy and familiarity which will not exist on the other side of the Barrier.

It's not so much about thinking becoming a pony is wrong. It is more that becoming a pony is not the panacea it's being presented as. Through how they've chosen to spend their remaining time as a human, the Railroaders demonstrate their willingness to help ponies even as they reject conversion for themselves. Were this to "actually" happen, I'm fully confident that organizations like the HLF would spring up—hell, there are plenty of real-world analogues to the HLF already! However, like the PER, they are extremists, and folks tend to forget that there is a huge swathe of people who would fall somewhere in between the extremes of utter hatred and total acceptance. People like to be useful, to feel like they are contributing to something, and they will find their use in most situations. This provides fulfillment. As such, the Railroad is a vehicle for fulfillment for certain types of people.


Yeah, sorry about that, I was speaking more in generalities there and shouldn't have used the Railroad specifically as an example.

Not done with # 2 yet...


I love that the humans who can't forgive themselves forgive ponies.


Don't listen to Microshazm. You nailed it. That was exactly what I thought.

I'm angry yet sad at these fucking Equeastrians.

I want to show them...I want....You know what?

Fuck it.

Fuck these ponies, fuck celestia and fuck luna. And fuck the barrier.

Let there be a world of danger,hate and misery. For in that world you'll find stories of valor, sacrifice and doing the right thing because it makes life worth living.

Its like a story that will never ever end. Yet Equeastria will end that story....And that pisses me of.

Fuck you my little ponies. I'm done.

That was a really good story. I finally finished it after marking it on my list, and I just want to say that was really good.


Awesome! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

i love ponys I really do but I will die a human not a pony
pony's never no why we don't want to be a pony. they will never understand.
I was born on this earth as a human I will die as a human

So, Celestia is pushing the barrier to force humans to convert, which is genocide. Ponies don't have free will and are more or less mind-controled by Celestia and Luna?

...and somehow that's good?


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