• Published 27th Sep 2020
  • 1,506 Views, 383 Comments

Live While we're Young - The Blue EM2

The ongoing adventures of the Young Six as they face ongoing challenges and find love.

  • ...

Steam Train to Mallaig, Part 1

The next morning dawned, and the town of Fort William continued to slumber as most towns in the Highlands did in the early morning. However, one place did not remain silent. Fort William yard, near the railway station, was starting to awaken as people scurried around the steam engines stored there for the Jacobite steam service.

One of these engines, and today's locomotive, was an LMS Black 5, number 45407. The depot crew had lit the fire and were letting the engine warm up. Meanwhile, two individuals were heading over to the engine. The first was a human being who looked fairly elderly, all things considered, his hair grey and his glasses sitting prominently on his face. Remarkably, his face already had soot on it despite the fact the train was yet to set off!

The other was a Changeling, with blue chitin, red eyes, and a green carapace, with darker green elytra graced with a very light green and blue swirling pattern atop them. He also had no tail, curiously!

"Well, another morning it is!" said the human. "How you feeling?"

"I had a good night's rest Ian," the Changeling replied. "I feel as though I could take on the world!"

"I think Beasdale Bank will be quite enough for today," Ian replied. "I must admit though, when I saw the job applications on my desk, a Changeling was the last thing I was expecting to receive. Your unique skillset certainly gave you an edge, though."

"If you can keep a furnace going for several hours a day, you can stoke an engine's firebox, as it's the same principal, just on a smaller scale." The Changeling opened his elytra and flew up onto the footplate. "After all, the Queen needed some way of making iron to equip her troops with armour and weapons."

"So, you worked as a smelter?"

"I did, and I was good at it too," the Changeling smiled, as he checked the firebox and temperature. "Temperature's good, spread is good. The firelighter did a good job raking the fire properly."

"Bill is a former British Railways firelighter. He knows his craft."

"I came out here as work was short. As much as we appreciate being liberated from Chrysalis, we rapidly found our industry couldn't compete with the highly mechanised industries of Equestria. This led to heavy job losses, and I came here in response. Though I got the impression that humans here aren't used to Changelings."

"That is certainly true," Ian sighed, as he took his seat in the driver's position. "Excellent. Pressure is at 224 psi, brakes are on, direct admission valves are running and clear, and water gauges are cleared. Next, we need to get water and coal."

"We've easily got enough to get us to the water tower," the Changeling smiled, looking at the tender behind him, having opened the access door in the meantime. "And enough coal to get us to Glenfinnan if we fire her well."

"I'll leave that to you," Ian replied. He opened the cylinder cocks, and the large engine, with a whoosh a roar of steam, began to back out of the shed, making a magnificent sight as it headed for the yard.

True to their word, the Young Six were assembled on the platform at Fort William Platform 2 at 09:15, exactly as the tickets they had brought specified. A few hours had elapsed since the engine had been prepared, but you'd think the others were unwilling to get out of bed based on how they were talking.

"Told you we didn't need to be here this early," Gallus grumbled. "The train isn't even here!"

"I think you're just obsessed with getting up early, Sandbar," Smoulder joked, gently elbowing him. This annoyed Sandbar.

"I'm only doing what the company asked!" he exclaimed.

"I think getting up early is a great idea!" Silverstream exclaimed. "You can get so much done, and fly about, and- oh, look! Fish!"

Before anybody could stop her, she flew off in the direction of the yard.

Ian was most surprised to suddenly see a hippogriff flying too low to the train. "What on Earth is that bird doing? They'll get hit by the exhaust if they're not careful!" He reached up for the whistle chord, and blasted the whistle twice in rapid succession. "Get out of the way! Locomotive and coaches moving!"

Silverstream immediately changed course, flying past the engine's exhaust coming from the blastpipe and getting a faceful of soot in the process.

She then landed back on the platform. "Did you see it guys?" she asked.

"The soot on your face would suggest a rather fierce upward exhaust from a steam locomotive," Ocellus noted. "Furthermore, the colour of the soot would suggest poor quality coal."

"Spoken like a true egghead," Smoulder snorted.

"But it was AMAZING!" Silverstream cried, bouncing up and down and doing a jig as she did so. "It was a train! We didn't have those underwater, or anymore on Mount Aris."

Just then, the train finished backing into the platform, and the guard called the passengers to attention- in an accent that was so thick that none of them could understand what was actually being said.

"What did he say?" Sandbar asked, confused.

Just then, an English voice repeated the message. "Can all passengers please proceed to their allocated boarding points. The coach numbers are clearly marked on your tickets, and the access routes are clearly marked. Coach A is closest to the engine, and Coach G is back by the bufferstops. I repeat, Coach A is closest to the engine, and Coach G is back by the bufferstops."

Sandbar checked the tickets. "We're in Coach A," he said, and indicated with his hoof to the lead coach.

As they strolled to the coaches, Smoulder leaned over to Silverstream. "What sort of railroads did you have, and why don't you have them anymore?"

"Mount Aris had two funiculars that ran up and down the mountain, and this doubled the traffic flow. Sadly, Storm King blew both of them up."

"...That sucks."

"Thankfully, we're rebuilding them now. But who needs trains underwater when you can SWIM!"

The party boarded the train and sat down in their compartment. "I booked this with you in mind," Sandbar said. "I thought you'd like it, given the books you like."

"It'll be just like in Harry Trotter!" Ocellus cried. "You have no idea how difficult it was to get those in Chrysalis' time, given she banned literacy and reading."

"How did most industries work?"

"Do you need to be able to read in order to work a blast furnace, as most non-warrior Changelings did?"

Meanwhile, Yona had to pull Silversteam back, the latter's beak being glued to the window. "Nice hippogriff please let rest of us see scenery!"

Gallus laughed. "Watch you don't fall through the floor Yona."

Yona looked offended. "Griffon think Yona fat?"

A few minutes later, the whistle sounded, and they were off. The Jacobite departed in a cloud of smoke and steam that could be seen for miles, and before long they had crossed over Neptune's Staircase, a network of lochs on the Caledonian canal. The train continued to speed along the side of Loch Eil, temporarily stopping at Loch Eil Outward Bound to exchange tokens before proceeding. The train sped along through forests and along lakes, before starting to climb towards the first stop.

Silverstream pointed out of the window. "Trees!"

"Does everything excite you?" Gallus asked, his own eyes wandering towards the view ahead. "We're going into a tunnel!"

"Yona hope tunnel has no spiders."

The train entered the tunnel, the booming exhaust beat audible more clearly, before emerging into the light once more, steam drifting down the side of the windows as the train rounded another bend.

"Passengers, we are proud to announce we are about to cross Glenfinnan Viaduct. Please stand or sit on the left hand side of the train to see Glenfinnan Viaduct."

As the last of the rocks cleared, Silverstream cheered. "It's the Harry Trotter bridge!"

"OK then egghead," Gallus smiled, "what can you tell us about this bridge?"

"Sure!" Ocellus replied. "It was built by Robert McAlpine and Sons in 1898 and was built from mass concrete, a material that is extremely strong under compression. It has 21 semicircular spans, each of 50 feet, and is 18 feet wide. It is 416 yards long-"

"What a funny measurement," Smoulder said. "Why do they measure things in animal yards?"

"A yard is 36 inches." Ocellus continued her spiel before anybody could interrupt. "The viaduct is also built on a curve of 792 feet, and when built was the longest and largest concrete structure in the world. It still hold that record in Scotland!"

"This scenery is amazing!" Silverstream cried. "That lake looks equally cool, though."

The train, after fighting up a 1 in 50 gradient, called at Glenfinnan station for 20 minutes, where bagpipers played and a small museum about the viaduct was open to the passengers. After the pause, the train continued on its merry way, climbing through misty valleys and over rocky outcrops as it advanced ever further north. The train passed over viaducts and through many tunnels, and Gallus' failure to shut the window in time resulted in the compartment being flooded with steam and soot, leaving everycreature coughing.

"Sorry!" he replied. "I had no idea a tunnel was there!"

"Maybe Ocellus should control the windows," Sandbar suggested. "Knowing her, she probably knows the location of every track joint!"

"We're coming up on milepost 36!" Ocellus confirmed, as if to prove his point.

After a brief stop at Arisaig to swap tokens, the train then continued to Mallaig, with marvellous views of the sea visible from the train. At long last, the train came to a stop at Mallaig station, exactly on time at 12:25. The party scrambled from the coach to head into town, but Ocellus stopped when she stepped onto the platform. For standing on the platform were two familiar faces, neither of whom she'd been expecting to see.

Author's Note:

45407 (occassionally operating with the nameplace The Lancashire Fusilier) has become the staple of Jacobite operations in recent years, being the engine passengers are most likely to get apart from 62005 (44871 is usually busy on other parts of the network, working alongside 44932).

Silverstream referring to Glenfinnan Viaduct as 'the Harry Trotter bridge' is a reference to a rather bad habit in British culture of calling the structure the 'Harry Potter bridge' after the structure appeared in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in 2002, featuring in a scene that requires no introduction. Since then, trespassing has become a bit of a problem.