The shadow on the Island of Sodor


For every light, there has to be a darkness to match it.

As a child, I read books, heard stories and watched films that had a lot of villains to combat the heroes. The Wicked Queen. Shere Khan. Smaug. Nogbad the Bad.

I don’t think I was frightened of any of them. The only “bad guy” who scared me as a little girl wasn’t an evil queen, or a tiger, or a wicked uncle. He wasn’t even a dragon.

He was an engine.

Diesel made his first appearance in the book Duck and the Diesel Engine (Rev W. Audry) and his first television appearance in Pop goes the Diesel.

There were times when the engines on the Island of Sodor could be a bit cheeky. And proud. And rude. And boastful. And disobedient. Sometimes they didn’t listen to instructions and got into trouble; often, they became arrogant and needed to be taken down a peg or two (more than two, in the cases of Gordon, Henry and James). There were some who enjoyed telling the others what to do and acted as if they knew better than all the other engines. Others liked to play tricks. But they all worked hard and earned well-deserved praise. Most importantly, they were never truly bad.

Diesel was pure malevolence.

One of the engines, Duck, got on the wrong side of Diesel. Granted, that could have been averted if Duck had just told Diesel not to shunt those particular trucks, but how Diesel responded was very different to how the others would have and revealed his true character. He told the trucks that Duck was calling Gordon, Henry and James, the proudest engines on the Fat Controller’s Railway, names behind their backs. Naturally, the trucks spread the rumours. Gordon, Henry and James were NOT impressed, and not just because of the “name-calling”. It was because telling stories about other engines to trucks was just simply not done.

Duck had to be sent to another station for his own good. The story arc ended happily, with Duck being an accidental hero, but Diesel left an impression on both the engines and me, one that I’ve never forgotten.

He was the shadow on the Island of Sodor.

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