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Hector, the Ballast Hopper Truck

The Works Diesel was inspecting the tracks on the Main Line, near Crosby. As he trundled along over some tracks, he noticed that they were wobbly. He slowed to a stop. The Foreman stuck his head out the window. “Move off the tracks please,” he ordered. The Works Diesel obeyed. After he’d gotten off the tracks the Foreman and some workmen got out to inspect the tracks. “The ballast is unstable,” declared the Foreman at last. “New ballast must be brought to replace this old ballast.” “But Sir,” said a workmen worriedly, “we’ll have to remove the tracks in order to dig away this ballast. We might as well relay some new track.” The Foreman thought for a moment. “You’re right,” he sighed. “I’ll leave the workmen here to start their work,” said the Works Diesel as his driver uncoupled him from the coach, “and I’ll take you Sir up to the signalbox.” The Foreman climbed aboard the Works Diesel and they set off for the nearest signalbox.

They soon returned with news. “Since Jerome, Judy Harvey and Rocky are elsewhere,” said the Foreman, “Kelly will be coming, along with Hank.” Then he joined the workmen too. Hank didn’t arrive til half an hour later with brill wagons, a flatbed for Kelly, and empty trucks. Kelly was unloaded and set to work, loading the old rails and sleepers onto the brill wagons. Brill wagons are specially designed to carry rails and sleepers.

Then Marion arrived. She dug up the old ballast into the empty trucks. Soon the workmen had the warning signs put up, and with the signalmen aware of the relying, the Works Diesel took them home, while Hank went to deliver Kelly, the old rails and sleepers, and the old ballast.

As he puffed along he saw Molly at a red signal. He whistled to her as he passed under his green signal. Molly was pulling a long coal train. Hector was a part of the coal train. Soon the signal changed and she steamed onwards to Knapford Yard.

When they arrived she got the trucks unloaded. “Bye Hector,” she said as she puffed away for home. “See you tomorrow.” “Bye Molly,” called Hector weakly. Molly heard this and felt a little concerned. “I better talk to him when I get a chance,” she thought.

Hector was next to some ballast hopper trucks. These trucks have doors under them. They drop the ballast in a controlled manner onto the tracks. Some of the ballast hopper trucks were friends with Hector. They could tell he wasn’t happy. “What’s wrong?” asked one. “I wish I could be useful,” said Hector sadly. “But you’re already useful,” said another kindly. “You deliver coal stone, minerals, and other loads.” “But I’m not with my friends,” said Hector. “I’m not friends with any of the trucks I work with, although I try to make friends with them.” The Ballast Hopper trucks were silent. They didn’t know what to say. Nothing had cheered Hector up. “Rumor has it that Sir Topham Hatt is converting some trucks into hopper trucks. Its said that they’re little of us who are ‘really useful’. Maybe if you talk to him he can help you.” “But how would I get to speak to him? I’m only a truck.” Then an idea came to him. “Silly me! I can speak with Molly. She can help me.” Hector didn’t feel so absorbed in his sadness anymore. He fell asleep.

The next day Hank was sent to Arlesburgh Jucntion to collect some ballast hopper trucks. The new rails and sleepers had been laid down during the night. He backed down onto them and puffed away. “What a nice new job this is,” he said cheerfully as he pulled away. The trucks had heard this. They sniggered. “We’ll ruin his new job,” they whispered evilly.

Meanwhile Molly had collected her line of coal trucks. Not all of them had been unloaded and she still had to deliver coal to other parts of the island. As she slowly puffed away she remembered her thought the previous night as she had left the yard. “Hector, are you alright?” she asked nervously. “Not really,” sighed Hector. He explained to Molly about what he and the Ballast Hopper trucks had talked about. “I’ll try to help you,” she said determinedly, “but I don’t know if Sir Topham Hatt will agree. Besides, I haven’t heard anything about new ballast hopper trucks.” Hector’s frown returned again. He was feeling more doubtful than he had felt last night. “Oh well, never mind then,” sighed Hector. Now Molly felt even worse. “I’ll help him,” she thought, “evene if Sir Topham Hatt disagrees.”

Hank had arrived at the Rail Works. The workmen were ready for the ballast to be laid. Hank puffed slowly over the new rails. But he didn’t hear the doors open, nor the sound of ballast spilling out. “Please spill the ballast,” orderd the Foreman politely. “No we won’t! No we won’t!” laughed the trucks. Hank began to feel frustrated. He blew his whistle in annoyance. But still the trucks wouldn’t drop the ballast. “It’s no use,” sighted the Foreman. “Go and collect different trucks. Maybe those will behave better these.” The trucks stopped their laughing. They knew they’d be in trouble now.

It wasn’t until that evening when frest ballast was spread over the tracks. Hank took the trucks back to the junction. It had been a long day for him.

At Knapford Yard, Sir Topham Hatt was talking to the naughty trucks. “I can’t have ballast hoppers who won’t do as they’re told,” he scolded. “I shall have you converted to ordinary trucks. Maybe you won’t be as troublesome then.” Just then Molly arrived. She had finished delivering her coal. She had brought Hector with her though, so they could speak with Sir Topham Hatt. When Molly saw him at the yard she smiled. “Sir ! Sir! We’d like to speak with you.” He turned and saw Molly and Hector. “What is it Molly?” he asked politely. “Hector would like to be a ballast hopper truck,” she said nervously, “so he can be with his friends. He feels lonely and the other trucks aren’t his friends.” Sir Topham Hatt stood still and silent, thinking about this. Hector was worried. He didn’t want to interfere with Sir Topham Hatt’s arrangements. “Hector, you may be converted,” he said proudly. Hector was surprised. “So you’re not cross with my request?” “No Hector, I’m not. Everyone on this railway deserves to be as happy as they can be, so they can work their hardest and deal with the day’s events.” Hector smiled from buffer to buffer.

A few days later Hector emerged from the Steamworks. Molly took him to Arlesburgh Junction, where he’d live. Hector still looks the same, except he has a door under him to drop ballast. Hector is now a happy, ballast hopper truck.

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