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Recap / The Railway Series B24: "Oliver the Western Engine"

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Oliver the Western Engine is the twenty-fourth book of The Railway Series published in 1969. This contains four stories:

  • Donald's Duck: The Fat Controller re-opens the Arlesburgh branch and asks Duck to run it for him. Duck is proud, and one night talks so much about his responsibility that Donald, at the end of his tether, makes quacking noises and says Duck's laid an egg. Duck, furious, makes a plan to get revenge, and his crew put a duckling in Donald's watertank. She pops out the next day at the water tower, and Donald realizes it was Duck's pay-back. The duck is tame, and rides with Donald for a fair while, until she gets off at Haultraugh. Donald and his crew, plotting a last ploy, place a nestbox with an egg in it behind Duck's bunker. Duck acknowledges defeat, and nowadays the duck lives happily at Haultraugh.
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  • Resource and Sagacity: After Oliver was rescued, he and Isabel were repainted in Great Western colors, joined by another coach called Dulcie, who was also rescued, and started working on the Arlesburgh branch. The big engines are amazed at Oliver's adventures, and say approving things to him, making him proud and over-confident, but Oliver meets his match after a load of disgruntled ballast trucks push him into the turntable well. After Duck, Donald, Douglas, and the Fat Controller speak to him sternly, he is left feeling very silly.
  • Toad Stands By: When Oliver returns, the trucks, led by a wagon named S. C. Ruffey, make rude songs about him. The others try to get them to shut up, but no avail. Toad makes a plan and asks Douglas if he can share it with Oliver. Duck is apprehensive at first, but Oliver feels he must make things right, and so it is arranged. Oliver lines the worst trucks up, with guidance from Toad, and starts. Scruffey, who is at the front, tells the others to hold back, and they do, but Oliver is so determined he simply pulls Scruffey to pieces. Although the Fat Controller attributes it to Scruffey's poor design, he whispers to Oliver to keep it quiet. It's for a good reason, too, because the trucks are so afraid Oliver will pull them apart that they never trouble him again.
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  • Bulgy: It's Bank Holiday, and Duck meets a left-wing doubledecker bus who is determined to scrap all railways. Oliver tells Duck that he should not be taken seriously and nicknames him Bulgy, but is worried when Bulgy's friend arrives, leaving Bulgy to take their passengers with the promise of a faster way home and the lie that he accepts railway tickets. Duck is crossly puffing home when he is stopped by a bridge where Bulgy has wedged underneath. Duck carefully makes it across, and takes the passengers home. In the end, Bulgy stayed under the bridge until it was mended, but continued to lie, and eventually was turned into a henhouse.

The book contains examples of:

  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Oliver takes the big engines' remarks too fondly in "Resource and Sagacity".
  • The Alleged Truck: Scruffey's demise was due more to his poor condition than Oliver's strength, but The Fat Controller discourages sharing this information so the other trucks find Oliver more intimidating.
  • Artifact Title: Despite the name of the book, there are only two stories focused on Oliver. It's worth noting that the Rev. W. Awdry was originally going to name the book Little Western Engines, but the publishers insisted on having an engine's name in the title.
  • Badass Boast: The trucks mix this with "The Hero Sucks" Song, jeering what becomes of engines like Oliver that try to order them about ("We just pushed him down the well!").
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Duck, Donald and Douglas say this to the trucks in "Toad Stands By" when they teased Oliver.
  • Blatant Lies: Bulgy's "Railway Bus" sign, suggesting he is a replacement service.
  • Break the Haughty: The trucks cause problems for a prideful Oliver.
  • Bully Hunter: Toad the Brakevan helped Oliver put the trucks in their place after they wouldn't stop teasing him.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The ballast trucks immediately take a dislike to Oliver, and push him into a turntable after he speaks to them in a slightly rude tone, which they then heckle him relentlessly over.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Oliver in "Toad Stands By".
  • Fantastic Racism: Bulgy towards the railways.
  • "The Hero Sucks" Song: Scruffey and the trucks sing "Pop Goes Ol' Ollie" to Oliver for the turntable accident.
  • It's All My Fault: Oliver admits that the teasing from the trucks was all his fault.
  • Jerkass: The ballast trucks, who are said to be worst behaved trucks on the railway. Scruffey is one of them. And lastly, Bulgy as well as his friend.
  • Karmic Death: Scruffey is broken into pieces and is sent for scrap.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Bulgy gets turned into a henhouse.
  • Lighter and Softer: When compared to the last book delving into steam ending on BR, Oliver being rescued from death and only one of Gordon's siblings surviving, this book starts with Donald getting a pet in the form of a prank by Duck.
  • Legacy of Service: Even though he is now Douglas' brakevan, Toad insists on helping Oliver with the trucks owing to their Great Western ties.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Bulgy.
  • Motor Mouth: Duck in "Donald's Duck". Donald points this out by telling him he quacks as if he laid an egg.
  • The Prankster: Both Duck and Donald (and their crewmen) play good-natured pranks on each other.
  • Short Cuts Make Long Delays: Bulgy's shortcut winds up getting him stuck under a low bridge.
  • Series Continuity Error: In "Donald's Duck", Duck is given his own branch line, which means the events of the story took place before Oliver arrives to Sodor in the previous book.
  • Thin-Skinned Bully: The trucks pick on Oliver mercilessly when they think he's just a cocky newcomer. After he accidentally destroys Scruffey however, they're terrified of him.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story:
    • Oliver's turntable accident in "Resource and Sagacity" was based on a real-life event where a Lancashire and Yorkshire 2-4-2T tank engine from the London Midland and Scottish Railway also fell backwards into a turntable well.
    • "Bulgy" is based on a real event in Lewes High Street in 1962 from The Evening Standard.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Oliver gets an earful from Donald, Douglas, and the Fat Controller after the turntable accident.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The events of this book take place in 1968.


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