Today, in the land of Sodoff, there is a marvelous railway, with trains running to and fro all the time.
The railway is run by the FA Controller (pronounced "fat controller", and quite right too considering the extra weight Mr. Moneybags, as he is also known, has to carry around all the time).
There are lots of wonderful, and quite a few not-so-wonderful, characters on the railway.
There's Alec the Big Red Engine, who was imported years ago from Scotland, and has a surly attitude but is quite good at getting his coaches and trucks to arrive on time. Two of his trucks, Dwayne and Ronaldette, disgraced themselves recently, Dwayne purposely bumping into poor Ronaldette's buffers, and Ronaldette screaming at the top of her lungs that Dwayne should be sent to the goods shed for a very long time. Alec the Big Red Engine sorted everything out, and has secretly arranged for Ronaldette to be put to work on the railways in Spain or Portugal at some point in the future. Dwayne, meanwhile, is prone to damage to his wheels, and may never quite work out to be the excellent truck which everyone thought he would be.
Then there's Joseph the Big Blue Engine, who likes to pull only foreign trucks, and has recently had quite a lot of his paint stripped off. Joseph the Big Blue Engine doesn't like Alec the Big Red Engine very much, and there is tension in the air, and a great deal of hot steam, when they sometimes meet at Shining Time Station. Joseph the Big Blue Engine can have anything he wants as he has an admirer, Romeo the Russian Oil Tank Wagon, who always has lots of oil to spare.
Also, there's Arthur the Red Engine which is sometimes Maroon or Yellow. Arthur the Red Engine which is sometimes Maroon or Yellow prefers African trucks, but also quite likes French trucks. Arthur the Red Engine which is sometimes Maroon or Yellow hauled his trains all over Europe last year, but in the end this was not quite a resounding success. Arthur the Red Engine which is sometimes Maroon or Yellow doesn't like Alec the Big Red Engine or Joseph the Big Blue Engine at all.
And then there's Raffi the Quite Big Red Engine who works at the docks, Martin the Black and White Engine who has an illustrious history but nothing recent to boast about, and Glenn the Black-and-White-Striped Engine, who had to have major repairs two years ago, but who is now running very well indeed and works at the brewery.
Sadly, Bryan the Blue-and-White-Striped Engine has been sent away in disgrace after failing to meet his quota last year. For years, everybody said what a beautiful engine Bryan was, and Bryan certainly thought so, too: but it all seems to have gone to his head, and even now he is demanding new and different trucks and not letting go of trucks which are wanted by Alec the Big Red Engine, for example, and sulking when he does not get his way.
But aside from Bryan, you can see how illustrious all these engines are, and so are most of their trucks.
But recently, there has been an upset. The FA Controller, and the people who work out the timetables*, have decided to introduce a new engine on the railway. He doesn't have a fancy title, just "Aidy the Engine". The other engines are not too sure that they want to share the railway with Aidy the Engine. The people who write books about the railway are certain that Aidy the Engine is not going to be good for the railway, and will probably be sent back to the sidings he came from.
But Aidy the Engine is full of confidence. Last year, his trucks carried far more than expected of them, and they all love Aidy the Engine very much. Aidy the Engine has been given some new, extra, trucks, and they all love Aidy the Engine very much, too. And one of the trucks which Aidy the Engine used to have, but didn't last year, has been returned to him - Richard the Green Brake Van, who is twenty-four feet long and eight feet tall, who spent last year at the gas-works in north-west Sodoff.
And Aidy the Engine does not listen to the doubters. Instead he keeps in mind what great work was done by Paul the Diamond-Mine Engine and his trucks last year, who joined the railway from the manure-stave sidings and did so well.
On the other hand, Aidy the Engine is not sure that Colin the Red-and-White Striped Engine, who is very noisy and rude, and whose trucks are almost always dirty and have been known to be aggressive to others, will have the same success this year as Paul the Diamond-Mine Engine did last year. It is sad that the FA Controller and the other engines seem much happier to see Colin the Red-and-White Striped Engine than they are to see Aidy the Engine.
But this does not bother Aidy the Engine and he is sure that his trains will do very well this year, even though, just like last year, and like Paul the Diamond-Mine Engine last year too, his trucks seem happier, and carry more, when they are away from their base than when they are there. "Not to worry", says Aidy the Engine, "we shall do more than enough".
So let's all cheer for Aidy the Engine and his trucks. Unlike others, Aidy the Engine won't run too fast and crash at the points, or smash into the buffers: and unlike the others, Aidy the Engine won't allow any of the bigger engines to shunt him into the sidings. Hooray for Aidy the Engine!
Oh, and the heck with all the other engines, of course.
* - be careful of the people who work out the timetables: they are very, very, aggressive, and are protected by the FA Controller. If you like to copy out timetables, you mustn't show them to anyone, even in secret. If you do, the people who work out the timetables will know, and they will come and visit you and blow dirty, sooty, steam all over you and send large gorillas wearing white shirts and black trousers to thrash you. And the FA Controller will make sure you never ride on the railway ever again.