based loosely on a true story © Richard Greenhough

First appearing in the Corris Railway's newsletter the "Corris-Pondent" and approved by Christopher Awdry for use of RWS characters. For the uninitiated, Cora is a brakevan on the Corris who moved to the Talyllyn but received her name on the Skarloey railway. Kerr, meanwhile, is better known as Stuart and even better as Edward Thomas/Peter Sam (no.4), and Hugh of course is Falcon, aka Sir Haydn/Sir Handel (no.3), who returned to the Corris in 2003 - Martin

Corinne the Carriage and Cora the Brake-Van were sitting side-by-side in the paint shop at Pendre, enjoying the sensations of tickly paint brushes as the Bearded Reverend and his helpers spread their new coats over their sides. "Tell me again" said Corinne, "You say our old railway is running again and we are going back to carry passengers, just like we did in the old days ? Tell me what it's like there now ."

Cora, who had been back a few years ago with Kerr the engine, was more than happy to tell her old friend everything she remembered about the visit. "Well," she twittered, "When I went home last time there were two engines there - Simon the Simplex, who was red and worked very hard, and Willy the Ruston, who did not have a cab and looked in need of a good coat of paint. A rather noisy, rough sort of engine if you ask me."

"But what about the carriage you told me about ? You said she looked a bit like me ?"

"Yes," said Cora, ""Her name was Tiger and when I first saw her I thought it was you and you had managed to come along with Kerr and I on our holiday. But when I got closer I realised that she did not have bogies and so she did not run as smoothly as you do."

"I shall look forward to meeting her, anyway," said Corinne. "Once I had seven sisters, all of us bogie carriages, and although some people said we looked the same, each one of us had some little differences so we never got confused about which of us was which. The last of my sisters I left behind, over forty years ago, when I was rescued. I often wonder what became of her. Did I tell you they used her to..." Corinne's voice shook..."keep chickens in ?"

"Yes, you did mention it" said Cora, who had heard that story many times before. She herself had watched Corinne and her sisters taken away from her old railway, and had quite enjoyed the next few years when any passengers wanting to stay out of the rain - and it always seemed to be raining on their old railway - had had to ride in her. She had been very surprised when, after nearly ten years on her new railway, Corinne had appeared one day on the back of a lorry looking rather sorry for herself, but she had recovered from her surprise and made her welcome, and while Mallet and Chisel had worked to restore Corinne to her former condition, the two old friends had been able to swap stories about what they had been doing while they were apart. Each was quite convinced that her adventures were the most exciting, but they both agreed that they had had quite the most eventful lives of any of the carriages in the sheds at Pendre - whatever Glenda and Valerie, the two tram carriages, might think !

Soon, the big day came, and Cora and Corinne watched while Hugh the loco and Mary the coal waggon were loaded up for the journey. "Doesn't Hugh look smart in his red livery ?" said Corinne.

"Yes," said Cora, "and look how he's preening himself - pretending that Mary is his tender."

"Hmm, he always used to have a tender behind" giggled Corinne, "especially when we used to bump him with our buffers - he didn't have any then."

"Behave, you" said Cora.

After a while, the low loader came back, and Corinne was eased up the ramp onto the deck and prepared for her journey. "What about me ?" complained Cora. "If I don't go soon it will be too dark to see anything on the journey."

"Don't worry", said the Engineering Manager, "I've got just the thing for you".

Cora watched in consternation as Lenny, the railway lorry, backed towards her. "I can't go on that" she whimpered. "Sorry, but it's that or nothing" said the Engineering Manager firmly. Cora found herself being winched up the back of the lorry and then tipped over as the hydraulic rams lowered the tipping floor. Soon, she was on the road, trying to retain some shreds of dignity as the little lorry followed the much grander low loader carrying Corinne - who was enjoying every minute of the ride, not least because of Cora's humiliation. "That'll teach her to be a know-all" she thought. "Just because she stayed on our old railway after I left and went back first - she needed taking down a peg or two."

The journey did not take long. For Corinne, who had been to England after leaving her old railway and then come back to Wales after many years away, it was a surprise how close the two railways actually were. Cora, of course, had been on the same journey before, when she had moved straight from old railway to new, and again when she and Kerr had been back. Soon, both lorry and low-loader had arrived, and a smart blue engine was easing Corinne off the low loader, while poor Cora found herself being tipped up and almost sliding down the back of Lenny's load bed. Suddenly, she heard the blue engine introducing himself to Corinne.

"Hello, I'm Willy the Ruston" he said. "I run the passenger trains here now. Glad you could come over and give us a hand."

"What a charming engine" said Corinne, "and such smart blue paint ! Its funny, but I was expecting someone quite different" she said, glancing at the flustered Cora, who was expecting that any moment Corinne would tell Willy how she had described him.

"Hello, Cora" smiled Willy, "Nice to see you back again. My, doesn't your paintwork look smart. I wondered if you would recognise me - my driver, the Furry Brummy, has given me a cab and running boards and painted me this new colour since you were here last."

Cora tried to look as though she met engines transformed in this way every day, and managed to mutter "Nice to be back" as she followed Willy and Corinne down the old tramway line into the yard, where Hugh and Mary were waiting for them. "Welcome home" peeped Simon the Simplex, who was sitting on a siding, with Tiger the carriage behind him. Through her confusion, Cora noticed how much smarter things were than when she and Kerr had been home - more sidings, a new signal box, and what was that at the side of the shed - a platform, no less ! She would certainly have some stories to tell to Kerr next time she saw him.

Willy uncoupled and Hugh backed down onto the train. "OK, girls" he said, "We're going for a spin up to Corris". His driver eased the regulator, and as the train pulled away, the memories came flooding back for all three of them. "Look, there's the old water filler pipe" said Corinne. "Looks a bit cracked now" said Cora. "And the old dunny's still there" chortled Hugh as he passed the end of the shed. "How indelicate" laughed Corinne.

Soon they puffed up the bank and over the crossing and arrived at Corris Station. "Whatever happened to my old carriage shed ?" exclaimed Corinne. "I told you that the station had changed" said Cora. "Not for the better, I'm thinking" muttered Corinne.

Suddenly, they heard a voice coming from the building on the other side of the station yard - a quavering, weak voice. "Corinne, is that really you ?" it said. Corinne went white under her brown paint. "It sounds like...but it can't be...Chicken ? she cried. One of the train crew pulled open a sliding door in the building, and in the gloom inside Corinne could just make out a familiar shape. The faint voice came again "Corinne - you know I always hated that nickname you gave me."

"Sister - it really is you ?" said Corinne. Cora grinned - this was one bit of information she had deliberately not passed on to Corinne. "Of course its me" said the voice, sounding stronger and slightly cross. "I got rescued and brought back here many years ago now - I've been wondering when you would get tired of showing off on your new railway and find your way home. Didn't Cora tell you I was waiting to see you again ?"

"Cora ?" said Corinne threateningly; but Cora was busy looking the other way and chatting to a pair of waggons in the siding. Any crossness that Corinne felt about being kept in the dark was soon dissipated as she and her sister both tried to tell each other what had happened to them since they had been parted, until the Driver and Guard put their hands over their ears and said it was time to take the train back to Maespoeth. Corinne promised to come again the next day, and left happy knowing that her sister was enjoying her retirement in the Museum and was being cared for by a nice man who was mending her broken joints and making her feel young again.

Soon, they were back at the engine shed. Corinne was worried. "If my carriage shed has gone, where am I going to spend the nights while I'm here ?" she wondered. "Outside in the rain, I expect" said Cora, who was used to being outside most of the time. "But that will spoil my nice new paintwork" wailed Corinne. "Look on the bright side - there's no sign of rain at the moment" said Cora. "Be real" said Corinne, "This is Corris - it always rains here !!"

While they were chatting, shunting was going on, and Cora was put in the ballast siding, next to another brake van who had befriended her on her last visit. Then the engine shed doors were opened, and Corinne got the shock of her long life. Hugh gently shunted her into the shed, towards - no, it couldn't be Tiger, she was outside; "Look out ", cried Corinne, "We're going to hit that mirror". She felt her buffers ease up against another pair of buffers - this was no mirror, it was another carriage - and through her confusion she noticed that it carried buffers just like the ones she now wore, buffers that had been fitted on the new railway.

"Welcome home" said a strange voice. "I'm Coralie - and you must be Corinne - my builders told me that you were coming and that they were planning to surprise you by not telling you about me."

"But...but...who ARE you ?" flustered Corinne. "You look like one of my sisters, but apart from poor Chicken they all perished long ago."

"I'm the new carriage" said Coralie proudly. "They designed me to look just like you - but underneath I'm built to twenty-first century safety standards with steel framing - those nice army men who come and inspect us won't allow timber frames like yours in new carriages any more."

"My frames have done me alright for the last hundred years or so" said Corinne huffily.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you" Coralie apologised. "I haven't been here very long - my two builders, who call themselves the 'A' team (because both their names start with 'A') are still working to finish me so that we can go out together on trains, just like you did with your sisters when you were young."

Corinne was recovering her poise, and decided it was incumbent on her to take this youngster under her wing. "I shall look forward to that" she said, beginning to look about her. "Are we really going to spend the nights together with Hugh inside his engine shed ? When I lived here we only came into the shed when the carpenter wanted to mend us."

"Simon and Willy weren't too keen on giving up their places in the shed, but Tiger said that you and Hugh were much older than them and deserved special treatment, while they need me to stay inside to keep me dry while they work on me" said Coralie. "So for the duration of your visit we are going to be sharing the shed together. I was rather hoping that you would be able to pass on some tips about working here from your memories, and tell me a bit about what it was like in the old days."

It had been a long and exciting day, and Corinne was beginning to feel very sleepy. After all, when you are over a century old, things can get a bit much sometimes. "I shall be happy to do so" she said primly, "but for now, I really need my beauty sleep. I have to look my very best when Hugh and I run the Special Trains they have told me about. See you in the morning."

"Goodnight" murmured Coralie. "Nos Da" whispered Hugh, and the shed fell silent; the old engine and the old carriage dreaming of their young days at Corris, while the young carriage dreamed of all the exciting things that were going to happen now the special guests had arrived.

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