Free Children's Stories by Leading Authors
Pippin The Rust Bucket
Pippin the steam engine had lived in an old rundown railway shed for many, many years.
Unless one of the railroad engineers opened the big double doors to rummage through all the spare parts that were stored in the shed, Pippin never saw daylight.
He knew that he was old fashioned and out of date with his steam engine and coal tender.
Before they had hidden him away he had seen the bright shiny trains that did not need coal to make them work. All day long he could hear them running up and down the tracks at great speed.
Pippin spent most of his days remembering all the tracks he had sped down, belching out clouds of steam and smoke and how the children used to stand on the bridges going over the tracks to wave to him.
Oh, how he longed to run at full speed along those tracks again.
One day, three men came to his shed and opened both doors wide. Sunlight streamed in and Pippin's heart nearly froze. Had they finally come to tow him away to be broken up for spare parts like most of his friends had been?
One of the men walked up to Pippin and just stared in awe. "Oh, he's a beauty alright," he said with excitement in his voice. "Fancy just leaving him here to rust!"
The youngest of the men walked around Pippin but didn't look impressed at all.
"If you ask me, he's an old rust bucket," he commented in disgust.
Pippin knew he didn't look his best, after all no one had washed or polished him for years.
The third man didn't speak at all, he just grunted to himself as he checked out Pippin's engine and wheels.
Finally he said, "I reckon we can do it if we can find the spare parts we need."
"Do what?" Pippin wanted to ask.
The men left, closing the doors behind them and shutting out the glorious sunshine.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months as Pippin returned to thinking about the good old days.
Several months later the three men returned, bringing with them an army of people.
Pippin was afraid his time had come to be dismantled but lights were switched on and there was a buzz of excitement in the air.
Suddenly Pippin realised they hadn't come to dismantle him for spares, but rather to repair him.
Piece by piece they unbolted all the parts that could be taken off and Pippin stood there, stripped to just his bare shell.
Every weekend and most evenings, the same army of people arrived and all that could be heard was the sound of power tools scraping off the dirt and rust.
As the months went by the noise lessened though, as the more difficult and detailed jobs were being done by hand. New parts were fitted and then the repainting and polishing began.
The work went on all through the summer and as winter arrived, Pippin was towed out of the shed and he stood proudly, sparkling in the pale winter sun.
His brass gleamed as new and his funnel was as black as night.
His tender was re-attached full of fuel and water and the man that never said much started to stoke his boiler.
As the steam built up, so did Pippin's excitement.
Very soon he would be doing what he had been made for.
A brass plaque had been attached to his shiny red body which proudly read,
Slowly he rolled along the track and as he gained speed so the clouds of steam puffed out. The driver pulled the cord for the steam whistle and 'Woo! Woo!' was heard for miles around.
Both children and grown ups lined the bridges to see the wonderful steam engine put through its paces.
Pippin didn't think he could be any happier than he was at that moment but the following week they drove him to a new track where they attached carriages to him and decorated the whole train in holly and tinsel.
The sign on the station read, 'PIPPIN'S CHRISTMAS SPECIAL.'
Families queued to buy tickets and Pippin slowly moved along the track with his precious cargo of excited children going to see Santa in his Grotto.
Back and forth he ferried the children and at the end of each trip the children were allowed to climb on board the engine deck to see how the steam train worked.
Of course they all wanted to pull the whistle cord and sounds of laughter erupted as Pippin let forth with his 'Woo! Woo!'.
Even when the Christmas season had come to an end Pippin still ran children back and forth along the tracks at weekends and the countryside was filled with their laughter.
Now Pippin was truly proud and happy. The three men who had restored him were regular visitors who looked just as proud as he did. Even the man who had called him a 'Rust Bucket' polished his brass lovingly.
Of course, as Pippins confidence grew, so did his sense of mischief.
One day, as he was approaching a bridge, a small boy threw a stone down at him. He waited until he was under the bridge and puffed out a big black cloud of smoke.
The little boy went home with only the whites of his eyes showing because everything else was covered in black soot!
Everyone loved him and even the bright new shiny trains would hoot at him as they passed and Pippin would reply with a 'Woo! Woo!'
Pippin spent the rest of his days being admired by all who saw him.
The only time Pippin felt a touch of sadness was when he remembered his old friends who would never run along the tracks as he did.
He liked to think that maybe some of the spare parts that had been fitted to his engine had come from his old friends. At least then they could all 'feel' the joy of speeding along the tracks.
If you ever see one of the old steam engines that has been lovingly restored, don't forget to wave children and maybe it will answer you with a 'woo! woo!'
A Short Story by Sheila Helliwell