PLOT SUMMARY : THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
CHAPTER 1: THE BEGINNING OF THINGS
One night at their home in London, father, mother, Roberta(also known as Bobbie), Peter and Phyllis are talking about Peter’s broken model engine when there is a knock on the front door. Two gentlemen come to see father and talk for a long time. Father speaks briefly with mother and mysteriously leaves home. The next morning, mother leaves for London and returns in the evening, looking tired. She requests the children to be good while she is away and not to ask any question about father. Several horrid weeks pass by and one morning, mother tells the children that they are moving to a little white house near railway line in the country. They take the train and arrive at their new home in the dark.
CHAPTER 2: PETER AND THE COAL
The family do not get a decent supper as they think Mrs. Viney has not prepared it for them. Mother prepares what she can and off they go to bed. The next morning, the children wake up feeling excited in their new home. They discover that a nearby field backs onto a railway line but the railway station is too far to see from where they are. Before supper the children decides to go to the railway station. They have a lot to see and a large heap of coal catches Peter’s attention. When Peter steals coal from the station yard, he is caught by the Station Master. Peter thinks that taking some coals from the middle of the heap is harmless. The Station Master warns them that what they have done is stealing because the coal belongs to the railway station. It is only then they realize what they have done is wrong.
CHAPTER 3: THE OLD GENTLEMAN
By now the children know the time when the trains pass. Every morning, they will wave to an old gentleman who always waves back at them. They pretended that the old man knows their father and takes their love to him in London. One day, their mother becomes very ill and Bobbie resolves to do something positive to help. The children paint the words, “LOOK OUT AT THE STATION” on a large white sheet and wave it at the 9.15 train the next day. When the train is about ready to leave, Phyllis passes a letter to the Old Gentleman. In the evening, a large box of supplies is delivered to the children with all the things they have asked for.
CHAPTER 4: BOBBIE’S RIDE
When their mother finally recovers from her illness, they confess to her what they have done earlier. The family later celebrates Bobbie’s 12thbirthday, all dressed in their best. Bobbie receives various presents from the family including Peter who reluctantly has to give her the broken half of his toy train filled with sweets. Her lovely birthday party however ends on a sad note when she realizes that her mother is very upset later that night. Bobbie secretly wants to repair Peter’s broken train. She goes to the station and accidentally gets into the engine of one of the trains. Feeling scared, she seeks help from two railway workers. The two men not only repair the toy but also make sure she arrives home safely. Weeks later, Bobbie introduces Peter and Phyllis to the friendly engine driver and Jim, the fireman.
CHAPTER 5: SAVING THE TRAIN
The children witness a landslide that covers the railway line. The children prevent an imminent accident by waving the girls’ red petticoats. The train comes to rest just in time, at about twenty metres from where Bobbie stands on the tracks. Weeks later, a ceremony is held at the station to commemorate the children’s bravery. The Old Gentleman presents the children with a gold watch each and meets their mother at home. The children relay that eventful day to their mother.
CHAPTER 6: A BIRTHDAY FOR PERKS
The children’s mother has just sold a story and suggests having some cakes for tea. Bobbie requests that they have it on Perks’s birthday and mother agrees. Peter comes up with an idea to ask the villagers for little gifts, confident that they will give something to a person as nice as Perks. Some of the villagers are delighted with the idea but others, such as Mrs. Ransome simply brushes them off. The three children, however, go home and collect several roses for Mrs. Ransome since it is her birthday. That kind gesture touches Mrs. Ransome’s heart and she gives the children several apples as well as her dead grandchild’s pram for perks’s son. The children bring the gifts to perks’s house and wait for his arrival so as to surprise him. In spite of this, Perks becomes upset as he sees the gifts as a form of charity. The children explain that these gifts are given sincerely and perks relents. He asks the three children to stay for tea.
CHAPTER 7: THE TERRIBLE SECRET
Bobbie discovers the reason for her father’s disappearance when she reads the newspaper article. Deeply upset, she refuses to believe that he is a spy and is imprisoned. Her mother attempts to explain that her father has been falsely accused of selling government secrets to another country. Bobbie believes in her father’s innocence and decides to wtite to the old gentleman to clear his name.
CHAPTER 8: THE BOY IN THE RED SHIRT
The boy in red goes missing during a ‘hare and hounds’ game organised by thier school. Bobbie and her siblings enter the dark railway tunnel to look for him. They find him lying by the railway track with a broken leg. Bobbie stays with the injured boy, Jim, in the dark tunnel while Peter and Phyllis seek help form the farm. The children take Jim home for medical attention. They later learn that Jim is the grandchild of the old gentleman whom they have met earlier. The old gentleman visits the little white house where Jim is taken care of. Mother offers herself to take care of Jim until he gets better. The old gentleman is grateful to the family. When the old gentleman leaves the house, he has a private chat with Bobbie about her father. He says that he has received the letter and has been looking into the case. He believes that her father is innocent.
CHAPTER 9: THE MAN AT THE STATION
The children wave at the passing 9.15 train and all the passengers respond. At the station, an overjoyed Mr. Perks, who has read about Bobbie’s father in the newspaper, greets her. A London train stops at the station and Bobbie sees her father return after serving his sentence in prison. They return home happy and reunited.