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Charlie’s Winter Run: Billybuc’s Photo Prompt #4

John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.

Skiing, Image by Rolf van de Wal from Pixabay

Skiing, Image by Rolf van de Wal from Pixabay

The Challenge Rules/Suggestions

This is the fourth in this series of billybuc’s photo challenge prompts. Like many other writers here I wait each week with baited breath (what does that really even mean?) to see what photos he will present us with.

”There really are no rules this week. I don’t like rules. I am going to shake this one up a bit and pose this challenge to you: try writing a flash fiction from just this one photograph. Usually I suggest a short story from five photos, so we’re going to shrink things down a bit this week.

Let’s say 500 words or less, okay? Of course, if you want to write a 2,000 word short story, that’s okay too, but try for 500, or even 250, and see what happens.

And that’s it! There are no more suggestions. I hope you have fun with the challenge.”


This week Bill certainly didn’t disappoint. I mean who doesn’t love trains, especially old ones. There is just something about them. Oh, and I worked for the railway department for 17 years so I guess I should have some sort of special affinity to locomotives. Hence, here is my short story/flash fiction “Charlie’s Winter Run.“ I tried to follow Bill’s suggestions and succeeded in keeping this to 507 words including the title. I hope you enjoy this short tale.

“The journey has its own lyrics

A duet of balanced motion

The rails and wheels in tune”

— Richard L. Ratliff

Engine and driver, Image by Russell Holden from Pixabay

Engine and driver, Image by Russell Holden from Pixabay

Charlie’s Winter Run

Charlie stared at the nearby train track. It had been awhile since he actually saw a train pass by on the metal rails. The once busy line was now only used seasonally, during the winter months, when people took the train to the nearby ski resort.

Most would be content to spend their retirement days in such a beautiful location adjacent to the lush pine forest at the base of the mountains, but Charlie felt restless. He missed his working days when his services were appreciated, and he always felt his retirement was premature.

Another winter was approaching and overnight temperatures were beginning to drop. It wouldn’t be too long before the first light snowfalls begun. That meant the ski slopes higher up the mountain would already be covered in a velvety whiteness.

A familiar rumble in the distance stirred Charlie. Then he saw the tell-tale puff of smoke, preceding the steam train that suddenly emerged from the trees and rounded the corner. It tooted loudly as it approached, announcing its arrival before the brakes were applied and it slowly eased to a screeching stop at the siding.

The sight of the powerful engine with its attractive green carriages made Charlie a little jealous. He wished he was still running this line, instead he had been decommissioned, three years ago, as a running passenger train and now his carriages were utilised as temporary accommodation for rail maintenance crews during the months that the line was active


When Charlie had been in service all wooden carriages were red, but these had obviously been refurbished in and out and painted an attractive forest green. An appropriate colour for the envy he felt. He didn’t know if this train had a name, but he’d call it Kermit.

The guard climbed down from the rear carriage, his van, and strolled up and down the line looking at the carriage wheels and surveying the situation. Then one of Charlie’s own occupants saw the guard and went to talk with him.

After some time both men approached Charlie. He heard them discussing if his carriages were still in running order and good enough condition to carry passengers. It was confirmed he had been well maintained and serviced regularly.

Apparently, not one, but two of Kermit’s carriages had problems with their wheels or brakes so the train was unable to proceed any further, or return, without significant risk to the safety of the passengers and crew. Charley was chosen to fill in for this winter season and he was excited to start as soon as his carriages could be coupled to the engine.

As soon as the passengers had been transferred the engine fired up and the driver tooted to indicate they were getting underway. Charlie’s wheels made a grinding sound as they turned for the first time on a track in three years, and he set off for the ski resort. He was excited and happy. Winter couldn’t last long enough.

Image by Jackie Ramirez from Pixabay

Image by Jackie Ramirez from Pixabay

© 2020 John Hansen


John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on July 25, 2020:

Thank you for reading this Riffat. Much appreciated.

Riffat Junaid from Pakistan on July 25, 2020:

Nice short story John.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on March 28, 2020:

Thank you Lawrence. Me too.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on March 28, 2020:


Great little story, hope Charlie gets to run for the whole season.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on March 17, 2020:

Ah MizB, thanks for revisiting to check. I wasn't too concerned but just thought I'd ask Bill in case there was some way I should have made it clearer. Cheers.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 16, 2020:

Was I ever wrong in a comment on Bill's mailbag. I thought I remembered Charlie being a train, but my comment below says otherwise. Sometimes if I get interrupted before I complete a comment, I skim back through the article to try to refresh myself. Some of the paragraphs are pretty plain that Charlie is a train and some are not so plain. So I'm not sure what I was thinking at the time. Well, there's no doubt in my mind now that Charlie isn't a human.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on March 16, 2020:

Haha Shauna. It’s all good. You weren’t the only one, hence my question for Bill. Thanks for revisiting though.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 16, 2020:

John, I can't fathom how on earth I missed the fact the Charlie is the red train. It's perfectly clear from the second paragraph on. I'm glad you posed the question in Bill's Mailbag about giving life to inanimate objects. I had to take a second look.

You did a fine job of giving the decommissioned train life, John. It was I who was having the brain fart. I obviously wasn't operating on all cylinders the first time I read this sweet story.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on March 08, 2020:

Hi Peggy, I am glad you could feel Charlie’s emotions. Thank you for reading this story.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 08, 2020:

I can feel the joy that Charlie felt, even if his assignment would only last during the winter months of that one season. If his luck held, it would be a long winter season!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on March 05, 2020:

Bill, I greatly appreciate you saying you put this aside to read and that it is an example of good writing. As for deteriorating memory I often start reading a hub and get distracted only to forget what I was originally doing and returning to finish reading hours later. Cheers.

billybuc on March 05, 2020:

I had set this aside to read, then promptly lost it and forgot about it, then woke up this morning and remembered it. Thank the gods there is still some mileage left in my memory. And I'm so happy I remembered it. This is a fine offering to all who love good writing.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on March 04, 2020:

Thank you Vellur, I am glad you enjoyed this.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on March 03, 2020:

I enjoyed reading your story, a great response to the challenge. Charlie driving the train again is the perfect ending to the story.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on March 01, 2020:

Thank you for reading my story Devika. I appreciate your support and encouragement.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 01, 2020:

Great use of these photos and you have created a beautiful story.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on March 01, 2020:

Thank you very much Bushra. Much appreciated.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on March 01, 2020:

Glad you enjoyed this Eddy. Yes, we need as many happy endings as we can get. Thank you for reading.

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on March 01, 2020:


Eiddwen from Wales on March 01, 2020:

Great read with that ever loved happy ending. Thank you for sharing John.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

Yes, there is something about trains and how children (and some adults) can become obsessed with them. I'm glad this brought back memories, Flourish.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 29, 2020:

This took me back to when my daughter was a toddler, obsessed with trains. We went from one railroad crossing to another hoping to catch sight of the train.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

That's great MizB. I'd love to have a meal and travel on the dinner train. I used to love dining on the long distance trains here in Australia. Glad you liked my story, but maybe I will have to reread it. You and Lora both seem to think Charlie was a person, when in fact he was the red carriages. I mustn't have described it well enough. Think Thomas the Tank Engine.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on February 29, 2020:

John, I like your story. What can I say, not only were the cars put back into service, but so was Charlie. That's a happy ending. That photo with the red and green cars reminds me of the dinner train in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. One Sunday when the train was closed down, my husband had to play on the trains all afternoon. LOL Check it out and see why.


John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

Hi Lora, I felt the theme very appropriate with the way things are today. Experience seems to be valued less and it is virtually impossible to get a job if you are over say 50. People don’t seem to stay at one job for long either. I thought I’d use Charlie as an example of that.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

Thank you for reading this story Donna. I am glad it kept your attention and you enjoyed it.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

Yes, I think that is Aspen, Alan. Our Readers from the good old USA may confirm. I agree, 500 words is a little short to be able to develop a story fully but I don’t mind the challenge. Thanks for reading.

Lora Hollings on February 29, 2020:

This is a wonderful story in response to Bill's prompt, John. Your descriptions were excellent, making one feel that they were almost there. I liked the theme of your story about a man who was forced into retirement before he was ready and his life was no longer a happy one. I also liked the way you chose to end it on a positive note with Charlie going back to what really made him happy and his company recognizing his value. We need to do that more in our society valuing experience and skill over age!

Donna Rayne from Sparks, Nevada on February 29, 2020:

John! I loved your story, it kept my attention and wondering what else was going to happen. You did a fantastic job of writing this and keep up the great work!

Have a great day,

Donna Rayne

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on February 29, 2020:

Interesting, the image of the BR Class 4 cab at the head of your story that seems to centre on Colorado (is it the Aspen area where US skiers head for?)

Shame this didn't go on for longer, I thought your story was just developing when you slammed on the brake.

Five hundred words isn't really long enough, is it. A thousand's probably more like the ideal target. You can develop a story with that length. All the same, you tackled the theme with gusto. .

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

Thank you Shauna. Yes, it was a win win situation for everyone. Even Kermit got to have a much welcomed rest at the scenic siding, as Charlie filled in for him.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 29, 2020:

So many retirees don't know what to do with themselves and have a hard time adjusting. Fortunately, Charlie's services were needed. His love for trains and yearning for appreciation came together in a win-win for Charlie and the winter ski enthusiasts.

Great story, John!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

Thank you for reading and enjoying the story, Ruby. I am glad it rekindled memories of your stepfather Charlie who stoked the engines with coal. Have a great weekend.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 29, 2020:

This was a happy ending story. I enjoyed reading about Charlie. When I was a child growing up, I had a stepfather named Charlie and he worked for the railroad, he stoked the engine with coal all night, when he came home in the morning he had coal dust all over his face. Thanks for a look down memory lane.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

I am really pleased that you enjoyed the story Bill. After all it was inspired by your photo. I had fun writing this one.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

Pamela, I also loved trains as a child. Whenever we went to the city of Brisbane my parents would be sure to take me on the train. I loved looking out the window watching all the back yards, and sites you didn’t see from the road ,wiz by. Thank you for reading and the generous comment.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

You are one of many people with an affinity to trains, Clive. I am old enough to have ridden in some vintage carriages. They do have a special attraction.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

Well, Eric, I admit I was thinking of Thomas the Tank Engine when I came up with the idea by didn’t want it to seem quite as childish. I agree with you on why Bill is easy on the rules haha.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 29, 2020:

I love the personification of the train. What great imagination. Your muse took that particular ball and scored a goal, my friend. I loved this fine story and I was rooting for Charlie all the way.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 29, 2020:

I have always loved trains. My parents said when I was little and heard a train I wanted to see it. They would deviate from their destination and take me tIo see the train. I don't remember this so I must have been young.

Anyway, I think you wrote a very good story about Charlie and the train. You met the challenge with style, John.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on February 29, 2020:

I like trains. Especially the antique types. Even though I have never driven in on. But my soul interacts wonderfully with the past for some reason.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 29, 2020:

I surely do like this tale of good. I was immediately reminded of "The Little Engine That Could" and the Thomas the Train cartoons. Stories that teach a lesson.

You are better than those writers. Thanks.

I know why Bill made no rules -- he does not want to grade papers anymore.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

Lorna, thank you for that lovely and generous comment. It is every writer's desire for their stories to "come to life" in the reader's mind.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

Thank you manatita. I tried to string the reader along for as long as I could but the story was very short so... Yes, I have done some of that type of poetry with surprise endings myself with what I called "micro poems."

Lorna Lamon on February 29, 2020:

I like the feelings portrayed in this tale John and in particular how you refer to the colour green as the envy your felt. You have the ability to create images within your stories which make them come to life. Well written with a happy ending and beautiful photos.

manatita44 from london on February 29, 2020:

Very well done, John. Reminded me of a style of poetry that we do at Cafe's. It can seem to be one thing, but the end is usually quite different. So for example, we may talk about loving someone. You think it's a very beautiful woman, but you get to the end and it's a cat or dog and so forth.

Lovely job with this challenge.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 29, 2020:

Thank you very much, Venkatachari. I am glad you enjoyed this and look forward to reading a story from you hopefully.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on February 28, 2020:

A beautiful story. John, you crafted it very well. I enjoyed it a lot.

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