Trains, Carriages and Airships

by JohnPerry

Chapter 1: Chapter One

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Chapter One

“Ohmygosh-ohmygosh-ohmygosh!” Rainbow Dash squealed excitedly. “This is going to be so awesome!”

The blue pegasus and her friends were standing on the platform of the Ponyville train station. It was late in the afternoon now – the clock above the platform read 5:46 – and the train to Manehattan was set to arrive in four minutes. Dash, Twilight Sparkle and Applejack were each loaded down with wheeled suitcases and a heavy saddlebag, while Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Spike, Granny Smith, Apple Bloom and Big Macintosh were there to see them off.

“I mean, can you believe it?!” the blue pegasus continued. “We’re actually going to WonderCon!” Her eyes shone brightly as she uttered the name of the largest gathering of Wonderbolts and their fans in the world.

Applejack chuckled. “Yes RD, we’ve only heard you talkin’ ‘bout it nonstop for the past three weeks.”

“Well excuse me for being excited!” Dash shot back playfully. “It’s not every year that the legendary Mustang attends WonderCon! He’s the greatest Wonderbolt of all time! And we’re actually going to get to see him!” She put her front hooves to her chin and squealed with delight at the word ‘see’.

“And think of all the amazing things to do in Manehattan!” Twilight Sparkle said, her voice filled with wonder. “The lights, the architecture, all the ponies…we could go see the Equestrian State Building, Central Park, Thyme Square, the Manehattan Public Library-“

“Yeah, cause what better way to spend your vacation from a library than going to an even bigger library?” Spike muttered sarcastically. Twilight didn't respond, either because she didn’t hear or chose to ignore her assistant.

“Are you sure your aunt and uncle won’t mind us staying at their place?” the purple unicorn asked Applejack. The farmer nodded in response.

“Don’t you worry about it,” she replied. “Ah sent a letter to them weeks ago letting them know we’re coming, an’ Aunt and Uncle Orange would never refuse. They might be city ponies, but they’re family – an’ if there’s one thing that runs in our family it’s hospitality!”

“Look!” Pinkie Pie yelled, pointing up the train tracks with one of her hooves. “I think that’s your ride!” Sure enough, there was a train approaching the station. A moment later it gave a blast on its whistle to signal its arrival in Ponyville.

“Last chance to change your minds about not coming!” Rainbow Dash announced to those present who would not be making the trip.

“Oh darling, you know I would love to come,” Rarity replied sincerely. “But I’ve got several work orders I have to finish for Fancy Pants and I just can’t spare the time!”

“I would love to come too,” Fluttershy said quietly. “But Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are expecting a child soon! Oh, it’s so exciting for them and I just couldn’t stand to be away when it happens!”

“And my sister is coming to Ponyville for her birthday!” Pinkie Pie squealed with delight. “It’s going to be so much fun; we’ve been planning this for months! Well, actually I’ve been planning this for months, since I told her I would take care of everything. And I do mean everything!” At this she reached into her tail and pulled out a scroll of parchment which unfurled out on to the ground and then continued rolling across the platform and on to the tracks. Dash briefly caught sight of the words ‘Construct second party cannon’ on the list before Pinkie gave the parchment a single whip and it flew into the air, rolling into a neat scroll once more.

“Well, your loss I guess,” Dash shrugged. The approaching train gave off another blast on its whistle as it entered the station and slowed to a halt. The engine gave a loud hiss (which caused Fluttershy to jump in surprise) as the conductor hopped off the train. Within a moment, he was taking tickets from the boarding passengers.

“Alright Apple Bloom, be good while Ah’m gone!” Applejack said, hugging her little sister. “Listen to yer big brother an’ don’t get in trouble!”

“When do Ah ever get in trouble?” Apple Bloom asked innocently. Her sister responded by giving her a playful noogie.

“Now y’all be careful in the big city, y’hear?” Granny Smith told Applejack.

“Ah, don’t ya worry Granny Smith, I can handle myself!” Applejack replied.

“I know, but it’s yer friends I’d be worried about,” the elderly pony said, winking at her granddaughter and causing her to chuckle.

“So you’ll take good care of the library while I’m gone, right?” Twilight asked her dragon assistant intently. “My checklist is on the kitchen table and the emergency library kit is under my bed.”

Spike gave the unicorn a salute. “You can count on me!” he said confidently.

Using their tails to wheel their suitcases behind them, Twilight Sparkle, Applejack and Rainbow Dash approached the conductor and handed their tickets over. As they boarded the train they paused to wave goodbye to their friends. After a trading of farewells between them the three travelers retreated into the depths of the train. The conductor hollered “ALL ABOARD!” before shutting the doors as the train blew its whistle and, with a loud cranking of the massive engine wheels, began to slowly move once more.

The remaining ponies on the platform watched as the train pulled out of the station, some of them chasing after it until they reached the end of the platform. The train picked up speed and together they watched it recede into the distance, giving a final blast on its whistle as it turned a corner and vanished from sight.

Once the train was gone, Spike turned to the others with a sly grin on his face. “So…tonight at seven, then?”

“Yep a-doodle!” Pinkie replied enthusiastically before inhaling deeply and screaming at the top of her lungs to get the attention of everypony within earshot.


Twilight, Dash and Applejack proceeded down the aisle towards the rear of the train, struggling slightly with the uneven floor that occasionally caught the wheels of their suitcases. They were currently passing through the fourth train carriage they had entered so far, having failed to find three available bunks in close proximity to each other.

“Shoot, this train is crowded!” Applejack commented. “Ah didn’t realize the overnight to Manehattan was so popular.” She was then forced to halt as another passenger reached out to retrieve a bag from her friend across the aisle before continuing onward.

“There may not be any adjacent bunks left,” Twilight muttered. “We may have to just settle for whatever is left over.”

“Hold on, we haven’t seen the whole train yet,” Dash pointed out, indicating the train carriage behind the one they were currently in.

“Alright, but I don't think there's any more carriages after that one,” Twilight explained. “I wouldn’t get your hopes up, Dash.”

The pegasus shrugged and opened the back door. The three travelers briefly stepped outside to cross into the next carriage. Outside, they could barely hear the chugging sound of the engine over the click-clack of the carriages as the train sped down the tracks. When they opened the door to the last carriage, they each gasped slightly at what they saw.

It was completely empty. Every single bunk was available.

“SCORE!” Dash cried triumphantly, racing inside. She was quickly followed by Twilight and Applejack, both of them astounded at their good fortune.

“Golly, there’s nopony in here!” the earth pony exclaimed with a hint of disbelief in her voice.

“We really lucked out!” her unicorn friend said in agreement, examining each bunk to make sure nopony else was there. “Never mind finding three adjacent bunks for all of us, we could pick three bunks for each of us!”

“Cool, we really are at the back of the train!” their pegasus friend called from the rear of the carriage. Dash opened the door and Twilight could make out the small open-air platform at the end of the carriage. From this perspective, the tracks appeared not to move even as the trees and fences the train passed raced by them.

The three travelers spent another moment admiring their carriage before choosing their bunks. Despite Twilight’s earlier statement, she insisted that they choose three adjacent bunks in case anypony else entered the carriage. The unicorn chose one of the lower bunks and Applejack plopped down on the bunk above. Rainbow Dash took the upper bunk opposite them, tossing her luggage on to the bunk beneath her. She stretched out on the bed with her front hooves behind her head and turned to look over at her friends. She noticed Twilight using her magic to open her largest suitcase and retrieve several books out of it.

“Don’t tell me,” Dash said to the unicorn in a slightly mocking tone. “You’re doing homework.” Applejack, now curious, leaned over her bunk to see what her friend was up to.

“Don’t be silly!” Twilight laughed. “I did all my homework that was due this week last week. This is just some light reading.”

Light readin’?” the earth pony cried in disbelief. “Twi, that there book is about the size of Apple Bloom!”

Magical Metaphysics: Principles, Connections and Applications,” the pegasus read off the cover of the unicorn’s book. She yawned mockingly. “Wow. That sounds fascinating.”

“Well I think it is!” Twilight cried, blushing slightly and looking a little hurt. “Fine,” she huffed before putting the book away. “What do you think we should do, then?”

“Me?” Dash replied, taken aback. “Well, I dunno…hey, let’s talk about how awesome WonderCon is going to be!” she suggested enthusiastically.

Applejack sighed. “Ah’m all for chattin’, but can we talk about somethin’ besides WonderCon? It’s all Ah’ve been hearin’ about all week.”

“Oh, I know!” Twilight suddenly exclaimed, brightening up. “We can go over our travel plans and decide what to see in Manehattan!” She levitated a copy of the Friendly Planet Manehattan Travel Guide out of her suitcase, which looked quite worn from all the times its owner had consulted it in the past few weeks. “So tomorrow morning our train will arrive at Grand Central Terminal. Obviously the first thing we should do after arriving is head to Applejack’s relatives’ place and then we can go sightseeing. Now Applejack, you’ve been to Manehattan. Do you think we should see the Clydesler Building or Rockefilly Center first?”

“Shoot, Ah don’t know Twi,” the farmer responded, sitting against the wall at the end of her bunk and lowering her hat over her eyes. “Ah told ya, Ah wasn’t there for very long an’ that was years ago. A lot’s probably changed since.”

“Ooh! Ooh!” Dash cried out. “We have to go see a Bronclyn Dodgers game! They’re the best hoofball team in the leagues right now! I heard it’s supposed to be so much fun to watch!”

“And we could walk across the Bronclyn Bridge to get there!” Twilight said excitedly. “It’s the longest bridge in the world and I read that the views of Manehattan from it are breathtaking!”

“Ah wanna see a show,” Applejack joined in. “Not one of ‘em fru-fru Broncway things, that’s Rarity’s deal,” she clarified, catching the look on Dash’s face. “Ah mean somethin’ fun. We could go Stephen Coltbert, or Jimmy Foalon or even Lettermare! Ah hear she’s real funny!”

The three ponies spent the next couple of hours discussing what they would do when they got to Manehattan, which given their diverse interests covered a wide variety of attractions. But with three days to enjoy the city before the first day of WonderCon, there would be plenty of time to take in the sights. The travelers continued to chat, Twilight forming a detailed itinerary while the other two suggested that with so much to see they should just play it by ear. After much deliberation they settled on a plan somewhere between these two approaches, breaking down the city into smaller sections that they could explore while setting aside time for shows.

Through the entire conversation each of them spoke excitedly of what was to come, eagerly anticipating their time together in the most cosmopolitan city in all of Equestria. Even Applejack, who had abandoned the city to return to her life on the farm, was looking forward to seeing the city through the eyes of a grown mare. What's more, this time she would be accompanied by two of her best friends. It would also be nice to catch up with Aunt and Uncle Orange after all these years, even if they didn’t always see eye-to-eye.

Several hours had passed since they boarded the train before Twilight finally suggested that they get some sleep. The unicorn snuffed out the candle in the lantern before pulling the covers over her. As she lay her head on the pillow, she considered their good fortune. The train had stopped at a couple more towns but nopony had yet to enter their carriage, which allowed them to be as talkative and noisy as they wanted before they finally turned in for the night. She pulled the covers tighter around her and smiled inwardly at their good luck.

It would be the last time such thoughts crossed her mind on this trip.

Several hours later, in the dead of night, the train slowed to a stop along a rail siding located miles from the nearest settlement. None of the passengers took notice, as they were all sleeping comfortably. Nor did they take notice of the conductor who proceeded towards the rear of the train and uncoupled the last carriage from the rest of the train. He leaned over the side to signal the engineer at the front of the train before trotting back inside. The train began to slowly pull away and with a harsh metallic rattling the mechanisms joining the carriages unlocked and disconnected. The train pulled away, leaving the carriage alone on the tracks, its three occupants completely unaware of what was happening.

A while later another train approached, traveling in the opposite direction than the one that had left the carriage behind. It slowed as it passed the carriage before coming to a halt a short distance away. A few seconds later it began moving backwards, crossing from the main track into the siding. With a surprisingly delicate push for such a large machine, it nudged into the carriage and the coupling mechanism fell into place with a loud click. Inside, a blue pegasus grunted in her sleep, the only response from any of the carriage’s passengers to what was happening. With a soft chugging sound, the engine began proceeding forward, carrying its new load along a set of tracks heading south.

The morning sun filtered through the small break in the curtains, its golden rays accomplishing their daily task of shining right into the face of as many poor ponies as they possibly could. Rainbow Dash squinted, holding a hoof over her eyes as she tried to block out the intrusive light, but it would not relent. The pegasus struggled to reenter the dream she had just been so rudely ejected from but was ultimately forced to admit defeat and resign herself to the waking world. Rising to a sitting position, she yawned deeply and stretched out her hooves and wings.

“Hey!” Dash whispered loudly, leaning over her bunk. “Are you awake?”

“Mmmfh,” came a response from the lower bunk. Twilight was lying with her face buried in her pillow, raising it at the sound of her friend’s voice. Her mane was messy, several hairs sticking out at odd angles. She had shadows beneath her eyes, which were barely open. “I guess I am now…” she muttered dejectedly.

A snort came from the bunk above Twilight, the result of a snore that got interrupted midway through. Applejack’s eyes flew open, taking in her surroundings for a moment before deciding to speak. “Are we all up now?” she asked.

Twilight levitated a brush out of her satchel and started fixing her hair, her eyes remaining mostly closed as she did so. A slight frown crossed her face, as if a bug had landed on her nose. It was the sign of a stray thought entering the unicorn’s mind and occupying her attention, despite her lacking the presence of mind to fully articulate it in her sleep-addled state.

“Maybe it’s just me, but…” Twilight trailed off, looking for the right words. “Does something feel…off to you?”

“Now that you mention it,” Applejack began, looking around her as if expecting the answer to present itself. “Ah do feel like there’s somethin’ going on, like somethin’s…changed.”

“Aw, who cares?” Dash replied from her bunk, stretching herself out one more time. “It’s morning, which means we’re about to arrive in…Manehattan!” she cried, throwing open her curtains with a flourish as she spoke that last word. After the several seconds it took her eyes to adjust to the bright sunlight, her face fell.

“Um…guys?” the pegasus muttered quietly. “I may not know much about Manehattan, but…” She turned to Twilight and Applejack, who now saw traces of fear on their friend’s face.

“I’m pretty sure this isn’t it,” Dash finished, her voice strangely quiet.

Applejack and Twilight threw open their curtains and stared outside. No, this most definitely was not Manehattan. There were no tall buildings, no wide rivers, no gleaming signs, no bright lights, no bustling streets, and no crowds of ponies. In fact, for that matter, there were no ponies anywhere in sight. Not a single one.

There was only sand and cacti as far as the eye could see. Before them lay a scrubby desert which stretched out to a line of craggy mountains on the horizon beneath a brilliantly blue sky. It was a beautiful sight, one that the three travelers were in no condition to appreciate given their states of shock.

“Where are we?” Applejack cried, trying to make sense of the situation.

“Hang on a second…” Twilight muttered. “The train…we’re moving…”

And that’s when Twilight and Applejack realized what had been bothering them since they woke up. That strange sensation that told them that something was wrong, that something had changed since last night, was suddenly answered in an epiphany that struck the two ponies like a lightning bolt at the same instant.


Authors note: the "Clydesler Building" pun was originally written by Gravekeeper for his fic The Ballad of Twilight Sparkle, and he graciously gave me permission to use it here.

Next Chapter: Chapter Two Estimated time remaining: 1 Hour, 40 Minutes
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