by Andrew Stevenson. Shortlistee of the Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults competition 2022

Oh, shunt, do we have to start right now? I’m kinda in the middle of something! Speak up, it’s noisy up here! You wanna know my name? Tom! You wanna know where I am? London! You wanna know what I’m doing? Railing! What’s railing? Car hopping! Wagon riding! Freight surfing!

And you wanna know how it feels?

Intense! It’s like if you took all the fear, adrenaline and best, best things you ever felt in your life and rolled them into a ball, and then you threw that ball down a hill and then jumped on top and tried to ride it all the way to the bottom. Only, instead of a ball, it’s a train

A train like the one I’m riding right now! A Breacker 612, a couple o’ years old but sturdy, strong. It charges through the dark with axles singing, engines pounding, pistons churning. The wind’s roaring and the wagon’s raging and I’m unstoppable, boundless, free

 BEEP BEEP BEEP goes the alarm on one of my watches.

Sorry mate, enough chit-chat, I’ve got a job to do!



Cuz here comes New Edgware Junction. A mish-mash of multi-storey rails, crossing, looping, twisting like a big tangle of spaghetti. We blast over a bridge with south-bound tracks far below and shunt me why do drops always look bigger up close?

Jump, Tom,’ the rails whisper, ‘jump now or miss it!

And it’s now or never so I charge forward–one step, two steps, three steps–and throw myself off the wagon. I soar out and over the side of the bridge like a black-clad eagle but then gravity kicks in and suddenly I’m falling, plummeting downwards. Another set of rails gleams on the level below all eager for me to slam into them but it’s fine it’s fine and come on, where the shunt is it?