South Devon Railway



by Devon author John Fisher with a foreword from
local Polar explorer Pen Hadow

11.00 am Wednesday 12 September,
Buckfastleigh Station

An illustrated new children’s book called the ‘Mountain Express’ which has steam locomotive characters and aims to inspire youngsters to work hard to achieve their potential and dismiss negative thinking is being launched at the South Devon Railway in early September.

Written by Ashburton author and motivational speaker John Fisher, with a foreword by Dartmoor-based Polar explorer Pen Hadow and illustrations by local artist Joanne Thomas, the ‘Mountain Express’ is an allegorical tale of a young steam engine called Junior.

Junior starts work as a new shunting loco hauling trains at Destiny Junction with his driver Bert and fireman Charlie.

Over the seven chapters of the 26-page book, Junior has to face some tough challenges as he gains experience and deals with negative thinking by his peers.
But he overcomes it all before finally hauling the ‘Mountain Express’ over an arduous route and through a long dark tunnel with his new express engine friend Crusader to the summit station called Victory.

Along the way, he encounters two engines called Huff and Puff who don’t like work and try to do as little as possible after being led astray by a lazy loco called Gruff.

In chapter three about a decrepit branch line, young Junior has to pull a train with Huff through a dismal tunnel known as the Black Hole to a station called Desperation Halt serving the nearby town of Despair.

There, Junior comes across an old engine called Duff dumped by the lineside who wouldn’t listen to positive advice and had fallen in with the wrong crowd before giving up on his life.

But it’s not all gloom as Junior and Crusader take an excursion train to the seaside and enjoy a great day out together working as a team whilst also making people’s dreams come true.

Huff and Puff’s moaning and groaning means that they are eventually displaced by a quick and efficient new shunting engine called Diesel but the pair then compound their situation by going on strike.

John Fisher joined the army as a boy soldier on leaving school aged 15 and rapidly became aware of the benefits of using his initiative and having a positive mental attitude.

During his working life, he has been a shopkeeper, publican, lorry driver and latterly a policeman, and is now the Neighbourhood Beat Manager for the Kingskerswell and rural area based in Newton Abbot.
It was his experience of working as a policeman and seeing the lack of ambition and wasted potential of many young people, plus the negative messages targeted at youngsters and the pernicious effects of peer pressure. that led him to write the ‘Mountain Express’.

John first had the idea for his book in 1997 and regularly visits the South Devon Railway with his wife as a respite carer for special needs children.

He was looking for a way of explaining motivation, and he realised that it is a rather like steam pressure in railway engines: If you don’t keep the steam up, then you don’t move and so the idea was born.

One of his own heroes is Sir Edmund Hillary who conquered Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, in 1953 and gave permission to John to include a quote from him in the book: “It’s not the mountains we conquer but ourselves”.

Another hero for John is polar explorer Pen Hadow who lives locally and has not only achieved his personal goals by dogged persistence, but also is concerned about the lack of drive and ambition in young people. Pen has written the foreword to the ‘Mountain Express’.

Commenting on the launch of his book, John Fisher said: “The Mountain Express has some serious messages for today when many young people seem to have such low aims and ambitions.

“This book is an allegorical story about a young person who comes into this world and is confronted by both positive and negative messages. He decides to listen to the positive and does well, but so easily could have listened to the negative and gone astray.”
“The Mountain Express uses steam engines to highlight the benefits to young people of listening to sound advice, living and working in a stable society, and having meaningful goals.

“The story aims to show that young people can become achievers, live exciting and fulfilling lives and still be responsible members of society. The story also has serious messages for parents, family members and those who wish to see young people succeed.

John Fisher will be signing copies of the ‘Mountain Express’ which will go on sale at the South Devon Railway following the launch, price £5.00. They will also be available from other local booksellers or direct from his website at

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