An empty goods train was speeding through a jungle. Up front, in the engine, was the driver and at the back, in the last compartment, was the guard. Apart from them, the entire train was empty.

A goods train carries goods. Like logs of wood, or boxes of chocolate – ummm, even cars and jeeps. But this train had been carrying coal. It had brought coal from a mine in Dhanbad in Bihar for a thermal power station in Delhi called “Badarpur”. After unloading all the coal in Delhi, the empty train was going back, to get more coal.

A Train Adventure of Wild Animals
A Train Adventure of Wild Animals [Illustrations by Amarjeet Malik]

The train was passing through a jungle. All the animals came out to watch this strange creature that moved through the forest puffing smoke from its nose. The curious rabbit turned to the elephant and asked, “What is that creature called? Does it live in the jungle?” The wise old elephant shook his head from side to side and said, “No, no. This is not a creature. It is what humans call a train. My cousin who stays and works with humans, helping them lift heavy logs, once told me that this is what they use to transport people and things from one place to another.”

A Train Adventure of Wild Animals
A Train Adventure of Wild Animals [Illustrations by Amarjeet Malik]

The fox piped in. “Ooh, I’d love to take a ride on this train. Do you think we can ask this one to take us along? After all, it does seem to be empty.” The elephant started to think, as all the other animals joined in the chorus of “oh, we would love to go for a ride too.”

As the animals scratched their heads, wondering what to do next, the train slowed down and came to a halt. All the animals started to shout, “see the man is our friend, he heard us and has stopped the train”. The elephant, who was familiar with the ways of the man because he too had worked for a while in the jungle hauling logs, said, ” no the train has stopped because of a red signal. Red means stop and green means go”. The deer was impressed by the elephant’s knowledge. She asked: “And what is the third colour meant for?”

The elephant said “oh that is orange – like the sunset. And it is used to warn the driver that the colour of lights is about to change. Just before the green light turns into red, the orange light comes on to warn him about the coming change”.

The fox who had been listening to all this patiently said “That’s all very good elephant bhaiya, but what about our train ride. You have worked with men before. Why don’t you please go and ask the driver, if he will give us a ride on the train.”

A Train Adventure of Wild Animals
A Train Adventure of Wild Animals [Illustrations by Amarjeet Malik]

The elephant nodded his head and started walking towards the train engine. A monkey who was sitting on a tree branch, decided to go along too, and jumped onto the elephant’s back. When he reached the driver, the elephant lifted his long trunk to point first to the train and then to the animals waiting behind. He waggled his huge flapping ears and then looked expectantly at the driver.

The train driver understood immediately. But he was quite surprised to hear this unusual request from the elephant. He wanted to take along the animals, but he thought it best to ask the guard before accepting the request.

The driver picked up the phone to talk to the guard. The guard too was surprised but he loved animals, so he said: “Why not, it will be such fun!” All the animals were really excited to hear the good news, and in no time at all the train was full of animals of all shapes and sizes. Even the driver and guard were surprised to see so many animals in their train – Elephants, Lions, Chimpanzees, Giraffes, Squirrels, Cheetahs, Rhinoceros, Deer, Snakes, Eagles, and many more.

As all the animals climbed on to the train, the monkey, who was fascinated by the phone decided to stay in the engine to find out more. The driver explained how the telephone sends voice through a wire to another instrument. The monkey looked behind the phone and saw the cable.

Being a monkey, he couldn’t be kept away from monkey business. He decided to follow the cable.

Jumping from one bogey to another he reached the guard’s cabin. There the guard explained to him that it is possible for phones to work without any wires at all.

A Train Adventure of Wild Animals
A Train Adventure of Wild Animals [Illustrations by Amarjeet Malik]

Meanwhile, the red light had become green and the train started moving. Slowly, it picked up speed. And very soon it was travelling at over 100 kilometers per hour. With the wind flapping their ears and rustling through their fur, the animals gazed in wonder as their familiar jungle raced past them. The trees, the ponds, the tall elephant grass. Even the sun seemed to be moving along. They were so happy and excited.
After some time, the train started to slow down, and finally came to a halt. The monkey leaned out to see what was making the train stop, but he could not see any lights.

Just then the driver announced “we have come a long way from where we started, and we are about to get out of the jungle. All the animals should get down here.”

All the animals wanted to stay on longer, but they understood that they must get down. One by one all the animals stepped off the train. As they moved away they all affectionately nuzzled the driver and the guard, saying “thank you” in their own special way, and then watched as the train chugged away.

It had been a very exciting day for the animals. They had never been on a train, and they had certainly never travelled so fast. As they talked among themselves about their great adventure, the squirrel said, “None of us can travel as fast as that train, except two of us.”

A Train Adventure of Wild Animals
A Train Adventure of Wild Animals [Illustrations by Amarjeet Malik]