Baldwin 622 (1992)

Texts and drawings by Hugo Pratt

(collaboration on artwork of the cars and locomotive by Guido Fuga)

This single story comprising 23 pages appeared
in the highly-prestigious volume “Quel fantastico treno”, 1992 (no indication of month), edizioni Adnkronos Libri.

This fantastic and surreal story takes place during the 1914-1918 war in Palestine. The main protagonist is the English lieutenant Horaz Solomon, of Jewish origin, and the No. 622 Baldwin locomotive, which has been loaded up with ten boxes of sovereigns for the payment of the Egyptian workers engaged in the construction of the railroad from El Kossaima to Suez. The cargo is escorted and guarded by Lieutenant Horaz and a small armed escort, but is also accompanied by the young female interpreter Sheeba Trumpeldor who is actually an agent for the Haganàh (an organization fighting for the Zionist cause) which has planned an attack on the train to steal the gold. But lieutenant Horaz has had the same idea. In the ensuing shoot-out the attackers and the escort wipe each other out, the Lieutenant kills the girl, steals the boxes and deftly avoids any of the investigations that would normally take place. Six years after the end of the conflict Horaz returns to the scene to retrieve the boxes and finds the No. 622 Baldwin locomotive still sitting on the tracks of a railway that was never completed, and rusting under the sun. Whether it is the remorse for the events, or the memory of Sheeba or the heat, we cannot know, but the locomotive speaks to Horaz and invites him to climb aboard. But the movement he creates as he climbs up causes an old iron bar to fall, cutting his throat. Before dying Lieutenant Salomon Horaz thinks he hears the chilling laughter of locomotive No. 622.