“The Little Engine That Could” Adaptation

A Senior Living Adaptation

The following adaptation of Watty Piper’s “The Little Engine That Could”[1] was created and first used as an inspirational aid for a marketing meeting in 2007.  Managers and salespeople were encouraged to maintain a positive, “can do” attitude and keep trying in their sales efforts until they achieved 100% occupancy.


Chug, chug, chug.  Puff, puff, puff.  Ding-dong, ding-dong.  The little train rumbled over the tracks.  She was a happy little train for she had such a jolly load to carry.  Her cars were filled full of good things and new residents for the retirement center.

There were activity items – exercise equipment, games, and even a Bingo set.  Then there was putter baseball, shuffleboard, beach balls for volleyball, giant crossword and Sudoku boards, and the cutest race horses you ever saw.  And there were cars full of bibles and hymnals, a pool table, picture puzzles, books and every kind of thing seniors could want . . .

The little train was carrying all these wonderful things to the senior living community on the other side of the mountain.  She puffed along merrily.  Then all of a sudden she stopped with a jerk.  She simply could not go another inch.  She tried and she tried, but her wheels would not turn.

What were all those seniors on the other side of the mountain going to do without the wonderful activity items to keep them occupied and the good food to eat?

“Here comes a shiny new engine,” said one of the retirees who jumped out of the train.  “Let us ask him to help us.”

So all the seniors cried out together: “Please, Shiny New Engine, won’t you please pull our train over the mountain?  Our engine has broken down, and we need to move into our new home and won’t have any place to stay or food to eat unless you help us.”

But the Shiny New Engine snorted:  “I pull you?  I am a Yuppie Engine.  I have just carried a fine big train over the mountain, with more cars than you ever dreamed of.  My train had sleeping cars, with Digital TV; a Five-Star dining-car where waiters bring whatever hungry people want to eat: and parlor cars in which people sit in soft arm-chairs and work on laptop computers.  I pull the likes of you?  Indeed not!” . . .  And off he rumbled to the roundhouse chugging, “I can not.” . . .

But the old gentleman called out, “Here is another engine coming, a little blue engine, a very little one, maybe she will help us.”

The very little engine came chug, chugging merrily along.  When she saw the old gentleman’s flag, she stopped quickly.  “What is the matter, my friends?” she asked kindly.

“Oh, Little Blue Engine,” cried the seniors.  “Will you pull us over the mountain?  Our engine has broken down and we’re tired and hungry and need to take our medications and won’t have a place to sleep or good food to eat, unless you help us.  Please, please, help us, Little Blue Engine.”

“I’m not very big,” said the Little Blue Engine.  “They use me only for switching trains in the yard.  I have never been over the mountain.”

“But we must get over the mountain before its too late,” said all the seniors.

The very little engine looked up and saw the tears in the grandmother’s eyes.  And she thought of the old folks who would not have any place to sleep or good food unless she helped.

Then she said, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”  And she hitched herself to the little train.

She tugged and pulled and pulled and pulled and tugged and slowly, slowly, slowly they started off.

The old gentleman jumped aboard and all the grandmothers and other seniors began to smile and cheer.

Puff, puff, chug, chug, went the Little Blue Engine.  “I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can.”

Up, up, up.  Faster and faster and faster and faster the little engine climbed, until at last they reached the top of the mountain.  Down in the valley lay the retirement center.

“Hurray, hurray,” cried the old gentleman and all the seniors.  Everyone in the retirement center will be happy because you helped us, kind, Little Blue Engine.”

And the Little Blue Engine smile and seemed to say as she puffed steadily down the mountain,

“I thought I could. I thought I could.  I thought I could.

I thought I could.

I thought I could.

I thought I could.”

[1] 1954 edition with illustrations by George and Doris Hauman


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