“The cranes are for lifting heavy things like engines and coaches and trucks.”
―Thomas' driver, Thomas and the Breakdown Train, first series
The Breakdown Train is composed of two cranes, flatbeds, and a coach for the workmen.
The Railway Series
The breakdown train is pulled to accident scenes to lift engines, coaches and trucks onto the rails. The train is manned by workmen. Thomas once brought it to rescue James after he crashed into a field from being pushed by the Troublesome Trucks.
Thomas & Friends
Since Rocky's arrival, the breakdown cranes were rarely seen, but the works unit coach - in several colours - has regularly appeared in the CGI Series.
The breakdown train returned in The Adventure Begins, in the form of Judy and Jerome, gaining new colours and increasing in size. Additionally, the works unit coach is now painted orange-brown, its Railway Series livery.
In Series 22, Rajiv was seen pulling a breakdown train to rerail Thomas.
In the Railway Series, the cranes and flatbeds are based on a Cowans Sheldon 45-ton breakdown crane. In the television series, the cranes and flatbeds are based on a Cowans Sheldon 30 ton breakdown crane.
The works unit coach is based on The old coaches that do appear to be freelances though they do bare a resemblance with some pre-grouping company builds such as those on the Great Northern and Great North of Scotland railways. However, in the Railway Series, it appears similar to the non-corridor suburban coaches operated by the LMS.
The cranes and flatbeds are painted dark green-grey, as was the coach in the model series and early CGI series. In the Railway Series and from The Adventure Begins onwards, the coach is painted orange-brown with a grey roof and "WORKS UNIT" painted on its sides in white.
The Chinese cranes are painted light green with yellow hazard stripes.
The Breakdown Train's model used to be on display at Drayton Manor, but it's now in storage. Two of the flatbeds were on display as well, but they had different loads. One had a tractor and some hay bales, and the other had the water wheel from Steady Eddie. One of the flatbeds is now currently in storage.
In the UK dub of the game Trouble on the Tracks, the Breakdown Train is referred to as the "Breakdown Truck" for unknown reasons.
Since the fourteenth series, many recoloured versions of the Works Unit Coach have been seen, mostly being used in goods trains. The coach also gained front windows.
In the Railway Series, the Breakdown Train is sometimes seen with two vans, presumably loaded with crane equipment.
All merchandise but Hornby and Capsule Plarail had only one crane and flatbed and without the works unit coach, although it was sold separately in TOMY.
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