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This article is about The Railway Series book. You may be looking for the video game, the colouring book, the DVD or the song.


“You did very well to get so far.”
―The Fat Controller addressing Thomas, Duck and Percy

Really Useful Engines is the twenty-seventh book of The Railway Series and the first book written by Christopher Awdry.

Foreword

1983 to 1999

Dear Friends,
I am happy to say that Thomas and his friends are still at work, trying as hard as ever to prove themselves to be Really Useful Engines. I am happy to say, too, that my father is still taking a keen interest in the Region's affairs and it is with grateful thanks that I would like to dedicate this book to him, the person who began it all.
The Author

2007 onwards

Dear Friends,
I am happy to say that Thomas and his friends are still at work, trying as hard as ever to prove themselves to be Really Useful Engines. Sadly my father is no longer able to be involved with the Region's affairs, but it is with grateful thanks that I would like to dedicate this book to him, the person who began it all.
The Author

Stories

Stop Thief!

The guard tells Thomas' crew that the stationmaster's house was burgled the previous night and his gardening trophies and new car were stolen. Thomas is later puffing through the valley when he sees a car very much like the stationmaster's one and warns his crew, who identify the driver and passenger as the thieves. At the next signal box, they throw the fireman's lunch box, with a note inside, to a signalman. The thieves are stopped at a roadblock, the trophies and car are recovered undamaged and the Fat Controller arrives at Ffarquhar to congratulate Thomas and his crew.

Mind that Bike

Tom Tipper the postman falls ill and when he recovers, he discovers that his van has been replaced with a bicycle. When he gets to Ffarquhar, Tom is asked to fill in some papers, so he props his bicycle carefully against the fence and asks Percy to keep an eye on it. A boy comes along and starts riding the bike just as Percy starts. The boy falls off and manages to get out of the way, but the bike is run over and destroyed. Luckily, all ends well as Tom is given his van again.

Fish

An extra load of fish needs to be transported in the Flying Kipper, but the only vans available are several old rusty ones. At Wellsworth, Henry calls for a banker, and Duck arrives to help him with his train. Going up Gordon's Hill, however, a tail-lamp falls off, and Duck drops behind. Henry soon slows down and Duck collides with the vans, denting his funnel and boiler.

Triple-Header

One day after pulling the Express, Gordon feels tired and Thomas replies by telling him to become a tank engine. Later, it is discovered that Gordon needs new tubes. Henry is told to pull the Express, but one day he gets sick too. Thomas, Percy, and Duck are the only engines available, so they are told to take it. On Gordon's Hill, Percy runs out of steam. They are unable to uncouple him, so they try to struggle to the Works. Duck breaks down just outside the station and Thomas, unable to take the train himself, stops. Gordon, who watched the whole scene from his siding, makes heavy breathing noises at Thomas.

Characters

Stop Thief!

Mind that Bike

Fish

Triple-Header

  • Thomas
  • Gordon
  • Percy
  • Duck
  • Sir Charles Topham Hatt II
  • Henry (does not speak)
  • The Works Diesel (indirectly mentioned)

Locations

Stop Thief!

Mind that Bike

Fish

Triple-Header

Trivia

  • This book marks the first of a few things:
  • Triple Header was the first story of the four to be written. It is based on an incident at the Nene Valley Railway involving another engine also named Thomas. This engine was named by Wilbert Awdry himself and has been used in special events on the said railway.
  • Completely by coincidence, the Reverend W. Awdry planned to call his twenty-seventh volume "Really Useful Engines" but he never got to use it following his retirement and publication of what was to be his last book, Tramway Engines.
  • The opening message by the author was slightly altered by Egmont when republished in 2007. In editions from 1983 to 1999, Christopher stated that his father was still taking an interest in the region's affairs, but the 2007 version had this altered due to Wilbert's passing, saying sadly he was no longer involved.
  • The first two illustrations of Triple-Header were based on previous work of The Railway Series: the first on Reginald Payne's second illustration of Thomas and Gordon and the second on C. Reginald Dalby's second illustration of Edward, Gordon and Henry.
  • Triple-Header was later referenced in the annual stories, The Strawberry Special and Responsibilities, also written by Christopher.
  • Stop Thief! was based on a real event in late 1982 from John Thomas' books on Scottish Railways.
  • Fish was based on a real event on the Lickey Incline before the Second World War.

Goofs

  • Thomas' valance is curved.
  • In Mind that Bike, the line to Ffarquhar Quarry has disappeared.
  • In Fish, the line beside the shed at Tidmouth Harbour has disappeared.
  • In the second to last illustration, no platform for the Skarloey Railway at Crovan's Gate is visible.
  • Thomas varies in size throughout the book.
  • In Triple Header, Percy is missing his smokebox saddle.
  • Duck's smokebox is green again.

In Other Languages

Language Title
Korean 진짜 쓸모 있는 기관차들