- “We are glad to see you. Those others did their best, but they don't know our ways. Nothing anywhere can compare with our Fat Controller's engines.”
- ―The crowds cheering the engines home
The Eight Famous Engines is the twelfth book of the Railway Series.
The Fat Controller's engines are now quite famous. They have been on the radio and had many other adventures. But he had another plan, too, for his engines and this book will tell you what it was.
At Barrow-in-Furness, Percy is telling some tank engines about the time he braved bad weather when Henry arrives. Henry tells the tank engines to go away, calling Percy silly for his egotism. Percy responds by reminding Henry of the time he stayed in a tunnel and runs off to Knapford. There he sees a board which says "Danger." Thomas tells him to obey it, but Percy is curious and persuades the trucks to push him past the sign. They do so, but push him too far and cause Percy to fall into the sea. After being scolded by the Fat Controller, Percy is "fished out" and sent to the Works.
When a foreign engine visits, a heated argument ensues between him, Gordon, and Duck over the name of London's big station. Gordon wants to go to London to prove the station is King's Cross, but is not allowed to pass Barrow. However, when the engine taking the Express to the mainland derails, Gordon jumps at the chance to take the train and the next day the Fat Controller reads in the paper that Gordon received a hero's welcome. However, when he returns, Gordon is upset, having discovered that it is St. Pancras.
Gordon is exhausted after his trip to London, so James does his work while he rests. When Toby visits him on his way to the Works, James brags to him about his importance. When Toby later tries to get a drink at Killdane, the signalman, who is new to the line, tells him he has to clear the line, forcing Toby to struggle on to Kellsthorpe Road. However, Toby's tank have been nearly empty to begin with, and he soon runs out of water. The fireman goes back down the line and asks James to push Toby to the Works. When James and Toby arrive at the station, some boys think Toby has been helping James, who, furious, disappears in a cloud of steam.
Thomas arrives at Knapford to see some foreign engines arrive, and Percy and Toby tell him the Fat Controller has something planned. At Tidmouth, the Fat Controller tells the engines they are going to England. The next day, Thomas is showing Jinty, one of the foreign engines, around the yard while he brags about his race. In an attempt to reenact the race, Thomas runs into some buffers and damages his front. He is repaired just in time for the trip, and the engines are adored by their English spectators.
- Big City Engine
- The Foreign Engines
- The Fat Controller
- The New Signalman
- The Little Boys
- Jinty and Pug (do not speak)
- Henrietta (does not speak)
- Beatrice (cameo)
- Bertie (mentioned)
- Annie and Clarabel (not seen)
- Knapford Harbour
- Crovan's Gate
- Tidmouth Sheds
- This book's working title was The Fat Controller's Engines, but this title was instead used for the fourth story.
- The Revered W. Awdry considered making this the final Railway Series book.
- The republished edition of this book was called Eight Famous Engines. However, the word The was restored to the title in the book's 2015 edition.
- This was the first book to be illustrated by John T. Kenney.
- Gordon Goes Foreign was planned to be filmed as an episode for the television series, but was cut due to the expense of filming. This was revealed to SiF by art director Robert Gauld-Galliers. The Foreign Engine would have been a modification of Henry's model with a different face and smoke deflectors added.
- An illustration from Percy Takes the Plunge was released as a Royal Mail stamp in 2011 to mark the Reverend Awdry's Centenary.
- Duck gained sandboxes on his running board.
- This is the only time in the Railway series a tanker has been seen with a face.
- Loraine Marshall recreated some of the illustrations of Gordon Goes Foreign and The Fat Controller's Engines for a Thomas' YouTube World Tour segment.
- Percy Takes the Plunge is based on a real event where a contractor's locomotive ran off the end of a jetty at Burnham-on-Sea.
- Double Header is based on an event where an LNER J70 (Toby's basis) had to be "helped" to the ex-GER works in Stratford for overhaul, as the J70 had been stranded without water.
- The events of this book take place in 1956.
- In Gordon Goes Foreign:
- In Loraine Marshall's recreation of the first illustration, Duck is depicted as a 2-6-0PT instead of an 0-6-0PT.
- In the second illustration, the lettering on Duck's tank is missing.
- In the sixth illustration, Gordon's stripes on his firebox are missing and he has five stripes on his boiler.
- In The Fat Controller's Engines:
- In the second illustration, Pug and Jinty both appear to be faceless.
- Percy and Toby were placed on flatbeds and coupled behind Edward for the journey to England, but the second to last illustration shows them coupled behind James.
- In the last illustration, Percy's red stripes on his cylinders are missing, Gordon's cylinder linings are yellow, and James' cab roof is white.
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