This article is about the special. You may be looking for the book or the audiobook.

“Bad luck Thomas.”

The Great Discovery is a Thomas & Friends special released in 2008.


The railway is preparing for Sodor Day and Thomas and James are racing to the wharf to be given a special job by Mr. Percival. Thomas wins and is sent into the hills to collect lumber with Duncan. After Thomas teases Duncan, Duncan pays Thomas out by sending him on an old, disused line which he claims will lead Thomas back to the wharf faster.

"I am brave and I am strong, I'll chuff to the wharf, it won't be long".

After avoiding an old, collapsing bridge, Thomas takes another route at the old junction and as he journeys further down the line, he comes across an old overgrown town.

The news of Thomas' discovery spreads and eventually reaches the Fat Controller, who tells Thomas that the town is Great Waterton - the largest town on Sodor when steam engines first came to the island. The Fat Controller decides that the restoration of the legendary lost town would be perfect for Sodor Day and calls the Pack to help. Thomas is told to take charge of the engines working around the town, while a new tank engine named Stanley is brought to do Thomas' regular jobs.

All of the engines take to Stanley, who does a good job and has fun as well, but when Thomas sees Stanley doing his jobs and fraternising with his friends, he becomes jealous. Thomas is furious when Stanley takes his place at Tidmouth Sheds and the final straw comes when Stanley takes his place as the leader of the restoration project after Thomas has an accident.

Later, Thomas is shunting stone trucks for Stanley to take away when he decides to make Stanley look silly by giving him a train too heavy for him to pull. Unfortunately, the plan backfires - as Stanley ascends the hill, a coupling breaks and the trucks race down the hill, veering into a siding and crashing into the newly finished tower.

"This... is a DISASTER!"

The Fat Controller states that this will likely set back the restoration past Sodor Day and Thomas gets blamed. Stanley, however, realises that Thomas merely missed his friends and wants to set things right.

Later that night, Thomas decides to clear the rubble out of the way. He is almost finished when he accidentally bumps a truck into an old mine shaft. Racing in after it, Thomas crashes into a blocked tunnel and falls down into the water where he floats down an underground waterway.

After the engines meet at Great Waterton, Stanley asked where Thomas is and the engines soon realise that Thomas is missing. The Fat Controller organises a search effort and everyone searched everywhere, but no one could find Thomas.


"This is a state of emergency. EVERYONE MUST LOOK FOR THOMAS!"

They were just about to give up, when Percy reminds them that Thomas found Great Waterton on his own, stating that it is his town and that they cannot have the opening without him and everyone agrees. Stanley thinks Thomas ran away after the incident yesterday and tries to find him in the hills. Meanwhile, Thomas continues floating in the dark tunnel until he reaches an opening to the mine and is flung across a canyon and down a hill without the wooden planks that made him float into the mine.

Stanley decides to make another search effort by himself before he returns to work. Thomas, with the last of his steam, sounds a loud, long whistle. Stanley hears it and hurries to where Thomas is stranded beside the track. The two make up for their quarrel and Stanley pulls Thomas back onto the rails, but the strain is too much for Stanley and a valve bursts. Thomas, using some of Stanley's coal, pushes him back to Great Waterton. The word soon spreads that Thomas has been found.


"We're all leaders of the track".

The standpipe tower is rebuilt, completing the restoration. As a sign of friendship, Thomas offers Stanley his last job - bringing the mayor to the festivities at Great Waterton. The engines gather at the town for the celebration and Thomas realises just how important his friends are.


Character Introduced




  • The Great Discovery was shown in select theatres in the US throughout July 2008, in the UK throughout September 2008 and in Australia throughout November 2008. It made a return to Australian theatres on 17th January 2013.
  • Stock footage from the eleventh series episodes, Thomas and the Storyteller, Edward and the Mail, Thomas and the Lighthouse, Thomas in Trouble, Henry's Lucky Day and Percy and the Left Luggage are used.
  • Possibly due to its limited release by Kidtoon Films, the film is rated G in the United States.
  • This was the first special for multiple things:
    • The first special where both the UK and the US have the same narrator.
    • The first appearance of The Pack in the main series since the sixth series episode, A Friend in Need, excluding their appearances in ninth series music videos.
    • It also marks Monty and Buster's first appearances in the main series; Max had been introduced without Monty in the sixth series and he had only previously appeared in the spin-off Jack and the Sodor Construction Company; the same applies with Buster.
    • The first time in the series where each member of the Steam Team appears and have speaking roles.
    • The first special written by Sharon Miller.
    • The first US DVD released by Lionsgate.
    • The first special filmed digitally in 1080i interlaced high definition, even though it is not available on Blu-ray.
    • The first special not to feature Henrietta or Knapford station (if counting its appearance in stock footage in Calling All Engines!) However, they did appear in music videos from this special.
    • Terence's first appearance since the seventh series episode, Not So Hasty Puddings.
    • Dennis' first appearance since his debut in the ninth series.
    • The first special to have a member of the Steam Team speak only one line, with those engines being Edward, Henry, Toby and Emily.
    • Skarloey, Rheneas, Sir Handel, Peter Sam, Jack, Alfie, Oliver the Excavator, Mr. Percival, Rocky, Trevor, Max and Monty, Rosie and Whiff's first appearances in a special.
    • The first special in which Harvey, Rusty, Cranky and Lady Hatt have speaking roles.
    • The first special to not have a video game based on it.
    • The first special to not narration by Michael Brandon in the US and Michael Angelis in the UK.
  • This was also the last special for several things:
    • The last special to feature songs composed by Ed Welch.
    • The last special edited by Kate Buckland.
    • The last special filmed interlaced.
    • The final Thomas & Friends production to use an all-model set. The twelfth series aired with several parts of the set in CGI like the faces, people and animals and starting with Hero of the Rails, all footage was done in CGI.
    • The second and final production after the seventh series episode Emily's New Coaches in which Emily speaks in a Scottish accent in the US dub.
    • The last appearance of Topham Hall's exterior. It's final appearances would be limited to the interior.
    • The last special until Blue Mountain Mystery to have songs during the runtime.
    • The last special to date to feature the theme song, Island of Sodor intro and Engine Roll Call.
    • The final feature-length Thomas and Friends production made at Shepperton Studios.
    • The last special where Spencer does not appear until Hero of the Rails.
  • This was the only time for several things:
    • Jamie Thomason's only special as voice director.
    • Stanley's only appearance as a full model, without a CGI face.
    • Pierce Brosnan's only special as narrator. He was originally intended to narrate two more specials, as well as three seasons, but left during production of the twelfth series for unknown reasons.
    • The only special in which Diesel 10 appears, but does not speak, as well as his only appearance without an antagonistic role.
    • The only appearances of Arthur, Duncan, Mighty Mac, Freddie, Ned, Buster, Madge, Jenny Packard, Molly, Terence, Jeremy, Dennis, Elizabeth, Lord Callan, the Storyteller, Mr. Bubbles, the Dairy Manager, Allicia Botti and members of the Railway Board in a special.
    • Terence's only appearance in the HiT Entertainment model era.
    • The only special until King of the Railway where both the UK and the US have the same narrator.
  • The special marks the final appearances and/or speaking roles of several characters:
  • Before Pierce Brosnan was hired as a special guest narrator, Gwyneth Paltrow was in talks with HiT Entertainment according to SiF, thus would have made her the first female storyteller for the English dub of the series, however no agreement was made.
  • According to the original US trailer, Fox was originally going to distribute the DVD, but Lionsgate took over instead. The trailer was released on the original Fox 2007 DVD release, Engines and Escapades. The trailer was altered with the concept logo and also have a quote saying, "Coming September 9th on DVD, from Hit Entertainment." Also, it included the Fox logo. This was later changed when KidToon Films released a trailer for the films release in theatres, altering the concept logo with the current one, getting rid of the Fox logo and replaced it with the Lionsgate logo and the quote was also altered saying, "The Great Discovery, from Hit Entertainment."
  • Among other things, the Sodor Daily newspaper reports that "Percy is in Tears" and mentions something about "Trevor the Traction Engine." Another article reports on an Allicia Botti concert. The paper's articles are apparently written by "J.K. Lee." The date for the newspaper is Monday, March 24th, 1955. However, this date is incorrect, as March 24th, 1955 was actually a Thursday. This also leads to a number of errors, as most characters who are featured in the special either had not arrived on Sodor yet at the time, or their basis were not built.
  • This special was broadcast on PBS Kids Sprout on the 5th and 6th June 2010 and on ABC2 in Australia on the 24th April 2011.
  • In the US, special Walmart editions, including a bonus CD featuring all five songs from the special, were released.
  • On the UK DVD, in the game Follow the Whistle, part of the Thomas, You're the Leader song will play at the beginning along with an engine's whistle.
  • The first UK trailer was narrated by Tim Whitnall, who later joined the voice cast in 2014 (six years later).
  • Due to Jack and the Sodor Construction Company never being shown in Norway, Japan, Greece, Poland, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Czech Republic, Finland, and Romania, viewers from those countries would not have known who Monty and Buster are.
  • According to a behind-the-scenes photo, there are not any rails on the bridge that Molly and Rosie are on at the Great Waterton ceremony.
  • In the Japanese dub, Emily says Arthur's line when he tells her that Thomas has been found.
  • The Polish version of the songs are performed by Beata Wyrąbkiewicz, Veronica Łukaszewska and Marcin Mroziński.
  • In Finland, this special aired before the tenth series premiered, meaning that the audience may have not known who Rocky, Rosie and Freddie were.
  • This special takes place in between the eleventh and twelfth series.
  • The Duke and Duchess of Boxford's Summer House Buildings from eighth series were used for Topham Hall.
  • Learning Segments were planned to appear during the special similar to Calling All Engines! but they were later removed and put into the bonus features of the US DVD, as the crew felt "the story was served better by losing those moments."


  • When Thomas and James race to the Wharf, the number of lines between them changes.
  • Thomas and James switch tracks at one point when they race through the wharf.
  • When Thomas and James enter the wharf, Freddie and Skarloey appear twice in two different places.
  • Stanley's siderods are out of alignment when his wheels spin as he struggles with the trucks.
  • When the engines are shown covered in brick dust, Toby's face looks crooked and loose.
  • When Stanley returns to Great Waterton after the accident, he is on the track to Thomas' left. In the next scene, when Thomas is alone in a siding, Stanley is on the track to Thomas' right.
  • When Stanley leaves Great Waterton to look for Thomas, James is seen at the back of the group of engines. After Stanley realises that Thomas has been feeling upset, James is seen behind the line of stone trucks.
  • When Thomas sees the barrier in the disused mine he brakes, but before he smashes through the barrier, his wheels are moving again. 
  • When Thomas falls off the bank the planks of wood that also fall are bigger than him.
  • When Thomas tips over, a bent piece of rail used to push him up and off the rails can clearly be seen.
  • When Thomas comes to a stop at the bottom of the hill, the grass goes over his face, but in every following scene, the amount covering his face is different.
  • After Stanley pulls Thomas onto the tracks, the points that lead to where Thomas landed can be seen; this proves a hidden track was used to help Thomas onto the line.
  • After Thomas is pulled back onto the rails, he becomes clean.
  • After being pulled back onto the tracks and after Stanley's boiler valve bursts, Thomas whistles. But the narrator said earlier that Thomas had ran out of puff and could not whistle again.
  • At the opening of Great Waterton, Gordon and Henry swap places twice by the standpipe and Jack is sitting on the rails.
  • During the scenes with Jack and the Pack, Percy's stepladder is red, though strangely his dome is gold like how it usually is.
  • Ned's eye pupils appear to be thicker than usual.
  • In the shot of Thomas, Max and Monty, Max and Monty's dumpsters are raised. But in the next shot, Max's dumpster has lowered.
  • Before Stanley appears on-screen pulling the trucks up the hill, a thin wire is seen pulling him. The same thing happens when Stanley pulls Thomas back onto the tracks.
  • The narrator said that the Fat Controller and Miss Jenny arrived after the tower fell down, but the Fat Controller is already at Great Waterton when the trucks rolled down the hill.
  • Madge's eyes are wonky when she first starts talking to Mighty Mac.
  • The bridge Molly and Rosie are on during the grand opening at Great Waterton did not have any tracks as shown in a behind-the-scenes photo.
  • Duck is incorrectly mentioned in the Finnish version of the special at one point.
  • At various points of the special, a steam platform is visible in Thomas' scenes such when he arrives at the siding after the tower accident and when he arrives at Great Waterton with the trucks before the opening.
  • On the UK DVD, in the game Follow the Whistle, Gordon is in Edward's place. He also has Edward's face and whistle sound whenever he blows his whistle.
  • When Stanley is saving Thomas, it is mentioned by the narrator that there is water in his firebox.

In Other Languages

View content
Language Title
Catalan El Gran Descobriment
Danish Det Store Fund
Dutch De Grote Ontdekking
Finnish Suuri Löytöretki
French La Grande Découverte / Le Grande Voyage
German Die große Entdeckung
Greek Η μεγαλη ανακαλυψη
Hungarian A Nagy Felfedezés
Italian La Grande Scoperta
Japanese トーマスをすくえ!! ミステリーマウンテン
Korean 극장판 토마스와 친구들/토마스의 위대한 모험
Norwegian Den Store Oppdagelsen
Polish Wielkie Odkrycie
Portuguese Grande Descoberta
Romanian Marea Descoperire
Russian Великое открытие
Slovak Veľký Objav
Spanish El Gran Descubrimiento
Swedish Den Stora Upptäckten
Thai ตอน การค้นพบครั้งยิ่งใหญ่ของโธมัส


Take Along

  • Stanley (discontinued)
  • Thomas and Morgan's Mine Car (discontinued)
  • Working Hard Gift Pack (discontinued)
  • Great Waterton Grand Opening 4 Pack (discontinued)
  • Morgan's Mine Set (discontinued)
  • Great Waterton Fold and Go Set (discontinued)
  • Great Waterton Expansion Pack (discontinued)

Wooden Railway

  • Stanley (discontinued)
  • Mud Covered Thomas (discontinued)
  • Morgan's Mine (discontinued)
  • Sodor day Thomas and Stanley (discontinued)
  • A Race to the Wharf Set (discontinued)
  • The Great Discovery Set (discontinued)

Motor Road and Rail

  • Stanley (discontinued)


  • Stanley (discontinued)
  • Thomas at Action Canyon (Thomas at Tumblin' Bridge in the UK) (discontinued)
  • Thomas at Morgan's Mine (discontinued)


  • Thomas and the Great Discovery Set (discontinued)
  • Great Waterton Station (discontinued)
  • Great Waterton Butchers (discontinued)
  • Great Waterton Post Office (discontinued)
  • Great Waterton Blacksmiths (discontinued)
  • Great Waterton Footbridge (discontinued)
  • Great Waterton Blacksmiths (discontinued)
  • Great Waterton Ben's Books (discontinued)
  • Great Waterton Ed's Garage (discontinued)
  • Great Waterton Station Platform (discontinued)
  • Stanley's Shed (discontinued)


  • Stanley at Great Waterton (discontinued)
  • Thomas at Morgan's Mine (discontinued)
  • James Celebrates Sodor Day (discontinued)

Capsule Plarail

  • Stanley



DVD Bonus features



DVD Boxsets




  • The Complete Ninth Series and The Great Discovery Double Pack


Trailers and Featurettes

External Link

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.