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- “Well, Thomas, I've heard all about it, and I'm very pleased with you. You're a really useful engine! James shall have some proper brakes and a new coat of paint, and you shall have a branch line all to yourself.”
- ―The Fat Controller
Thomas and the Breakdown Train, retitled Thomas Saves the Day in American releases, is the seventh episode of the first series. It is based on the story of the same name from The Railway Series book, Thomas the Tank Engine.
Thomas now works in the goods yard at the station, pushing and pulling trucks into place. Every day he sees the Fat Controller, who kindly tells Thomas that, while he may not be as big or as fast as Gordon, he can still be a Really Useful Engine. While shunting, Thomas notices a strange green coach and two cranes and his driver explains that this is the breakdown train and it is used to lift engines, coaches, or trucks that are derailed.
One day, while Thomas is working, he hears an engine whistling for help. The engine is a new one named James, and he is being pushed by a long line of trucks, causing him run too fast. To make matters worse, his brake blocks are on fire and he cannot stop. As the trucks laugh and James disappears under a bridge, Thomas gapes in shock and becomes determined to teach the trucks a lesson. Soon an alarm rings and the signalman comes out shouting that James has derailed, so the breakdown train is needed at once. Thomas is coupled to the breakdown train and heads to the scene of the accident as fast as he can.
Further down the line, James has crashed into a field and fallen on his side. His crew checks him for any damage and tells James that the fault lies on his wooden brakes, which they had never liked. Thomas arrives with the breakdown train and removes the trucks that are still on the rails from the scene, while the breakdown train recovers the trucks which had overturned. Thomas works harder than ever before, going backwards and forwards with the trucks until they have all been cleared away.
Soon it is time to lift James out of the field. After having the chains attached to him, James is lifted by the cranes and is carefully set back onto the rails. James is unable to move by himself, so Thomas pulls him back to the shed as evening falls. Waiting for them is the Fat Controller, who congratulates Thomas on all his hard work. He arranges for James to receive a new coat of paint and have proper brakes fitted and rewards a delighted Thomas with a branch line of his own.
Now Thomas is happier than ever. Not only does he have a branch line, but he also has two new coaches named Annie and Clarabel. He now gets to pull trains all day and often meets Edward and Henry at the junction. Gordon is often in a hurry, but still whistles greetings to Thomas, who always whistles back.
- Troublesome Trucks
- Sir Topham Hatt
- Edward (does not speak)
- Henry (does not speak)
- Annie and Clarabel (do not speak)
- Tidmouth Sheds
- Rail Under Road Bridge and Stone Wall
- The Cow Field
- Knapford Bus Yard
- Gordon's Hill (deleted scene)
- The events of this episode were retold in The Adventure Begins.
- This episode marks James' official introduction to the television series. Despite appearing in all episodes prior to this one, he was never acknowledged in any way.
- There are a few differences in the restored version of the episode:
- When Thomas says "I'd like to teach those trucks a lesson," he moves his eyes after a few seconds.
- An extended shot of the signalman shouting "James is off the line! The breakdown train, quickly!" is shown.
- Different footage of Annie is used.
- Stock footage from Edward, Gordon and Henry and Thomas and the Trucks is used.
- A rare picture shows an alternate take of Thomas returning James to the sheds, with both facing the opposite direction from in the actual scene.
- This is the first episode to feature a crash, albeit not on-screen. The crash scene was later shown on-screen in The Adventure Begins. Until then, the first on-screen crash would be featured in Thomas, Terence and the Snow.
- When Thomas takes on water in the opening shot, his water cap is not open.
- When Thomas and James return to Tidmouth Sheds, the puffing noise continues after they stop.
- Thomas' eyes are slightly off-centre from each other throughout the majority of the episode.
- The metal rod to make James' wheels spark is clearly visible. In the same shot, James' pony truck wheels are not moving.
- During the scene when Thomas pushes the breakdown train under a bridge, the cranes are dirty, but before and after that scene, the cranes are clean.
- James' goods train load changes throughout the episode.
- In the close-up of Gordon, his driving wheels are going backwards.
- When James gets back on the rails, it is daytime, but when Thomas couples up to him to get him back to the shed, the sky suddenly changes to sunset. It changes back to blue sky when Thomas and James get back to the sheds and there are some ruffles in the sky as well.
- When James cries, "Help, help!" bushes and hills are next to him instead of the yard.
- In the close-up of James' wheels when he is put back on the rails, the breakdown train beside him is missing.
- When James is lifted back onto the track, he is not coupled up to his tender. But when Thomas goes up to it, James is coupled, and in the same shot, his tender is pink.
- When Thomas and James leave to go back to Tidmouth Sheds, on the left side of the screen, one of the breakdown trains slowly moves backwards then stops and the truck on the breakdown train is missing an eye.
- In the close-up of Thomas on his branch line, Annie and Clarabel are gone and in the next scene, Annie and Clarabel are back, but Thomas is now gone.
- In the Welsh version, the title card disappears a little too soon, briefly revealing the English title underneath.
- Wires can be seen attached to the chain supporters in the shot where James is being lowered back onto the tracks.
- The sparks are coming from the front of James' chassis, whereas his brake shoes are behind his rear driving wheels.
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