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“Seeing a rare bird is not an emergency.”
―Thomas' guard

Thomas and the Emergency Cable is the tenth episode of the eighteenth series.


One day, Annie and Clarabel are watching the passengers getting on and off the train at Knapford station. They see a woman with a very big hat, an old man being helped into the carriage and another man they have seen before. The latter of them travels up and down the branch line all day, looking through binoculars.

When Thomas and his carriages arrive at Dryaw, the man gets off and starts looking through his binoculars. The coaches are confused by his actions and Thomas says he might be a station inspector, but the coaches are sure that is not right; the man spends a lot of time examining trees. Thomas jokes that the man may be a tree inspector.

Later on, Thomas arrives back at Dryaw to pick up the passengers. Unsurprisingly, the man with the binoculars is waiting. Thomas decides to ask the man what sort of inspector he is. The man explains that he is not an inspector, but a bird watcher who is looking for a very rare bird.

As Thomas puffs on his way, he suddenly gets a shock when somebody on the train pulls the emergency cable inside Annie. Thinking there is an emergency, the guard applies the coaches' brakes. It is not long before Thomas grinds to a halt and the guard goes to see what the matter is. Inside Annie, the guard sees the bird watcher with his hand on one of the emergency cords. The man sheepishly explains that he thought he had heard the very rare bird and in his state of excitement, pulled the emergency cord so he could get a look at it. The guard sternly informs the man that spotting a bird does not constitute an emergency on a railway. There is more trouble to come when Thomas tries to pull away. Annie has developed a wheel flat and one of her wheels will not turn at all. Annie has to be uncoupled and left behind while all of the passengers squeeze into Clarabel. Thomas is very upset about having to leave one of his beloved coaches behind but is very cross with the bird watcher, as are the other passengers.

When the train arrives at Knapford station, the Fat Controller is waiting and reminds the bird watcher what an emergency cable is really for. The bird watcher says he is very sorry and promises to never pull the emergency cable for such a trivial matter again.

That evening, Thomas takes Rocky and a flatbed to collect Annie. He then takes his damaged coach to the Sodor Steamworks. Unfortunately, Victor cannot find any coach wheels to fit Annie and says she will have to wait for a new delivery.

The next day, Thomas and Clarabel start to miss Annie terribly. Thomas was still mad about having one of his coaches taken out of commission by a silly bird watcher and hopes that they never see him again. Unfortunately, Thomas does indeed see the man again at Dryaw station. Thomas stubbornly refuses to stop at the station and as he' s barely out of Dryaw, someone pulls the emergency cord again: the grumpy woman in the big hat. She complains that she wanted to get off at Dryaw, Thomas apologises and reverses back to the platform. The lady with the big hat gets off and the bird watcher climbs aboard.

When Thomas arrives back at Knapford, it is his turn to receive a reprimand from the Fat Controller, who tells him that he must stop at every station regardless of the mood he is in. The Fat Controller says that he is sure the bird watcher has learned his lesson about pulling the emergency cable without good reason and now Thomas has now learned his lesson, too.

Eventually, Annie returns to work with Thomas and Clarabel and the three of them are happy once again. When Annie asks Thomas how the Steamworks got her new wheel so fast, they all laugh when Thomas reveals that he told Victor that "it was an emergency," gaining him some commentary from his very amused coaches. The bird watcher even finds his rare bird.





US and CAN

  • Martin Sherman as Thomas
  • David Bedella as Victor
  • Teresa Gallagher as Annie, Clarabel, the Lady with the Big Hat and the Children
  • Kerry Shale as Sir Topham Hatt
  • Keith Wickham as the Conductor and the Passengers
  • Joe Mills as the Welsh Bird Watcher


  • This episode has similarities to the 1993 annual story, James' Traffic Jam.
  • The rare bird the bird watcher is looking for is actually a Green Woodpecker. Another of the same species was also seen in the ninth series episode Thomas and the Golden Eagle.
  • This is the only episode in the series where Thomas pulls only one of his coaches rather then both.
  • Some music from the seventeenth series episode, The Frozen Turntable can be heard while Thomas is rescuing Annie.
  • This is the last episode directed solely by David Stoten.
  • In the Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Baltic Russian and Vietnamese dubs, the UK dub can be heard in the background as a dubbing track was not used.


  • During the aerial shot of Dryaw, when the bird watcher is looking at the trees round the back, the track Thomas is on appears to be floating.
  • During the aerial shot of the entrance to Knapford Station, a duplicate of the bookstall seen behind tracks 3 and 4 has been placed on the car park, making it impossible for a normal-sized car to enter one of the parking spaces. A luggage weight also overlaps part of the car park lines.
  • Several of the passengers are duplicated throughout this episode.
  • When the Guard puts on the brakes, Clarabel's wheels do not spark, yet Annie's do.
  • When Annie is shown moving with her flat wheel, her other wheel on the other side of the axle is shown moving.
  • Some descriptions for this episode say that Clarabel is the one who gets the wheel flat when, in the episode, it was Annie.
  • When Clarabel says, "But you have to stop Thomas. You always stop at the station," Thomas is entering Dryaw. But in the next shot, nothing but trees and bushes are seen next to him.
  • When Thomas arrives back at Knapford, Edward and James whistle to him, but no steam emits from their whistles. No steam comes out of Thomas' whistle either when he pulls out of Maithwaite at the end.
  • When the Bird Watcher gets off at Dryaw, luggage racks can be seen in Annie.
  • When the Lady with the Big Hat tells Thomas off for not stopping at the station, the lady on the platform is suddenly seen wearing a hat like the bird watcher's.

In Other Languages

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Language Title
Brazilian Portuguese Thomas e o Cabo de Emergência
Czech Tomáš a Záchranná Brzda
Dutch Thomas en de Noodrem
French Le Signal d'alarme
Hungarian Thomas és a Vészfék
Indonesian Thomas dan Kabel Darurat
Italian Thomas e il cavo di Emergenza
Japanese トーマスときんきゅうじたい
Korean 토마스와 비상줄
Norwegian Thomas og Nødbremsen
Polish Tomek i Linka Alarmowa
Romanian Thomas şi Cablul de Urgenţă
Russian Tомас и стоп-кран
Spanish Thomas y el Cable de Emergencia
Turkish Thomas ve Acil Kabolsu
Ukrainian Томас і аварійний трос

Home Media Releases



  • Signals Crossed (Direct-to-Home Video)
  • Season 18


  • Signals Crossed