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“From what my son's been reading in the books written about it, your North Western Railway is well known for helping out those in need.”
―Elizabeth II to the Fat Controller

Thomas and the Royal Engine or simply The Royal Engine is the first double-length episode of the twenty-fourth series. It serves as the franchise's 75th anniversary special. Production-wise, it serves as the final episode of Thomas & Friends.

Plot

One evening, Percy is in a hurry to deliver an important delayed piece of mail. When the Fat Controller receives it, he recognises the seal on the envelope as being from the Queen of England, immediately piquing the interest of Gordon, James, Emily and Rebecca. The other engines initially assume that she is coming to Sodor again, but the Fat Controller learns that Her Majesty has invited him to Buckingham Palace to receive a special award for his services to the railway. The letter states that the ceremony is to be held the following day at 3:00 p.m. and that Prince Charles has specifically requested for Thomas to be the engine to bring the Fat Controller, much to Gordon's annoyance. Thomas arrives shortly afterwards and is informed of tomorrow's plan.

The next morning, Thomas is given a washdown and decorated with banners, whilst the Fat Controller tries on his new hat and prepares an acceptance speech. Gordon is still bitter that he was not chosen to go, but Henry points out that Gordon has confused the station names in London before. Thomas borrows one of Spencer's coaches and departs Vicarstown with the Fat Controller, bound for London. However, he eventually loses his way and finds himself at Beresford's canal. Beresford is happy to see Thomas again and lifts him up, but Thomas loses one of his banners. Thomas and the Fat Controller ask Beresford for directions and he sends them on their way.

Thomas and the Fat Controller eventually make their way into a forested area of track, where tree branches tear off Thomas' other banner, scratch his paintwork, and rip the Fat Controller's suit. They emerge on the other side, where a big cream-coloured tender engine runs through a puddle and drenches Thomas and the Fat Controller in muddy water. Further down the line, they stop at a station to be cleaned up. Whilst the Fat Controller goes inside, the same big engine from before rolls up next to Thomas and chastises him for taking her coach, while Thomas tries to explain it does not belong to her. The stationmaster corrects the engine, Duchess, and tells her that her coaches are being checked over. She leaves to collect them, while Thomas goes to the washdown.

At the yard, Thomas is about to pull into the washdown when Duchess accidentally pushes him under a coal hopper on her way to the same washdown. Duchess apologises for her earlier behaviour and formally introduces herself as Duchess of Loughborough, and Thomas allows her to be washed first. She begins to panic that she has forgotten something, but brushes it off and leaves to collect her important passengers. Thomas is then told that the water tank is empty and needs to be refilled before he can be washed, but since he is pressed for time, he will have to go to another washdown further down the line.

Thomas returns to the station, where his fireman offers to go inside to make a phone call to the other washdown to let them know they are coming. Meanwhile, the Fat Controller's hat is accidentally crushed when it falls on the ground and a passenger subsequently drops a suitcase on top of it. The clock then strikes 2:00, immediately causing the Fat Controller to panic and tell Thomas to get going immediately. Thomas is forced to leave his fireman behind, but the Fat Controller is not made aware of this.

Without his fireman, Thomas is moving extremely slowly because his driver has to both drive him and shovel coal. He encounters Duchess again, who apologises again for earlier but still cannot remember what she has forgotten. As she leaves again, the Fat Controller complains that Thomas is going so slow, which leads Thomas to explain that he had to leave his fireman behind. With no time to lose, the Fat Controller offers to be Thomas' fireman himself.

Further down the line, they encounter Duchess again, who has burst her safety valve, which was what she forgot to check over. Duchess is heading to London too, so Thomas offers to push her the rest of the way.

When they reach the station, the Fat Controller disembarks and notices the royal crest on Duchess' running board along with the crowd of people and policemen. He and Thomas realise that they have rescued the Royal Train, much to Thomas' shock. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles both exit Duchess' coaches, surprised to see Thomas and the Fat Controller both so dirty. Duchess explains that Thomas ensured that she would be on time, which pleases the Queen. The young Prince tells Thomas that his adventures in the books and his travels around the world have been inspirational to him. The Queen then decides to do the award ceremony at the station to avoid further delays. The Fat Controller is hesitant because of how messy he is, but the Queen reasons that the reason he is dirty is because he has proven himself worthy of the award. Prince Charles then presents Thomas with an award for his actions as the crowd at the station erupts into cheers.

Characters

Locations

Cast

UK

US and CAN

Controversy

Prince Harry's role in the marketing introduction was criticised by Britt Allcroft, the original creator of Thomas & Friends. As a result, this marks the second time for a key person of the franchise to criticise an episode since the third series episode, Henry's Forest was criticised by the Rev. W. Awdry due to the lack of realism and how it ignores Rule 55. However, the next day, Allcroft quickly clarified that her "concern was, in no way, about the actual writing of this story," and passed on good wishes to the writer, Michael White.

Trivia

  • Production-wise, this episode, as the standalone special of the twenty-fourth series, is placed after all the regular-length episodes. Therefore, it serves as the final episode of the twenty-fourth series and Thomas & Friends overall going by production order. However, seeing as the episode was not released last, and production order is usually not the intended order of episodes, it is unknown if the episode was planned to be a true series finale or not, as Thomas' Animal Friends was the final episode in official release order.
  • This episode has the longest runtime of any episode, with a runtime of twenty-three minutes.
    • According to episode writer Michael White, the episode's script was originally twice as long (clocking in at around 40 minutes of runtime) and would have featured more returnees from Journey Beyond Sodor.[1]
  • According to Michael White, it is likely that Theo, Lexi, Merlin, Hurricane and Frankie were intended to appear in the episode, however were later cut for time.
  • According to Michael White, this episode marks the end of the original continuity established in the first series. The 2021 reboot, Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go, is a separate continuity from the original series.
  • This episode has a special live-action introduction read by Prince Harry for both the initial UK broadcast and on the American Netflix. It was also present in the subsequent airing in New Zealand.
    • Prince Harry's introduction was filmed in January 2020.
    • It was the first time live-action footage was used in the television series since the twelfth series finale, Best Friends. It was also the only appearance of live-action people in an episode of the television series, and the second in the franchise overall (having been preceded by Thomas and the Magic Railroad).
    • The Prince Harry introduction was omitted on DVD, iTunes releases in the UK, and also in the Japanese dub of the episode. It was also only used in Milkshake broadcasts throughout 2020. Since a repeat of the episode on June 4th 2022 to celebrate the Queen's platinum jubilee, the Prince Harry introduction has been omitted.
  • Rosamund Pike and Sharon Miller join the voice cast.
  • This episode was aired before any other twenty-fourth series episode in the UK and South Korea. Because of this, the audience would not know about Emily gaining her number 12.
  • A big number of continuity references are made in this episode:
    • A recreation of one of the Rev W. Awdry's original Thomas drawings appears. During this scene, a snippet of the original theme from the first to seventh series plays.
    • The Fat Controller remembering the letter from the Queen is a reference to the fourth series episode, Paint Pots and Queens.
    • A photograph of Sir Topham and Lady Hatt from the twenty-second series episode, Rosie is Red, can be seen on the Fat Controller's bedroom locker.
    • Henry and Gordon talk about the events of the cancelled second series episode, Gordon Goes Foreign. This is the third time the events of an unadapted (or then-unadapted in the case of the second series episode, Percy Takes the Plunge) Railway Series story are mentioned, the first instance being the first series finale episode, Thomas' Christmas Party.
    • The Fat Controller mixing up 'suspicious' and 'auspicious' is similar to the final Railway Series story, Centenary, in which Percy does the same.
    • Thomas remembering the mainland canal and the way Beresford picks up Thomas are references to Journey Beyond Sodor.
    • Thomas also references Henry being rebuilt at Crewe from the first series episode, The Flying Kipper.
    • The Fat Controller taking over the role of Thomas' fireman is a callback to the fifth series episode, Lady Hatt's Birthday Party.
    • Thomas saying "A cow strayed on the line and we had to..." is also a callback to another fifth series episode, Gordon and the Gremlin.
    • While helping Duchess, Thomas says "little engines can do big things", which is a reference to Thomas and the Magic Railroad. According to Michael White, Thomas sneezing is also a reference to Thomas and the Magic Railroad, which was added by Sam Wilkinson.
    • Prince Charles can be seen holding a faceless toy version of Thomas - this is a reference to Wilbert Awdry's original Thomas models.
    • The Queen mentions books written about the railway, which is a reference to The Railway Series.
    • Thomas looking smart and clean while helping Duchess while he is dirty is similar to James' appearance in the eleventh series episode, Dirty Work.
    • Prince Charles mentions Thomas' travels around the world, which is a reference to Big World! Big Adventures!
  • This episode marks:
    • The first Big World! Big Adventures! episode in broadcasting order to not feature a fantasy sequence and the first episode not to have a fantasy sequence since the twenty-first series.
    • The only episode where the "Based on the Railway Series by the Rev. W. Awdry" and "Created by Britt Allcroft" cards are shown during the episode itself.
    • The seventh instance out of eight in which the title card is not shown at the very beginning of the episode, the other seven being the seventeenth series episode, Steamie Stafford, the twentieth series episode, Henry in the Dark, the twenty-first series episode, Emily in the Middle, the twenty-second series episodes, Trusty Trunky and Hunt the Truck, the twenty-third series episode, Heart of Gold and Sonny's Second Chance from this series, respectively.
    • Queen Elizabeth II's only speaking role in the television series and her only appearance in the twenty-fourth series, as well as her first speaking role since the fourth series episode, Paint Pots and Queens and her first appearance since the fourth series episode, Thomas and the Special Letter and her last appearance.
    • Prince Charles' only appearance in the television series and the twenty-fourth series.
    • One of the few in the twenty-fourth series where a crew member has a speaking role. The others are Thomas' Fuzzy Friend and World of Tomorrow.
    • The Two Mainland Diesels and Beresford's only appearances in an episode and their first appearances since Journey Beyond Sodor, not counting the stock footage appearance for The Mainland Diesels in the twenty-third series episode, Grudge Match, as well as their last appearances and their only appearances in the twenty-fourth series.
    • The second time and final time the British national anthem God Save the Queen plays in an episode, the first being Paint Pots and Queens.
    • The first time Thomas' driver and fireman have speaking roles since the eighth series.
    • The only double-length special set on Sodor in which Nia does not appear.
    • The first appearance of Topham Hall since the fourteenth series episode, Jitters and Japes and the last appearance where Topham Hall appears.
    • Duchess' only appearance in the series.
    • Dowager Hatt's last appearance and her only appearance with Duchess in the twenty-fourth series.
    • The final episode aired by Tooniverse in South Korea in the original series.
    • The final episode to have Shin Yong-u, Um Sang-hyun, Jeon Tae-yeol, Kim Eun-a, Kim Myung-jun, Kim Chae-ha, Kwon Seong-hyeok, Jeong Yu-jeong, Lee Sang-ho, Yu Yeong and Hong Seung-hyo as part of the voice cast in South Korea.
    • The final episode directed by Ji Min-jeong in South Korea.
    • The final episode translated by An Ju-hyun in South Korea.
    • The final episode produced, recorded and mixed in Korean by Park Ji-hye (CIC Media) in South Korea.
    • The final episode video edited by Song Chan-mi in South Korea.
    • The final episode dubbed in Korean.
    • The only episode dubbed in Korean from the twenty-fourth series.
  • The music played as Thomas and the Fat Controller are getting ready to go to London is similar to the Beatles' 1965 song, Day Tripper. Former narrator Ringo Starr was the band's drummer during 1960-1970, a ten year period of time when The Beatles was an active band.
  • A promotional image of Thomas, the Fat Controller and Duchess was recreated in a digital mosaic. This was done with drawings made by young children and in turn, was compiled together by artist Nathan Wyburn. It was produced to celebrate International Friendship Day.

Goofs

  • In a promotional image, Duchess is missing her tender. This error was covered up in another version by placing the Fat Controller in front of where her tender would be.
  • When Thomas backs up to push Duchess, his wheels do not move.
  • When Thomas and Duchess arrive in London, Connor's last coach is not coupled to his other coaches.
  • In the first shot of Thomas and Duchess arriving in London, Thomas appears to have no mud on him, but in the next scene, the mud re-appears.
  • When Duchess says "excuse me" and leaves to collect her coaches, her right (viewers left) cylinders are sliding off her chassis.
  • When Duchess bumps into Thomas by the washdown, the rear bufferbeam of Thomas' coach that Duchess hits is missing but appears before the shot cuts away.
  • The top of the Fat Controller's hat is broken when he is talking to the Queen, but in earlier scenes, it was still intact.
  • When Thomas buffers up to push Duchess to London, his buffers are not touching the coaches in front of him.
  • In the second shot of Thomas and Duchess arriving in London, Thomas' coach is missing its front bogie and wheels, and his wheels are not moving.
  • When the Fat Controller says, "Only five minutes left!", he is facing away from Duchess, but when he says, "I just hope there's a tailor here at this station," he is now facing towards Duchess.
  • Flying Scotsman and his express train are seen stopped in the background when Thomas leaves behind his fireman.
  • When Thomas brakes to stop and help Duchess, his wheels stop moving, but when he comes to a stop, his wheels still sound like they are braking despite Thomas' wheels moving again.
  • In the shot of Thomas' fireman shoveling coal into his firebox in the morning, the sky is blue representing midday, despite the scene taking place early in the morning.
  • Despite only his left side (viewers' right) getting splattered in mud by Duchess, Thomas' right wheels (viewer's left) are also covered in mud.

In Other Languages

Language Title
Baltic Russian Томас и королевская машина
Brazilian Portuguese Thomas e a Locomotiva Real
Dutch Thomas en de Koninklijke Trein
Estonian Toomas ja Kuninglik Vedur
Italian Thomas e la Locomotiva Real
Japanese じょおうへいかのきかんしゃ
Korean 토마스와 왕실 기관차
Latin American Spanish Thomas y la Locomotora Real
Latvian Tomass un Karaliskā Lokomotīve
Lithuanian Tomas ir Karališkas Garvežys
Polish Królewski Parowóz
Russian Томас и королевский поезд

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