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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 Sir Topham Hatt

"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.

Plot

One evening, Percy is in a hurry to deliver an important delayed piece of mail. When Sir Topham Hatt 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 Sir Topham Hatt 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 Sir Topham Hatt, 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, while Sir Topham Hatt tries on his new hat and prepares an acceptance speech. With the pair looking their best, Thomas borrows one of Spencer's coaches and departs Vicarstown, 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 Sir Topham ask Beresford for directions and he sends them on their way.

Thomas and Sir Topham Hatt eventually make their way into a forested area of track, where tree branches tear off Thomas' other banner, scratch his paintwork, and rip Sir Topham's suit. They emerge on the other side, where a big cream-coloured tender engine runs through a puddle and drenches Thomas and Sir Topham Hatt in muddy water. Further down the line, they stop at a station to be cleaned up. While Sir Topham Hatt 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 is pressed for time and is told 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, Sir Topham'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 Sir Topham to panic and tell Thomas to get going immediately. Thomas is forced to leave his fireman behind, but Sir Topham Hatt 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, Sir Topham Hatt 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, Sir Topham Hatt 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, Sir Topham 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 Sir Topham 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. Sir Topham 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

Controversy

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

  • Going by production order, this is the twenty-third episode of the twenty-fourth series and the series finale.
  • 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 recorded in January 2020.
    • It was also the first time live-action footage was used in the TV series since the twelfth series finale, Best Friends. It was also the first appearance of live-action people in an episode of the television series.
    • The introduction was omitted on DVD and iTunes releases.
  • Rosamund Pike and Sharon Miller join the voice cast.
  • Despite Emily's Best Friend being the Series 24 premiere, this episode was the first to broadcast in the UK, because of this, the audience would not understand the context behind Emily's number 12.
  • A number of references are made:
  • This episode marks the first of several things:
  • 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 for several years.
  • 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

  • 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's 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 (viewer's right) getting splattered in mud by Duchess, Thomas' right wheels (viewer's left) are also covered in mud.

In Other Languages

Language Title
Brazilian Portuguese Thomas e a Locomotiva Real
Italian Thomas e la Locomotiva Real
Polish Królewski Parowóz
Russian Томас и королевский поезд
Spanish Thomas y la Locomotora Real

Home Media Releases

UK/AUS


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