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"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

  • Joseph May as Thomas
  • Kerry Shale as Henry and Gordon
  • Rob Rackstraw as James, the Thin Clergyman and a Wash Down Worker
  • Christopher Ragland as Percy
  • Jules de Jongh as Emily
  • Rachael Miller as Rebecca and Prince Charles
  • Rosamund Pike as Duchess
  • Colin McFarlane as Bulgy and Beresford
  • Keith Wickham as Sir Topham and Dowager Hatt, Thomas' Crew and a Stationmaster
  • Sharon Miller as Queen Elizabeth II

Trivia

  • This episode has a special live-action introduction read by Prince Harry for both the initial UK broadcast on 2nd May 2020 and on Netflix. It was omitted on DVD and iTunes releases. Harry's role in the marketing introduction was heavily criticised by Britt Allcroft, the original creator of Thomas & Friends. As a result, this makes the second time a key person of the franchise to criticise a role in the episodes since the third series episode "Henry's Forest" by the Rev. W. Awdry; in that case, it was criticised due to the lack of realism, and how it ignores Rule 55. However, after Allcroft watched the special, she changed her mind and thoughts and praised Michael White for his writing of the special.
  • Rosamund Pike and Sharon Miller join the voice cast. Marking that Sharon Miller is now a voice actor than just a voice director.
  • A recreation of one of the Rev W. Awdry's original Thomas drawings appears. During this scene, a snippet of the original theme from Series 1 to 7 plays.
  • A number of references to previous episodes and Railway Series stories are made:
    • The events of the fourth series episode, "Paint Pots and Queens" are mentioned.
    • A photograph of Sir Topham and Lady Hatt from the twenty-second series episode, "Rosie is Red", can be seen in Sir Topham Hatt's bedroom.
    • Henry and Gordon mention the events of the Railway Series story and the cancelled second series episode, "Gordon Goes Foreign".
    • 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 himself being at Beresford's canal mentions the events of "Journey Beyond Sodor" as well the way the aforementioned crane lifts the engine with his hook.
    • Henry's rebuild at Crewe in the first series episode, "The Flying Kipper" is mentioned.
    • Gordon is mentioned to have been built at Doncaster.
    • The Fat Controller taking over the role of Thomas' fireman is a callback to the fifth series episode, "Lady Hatt's Birthday Party".
    • While helping Duchess, Thomas says "As I always say, little engines can do big things," which is a reference to Thomas and the Magic Railroad. This is the first time that the film has been explicitly referenced in the television series.
    • Prince Charles mentions Thomas' travels around the world, referencing "Big World! Big Adventures!" and the three series following it.
    • The Queen mentions books written about the railway, which is a direct reference to the entire book series itself.
  • This episodes marks the first of several things:
    • The first time the events of a Railway Series story are mentioned before being adapted into the television series since the second series episode, "Percy Takes the Plunge" and the third time overall (the first instance being the first series episode, "Thomas' Christmas Party").
    • The first episode since the twenty-first series finale, "Confused Coaches", not to feature a fantasy sequence.
    • The first time live-action footage is used in the TV series since the twelfth series finale, "Best Friends".
    • The first appearance of real live-action people in an episode of the television series.
    • The first 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.
    • Queen Elizabeth II's first speaking role in the television series, as well as her first appearance since the fourth series episode Paint Pots and Queens, excluding her mention in the eighteenth series episode, "Emily Saves the World".
    • Prince Charles' first appearance in the television series.
    • Beresford's first appearance in an episode and his first appearance overall since his debut in "Journey Beyond Sodor".
    • The first time the British national anthem God Save the Queen plays in an episode ever since "Paint Pots and Queens", it is played when Thomas and Sir Topham Hatt realise the train the former rescued was the Royal Train.
    • The first time Thomas' driver and fireman have proper speaking roles since the eighth series.
    • The first special set on Sodor in which Nia does not appear since Journey Beyond Sodor. She is also the only current Steam Team member to be absent.
    • The first episode to take place in the Mainland.
  • This episode was the fourth instance in which the title card is not shown at the very beginning, the first four being the seventeenth series episode, "Steamie Stafford", the twenty-first series episode, "Emily in the Middle", the twenty-second series episode "Trusty Trunky", and the twenty-third series episode, "Heart of Gold", respectively.
  • Prince Harry's introduction was recorded on January 2020.
  • 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.
  • Prince Charles can be seen holding a toy version of Thomas without a face.
  • Henry was the only former Steam Team member to speak in this episode, while Toby was the only former Steam Team member not to appear.
  • Going by production order, this is the twenty-third episode of the twenty-fourth series.

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.
  • When Duchess says "excuse me" and leaves to collect her coaches, her right (viewers left) cylinders are sliding off her chassis.
  • It is said that Thomas left his fireman behind, but the crew member he leaves behind is his driver (identified by no moustache, which the fireman does have).
  • 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
Russian Томас и королевский поезд
Spanish Thomas y la Locomotora Real

Home Media Releases

UK/AUS


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