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“Oh, well. My driver told me about circus people who walk tightropes, but I just didn't fancy doing it myself!”

Toby's Tightrope is the fifteenth episode of the third series. It is based on the story of the same name from the Railway Series book Tramway Engines.


Percy arrives at the quarry to pick up stone for his trucks. The only other engine in the quarry at the moment is Mavis, who is sheltering between rocks looking miserable. Percy tells the young diesel to cheer up, but she explains that the manager found out about her going down Toby's line and causing trouble and has confined her to the quarry. She calls Toby a fusspot again, angering Percy, who tells her that Toby knows a lot about trucks and that they must be left where he wants them. Percy then leaves to take his trucks to the harbour. Although Mavis likes Percy, she still does not understand why she cannot go down the line.

The siding arrangements at the quarry are very awkward and Mavis is forced to make several journeys to put the trucks in the correct place. Mavis is desperate to leave the quarry and makes a plan; she starts by telling her driver the work would be a lot easier if she could use a small part of Toby's line. Her driver (suspecting nothing) agrees and allows her to go as far as the first level crossing.

The weather changes, with the snow and ice melting away. This causes an increase in work and Mavis takes trains that are so long that she has to go beyond the level crossing. She decides to proceed with her plan to go further down the line without making it look like her fault and asks the trucks to bump her at the level crossing. The trucks agree, but things go awry when Toby arrives while she is gone and decides to shunt them himself. The trucks decide to bump Toby instead, and when Toby reaches the level crossing, the trucks give him a fearful bump and push him down the line.

Melted ice and snow has caused the river on Toby's line to become a torrent and it washes away a crumbling wooden bridge after a log collides with it, leaving only the rails behind which form a tightrope across the abyss. Toby's driver fights for control and by the time Toby is finally able to stop, he is on the "tightrope" precariously above the water, ready to fall any second as more pieces of the bridge crumble into the torrent.

When Mavis hears what has happened, she is horrified and immediately goes to help. Toby is anchored to some rocks with chains as Mavis takes away the trucks. Eventually, she is able to pull Toby to safety and later apologises about what happened with the trucks. Toby thanks Mavis, telling her that while he had heard of tightrope walkers from a circus, he had not imagined doing it himself.

The Fat Controller sees Mavis later and congratulates her for doing well in an emergency. Mavis admits she was responsible for the trucks' behaviour but asks if she can still use Toby's line, as Toby has offered to show her what to do. The Fat Controller agrees on the condition that Mavis' manager allows her to, which he does. Mavis is now happier than ever and is considered to be a Really Useful Engine.




  • This is one of the few third series episodes to use the train brake sound effect from the 20th Century Fox Film sound effects library.
  • Both this episode and the previous episode aired on Christmas Day 1991 in the United States.
  • In the UK re-dub, the music is more faint when Mavis pulled the trucks away and rescues Toby.
  • Starting with this episode, Percy's whistle is at a lower pitch and would stay that way for the rest of the series. It was previously at a lower pitch in the third series episode Time for Trouble, then returned to normal in the third series episode, Thomas, Percy and the Dragon.
  • In the second opening shot of Percy entering the quarry, a pickup truck prop from Thomas & Friends' sister series TUGS can be seen.
  • This episode was paired with Rusty to the Rescue in an airing of Storytime with Thomas.
  • This episode was never released on VHS and DVD in South Korea.


  • Michael Angelis' original UK dub of this episode and the US one refer to the chains as ropes.
  • When Toby backs down onto the trucks, his eyes are misaligned.
  • In the restored version, a crew member's hand can be seen pushing the trucks when they surge against Toby.
  • Percy's roof is not properly fitted when he leaves the quarry.
  • When Mavis pulls Toby to safety, there are chains fastened to her cowcatchers. In the next shot, the chains that are fastened to her cowcatchers disappear and are replaced by a single chain fastened to Mavis' front coupling. The chains fastened to both her front coupling and cowcatchers all appear in the next shot.
  • When Toby is being pulled to safety, you can see Toby's face is not properly put in place.
  • When Mavis leaves her trucks, there are ten of them, but when Toby arrives, there are only seven. When the trucks are pushing Toby, there are only five.
  • In the beginning of the episode, some studio equipment is visible at the top of the screen.
  • When Toby stops at the level crossing, his face is crooked.
  • When the trucks yell "on, on, on!", a hand can be seen pushing the trucks along.
  • Mavis throughout the episode can be seen having her face slightly tilted to the left.
  • A wire can be seen pulling the log and the support beams off the bridge.


Percy: Cheer up, Mavis.
Mavis: [about her previous troubles] Manager says I don't listen to his advice. He says I've no business jauntering down Toby's line. Toby's a fusspot!
Percy: Toby has forgotten more about trucks than you will ever know. You must put the trucks where he wants them, then you'll be a Really Useful Engine. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to take these stones to the harbour.

Mavis: [after saving Toby from the damaged bridge] I'm sorry about the trucks. I can't think how you managed to stop them in time.
Toby: Oh, well. My driver told me about circus people who walk tightropes, but I just didn't fancy doing it myself.

The Fat Controller: A very smart piece of work. Mavis, you did well too I hear.
Mavis: It was my fault about those trucks, sir. But if I could...
The Fat Controller: Could what?
Mavis: Come down the line sometimes, Sir? Toby says he'll show me what to do.
The Fat Controller: Certainly. If your manager agrees.
Narrator: And so it was arranged. Now Mavis is as happy as can be, and the Fat Controller thinks she's really useful indeed.


In Other Languages

View content
Language Title
Brazilian Portuguese Toby em Perigo
Chinese Mandarin 托比的钢线表演
Czech Toby Provazochodec
Danish Toby Kommer i Fare
Dutch Toby de Koorddanser
Finnish Topi Nuorallatanssijana
German Toby in Gefahr
Greek Ο Τόμπι κινδυνεύει
Hungarian Toby a Kötéltáncos
Italian Sospeso nel Vuoto
Japanese トビーのつなわたり
Korean 토비의 줄타기 곡예
Latin American Spanish Toby en la Cuerda Floja
Norwegian Toby Havner i Vanskeligheter
Polish Jazda po Linie
Romanian Sârma lui Toby
Russian Тоби на канате
Serbian Tobijevo Zategnuto Uže
Slovenian Tobi Se Znajde v Nevarnosti
Swedish Toby i Trubbel
Ukrainian Тобів канат
Welsh Rhaff Tobi

Home Media Releases


DVD Boxsets




  • Trust Thomas and Other Stories



DVD Boxsets

  • Complete Series 1-10
  • Classic Collection
  • Series Three and Series Four Double Pack





DVD Boxsets


DVD Boxsets




  • Edward, Trevor and the Useful Party








  • Thomas and Friends Season 1-4