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“Oh, crumbs! That's torn it!”
―Willie after his trailer overturns

Useful Railway is the twentieth episode of the twentieth series. It is based on the story of the same name from the Railway Series book Small Railway Engines.


Mike is annoyed that the miniature railway is not being taken seriously, being referred to by passengers as a "toy railway," and becomes even angrier when his track is blocked by some sheep. That night, while he is complaining to Rex and Bert in the shed, Rex tells Mike that the sheep's wool is used to make clothes. The Small Controller arrives and explains that the farmers have asked the railway to take their sheep's wool to market and that, if they do it well, it will show everyone that they are a useful railway. He chooses Rex to take the first train, as Rex claims that taking wool is an easy job.

The next morning, Rex takes some empty trucks and picks up the wool from each of the farms along the line. The wool has been made into bales that can be stacked into the trucks.

Rex insists that the job is easy, but he and his driver forget that the last load belongs to Willie, one of the farmers. Willie often dawdles and is usually late as a result. Because he is in a hurry, he has not tied his wool bales down to his tractor's trailer and does not have time to stop and do so. As he turns a corner, he loses control and the trailer tips over, causing the bales of wool to fall down a hill and onto the tracks. When Willie hears Rex coming, he runs onto an overhead bridge and tries to slow him down, but he does not realise the line is blocked until after he has passed under the bridge. He hits the wool, derailing him and several of his trucks. The Small Controller arrives to see what has happened. Willie apologises to Rex and the Small Controller for his carelessness and helps reload Rex's trucks.

Bert arrives and teases Rex while he takes Rex's train. Rex remains derailed on the bank for hours, being teased by Mike and Bert when they pass the crash site. Eventually that evening, Mike and Bert come to take Rex home.

When they arrive at Arlesburgh, the Small Controller expresses how proud he is of his engines: Rex for managing to stop and preventing a serious accident, and Mike and Bert for handling on their own in Rex's absence. He tells the three engines that the passengers all admire how they manage and have promised the railway plenty more business.





US and CAN

  • Joseph May as Thomas
  • Keith Wickham as Bert, Willie, the Welsh Bird Watcher and Some Passengers
  • Tom Stourton as Rex
  • Tim Whitnall as Mike
  • Rob Rackstraw as Fergus Duncan and the Thin Clergyman
  • Teresa Gallagher as Some Passengers


  • Going by production order, this is the twenty-eighth episode of the twentieth series and the series finale of the twentieth series, finishing the series as a trilogy with Tit for Tat and Mike's Whistle.
  • Multiple instrumental variations of Never Overlook a Little Engine are heard. The phrase is also spoken by Mike towards the end of the episode.
  • This was one of the five episodes that were incomplete at the time Arc Productions went bankrupt and was finished off by Jam Filled Toronto after Jam Filled Entertainment bought the aforementioned studio. The other four were Cautious Connor, All in Vain, Tit for Tat and Mike's Whistle.
  • On the twentieth series digital release, the episode is paired with Tit for Tat, while on the Nick Jr. US airing, it was paired with Mike's Whistle.
  • This episode marks Mike's last speaking role in an episode and is the last production to adapt works by Wilbert Awdry. It is also the last episode to be released on a UK Complete Series DVD via an original disc.
  • This episode marks Willie's only speaking role in the twentieth series.
  • The crash scene from the episode became an internet meme in 2016 called "RexVEVO" where multiple different songs were played over it replacing the original music.


  • The steel ballast ramp at Arlesburgh West is silver instead of green. Parts of it also alternate between green and silver between some scenes.
  • When Thomas says "Oh, hello, Rex!" and Rex whistles and says "Hello, Thomas!" Rex looks in the wrong direction. In the same shot, the top of the ballast ramp is missing.
  • When Bert is turning on the turntable, Rex's wheels continue to move after he stops.
  • When Mike and Bert rescue Rex, Mike has Rex's whistle sound.
  • When Bert tells Rex the accident was not his fault, his front chain is missing.
  • When Mike brakes to avoid hitting the sheep, his front bogie wheels spark, even though they are not fitted with brakes.
  • When Bert and Mike rescue Rex, the tree that was near the line is missing.
  • When Bert and Mike rescue Rex, no steam comes out of their funnels.

In Other Languages

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Language Title
Brazilian Portuguese Ferrovia Útil
Czech Užitečná železnice
Dutch Een Nuttige Spoorlijn
French Miniatures mais utiles
Hebrew מסילה מועילה
Hungarian Hasznos vasút
Indonesian Jalan Rel yang Berguna
Italian Un'utile ferrovia
Japanese いいぞアールズデールてつどう
Korean 장난감이 아니에요!
Polish Użyteczne Parowozy
Romanian O cale ferată utilă
Russian Полезные малыши
Serbian Korisna zeleznica
Slovenian Koristna železnica
Spanish El Ferrocarril Útil
Turkish Faydalı Demiryolu

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