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“Poor old engine! It's no good Stuart, you can't win.”
―Duke embarrassing Stuart

You Can't Win is the fourth episode of the fourth series. It is based on the story of the same name from the Railway Series book Duke the Lost Engine.


Duke is feeling unwell, so he rests while his crew cleans his tubes. Stuart arrives and jokes that Duke is short of puff, but Duke says it is routine maintenance. But Stuart suggests that he and Falcon keep him in working order in case of any breakdowns. Duke pays no attention and begins to leave.

That evening, Duke begins taking his passengers home. The journey starts out all smoothly until they come to a hill where he starts wheezing with his valves leaking steam. Duke finds it difficult, so Falcon and Stuart come to help him. The three engines then split up at the next station so Falcon can take Duke's train to the docks, whilst Duke and Stuart can take Falcon's train home.

Stuart is delighted, bragging about rescuing Duke from any trouble, but the latter is not quite out of steam, Duke is making a grand effort to pull the train despite the nasty sound of his valves. Duke and his driver have they're own idea ready this being; start puffing as soon as they reach the hill despite his nasty valves and proving that Duke still has a lot of life left in him without Stuart noticing. After arriving at the top station, a boy thinks that two engines are not needed for the train but his father tells his son that Duke had to help Stuart as a result of a breakdown. Stuart becomes furious and he vanishes in a cloud of steam. Duke pulls up beside him and teases him that he cannot win.




  • Behind the scenes footage of the episode was filmed in 1994 as part of a segment for WIN Television's Sixty Minutes titled The Making of Thomas the Tank Engine.
  • This is the last episode of a couple of things:
    • Duke's last individual speaking role, outside of a group line in the said series episodes, Special Funnel and Steam Roller.
    • Duke's last leading role.
    • Peter Sam and Sir Handel's last appearances under their names "Stuart" and "Falcon." These names would be mentioned in passing one more time in Four Little Engines.
  • This is the only episode based on a story from Duke the Lost Engine not told by Thomas to the other standard gauge engines. However, like the other three episodes, it is presented as a flashback.
  • This is the only episode where Peter Sam's furious face with teeth appears. Also, the only episode where Duke is wearing his sad face.
  • This episode marks the first of a couple of things:
    • The first appearance of Falcon/Sir Handel's main whistle sound.
    • The first episode without the standard gauge engines' appearances or speaking role, although Thomas is seen in a deleted scene of this episode in the song Little Engines
    • The first episode to feature only one standard gauge engine.
  • In a rare Japanese still, Duke is seen coupled in front of Stuart instead of behind him.


  • As Stuart is being coupled up to Duke, the latter is wearing Falcon's/Sir Handel's angry face.
  • Throughout the episode, Stuart has Rheneas/Stepney's original whistle. But when Falcon and Stuart split-up at Rheneas' Station, Falcon has Rheneas/Stepney's original whistle and Stuart has Falcon's original whistle.
  • In a rare still of Stuart coupling up to Duke's train, his funnel is loose and his lining is peeling off.
  • The narrator says that Stuart took Falcon's train with Duke coupled behind, but Duke was still coupled up to his own train. It was also said that he was coupled behind when he was actually coupled in front to double head with Stuart.
  • When Stuart is coupling up to the brake van, his nameplate is a bit crooked.


Stuart: Hello, Granpuff! Are you short of puff?
Duke: Nothing of the sort. This is routine maintenance.
Stuart: Tell you what, you're getting old. We must take care of you in case you breakdown.
Duke: Huh! That'll be the day.

Duke: [about his journey] It's not so easy! It's not so easy! But I'll manage.

Conductor: Duke is going to take you to the harbour, but he might be late. So two engines are coming to help. You'll still catch your boat.
[Stuart and Falcon arrive to the rescue, Falcon couples up front and Stuart is coupled behind]
Falcon: Poor old Granpuff. What a shame you broken down.
Stuart: Peep, Peep, Peep! This is the day!
Falcon: Are you ready?
Stuart: Yes I am!

[after Stuart and Duke have reached the station]
Boy: What happened? They don't usually need 2 engines.
Father: Well, Stuart broke down. Duke had to help him. It sounds as if he had a hard job, too.
Stuart: [covers himself in steam] FIDDLESTICKS!!
Duke: Poor old engine! It's no good, Stuart. You can't win.


In Other Languages

View content
Language Title
Brazilian Portuguese Quem ri por último ri melhor
Chinese Mandarin 你是赢不了的
Czech Nevyhraješ
Danish Du Vinder Aldrig
Dutch Je Wint Nooit
Finnish Voitto Kotiin
German Du kannst nicht Gewinnen
Greek Δούκας, ο Ήρωας των Τρένων
Hungarian Nem Győzhetsz
Italian Non Mi Batti!
Japanese かちめなし
Korean 듀크의 완승
Latin American Spanish La Venganza
Norwegian Du Kan Ikke Alltid Vinne
Polish Ze Mną Nie Wygrasz
Romanian Nu Poţi Câştiga!
Russian Ты не можешь победить
Slovenian Ne Moreš Zmagati
Swedish Du Kan Inte Segra
Ukrainian Не здолаєш
Welsh Y Jôc

Home Media Releases


DVD Packs



  • Thomas and Stepney and other Stories (Direct-to-Home Video)
  • The Complete Series 4

DVD Packs



  • The Gallant Old Engine and Other Thomas Stories/Henry and the Elephant




  • Thomas and Stepney and other Stories


  • Thomas and Stepney


DVD Boxsets










  • Thomas and Friends Season 1-4