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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 poorly, 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. However, Duke is not quite out of steam and makes a grand effort to pull the train despite the nasty sound of his valves. Duke and his driver start puffing as soon as they reach the hill. 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 jokes 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 episode marks Duke's last individual speaking role to date, outside of a group line in the fourth series episode, Steam Roller. Coincidentally, this episode also marks his last leading role to date.
  • This episode marks Peter Sam's and Sir Handel's last appearances and speaking roles under their names "Stuart" and "Falcon" to date.
  • This is the only episode based on a story from Duke the Lost Engine not told by Thomas to the other standard gauge engines.
  • This is the first episode where no standard gauge engines speak.
  • Stuart exclaims "Fiddlesticks!" towards the end of this episode, instead of "Well, for crying out loud!" in the original book. This was likely to avoid any criticism for alluding to profanity in the television series.
  • 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, Duke is wearing one of Falcon's faces.
  • In the beginning, Stuart has Rheneas' whistle sound. This happens again when Stuart leaves the station with Duke.
  • In a rare still of Stuart coupling up to Duke's train, his funnel is loose and his lining is peeling off.
  • In a deleted scene, it is not sundown when Duke and Stuart enter Crovan's Gate.
  • 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
Chinese 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 Δεν μπορείτε να κερδίσετε
Hungarian Nem Győzhetsz
Italian Non Mi Batti!
Japanese かちめなし
Korean 듀크의 완승
Norwegian Du Kan Ikke Alltid Vinne
Polish Ze Mną Nie Wygrasz
Romanian Nu Poţi Câştiga!
Russian Ты не можешь победить
Slovak Nemôžete Vyhrať
Slovenian Ne Moreš Zmagati
Spanish La Venganza
Swedish Du Kan Inte Segra
Thai ดุ๊กไม่ยอมแพ้
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




  • Thomas and Stepney and other Stories


  • Thomas and Stepney (Norwegian)


DVD Boxsets













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