“He runs a famous branch line. Did you know that?"
"Huh! It may be famous, but my branch is first on the line. Everyone knows that too!”

―Percy and Thomas

Thomas and Stepney is the sixteenth episode of the fourth series. It is based on the stories Bluebells of England and Stepney's Special from The Railway Series book, Stepney the "Bluebell" Engine.

Plot

Thomas has been running his branch line like clockwork and shares his confidence to Percy, who doubtfully agrees and tells him that there is an engine with a branch line as famous as his and that the engine is proposing to visit. The engine is Stepney, who is far away but the Fat Controller says that he will visit the North Western Railway someday.

Meanwhile, Stepney has been running the Bluebell Railway smoothly. However, he is disappointed that it is not very long. He later sees Rusty, who saved him from scrap. Stepney tells Rusty that he is bored with the railway and is longing for a long journey. Rusty suggests talking to his driver who agrees with Stepney and tells him that the evening that he has been invited to visit the Fat Controller's railway and Stepney heads off the following morning.

By now, the engines have heard the news and begin to talk about Stepney. However, Thomas is a bit jealous about how Stepney's branch line is as famous as his own and leaves to fetch his coaches. Percy looks at the passengers at Knapford on track 5 and claims they are stranded with no train, but he is wrong; the signal drops and before long, an engine's whistle is heard from a distance. Douglas tells the engines that it is Stepney, who arrives through the junction where the engines whistle a big welcome. Edward hopes that Stepney will meet Thomas, as they both have branch lines. Stepney then goes off to work with Duck to shunt coaches in the yard all afternoon.

Later that evening, Thomas sees Stepney and Duck but continues with his final branch line train. But then, the two tank engines hear shouting at the station and a sound of a ringing alarm. The alarm turns out to be the telephone which the signalman answers and finds that one of the trains is a special. Thomas is furious when he finds out that he has to be shunted to let another train pass and is frustrated to find Stepney pulling the special.

Thomas continues to grumble about it next morning, but Stepney explains the situation; he took an important passenger who chartered a special train which Duck let him take. He then tells Thomas that he was nervous since he did not know the line and flatters him by calling him an expert and Thomas - no longer jealous and cross - proceeds to tell Stepney all about his branchline.

Characters

Locations

Trivia

  • A deleted scene from the previous episode is used.
  • In the UK and international versions, when the special is ordered, music is heard. This is absent in the US version. Towards the end of the episode, the background shunting noise is cut off and some whistle sounds are also missing in the US version.
  • On PBS Kids Sprout airings, this episode used the unrestored opening credits.
  • The area where Thomas travels in the first scene is the same set Sir Handel and George had their altercation in the fourth series episode, Steam Roller, but with standard gauge track added.
  • A grey warehouse from TUGS appears at the shunting yards.
  • This is the third episode that Douglas gets a speaking role, but without Donald.

Goofs

  • When Thomas puffs past the field at the beginning, studio equipment is visible in the top-right corner. In addition, Clarabel appears to be facing forwards.
  • While Percy is telling Thomas about Stepney, as the camera is on Thomas, Percy's right lamp iron is bent but when the camera is on Percy, it is normal.
  • While the engines wait for Stepney, a tar wagon, perched on another tar wagon, is visible behind Gordon and Henry.
  • Stepney has Smudger's whistle sound in most of the US version; his usual one is heard once. In both the UK and US versions, Stepney has Duke's whistle sound when he is working with Duck.
  • In the US version, when Percy finishes talking about Stepney, his whistle sound is a higher pitched version of Thomas' whistle.
  • In the UK and international versions, Gordon, Duck and Douglas have the same whistle sound.
  • When Thomas says "Why are we waiting? My passengers are being delayed," a black box is attached to his cab.
  • In the close-up of Thomas' driver, Annie is facing the wrong way.
  • In the US dub, George Carlin mistakenly says "Stop all train!" instead of "Stop all trains!"

Quotes

Thomas: Peep, peep! Good morning, Percy. My branch is the pride of the line. Wouldn't you agree?
Percy: Uh yes, Thomas, of course, but...
Thomas: But what, Percy? Out with it.
Percy: Well there is another engine with the famous branch line too.
Thomas: Who? Where?
Percy: His name's Stepney. He's faraway, but Sir Topham Hatt says he may visit us.
Thomas: When?
Percy: Oh someday.

Stepney: Everyone's been so kind, but my railway is so short and I do miss a good long run.
Rusty: I think you should tell driver, too. I'm sure he'll understand.

Percy: He runs a famous branch line. Did you know that?
Thomas: [jealous] Huh! It may be famous but my branch is the first on the line. Everyone knows that too. [leaves to fetch his coaches]
Percy: Look! Why have they all come? There's no train yet.
[but Percy is wrong, as the signal drops, and an unfamiliar whistle is heard]
Douglas: Here he comes!
[Stepney arrives and whistles]
Edward: I hope you'll meet Thomas too. You both have branch lines to be proud of.

Thomas: Shunted, and on my own branch too! It's a disgrace!
Stepney: I'm sorry I was a special.
Thomas: Why?
Stepney: An important passenger arrived just as you left, he ordered a special train and Duck let me take it. We had a splendid run, but...
Thomas: But, it can make an engine nervous not to know the line.
Stepney: Exactly. You're such an expert.
Narrator: Thomas felt much better. He couldn't be cross anymore and began telling Stepney all about his branch line.
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