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Better Late Than Never

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This article is about the episode. You may be looking for the American VHS, the German VHS, the Danish DVD, the Croatian DVD, or the story.
"Time's time! Why should I keep my passengers waiting, while Henry and James dawdle about all day on viaducts?"
— Thomas
Better Late Than Never

David Mitton


David Mitton
Robert D. Cardona


Christopher Awdry
Britt Allcroft
David Mitton


Ringo Starr (UK/US)
George Carlin (US)

Air date

November 20th,
1986 (UK)
May 6th,
1988 (Australia)
May 7th,
1989 (US)
June 8th,
1993 (George
Carlin US

Previous episode

A Close Shave/
A Close Shave
for Duck

Next episode

Break Van/
Donald and Douglas

Better Late Than Never is the fifteenth episode of the second season. It aired in the US on the Shining Time Station episodes, Promises, Promises and Mr. Conductor's Big Sleepwalk.


Work has become hard for the engines on the Island of Sodor. The viaduct on the main line is being repaired, with the arches being strengthened. As the Fat Controller is unwilling to close the railway during repairs, the work is taking a long time and all engines crossing the viaduct must cross slowly and carefully, lest they risk it collapsing under them. Because of this, the engines are often late making it to the junction where Thomas waits for his passengers.

However, the way Thomas would complain, it would seem that the engines were just going slowly to make him late. One morning, Thomas is angry with Henry for his lateness. Henry defends himself, telling Thomas that he cannot make it any quicker during the repair work, but Thomas is not interested and leaves to try and make up some of the time.

Normally when Thomas stops at the station, Bertie arrives soon after and his passengers go straight from him to Thomas. However, when the larger engines are late for Thomas, then Thomas is late for Bertie's passengers and now they often find themselves waiting on the platform, causing Bertie to become angry with Thomas. When Thomas arrives that day, Bertie tells Thomas that he thought he could go faster than that. He then remarks they should have another race, thinking he could now beat him causing an exhausted Thomas to become angry and place the blame on the main line engines "dithering" on the viaduct.

Another day, James arrives later than ever. He apologises, a hold-up at the station combined with the delay at the viaduct causing his lateness. Thomas, as usual, is not interested in excuses and leaves grumbling. He attempts to get to the station as fast as he can, but does not make up very much time. However things change when Thomas spots Bertie at the level crossing, where his radiator is steaming. Thomas tells Bertie he is late, but Bertie tells Thomas that he feels dreadful and his driver cannot repair him. It is lucky that Thomas was running so late, as he can now pick up the passengers here instead of having them be stranded. Thomas does not feel angry anymore and is sorry for Bertie. Promising to send help at the next station, Thomas leaves and takes the passengers home.

When Bertie is repaired, he and Thomas make up their argument and both agree that sometimes being late can actually be quite useful.





  • Edward has Thomas' whistle sound at the very beginning.
  • Thomas has to wait for James at the junction; James is supposedly bringing Thomas' passengers, but he is pulling vans.
  • In many scenes, Clarabel is facing the wrong way.
  • Bertie's face is loose when he says "Late again!".
  • The scenes where Thomas takes the passengers home and Bertie coming to thank Thomas are both unrestored for unknown reasons.
  • Some sources mislabel this episode as "Better Late than Ever".
  • Thomas' eyes are wonky when he says "Time's time!".

In Other Languages

Language Name Meaning
Spanish Mas vale tarde que nunca Better Late Than Never
Norwegian Bedre sent enn aldri Better Late Than Never
Italian ritardi Delays
Japanese おくれるのもわるくない It's Not So Bad to be Late



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