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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 12th,
1986 (UK)
May 6th,
1988 (AUS)
May 7th,
1989 (US)
July 16th,
1991 (JAP)
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.

Thomas complains that the engines are just going slowly to make him late; one morning he grumbles at Henry for his lateness. Henry defends himself by telling Thomas that he cannot go any quicker during the repair work, but Thomas is not interested and he leaves to try and make up for lost 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.




  • This episode is based on the story of the same name from The Railway Series book, More About Thomas the Tank Engine.
  • Stock footage from Thomas' Train, Thomas and the Guard, and Thomas and Bertie, and a deleted scene from Thomas and Trevor are used.
  • The final scenes of this episode may have been filmed alongside Bertie's Chase as Thomas and Bertie are in the same positions at Tidmouth as they were in that episode. Also, Bertie's eyes are in the same position as they were in that episode as well.
  • In the US, this episode aired before Saved from Scrap, so the audience would not know who Trevor is.
  • For the remainder of the second season, the viaduct is always seen undergoing repairs.
  • Christopher Awdry's credit for the episode was originally showed when the episode was compiled with Break Van, later versions throughout the 1990s (most notibly on VHS and Cartoon Network) used the end credits from Duck Takes Charge, when the remastered/restored version came out Christopher's credit for the episode was mentioned.


  • 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!".
  • 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
Dutch Beter laat dan nooit Better Late Than Never
Croatian Bolje kasno nego nikad Better Late Than Never
Danish Hellere sent end aldrig Better Late Than Never
Slovenian Bolje pozno, kot nikoli Better Late Than Never
Hungarian Jobb Későn, mint Soha Better Late Than Never
Finnish Parempi Myöhään Kuin.... Better Late Than....



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