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The Great Discovery

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This article is about the movie. You may be looking for the book or the audiobook.
"Oh my, my! Whatever will Thomas say?"
— Henry after Stanley's arrival
The Great Discovery

Steve Asquith


Simon Spencer


Sharon Miller


Pierce Brosnan
(final cut)
Gwyneth Paltrow
(original script)

Music by

Robert Hartshorne
Ed Welch


HiT Entertainment
Lionsgate (US)
ABC for Kids (AUS)
Deltamac (China)
UHE (Taiwan)
Europa Mini (Germany)
Sony Creative Products
Dynit Kids (Italy)
HVN (Malaysia)


September 9th,
2008 (US)
October 6th,
2008 (UK; DVD)
November 6th,
2008 (AUS)
October 16th,
2009 (GER; Theaterical)
October 17th,
2009 (GER; TV)
October 21st,
2009 (NOR)
October 23rd,
2009 (JPN)
November 3rd,
2009 (DEN)
November 4th,
2009 (SWE)
November 27th,
2009 (FIN)
December 22nd,
2010 (TWN)
March 5th,
2011 (HUN/ROM)
November 23rd,
2011 (ITA)
March 27th,
2015 (UK; iTunes)


60 mins

Preceded by

Calling All Engines!

Followed by

Hero of the Rails

The Great Discovery is a Thomas & Friends special.


The railway is preparing for Sodor Day and Thomas and James are racing to the wharf to be given a special job by Mr. Percival. Thomas wins and is sent into the hills to collect lumber with Duncan. After Thomas teases Duncan, Duncan pays Thomas out by sending him on an old, disused line which he claims will lead Thomas back to the wharf faster. After avoiding an old, collapsing bridge, Thomas takes another route at the old junction, and as he journeys further down the line, he comes across an old overgrown town.

The news of Thomas' discovery spreads and eventually reaches the Fat Controller, who tells Thomas that the town is Great Waterton - the largest town on Sodor when steam engines first came to the island. The Fat Controller decides that the restoration of the legendary lost town would be perfect for Sodor Day and calls the Pack to help. Thomas is told to take charge of the engines working around the town, while a new tank engine named Stanley is brought to do Thomas' regular jobs.

All of the engines take to Stanley, who does a good job and has fun as well, but when Thomas sees Stanley doing his jobs and fraternising with his friends, he becomes jealous. Thomas is furious when Stanley takes his place at Tidmouth Sheds and the final straw comes when Stanley takes his place as the leader of the restoration project after Thomas has an accident.

Later, Thomas is shunting stone trucks for Stanley to take away when he decides to make Stanley look foolish by giving him a train too heavy for him to pull, but the plan backfires - as Stanley ascends the hill, a coupling breaks and the trucks race down the hill, veering into a siding and crashing into the newly finished tower. The Fat Controller states that this will likely set back the restoration past Sodor Day and Thomas is blamed. Stanley, however, realises that Thomas merely missed his friends and wants to set things right.

That night, Thomas decides to clear the rubble out of the way. He is almost finished when he accidentally bumps a truck into an old mine shaft. Racing in after it, Thomas crashes onto a wooden platform and floats down an underground waterway. The engines soon realise that Thomas is missing and the Fat Controller organises a search effort. The everyone searched everywhere, but no one could find Thomas. Everyone tried their hardest, but Thomas was nowhere to be seen. They were just about to give up, when Percy reminds them that Thomas found Great Waterton on his own, stating that it's his town and can't have the opening without him and everyone agrees. Stanley thinks Thomas ran after the incident yesterday and tries to find him the hills. Meanwhile, Thomas continues floating until he reaches an opening to the mine and is flung across a canyon and down a hill.

Stanley decides to make another search effort by himself before he returns to work. Thomas, with the last of his steam, sounds a loud, long whistle. Stanley hears it and hurries to where Thomas is stranded beside the track. The two make up for their quarrel and Stanley pulls Thomas back onto the rails, but the strain is too much for Stanley and a valve bursts. Thomas, using some of Stanley's coal, pushes him back to Great Waterton. The word soon spreads that Thomas has been found.

The standpipe is rebuilt, completing the restoration. As a sign of friendship, Thomas offers Stanley his last job - bringing the mayor to the festivities at Great Waterton. The engines gather at the town for the celebration and Thomas realises just how important his friends are.


Characters Introduced



Take Along

  • Stanley
  • Thomas and Morgan's Mine Car
  • Working Hard Gift Pack
  • Great Waterton Grand Opening 4 Pack
  • Morgan's Mine Set
  • Great Waterton Fold and Go Set
  • Great Waterton Expansion Pack

Wooden Railway

  • Stanley
  • Mud Covered Thomas
  • Morgan's Mine
  • Sodor day Thomas and Stanley
  • A Race to the Wharf Set
  • The Great Discovery Set


  • Stanley
  • Thomas at Action Canyon
  • Thomas at Morgan's Mine


  • The Great Discovery Set
  • Great Waterton Station
  • Stanley's Shed
  • Waterton Butchers, Blacksmiths, Post Office, Ben's Books, Ed's Garage and Great Waterton Station platform.




  • The Great Discovery was shown in select theatres in the US throughout July, in the UK throughout September and in Australia throughout November 2008. It made a return to Australian theatres on January 17th, 2013.
  • Big Mickey and Vienna from TUGS can be seen.
  • This was the final special for several things:
    • The final Thomas & Friends production to use an all-model set. The twelfth season aired with several parts of the set in CGI, and starting with Hero of the Rails all footage was done in CGI.
    • The last special to feature songs by Ed Welch.
    • The last special filmed interlaced.
    • The last special until King of the Railway where the UK and the US have the same narrator.
    • The final Thomas and Friends production made at Shepperton Studios.
  • This was the first for several things:
    • The first special written by Sharon Miller.
    • The first US DVD released by Lionsgate.
    • The first special filmed digitally in high definition.
  • This was the only time for several things:
    • Jamie Thomason's only special as voice director.
    • Stanley's only appearance as a full model, without a CGI face.
    • Pierce Brosnan's only special as narrator.
    • The only special in which Diesel 10 appears, but does not speak.
  • The special marks the final appearances and/or speaking roles of several characters:
    • The last appearance of Bill and last time he and Ben are seen together until the seventeenth season episode, Percy's Lucky Day.
    • Harvey's last speaking role until the seventeenth season episode, Gone Fishing.
    • Arthur and Miss Jenny's last speaking roles to date.
    • Alfie's last speaking role until Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure.
    • The last time Max and Monty are seen together until Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure.
    • Oliver's last appearance until Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure.
    • Molly, Elizabeth, Terence, Madge, George, Dennis, Ned, Kelly and Buster's last appearances to date.
  • Stock footage from Thomas and the Lighthouse, Edward and the Mail, and Percy and the Left Luggage are used.
  • Pierce Brosnan was to take over as narrator starting with this special. However, he departed the series after the special for unknown reasons and was later credited as a "special guest narrator." Michael Angelis and Michael Brandon returned to replace him for the twelfth season to the sixteenth.
  • Before Pierce Brosnan would take the role as the special guest narrator, Gwyneth Paltrow was in talks with HiT Entertainment according to SiF, thus would have made her the first woman storyteller for the series, however she immediately left.
  • In the original US trailer, Fox was originally going to distribute the DVD.
  • Among other things, the Sodor Daily newspaper reports that "Percy is in tears" and mentions something about "Trevor the Traction Engine." Another article reports on an Alicia Botti concert. The paper's articles are apparently written by "J.K. Lee." The date for the newspaper is Monday, March 24th, 1955.
  • This special was broadcast on PBS Kids Sprout on June 5th and 6th, 2010 and on ABC2 in Australia on April 24th, 2011.
  • Special Walmart editions, including a bonus CD featuring all five songs from the special, were released.
  • This special takes place between the eleventh and twelfth seasons.
  • The first UK trailer was narrated by Tim Whitnall, who later joined the voice cast in 2014.
  • Due to Jack and the Sodor Construction Company never being shown in Norway, Japan, Greece, Poland, Finland and Romania, those viewers would not have known who Monty and Buster are.
  • According to a behind-the-scenes photo, there aren't any rails on the bridge that Molly and Rosie are on.
  • The Polish version of the songs are performed by Beata Wyrąbkiewicz, Veronica Łukaszewska and Marcin Mroziński.


  • When Thomas and James race to the Wharf, the number of lines between them changes.
  • When Thomas and James enter the wharf, Freddie and Skarloey appear twice in two different places.
  • Stanley's siderods are out of alignment when his wheels spin as he struggles with the trucks.
  • When the engines are shown covered in brick dust, Toby's face looks crooked.
  • When Stanley returns to Great Waterton after the accident he is on the track to Thomas' left. In the next scene, when Thomas is alone in a siding, Stanley is on the track to Thomas' right.
  • When Stanley leaves Great Waterton to look for Thomas, James is seen at the back of the group of engines. After Stanley realises that Thomas has been feeling upset, James is seen behind the line of stone trucks.
  • When Thomas sees the barrier in the disused mine he brakes, but before he smashes through the barrier his wheels move.
  • When Thomas falls off the bank the planks of wood that also fall are bigger than him.
  • When Thomas tips over, a bent piece of rail used to push him up and off the rails can clearly be seen.
  • When Thomas comes to a stop at the bottom of the hill, the grass goes over his face, but in every following scene, the amount covering his face is different.
  • After Stanley pulls Thomas onto the tracks, the points that lead to where Thomas landed can be seen; this proves a hidden track was used to help Thomas onto the line.
  • After Thomas is pulled back onto the rails, he becomes clean.
  • As the events of this special take place in 1955, the appearances of several characters are anachronistic:
    • Salty's basis was not built for another seven years.
    • Diesel 10's basis was not built for another three years.
    • Madge's basis was not built for another nine years.
    • Jack was not built for another ten years.
    • Alfie was not built for another five years.
    • Max and Monty's basis was not around for another four years.
    • Jeremy's basis would not have been built for another eight years.
    • Emily would have to have arrived sometime after 1967, as Oliver, who she saved on her first day, arrived that year.
    • Rheneas was away for repairs at that time and did not come back until 1961.
    • Peter Sam had not acquired his special funnel until that same year.
    • Rusty and Duncan had not joined the Skarloey Railway until 1957 and 1958 respectively.
    • Mavis was not loaned to Sodor until 1972.
    • Diesel would not have visited Sodor until 1957.
  • At the opening of Great Waterton, Gordon and Henry swap places twice by the standpipe and Jack is sitting on the rails.
  • Jack and Bertie have Caroline's horn sound.
  • When Stanley pulls Thomas back on the tracks, a thin wire can be seen pulling Stanley.
  • On the UK DVD, in the game Follow the Whistle, Gordon is in Edward's place.
  • The narrator said that Sir Topham Hatt and Miss Jenny arrived after the tower fell down, but Sir Topham Hatt is already at Great Waterton when the trucks rolled down the hill.
  • Madge's eyes are wonky when she first starts talking to Mighty Mac.
  • Some US trailers state that Thomas goes on a dangerous mission, but he doesn't do so in the special.


DVD Bonus features



  • Thomas, You're the Leader sing-a-long
  • Behind the Scenes with Pierce Brosnan
  • Spot the Difference
  • Tough Trucks!
  • Thomas' Puzzle Parts
  • Trailers

In Other Languages

Language Name Meaning
Spanish El Gran Descubrimiento The Great Discovery
Norwegian Den Store Oppdagelsen The Great Discovery
Japanese トーマスをすくえ!!ミステリーマウンテン Rescue Thomas!! Mystery Mountain
Dutch De Grote Ontdekking The Great Discovery
Italian La Grande Scoperta The Great Discovery
Finnish Suuri Loytoretki Exploration of Large
Polish Wielkie Odkrycie Great Discovery
Swedish Den Stora Upptacten The Great Discovery
Danish Det Store Fund The Great Finds
German Die große Entdeckung The Great Discovery
Romanian Marea Descoperire Great Discovery
Hungarian A nagy felfedezés The Great Discovery
Russian Великое открытие Grand Opening
Slovak Veľký objav Great Discovery
Portuguese A Grande Descoberta The Great Discovery
Greek Η μεγαλη ανακαλυψη The Great Discovery
Thai ตอน การค้นพบครั้งยิ่งใหญ่ของโธมัส The Great Discovery of Thomas

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