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“He wanted to be the leader of the track. But we're all leaders of the track.”
―Pierce Brosnan talking about Thomas

The Great Discovery is a Thomas & Friends movie special released in 2008.


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.

I am brave, and I am strong, I'll chuff to the wharf, it won't be long.

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.

This... is a DISASTER!

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.

Later 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 into a blocked tunnel and falls down into the water where he floats down an underground waterway.


Fizzling fireboxes! This tunnel is flooded!

The engines soon realise that Thomas is missing and the Fat Controller organises a search effort. Then everyone searched everywhere, but no one could find Thomas. Everyone tried their hardest, but Thomas was nowhere to be seen.

This is a state of emergency. EVERYONE MUST LOOK FOR THOMAS!

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 in the dark tunnel until he reaches an opening to the mine and is flung across a canyon and down a hill without the wooden planks that made him float in the mine.

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.


We're all leaders of the track.


Character 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

Motor Road and Rail

  • Stanley


  • Stanley
  • Thomas at Action Canyon (Thomas at Tumblin' Bridge in the UK)
  • Thomas at Morgan's Mine


  • Thomas and the Great Discovery Set
  • Great Waterton Station
  • Great Waterton Butchers
  • Great Waterton Post Office
  • Great Waterton Blacksmiths
  • Great Waterton Footbridge
  • Great Waterton Blacksmiths
  • Great Waterton Ben's Books
  • Great Waterton Ed's Garage
  • Great Waterton Station Platform
  • Stanley's Shed


  • Stanley at Great Waterton
  • Thomas at Morgan's Mine
  • James Celebrates Sodor Day

Capsule Plarail

  • Stanley




  • 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 17 January 2013.
  • Stock footage from Thomas and the Storyteller, Edward and the Mail, Thomas and the Lighthouse, Thomas in Trouble, Henry's Lucky Day and Percy and the Left Luggage are used.
  • Big Mickey and Vienna from TUGS can be seen.
  • Possibly due to it's limited release by Kidtoon Films, the film is rated G in the United States.
  • This was the first special for multiple things:
    • The first special where both the US and the UK have the same narrator.
    • The first appearance of The Pack in the main series since the sixth season episode, A Friend in Need, excluding their appearances in ninth season music videos.
    • It also marks Monty and Buster's first appearances in the main series; Max had been introduced without Monty in the sixth season and he had only previously appeared in the spin-off Jack and the Sodor Construction Company, the same applies with Buster.
    • The first time in the series where each member of the Steam Team appears and have speaking roles.
    • The first special written by Sharon Miller.
    • The first US DVD released by Lionsgate.
    • The first special filmed digitally in 1080p high definition, even though it is not available on Blu-ray.
    • The first special that does not feature any sort of antagonist.
    • The first special not to feature Henrietta or Knapford Station, not even as a stock footage appearance. Although, they did appear in music videos from this special.
    • Dennis' first appearance since his debut in the ninth season as well as his last appearance to date.
    • The first special to have a member of the Steam Team speak only one line, with those engines being Edward, Henry, Toby and Emily.
    • Skarloey, Rheneas, Sir Handel, Peter Sam, Jack, Alfie, Oliver the Excavator, Mr. Percival, Rocky, Trevor, Max and Monty, Rosie and Whiff's first appearances in a special.
    • The first special in which Harvey, Cranky, and Lady Hatt have speaking roles.
    • The first special to not have a video game based on it.
  • This was also the last special for several things:
    • The last special to feature songs and music composed by Ed Welch.
    • The last special filmed interlaced.
    • The last special until King of the Railway where both the US and the UK have the same narrator.
    • The final Thomas & Friends production to use an all-model set. The twelfth season aired with several parts of the set in CGI like the faces, people, and animals, and starting with Hero of the Rails all footage was done in CGI.
    • The last special until Blue Mountain Mystery to have songs during the runtime.
    • The last special to date to feature the Theme Song, Island Of Sodor Intro and Engine Roll Call.
    • The final Thomas and Friends production made at Shepperton Studios.
  • 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 because Pierce Brosnan was originally going to take over as narrator in twelfth season starting with this special and departed from the series and Michael Angelis and Michael Brandon narrating episodes from twelfth season to the sixteenth.
    • The only special in which Diesel 10 appears, but does not speak, as well as his only appearance without an antagonistic role.
    • The only appearances of Arthur, Duncan, Mighty Mac, Freddie, Ned, Buster, Madge, Jenny Packard, Molly, Terence, Jeremy, Dennis, Elizabeth, Cyril the Fogman, Lord Callan, the Storyteller, Mr. Bubbles, the Dairy Manager, Allicia Botti, and members of the Railway Board in a special.
  • The special marks the final appearances and/or speaking roles of several characters:
  • Pierce Brosnan was to take over as narrator in twelfth season 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 until Mark Moraghan took over for them for the seventeenth season and King of the Railway until Joseph May and John Hasler took over Mark Moraghan for Big World! Big Adventures! The Movie and twenty-second season .
  • 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 English dub of the series, however she immediately left.
  • In the original US trailer, Fox was originally going to distribute the DVD, but Lionsgate took over instead.
  • Among other things, if you look really closely, the Sodor Daily newspaper reports that "Percy is in tears" and mentions something about "Trevor the Traction Engine." Another article reports on an Allicia Botti concert. The paper's articles are apparently written by "J.K. Lee."The date for the newspaper is Monday, March 24th, 1955. However, this date is incorrect, as March 24th, 1955 was actually a Thursday.
  • 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.
  • On the UK DVD, in the game Follow the Whistle, part of the Thomas, You're the Leader song will play at the beginning along with an engine's whistle.
  • 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.
  • In the Japanese dub, Emily says Arthur's line.
  • The Polish version of the songs are performed by Beata Wyrąbkiewicz, Veronica Łukaszewska and Marcin Mroziński.
  • In Finland, this movie aired before the tenth season premiered, meaning that the audience may have not known who Rocky, Rosie, and Freddie were.
  • This special takes place in between the eleventh season and twelfth season.
  • Learning Segments were planned to be used during the special similar to Calling All Engines! but they were later removed and put into the bonus features of the DVD, as the crew felt "the story was served better by losing those moments."


  • When Thomas and James race to the Wharf, the number of lines between them changes.
  • Thomas and James switch tracks at one point when they race through the wharf.
  • When Thomas and James enter the wharf, Freddie and Skarloey appear twice in two different places.
  • In the scene of Peter Sam and Freddie pulling trucks when Thomas and James arrive at the wharf, Peter Sam has Duncan's face mask.
  • 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 and is just about to come off him.
  • 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.
  • As the events of this special take place in 1955, Salty's appearance is impossible as his basis was not built for another seven years. Diesel 10's appearance would also be impossible as his basis was not built for another three years. Duncan also only arrived in 1958. Jeremy's basis would not have been built for another eight years. It would also be impossible for Emily since she arrived in 1967 or later, as Oliver, whose life she saved on her first day, arrived in 1967. Lots of other characters' appearances are also impossible since they only arrived in the 1960s.
  • 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.
  • At the opening of Great Waterton, Gordon and Henry swap places twice by the standpipe and Jack is sitting on the rails.
  • After being pulled back onto the tracks and after Stanley's boiler valve bursts, Thomas whistles. But the narrator said earlier that Thomas had ran out of puff and could not whistle again.
  • During the scenes with Jack and the Pack, Percy's stepladder is red, though strangely his dome is gold like how it usually is.
  • Ned's eye pupils appear to be thicker than usual.
  • In the shot of Thomas, Max and Monty, Max and Monty's dumpsters are raised. But in the next shot, Max's dumpster has lowered.
  • Before Stanley appears on-screen pulling the trucks up the hill, a thin wire is seen pulling him. The same thing happens when Stanley pulls Thomas back onto the tracks.
  • On the UK DVD, in the game Follow the Whistle, Gordon is in Edward's place. He also has Edward's face and whistle sound whenever he blows his whistle.
  • The narrator said that the Fat Controller and Miss Jenny arrived after the tower fell down, but the Fat Controller 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.
  • The bridge Molly and Rosie are on during the grand opening did not have any tracks as shown in a behind-the-scenes photo.
  • Arthur tells Emily that Thomas has been found but this is unnecessary as Emily was at Great Waterton when Thomas arrived with Stanley.
  • Duck is incorrectly mentioned in the Finnish version of the special at one point.


DVD Bonus features



DVD Boxsets




  • The Complete Ninth Series and The Great Discovery Double Pack


Trailers and Featurettes

External Links

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