- “Come on then, James. Let's go on a ghost hunt!”
- ―Sir Topham Hatt
The Phantom Express is the thirteenth episode of the seventeenth season.
One dark and foggy night, Percy is getting ready to take the mail train. He is especially excited because he is to make his first ever delivery to Ulfstead Castle. James decides to play a trick on Percy and tries to scare him by telling him about the "Phantom Express", who is a ghost engine that travels around Ulfstead Castle. Thomas tries to reassure Percy that there is no such thing as ghosts, but Percy is nervous as he sets off to the castle.
At Ulfstead Castle, Percy is waiting for the mail to be unloaded when he hears a puffing noise. Percy thinks it might be the phantom, until Stephen comes puffing out of the tunnel. Percy tells Stephen about the Phantom Express, but Stephen reassures Percy that he has never seen a ghost around the estate. Then, James pulls in with coal for the castle fires and asks if Percy has seen the phantom yet. Percy tells James that he does not believe in the phantom and that Stephen has never seen it. James is cross and says that he has seen the phantom puffing around the castle that very night. Stephen laughs at James' claims but then they all hear an eerie hooting noise. It's only an owl, but Percy and Stephen believe James when he says that it is the Phantom Express' whistle. Stephen tells Percy that they should meet up after they have done their jobs, just to be on the safe side.
James rolls onto a dark siding and turns off his lamp. As Stephen rolls by, James blows his whistle. The whistle sound gets distorted by some nearby pipes and makes it echo. Stephen is alarmed and races back towards the castle, but he does not notice that the drawbridge is raised. Stephen bashes through the barrier as his crew jump clear. Stephen falls off the bridge and lands in the dry moat below.
Meanwhile, Percy has finished the mail run and has arrived back at the castle to meet up with Stephen as arranged. Percy is concerned when he cannot find Stephen and thinks that the phantom must have gotten him. James creeps up behind Percy and makes a spooky groaning noise. Percy is so scared that he races away and ends up falling in the moat alongside Stephen. James thinks it is now time to come clean about his joke, but he cannot find Stephen or Percy anywhere. As James puffs around the misty castle ground, James starts to get scared and even starts to believe his own made-up ghost story. James travels over the drawbridge, unaware that Percy and Stephen are in the moat below. Stephen and Percy decide to whistle for help. James thinks it is the Phantom Express and races away from Ulfstead Castle.
The Fat Controller is at the dairy with Thomas as James rushes in. He tells the Fat Controller that Percy and Stephen are missing and that the ghost has got them. The Fat Controller knows there are no such things as ghosts, but curious to find out where Percy and Stephen have got to, he agrees to go to the castle with James.
As James and the Fat Controller approach the castle, they hear the spooky whistling. The Fat Controller tells James that it is not a ghost and goes to inspect. When the drawbridge is raised, the Fat Controller discovers Stephen and Percy in the moat. Percy explains what happened and James comes clean about his trick. The Fat Controller is not amused.
A short while later, Rocky has lifted Stephen and Percy out of the moat. The Fat Controller punishes James by giving him Percy's nighttime mail run for a whole month. Stephen and Percy chuckle and tease James about the phantom as they leave. At first, James laughs at it as well, but then he is startled by the owl's hooting and follows them out of the castle.
- Sir Topham Hatt
- Rocky (does not speak)
- Edward (cameo)
- Gordon (cameo)
- Emily (cameo)
- The Dairy Manager (cameo)
- The title of this episode is based off the 1932 mystery crime-thriller film, "The Phantom Express."
- Elements from the ninth season episode, Flour Power are used.
- The lamp that Sir Topham Hatt is seen holding is the exact same lamp that James was fitted with in the fourteenth season episode, James in the Dark, only it is smaller than the one seen in that episode.
- The drawbridge at Ulfstead Castle gained a barrier and signal in front of it.
- Going by production order, this is the twentieth episode of the seventeenth season.
- This episode's title in the Korean dub is "유령기차", which is the same title as the second season episode, "Ghost Train" in the same dub.
- When Percy explains what the Phantom Express is to Stephen, his train disappears.
- When James pulls up in the siding ready to spook Stephen, some pipes on a flatbed can be seen. A few shots later, the flatbed is gone and the pipes are just on the ground.
- In some versions, Percy's US voice is heard when Percy is whimpering as he approaches the castle.
- James: "Percy and Stephen are missing! The ghost has got them."
- Stephen: "Hello, Percy. I see you've found the meeting place."
In Other Languages