September 22nd, 1986
One day, Thomas wakes up feeling ill. Workmen are unable to make him feel better, so the Fat Controller is forced to send Thomas to the works for a while. He then asks Duck to take over Thomas' duties on the branch line. Duck is delighted to be given such a responsibility.
Duck is already friends with Percy and quickly befriends Toby, Bertie, and Terence, who tells Duck to take extra special care with Annie and Clarabel. Duck is very gentle with them and both coaches are left very impressed with the Great Western engine and remark on what a pleasure it is to go out with him. When Thomas returns from the works, the two coaches tell him how well Duck had managed on the line. Thomas does not feel jealous, he is just happy to be back home.
Although he is back from the works, Thomas is not in complete working order. His handbrake has been left very stiff, meaning it can feel like his breaks are hard-on when they are not. Because of this, Thomas begins to over run the station platform, embarrassing him greatly. Eventually, Thomas' crew learns to compensate for the handbrake and they stop in just the right place.
Thomas' fireman falls ill one day and a relief man takes his place. Thomas arrives at the station and the new fireman couples him to Annie and Clarabel then joins the driver and stationmaster on the platform while they wait for Henry to deliver his passengers. However, the relief fireman has forgotten about the stiff handbrake. Soon Henry starts to approach with the passengers, but as Thomas' brakes are not completely on, his wheels start to move and Thomas cannot stop or whistle a warning without his crew. Before anyone realises what has happened, Thomas has left everyone stranded on the platform.
Annie and Clarabel scream for Thomas to stop, but he has plenty of steam and keeps going. Soon an alarm goes out about the runaway train. An engine inspector boards Harold the helicopter and flies to a station where Thomas is due to pass by and makes a plan.
When Thomas reaches the station, he is very tired and is moving far slower than normal. The inspector makes it to the platform, and when Thomas passes, the inspector scrambles aboard the cab and puts Thomas' brakes on, finally bringing the tank engine to a stop. Both Thomas and the inspector are very relieved and thank Harold, who tells them it was no problem.
The inspector tells Thomas that they must make sure this never happens again. Thomas, exhausted, could not agree more.
- Annie and Clarabel
- Sir Topham Hatt
- Edward (does not speak)
- Henry (does not speak)
- Percy (does not speak)
- Toby (does not speak)
- Duck (does not speak)
- James (cameo)
- Bertie (mentioned)
- Tidmouth Sheds
- Ffarquhar Sheds
- The Watermill
- Sodor Shipping Company
- The Works (mentioned)
- 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 and Bertie, Old Iron, and Percy and Harold is used.
- In the George Carlin version, Thomas whistles when he comes home, when he passes Duck, and when he is at the station. When Henry arrives at Elsbridge, he whistles too; these are missing in the Ringo Starr versions.
- In both Ringo Starr versions, the inspector remarks at the end, "Whew! We must never let this happen again, Thomas!" In the George Carlin version, he says, "Thomas, we must never let this happen again."
- In Norway, this episode is named "Runaway Train". The Croatian title is "Breakout". In Italy, it is called "A Wild Ride". In Japan, this episode is called "Broken Brakes". The French title is "The Fugitive". It is called "Help from Harold" in Welsh. In Spanish is called "Thomas In Difficulties".
- When the Fat Controller speaks to Duck, the right buffer of the breakdown train is broken.
- The brakevan behind Duck appears to be derailed when Thomas passes.
- Duck's eyes look wonky when he stops next to Terence.
- When Duck leaves Terence, his eyes jitter for a few seconds.
- Annie is facing the wrong way when Duck passes Tidmouth Sheds.
- When Thomas returns to the sheds, Percy's eyes are wonky.
- The ill fireman's arm starts very low down on his body.
- During the shot of the ill fireman, the cab is actually James'. This is because the scene was shot at the same time as Old Iron.
- Many of the small scale railway staff figures have paint chips.
- Henry's eyes are wonky.
- Henry is smiling when Thomas is running away. Annie and Clarabel are also smiling throughout the runaway.
- Just before he runs away, Thomas' "1" seems to have peeled off slightly.
- When Harold lands at the station, studio equipment is reflected on his "blades".
- After Harold has landed at the station, a piece of paper is stuck to his side.
- Thomas enters the station when the inspector is on the platform, but comes into the station again a few seconds later.
- In a close-up of Thomas' wheels, a red wire can be seen near his middle wheel.
- Thomas' eyes are wonky for most of the episode.
- The stock footage of Harold flying through the valley was improperly cut as Percy can be seen for a split-second.