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- “My parents read stories about your railway to me as a child. There will never be anything like it anywhere.”
- ―The Prince
Thomas and his Friends is the forty-second and final book in The Railway Series.
The Fat Controller welcomes back Pip and Emma to help on his Railway. Thomas is delighted; Gordon is worried that his time as the Express is over. But every engine has its day! Thomas makes an important rescue, Gordon proves himself a hero, and all the engines celebrate a Very Important Event.
The Awdry family is delighted to be able to mark the centenary of the Thin Clergyman's birth with the publication of this book. The Fat Controller wanted to celebrate the occasion too, and quickly made his own plans. What were they? Turn the pages to find out...
Thomas and the Swan
Pip and Emma arrive at the big station one day and the Fat Controller tells Thomas and Gordon that they will be running the express service to London. They soon become a success.
One day, Thomas is leaving the station by the river, when he sees something white on the bridge ahead. He and his crew think that it is a newspaper, until Thomas sees a head and a long neck emerge from the bundle. After looking at it, Thomas' crew realise that it is a swan, which has broken a wing. They place the swan in Thomas' cab and take it to the top station where a vet takes it to his surgery. A few days later, they set the swan free. Thomas is congratulated for his rescue by the Fat Controller and the other engines.
Donald and Douglas are delivering ballast hoppers from the Arlesdale Railway to Tidmouth Yard for James, who is taking the trucks to a section of the mainline undergoing track maintenance. Donald moves into a siding one day, but the rails are slippery with frost and he finds himself brought to a stop by the buffers. Nobody is harmed, but the buffers are smashed to smithereens. The other engines tease Donald and tell him he should go into skating championships, but the Fat Controller does not mind, as he knows Donald could not help it. Three days later, James collects the final ballast train, while Douglas slides into the siding where workmen are just finishing painting the new buffers. Douglas' driver applies the brakes, but nothing happens and Douglas crashes straight through the new buffers. The foreman angrily splashes some red paint onto Douglas' nose, which the Fat Controller leaves on his nose as a reminder to be more careful in sidings.
Gordon’s Fire Service
Gordon is taking a stopping train on the main line when he sees a red glow from under a bridge. A tractor's load of haybales had caught fire and the fire has begun spreading to the grassy banks. Gordon's crew tries to put it out, but to no avail. Then Gordon has a wonderful idea: the hose inside his cab can be used. The driver and fireman quickly get to work and soon the fire is out. The fire engine soon arrives, but when the firemen find the fire is already out, they praise Gordon for his quick thinking. Gordon is awarded the Queen's Fire Service Medal for his bravery.
The engines are preparing to celebrate the centenary of the Thin Clergyman. James is chosen to go and collect the bust of the Thin Clergyman from the Mainland. He collects the bust safely and has just gone through Henry's Tunnel on his return journey when the tunnel collapses, cutting off Sodor from the Mainland. Henry and the Scottish Twins are sent to repair the tunnel. Meanwhile however, all trains have to stop at Crovan's Gate whilst Bertie and his friends bring the passengers to and from the Mainland. At Ffarquhar Sheds, Percy tells Toby that the Thin Clergyman is "broken" until Thomas explains what a bust actually is. Soon Pip and Emma, who were stranded on the Mainland, are cleared as the first train to travel through the repaired tunnel. At Tidmouth station, out of Pip and Emma's coaches steps Prince Charles. He unveils the Thin Clergyman's bust and proudly declares, "There will never be anything like [the Fat Controller's Railway] anywhere".
- Pip and Emma
- The Fat Controller
- The Prince
- Donald (do not speak)
- Annie and Clarabel (do not speak)
- Edward (cameo)
- Duck (cameo)
- Daisy (cameo)
- BoCo (cameo)
- Bertie (mentioned)
- A Peel Godred Engine (mentioned)
- The Thin Clergyman (mentioned)
- Mavis (prototype cover only)
- Elsbridge Viaduct
- River Els
- Tidmouth Sheds
- Hawin Croka
- Kellsthorpe Castle
- Henry's Tunnel
- Ffarquhar Sheds
- The book is dedicated to Wilbert Awdry and has the inscription, before the foreword, "In memory of the Rev. W. Awdry (1911 - 1997), without whom none of Thomas' adventures would have been told".
- The prototype cover used an illustration from Thomas and the Fat Controller's Engines.
- Originally scheduled for release on 4 July 2011, the book was pushed back until the 6th.
- This was the only book in the Railway Series to reference the Peel Godred Branch Line.
- This book marks Pip's only speaking role in the Railway Series.
- Unlike all the other Railway Series books, the final story ends with the words "the end". This is because it is the final book in the series.
- On the front cover, it is the only book in the series to feature a black-coloured outline, instead of white. This change in aesthetic was also featured on the prototype cover.
- Throughout "Buffer Bashing", Donald and Douglas' tenders are incorrectly proportioned.