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- “This is the best birthday picnic ever!"
"Thomas, this is your best idea yet!”
- ―Dowager and Sir Topham Hatt
Thomas and the Birthday Picnic is the eighth episode of the ninth season.
It is Dowager Hatt's birthday and the Fat Controller decides to take her out on a birthday picnic. Thomas, who is to take the Hatts out for the day, decides to go to Shen Valley. Thomas arrives at Knapford station with Annie and Clarabel and the staff load up the picnic hamper and the birthday cake aboard Clarabel. Dowager Hatt looks very serious, making Thomas feel nervous. However, Thomas is no longer nervous once Percy cheers him up.
Thomas sets off for Shen Valley, hopeful that Dowager Hatt will love it. However, at Shen Valley, the Hatts are not impressed. The fields have just been ploughed; now, they must go elsewhere. Thomas decides to go to the Scottish Castle, but they cannot picnic there as it is closed for maintenance. Thomas sets off again, this time going too fast, making the journey uncomfortable for the Hatts. The Fat Controller tells Thomas to stop and once he does, the Fat Controller demands to know where they are going. But Thomas does not know as he has run out of ideas. The Fat Controller decides to cancel the birthday picnic as lunch-time has passed and Dowager Hatt wants to go home. Thomas heads back to Knapford, hopeful to have a good idea before they get home, but to no avail. Once the Hatts leave the train, Thomas heads sadly back to Tidmouth Sheds.
All the other engines hear what happened, but Percy hopes that Dowager Hatt will enjoy her birthday cake. Thomas quickly realises that in all his sadness, he forgot to let the staff unload the cake from Clarabel. Now Dowager Hatt cannot even have her birthday tea. Thomas hopes that an idea will come to him. As does Percy, who tries to blow his whistle, but only to make a faint whistle due to stone dust clogging it. Gordon tells Percy to blow his whistle hard and gives a long low note. Emily prefers high toots and blows two high toots of her whistle. Henry is proud of his whistle being slow and strong. All of the whistling finally gives Thomas a brilliant idea.
Later, the Fat Controller receives a phone call from the Knapford stationmaster, informing him that Thomas and the engines have a special surprise. At Knapford station, the Hatts are delighted to see the decorations and the food all set up, including the birthday cake. Thomas blows his whistle and one by one, all of the Steam Team whistles to the tune of "Happy Birthday." Dowager Hatt is very happy with her birthday picnic surprise and the Fat Controller congratulates Thomas for such a splendid idea.
- Sir Topham Hatt
- Dowager Hatt (not named in US narration)
- Annie and Clarabel (do not speak)
- Lady Hatt (does not speak)
- Edward (cameo)
- James (cameo)
- Toby (cameo)
- Salty (cameo)
- Cranky (cameo)
- Big Mickey (cameo)
- Stephen Hatt (cameo)
- The Storyteller (cameo)
- Sodor Suspension Bridge
- Tidmouth Sheds
- Brendam Docks
- Shen Valley
- Castle Loch
- Topham Hall
- Hackenbeck Bridge
- Bluff's Cove (deleted scene)
- Stock footage from Thomas to the Rescue is used.
- This is the first episode written by Sharon Miller.
- This episode marks Dowager Hatt's first speaking role since her debut, as well as the first time she is referred to by name.
- Two British Railways posters are visible at Knapford's office. One for the "Coronation Scot" and one for "Battle of Britain." These can also be found in Mighty Mac.
- This episode marks the final appearance of the Sodor Suspension Bridge until the sixteenth season episode, Whiff's Wish, excluding stock footage appearances in Emily Knows Best and Seeing the Sights.
- Going by production order, this is the seventh episode of the ninth season.
- When Percy says "Don't worry!" he tilts to the right briefly.
- When Thomas passes a white bridge with green beam supporters, Thomas' weight pushes the track down slightly.
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