- “We won't shunt like Common Tank Engines. We are Important Tender Engines. You fetch our coaches and we will pull them. Tender Engines don't shunt.”
- ―Gordon addressing the Fat Controller
Troublesome Engines is the fifth book of the Railway Series.
News from the Main Line has not been good. The Fat Controller has been having trouble. A short while ago, he gave Henry a coat of green paint, but as soon as he got his old colour back again, Henry became conceited. Gordon and James, too, have been getting above themselves.
I am glad to say, however, that the Fat Controller has, quite kindly but very firmly, put them in their place. And now the trains are running as usual.
With Thomas gone to run his Branch Line, the bigger engines are left to fetch their own coaches, much to their disapproval. Henry is given his green coat of paint back, but even that does not stop his and Gordon's sulking. A circus comes to town, and shunting the special trucks helps cheer up Gordon and Henry, at least until James was told to take the circus away. One day, Henry is called out to clear a blockage in the tunnel between Tidmouth and Knapford, but when he goes in, an elephant pushes him back out of the tunnel! It turns out that the elephant belongs to the circus. The workmen give the elephant some cake, sandwiches, and water, but Henry surprises it by letting off steam and it sprays water all over him.
Gordon is in a bad mood and when he goes to be turned around for his next train he unbalances the turntable and has to take the train backwards. Thomas and James tease him, but later James is spun around by the wind on the turntable. The big engines have had enough, and make a plan.
The big engines refuse to get their coaches and so Edward is brought in to shunt for them. However, poor Edward is met with hostility and so the Fat Controller buys a saddletank engine, which he christens Percy. The big engines still refuse to shunt and fetch their coaches, so the Fat Controller shuts them up in the sheds and brings Thomas to work with Edward on the main line while Percy runs Thomas' branch line.
After several days in the sheds for being naughty, the big engines finally see sense and agree to get their coaches ready, so the Fat Controller lets Thomas, Edward and Percy play on the branch line. Thomas takes Annie and Clarabel for a run and Edward takes some trucks to the quarry, leaving Percy alone. He strays onto the points, and Gordon scares him when he rushes into the junction. Percy runs away, and eventually, exhausted, runs in a sandbank. Gordon later commends him for preventing an accident and Percy becomes the new station pilot at Tidmouth.
- Percy (introduced)
- The Fat Controller
- The Little Boys
- The Workshop Engines (does not speak)/(introduced)
- Annie and Clarabel (do not speak)
- The Thin Clergyman (cameo)
- The central theme of this book reflects that, at the time of publishing, there were labour difficulties on the British railways.
- In the fifth illustration of "Tenders and Turntables", C. Reginald Dalby and his daughter can be seen in the picture: Dalby is the man on the bench with the luggage, while his daughter is holding a dog on a leash.
- The engines saying Edward has black wheels is a play on the word "blackleg", which is a slang term for someone who continues to work amidst a strike. However, the insult might seem odd coming from the big engines, as James actually has black wheels.
- In the third illustration of "Percy Runs Away", the Reverend W. Awdry, his wife Margaret and his children Christopher, Hilary and Veronica can be seen on the platform waving to Percy.
- An illustration from "Tenders and Turntables" was also painted by Clive Spong for the 1983 Island of Sodor map.
- "Henry and the Elephant" is the first Railway Series story not to be adapted into the first season of the television series, although it was later adapted into the fourth season.
- A 70th Anniversary print was released on 16 April 2015.
- James' incident with the turntable is inspired by an event that occurred in 1900 at a railway station in Garsdale Head, Cumbria, England.
- Henry and the Elephant is based on a real event that occurred in India of a wild elephant that blocked a tunnel.
- Percy Runs Away is based on a real event that occurred on Christmas Eve, 1910, at Hawes Junction.
- The events of this book took place after 1925 and before 1935.
- On the cover of early editions, the printed silhouette portrays Edward with a 4-6-0 wheel arrangement.
- In "Henry and the Elephant":
- In the second illustration, Henry has Gordon's buffers and blue paint. In the same illustration, James' wheel arches are missing the black lining.
- The flowers by Henry's Tunnel keep disappearing and reappearing.
- Henry is missing his trailing wheels.
- In "Tenders and Turntables":
- In the second illustration, the stripe on Thomas' splasher disappears.
- In "Trouble in the Shed":
- In the fourth illustration, Gordon has round buffers and a fully enclosed cab.
- The engines in the workshop are said to be tank engines, but a few are actually tender engines.
- Thomas has a straight valence.
- In "Percy Runs Away":
- In the first illustration, James appears to be taller than Gordon. In the same illustration, Gordon is missing his steampipes.
- In the second illustration, part of Edward's tender is painted a lighter shade of blue.
- In the fourth illustration, a fire hydrant disappears from between two lines.
- Percy's position on the points changes between the fourth and fifth illustrations.
- In the sixth and seventh illustrations, the sea can be seen on Percy's right, not his left as maps of Sodor indicate would be the case.
- In the fifth and final illustrations, Gordon's steampipes are black instead of blue.
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