How can the spiteful brakevan take a dislike to only Douglas? And not Donald? They are identical twins!
I Have No Funnel, and I Must Steam
What happens to the engines when they're 'scrapped'? Do they die? This troper recalls one episode that showed the aftermath of a train wreck (of which there are many on the show) where all that was left of one of the train cars was his face, and it was obviously still alive.
I think being scrapped is when they die, I know there's a bunch of times where a freight car or whatever will have a massive accident and will then be completely rebuilt.
Which raises another question: How completely do they have to be broken apart before they 'die?' Will sufficient damage kill them or do they literally have to be smelted down first?
Perhaps the trains' AI is contained in a single component (the face itself or, looking at it as a 2000s adult, a hard drive located just behind it) and "being scrapped" refers to this component regardless of whatever else happens to the rest of the train unit.
this troper always saw the locomotives character to represent the quirks of the locomotive and driver. such as how the tender engines saw shunting as below them, IRL driving a tender-engine tender first is difficult as your view is obscured by the tender, Also drivers where promoted up from low importance duties such as shunting up to more important duties such as express trains.
The impression I got from the books is that they die. Usually it seems to be fairly quick (SCRuffey seems to die at the moment he's pulled in half) but one wonders about Godred, who, we're told, was dismantled for spares over an extended period of time.
Godred wasn't actually scrapped, the railway couldn't be bothered to repair him, so they gradually cannibalised him. The way I see it, he was like a human/animal left for dead, injured and without treatment, die slowly and painfully. Judging from the illustrations I've seen in the original books, I think this is what happens to all of the scrapped engines.
Godred didn't exist an engine made up that story (although this varies depending on which source you go with - the story itself says he didn't exist, but The Island of Sodor, Reading Between the Lines and others suggest that it was all real).
Speaking of Godred, it's worth nothing his crash is a rare case of a Gory Discretion Shot, with only a panel showing the passengers and crew looking aghast at the supposed smoking mess below. Given the state some engines were visibly depicted as in the books, whatever happened to Godred must have been a pretty awful sight.
Quoting from the Wikia regarding Godred's Real Life counterpart, L.A.D.A.S:
Confusing matters further in the books was the fact that Iron Duke remembers the Victorian era, even though he's a replica of an engine built in the 1980s - so maybe engines are effectively immortal so long as some version of them exists?
The creepiest part of this show for me, hands down, was one episode when they go to the scrapyard and see dozens of engines, in various stages of being broken down. None of them had faces (thank God!) but I couldn't help but wonder if that was a Mercy Kill of some sort or if the engines were still in there...
There is also the man with the welding torch standing next to the saddened trains, that man is the bringer of their doom and they can do nothing to stop him.
In Stepney Gets Lost, why was there no explanation as to why the Fat Controller just happened to be at the scrapyard at midnight? Very suspicious if you ask me...
Maybe he got called down there to find Stepney after he didn't arrive back at the Bluebell Railway.
What degree of control do the drivers have over the engines? Sometimes they're responsible for starting them up and applying the brakes, sometimes they're just there to apply the brakes, sometimes they don't to anything useful, and in the newer seasons they've just ceased to exist. WHY?!
the early seasons are based on the books by Reverend W. Awdry and based on real events, as such the drivers and firemen have a role in the story. however the newer series aren't based on the books or any real events.
Even in the books it's indicated that engines have some sort of control - they can deliberately go too fast or slow, damage themselves or outright refuse to move. It's also indicated that pulling trains requires effort from them. My theory was always that they could control the flow of steam through themselves, but only so long as they weren't prevented from doing so by their controls.
Well, if we look strictly at the pre-CGI series, it goes back and forth, the drivers are usually said to be there but sometimes we see the engines stopping on their own to talk. It could be that it's a mutual thing, the drivers have to be there to control the engines, but the engines also have to be willing to co-operate with the drivers (maybe this is why Sir Topham Hat makes a point of encouraging them to strive to be "really useful"- so that they'll be willing to listen to their drivers). Perhaps if a driver gets to know a certain engine well enough they form a sort of bond, and can anticipate when an engine would like to stop either through their understanding of the engine or basic deduction (Percy is at the junction, and he's Thomas's best friend, we still have some time before we need to get to the station, so why don't I let him stop for a moment and say hi). It is also worth noting that in the older series at least, whenever an engine offered to take another's work or switch things up in some way the drivers are explicitly said to have to agree to do this.
If the humans on Sodor appear to know that the engines are sentient, why have so many of them (Hiro,Lady, Smudger (presumably), and Duke) been abandoned in the countryside? The scrapping episodes scared the crap out of me when I was a kid, for all the reasons cited above, but being scrapped almost seems merciful compared to the fate of being abandoned, slowly rusted and dismantled by nature, and, apparently, being conscious through it all.
Lady was left in the 'real world', where she apparently isn't sentient. So far as we know, Smudger was never abandoned, he was just converted into a stationary engine (in effect a permanent grounding), and it's likely he was moved when the line closed, or else by this point has been buried alive (which in itself is an unpleasant fate, but a lot harder to rectify). Duke (from Sleeping Beauty) was put away until his owners found someone to buy him, and at some point they apparently gave up (by which point he seems to have gone into some sort of hibernation). No idea about Hiro, but logic doesn't seem to apply to him in any way whatsoever, so he can probably just be ignored.
Lady's situation and Shining Times Station created a bit of a Continuity Snarl anyway. It's stated in the books, I think, and fairly well established in the earlier series, that while Sodor is fictional, it's supposed to be a part of the real world, and that all the engines are sentient. Sodor is clearly some sort of alternate dimensionin those shows.
The really strange thing was, Lady lost her face when she came into the 'real' world; Thomas didn't.
It may be because Thomas still had the magic of Sodor Coal to stoke into his firebox and keep him functioning and sentient while in our world. Lady on the other hand, had none to fuel her, and due to her originally being a Sodor engine is a reason why coal from our world won't make her steam, and therefor she became a mundane, non-sentient locomotive once she ran out. It's not just "Sodor Steam engines need coal to run." it's a case of "Sodor Steam Engines need SODOR coal to maintain sentience." and the reason for this is that their is residual magic inside the Sodor coal. Following this logic would also indicate that the Sodor railway must have magic flowing into it from the Magic railway, but our world has no such flow. The only thing that manifests at all in our would would be the portals to the Magic Railroad and the Sodor Railway.
Where does the fact that Henry uses coal imported from somewhere else than Sodor tie into this theory?
What bugged me about Duke is that IIRC the effort to find him had petered off and didn't pick up again until the other engines started talking about him. So his crew KNEW he was down there, and couldn't or wouldn't help him—for goodness sakes, his shed was so rotted that a guy didn't realize it was there and fell through the roof! (With Hiro this just reached Wall Banger status.) Whatever was going on with Duke, it's one of the creepier elements of the show that seems to indicate it doesn't matter how 'useful' the engines are, the humans still treat them like objects and have very little respect for their personalities and emotions.
Well, to be fair to the humans, most of the crews and controllers know that these engines are special, or they wouldn't go out of their way to help them, or, in the case of Duke, travel to an unused railway just to find an old engine. It's really the Other Railway controllers that don't care about their engines.
Yeah, kudos to them. Going out on a limb a bit, though, I wonder whether it's more that the Other Railway employees don't care about the locomotives, period, or they think the steam trains are inefficient and should be scrapped, like the diesels do? Too bad history seems to side with the Diesels...
In Duke's case, he didn't get treated too badly, in relative terms. Think about it - his line went bankrupt, and most of the stock was sold off. Duke was unwanted because he was too old. Now, the heartless thing to do would have been to sell him for scrap and get some money for his metal - but instead they put a tarp on him and shut him in the shed, presumably in the hope of finding a new home for him. Fate intervened, however, and the shed was buried, and as the story notes, was hidden from view. Perhaps it was simply assumed that it was destroyed. A similar explanation might cover Hiro, i.e. that it was hoped to restore him, but the money just couldn't be found. And Sodor has terrible record-keeping.
In regards to Smudger, he's based on the character Stanley from the books, who suffered a similar fate (he was turned into a stationary pumping engine instead of a generator). When the line closed down, Stanley was simply scrapped. Based on that I think it's a good bet that Smudger suffered the same fate when the line closed in the show.
Why aren't the freight cars ever held accountable for their actions? They're smart enough to make up plans to annoy the engines and write irritating poetry, so I doubt they're too stupid to get it. You'd think Hatt and the others would have something to say to them, at the very least because cleaning up the messes they make has to get expensive after a while.
I thought about that myself until I got to stop and think hard about it. It's possible that the engines are responsible for keeping the freight trucks in check. Sort of like being tasked with watching a bunch of rowdy, bratty mayhem causing little kids. I guess it's basically chewing out the engines for not keeping the trucks in line, but I do agree to a point, they shouldn't shoulder all the blame.
Indeed - there was that one named Truck that got destroyed as punishment, but come on, how many other trucks have nearly killed people? I mean, especially those three trucks that committed suicide as a prank. Then there are those other cars that broke away and threw Duck in a barber shop. (Which would have killed around three people.) Seriously, if I were Topham Hatt, I'd have used those sociopathic trucks for firewood!
Is anybody else extremely confused on the specifics of how operating the steam engines work? Even though they have workmen, a lot of times they're blamed for their mistakes. My thought was that perhaps the workmen have to push them to start, and the engine has to consent to start moving, and vice versa for stopping. Any thoughts on this?
Glaring Continuity Drift. In the early episodes the plots worked around the driver's presence—like in Thomas Comes to Breakfast, he started going when his driver accidentally took the break off, and in this other one, I can't recall the title, the narrator stated that Thomas Wouldn't wake up because they couldn't get his fire started. In some episodes like Escape the crews join in on the engine's escapades; in Hero of the Rails the engines somehow, almost without human help, managed to rebuild Hiro. Basically, when after the Reverend's books ran out, the humans seem to be tehre only when they're convenient.
Building on this question, if we ignore the later episodes and assume that the engines can only move around when the humans are there to help them...it seems that it wold be quite easy to blackmail the engines!
Wrong Road makes no sense to me. Wouldn't Edward realize "wait, I'm on the main line" back up, and alert the signalman what happened? Nevermind the passengers being put on the wrong path...
It was at night. Also, Edward's driver probably did realise what had happened when he reached the next station, but Gordon was five minutes behind him and would have passed the junction by that time (bear in mind that a five mile climb of 1 in 75, which is pretty steep, lies between the two stations).
It's been suggested that engines are only really "awake" when their fires are lit. So what about the engines that have been kept for preservation, but are left in museums, with their fires dropped?
I seem to recall that Donald and Douglas found Henry completely covered by a snowdrift. He was able to ask them for help.
Also, Percy got stuck by snow in the middle of the town and his drivers left him there until morning. I think this also happened to Thomas and one of the Narrow Gauge engines, at some point. It wasn't explicitly stated that their fires were out, but it would stand to reason that they were—the railway probably wouldn't want to waste the fuel, and keeping them in steam might stress the metal parts.
Though many tropers won't count this example there's Hiro,who was definitely cold when Thomas found him.
And Lady, as discussed above. Her problem in The Magic Railroad was definitely that she couldn't get up steam.
I figured that the engines can be awake when cold, but not fully. It's like the difference between lying awake in bed and actually getting out of bed and starting the day.
Am I missing why this series has such a large adult fanbase compared to other toddler cartoons?
Two reasons: One, it's old enough that a lot of us who watched it as our kids are re-watching it with our own tots now. Two, as noted on the main page, the Visual Effects of Awesome attract a lot of railway and modeling enthusiasts in their own right.
It's worth nothing that the earlier episodes (and books) were also fairly well done in terms of continuity and world building. For many people it was sort of their first series that had that sort of overarching storytelling.
Additionally, as the YMMV page says, actual rail enthusiasts are quite fond of how (at least back when it was actively based on Rev. Awdry's books) accurate it was to the actual history and workings of the British railway system, sentience aside.
And in the current series, the writing and animation are actually pretty good.
The entirety of Misty Island Rescue makes no sense whatsoever.
So the Rescue Center can only be made out of wood from Japan? There's no other wood that could possibly be used in its place?
Why did Thomas have to travel to the mainland to get the wood? Is there no better way to get it?
There's a perfectly serviceable rail link to the mainland, why did Thomas have to get hitched to the back of a boat, with his driver and fireman in there, while still in steam?
Not really an IJBM, but it seems pretty concidential that Thomas's raft aligned perfectly with the rails.
If this wood grows in Japan, why the hell is it growing on the island?
Hiro DID mention earlier in the film that Jobi wood grows on "only one or two islands" in the world.
The general insanity and No OSHA Compliance of the Misty Island railways- (bridges through hollow logs, WTF?)
The Shake Shake Bridge.
According to the writer of MIR, Sharon Miller, the bridge was originally supposed to be a wooden suspension bridge - perfectly safe, yet swayed with the engines' movement, and the logging engines were to be more helpful in helping Thomas cross it (a much more positive moral about helping friends overcome obstacles). What we got, however...
It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say the Shake Shake Bridge is made of Jobi wood. Jobi wood is said to be the strongest wood of supply. Jobi wood is found on Misty Island. Even though the stucture looks weak, it's made from strong materials. Then again, the way the engines swing over it says otherwise.
Why did nobody know about the three locomotives on the island? Why were there no people running it? How did the engines continue to run if they couldn't get fuel?
and, if the tunnel is underwater (as it would have to be) how is it that a hole breaks in its ceiling through which Thomas sends three puffs of steam to signal the engines back on Sodor? (wouldn't water come rushing in?)
The technology to build an underwater tunnel is Older Than They Think. The Thames tunnel, which became part of the London Underground, was built in 1843. Long before that, miners were digging tunnels out under the seabed. Plans for a Channel tunnel were first devised in the 18th century. The real question about the Misty Island tunnel is, why? Misty Island appears to be largely uninhabited, with the sole industry being logging. Traffic is nowhere near enough to justify such an expensive investment, which is presumably why the tunnel was abandoned.
Whiff claims to have once taken garbage to and from the islands. Yet Whiff only showed up a few seasons ago.
If they knew that taking the tunnel was dangerous and poorly maintained, why did the Logging Locos even bother to accompany Thomas at all?
The biggest headscratcher I feel there is with Misty Island Rescue is that it promotes bullying. Early on in the film, Diesel suggests that he could take the train of jobi logs to the Search and Rescue Centre. Thomas, however, says that Diesel cannot take the train because Diesel is not a steam engine. (Something along the lines of "No, Diesel. I'm sure the Fat Controller meant that he wanted a really useful steamie to do the job."). Diesel tries to prove himself by delivering the logs. When Thomas spots diesel doing this, he chases after him, resulting in Diesel trying to run away from Thomas. This leads up to Thomas chasing Diesel to a dead end at an unfinished bridge, resulting in the jobi logs and the flatbeds toppling off of the edge and into the sea. Note that had Thomas not been what was effectively racist to Diesel, Diesel may not have tried to take the train of logs in order to prove his worth. Even then, had Thomas not chased after Diesel, it's likely that Diesel would have delivered the jobi logs safely. Following this, the Fat Controller praises Thomas for his actions. The Fat Controller is not remotely cross with Thomas for a) undermining diesel engines. (Imagine if, say, Mavis, BoCo or Daisy was in Diesel's role?) and b) Chasing after Diesel for no good reason, and being responsible for the loss of the jobi wood. (If Thomas wasn't chasing Diesel, Diesel would have been going slowly enough to stop and back up, though I'm not entirely sure why the track was set to the unfinished bridge anyway).
Later, when Thomas is on Misty Island, he doesn't ask Bash Dash and Ferdinand for help right away because they're different. He later does seek help from them, not because he feels it's necessarily the right thing to do, but because there is no one else to ask. The logging locos get a kick out of watching an old, dysfunctional crane, throwing logs about, most of which end up hitting Thomas. This behaviour is not amended. A little further on, Bash, Dash and Ferdinand encourage Thomas to try and cross the shake shake bridge, a bridge which is falling apart and very clearly unsafe. Thomas hesitates at first, but the logging locos keep on pressurising him until he gives in and crosses the bridge, to which he responds with "Maybe I was wrong to say no." Basically, Thomas was bullied into doing something highly dangerous just for the hell of it.
Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, despite having universal appeal, has always been a show for young children, who are impressionable. Misty Island Rescue showcased a turning point in the series, where it got to the point where the writing was so poor that it was, quite frankly, unfit for young children. The film showcased racism, performing dangerous stunts and throwing heavy objects around just for fun, all in a positive light. Neither Thomas nor anyone else learns from their mistakes in the film, and in some cases they are praised for them. And throughout the film, we have cheesy, repetitive, alliterative dialogue to listen to (which is not good for children that are just starting to learn to talk). Picture a human child playing the role of Thomas in the film, having heavy logs slung at him and being bullied into crossing an unsafe bridge.
Thankfully, Series 17 has undone most of the damage that this film injected into the series.
To me, that's the main headscratcher regarding Misty Island Rescue. How could such a child-unfriendly film intended for preschool audiences have possibly been greenlit?
It bugs me the way shunting is treated in the new series. All the engines now do is roll up to a line of readily assorted trucks, ram them a little, reverse back, and charge, then repeating. This is and looks dangerous, what with the loads spewing everywhere and probably getting damaged. Episodes like 'Hector the Horrid' show that shunting involves rolling towards trucks that are uncoupled and apart and pushing them into a line ready to be coupled up and taken away, whereas episodes like 'Splish, Splash, Splosh', 'Misty Island Rescue' and 'Thomas in Charge' show the engines just bucking them around a bit, and they somehow become sorted. How is this?
What's the deal with Woolly Bear? Thomas is waiting for Percy, but Percy isn't pulling a train or anything, much less any passengers. Why does he have to stick around?
Because Thomas' Branch Line is single track, and he has to wait until Percy meets him at the station (which has a passing loop) and clears the section.
If Lady's gold dust is supposedly what makes the Island of Sodor magic (and makes the engines come alive), then why are engines from other railways (Hiro, Hank, the logging engines) also alive?
Because Thomas and The Magic Railroad isn't in the same continuity as the rest of the series.
How is it the trucks can push tank engines around, when it's clearly established that you have to have an actual engine to move? I can see the times they lock their brakes and refuse to move, but not the episodes where they shove the engines around.
Trucks (and coaches) are affected by more than just the engine pulling them. Static vehicles have inertia and frictional forces that must be overcome to move them, whilst those in motion have momentum, and will try and keep going when the engine brakes. Gravity will also act on stock on hills, pulling them downhill. Whenever an engine is being pushed, they are already in motion, and on level track or going downhill (whilst when they hold back the engine is usually starting or climbing), so whilst the trucks can't move themselves, they can take advantage of other forces acting on them to go against what the engine wants them to do.
In particular, the "trucks pushing an engine down a hill" event that seems to frequently recur is based on a real life concern of many railroad workers from the steam era. In Britain, most of the freight cars of that time period only had handbrakes and only the engine and brakevan had brakes that could be applied while the train was in motion, so if the train crew wasn't careful approaching a downgrade, the weight of the loaded and unbraked trucks could cause a Runaway Train.
Sounds reasonable; early in the series, the trucks are shown as pushing the engines when they're at a downgrade.
Now, a different related question...how can the cars do stuff like snap off of a rail (intentionally, I know accidents happen) to nearly destroy Peter Sam?
Why does everyone refer to the controlman as "The Fat Controllman"? he's been explicitly called: "Sir Topham Hatt".
"The Fat Controller" is a nickname for the various Topham Hatts seen throughout the series. It has been around before his official name was ever given, from the third book (in the previous two, he was referred to as the Fat Director, due to the different structure of UK railways at the time).
It could be something as a way of getting personal with the engines. By letting the engines refer to him by an affectionate nickname (like the Fat Controller) meetings with him feel less formal and the engines maybe feel more at home.
He was called Sir Topham Hatt in both the UK and US versions, it's just that when the show got moved to the U.S. the producers felt that calling the controller "fat" was "politically incorrect", hence the reason he is only referred to by his real name.
Keep in mind that, in the books, there was also a Thin Controller. It was probably easier to refer to him by the name "the Fat Controller" to show the contrast between the two.
If you want the Doylist explanation, in the first story in which he appeared, he was just a fat director - a pompous character to act as a figurehead for the passengers. By the final story in that book, he had become "the Fat Director," a specific character who could be kind as well as authoritative. The railways of Britain were Nationalised when the third book came out, and therefore there were no directors on the railway any more. Obviously the Fat Director had become established as the de facto authority figure in the stories and Rev W. Awdry didn't want to lose that, so he became Controller of the North Western Region of British Railways (which only consisted of Sodor and one town on the Mainland). The name Sir Topham Hatt came later, as did the Thin Controller and Small Controller (who is bigger than the other two).
In Day of the Diesels, why did Diesel 10 or one of the other diesels not just go and ask Sir Topham Hatt to repair the Dieselworks?
They don't think he'll listen to them. They explicitly want Percy to do it because the Fat Controller will listen to a steam engine, whereas he won't pay attention to the diesels. This probably isn't true, but given the attitude of Thomas towards diesels can you blame them?
Maybe its because Diesel 10 has been shown to be a complete jerkass. That whole, "Scrap all Steam Engines" ting might have had somethign to do with it.
Why was there a Barber shop right at the end of a track for runaway trains? Even if a set of buffers were set up, the engines would plow right through.
It wasn't specifically a track for runaway trains. In the normal scheme of things, it would just be a siding.
This troper outright refuses to consider the new series canon on account of certain things he's seen in more recent episodes. One of the worst is "Fiery Flynn"'. Sure the moral of the story is okay (don't jump into situations you don't understand) but the "fire engine" we're supposed to be rooting for is a total idiot. For on thing, why would you have a fire engine that apparently cannot tell when an engine is on fire. In one episode he is told to help a "blue engine" and leaves before finding out which engine and where, but he ends up spraying three different engines and reacting with genuine shock when they pointed out they weren't on fire. Then when he finally found the engine who was burning, it ended up being a couple workmen who saved the day by pouring buckets of water on the fire (if they could do that why didn't they just do that to begin with?), then thanks the diesels who did absolutely nothing (it was their drivers who helped).
Another more modern episode featured the "shake shake bridge", an extremely rickety bridge that sways dangerously back and forth whenever you try to cross it- just why would a railway have one of those, let alone allow engines onto it?
We frequently see a lot of diesels plotting against the steam engines, and in one or two cases actively trying to murder them, like when 'Arry and Bert were trying to kill Stephney. However it is clearly shown that engines on Sodor require people to operate them, so to what extent are the drivers in on it? Are the drivers actually steamophobes themselves and fully supporting the diesels (which is actually a somewhat creepy and not totally implausible explanation) or do they just go along with what the engine wants?
My theory is that with enough effort, engines can defy their crew as long as their "power" is on. Perhaps they made up an excuse and ran off while their crew weren't looking. Also more engines being scrapped means more metal to be recycled, which to everyone else but the engine in question is a good thing.
Most stories involving an accident have the accident caused by hubris or carelessness by the engines or what have you. The Runaway doesn't seem to have any of that. Thomas is sick, he goes to get mended, Duck takes over in his absence, Thomas' brakes were adjusted, and a replacement workman forgets to set the adjusted brakes properly, causing Thomas to run away, who is saved by Harold. Maybe in the original book the story made more sense, but this episode has always felt quite bizarre, smacking of Random Events Plot.
Why are the engines such assholes to each other? Maybe it's just a British thing, but it seems like for a toddler story, the characters are remarkably rude to each other, often for no real reason. Standouts include Gordon saying Edward should "give up and be preserved" and James calling Toby and Henrietta "dirty objects." Maybe it's a reflection of how cruel children can be to one another?
Sodor is a Dysfunction Junction. Really, the number of engines who don't have a personality issue of some kind can be counted on one hand.
Why was Percy even allowed to go to the quarry in Toby's place in "Percy's Predicament"? After all, the whole reason that the Fat Controller bought Toby was because it's illegal for engines without cowcatchers and sideplates to travel on the quarry tramway, and Percy doesn't have either.
Why exactly was Bulstrode punished so harshly? According to Percy's driver the worst he ever did before the truck incident was just being whiny and annoying. And the truck incident was a lot more Percy's fault than Bulstrode's. Sure, Bulstrode was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but even if he wasn't directly below the dock, the result would've hardly been any better. In fact, if he hadn't been there, all the materials the trucks were carrying would have been lost, similar to Diesel's mishap with the trucks back in season 3. At least then, some of the materials could be salvaged. And going back to Percy, he's done a lot more damage (and would eventually do even more) including his misadventures involving crashing into some trucks in a siding, plunging into the tide, smashing a collection of fruit (the trucks didn't even have anything to do with that one), and smashing passenger's luggage among other things, and still gets merely scolded. Bulstrode gets plundered by trucks once? He gets towed to the beach and left there for life.