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Recap / Thomas The Tank Engine S1 E15 "Tenders and Turntables"

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Air date: November 27th, 1984

Adapted from: Troublesome Engines, "Tenders and Turntables"
Not shown here: The out-of-control, much-too-fast spinning that James just came out of.

Life in the yard has become harder since Thomas left to run his branch line. Without a tank engine to shunt or be a station pilot, Henry, James and Gordon must fetch their own coaches. Soon, the big engines begin to express their outrage by shouting "Tender engines don't shunt!" Their complaining doesn't please the Fat Controller.

At the junction, Gordon tells Thomas about how tender engines are important and shouldn't be shunting coaches from dirty sidings. Thomas, however, isn't quite concerned about his issue and the two leave with their respective passenger trains.

Later that day, Gordon heads for the turntable by the sea, but the wind off the ocean is so strong that it keeps the big blue engine from properly balancing on the turntable and it becomes very difficult for it to turn. Neither his driver nor his fireman can get him in a proper position, nor is Gordon particularly trying; the crew try so many times until they give up and decide to pull his next train tender-first.


When Gordon arrives at the junction, a group of boys joke around and tease Gordon by calling him a tank engine. Thomas, who is waiting at the junction, laughs and suggests that Gordon should "scrap his tender and get a nice bunker". James, who passes by with his passenger train, laughs at Gordon, too. Gordon warns James that he might stick on the turntable, too, but James claims that he won't because he's not as fat as Gordon.

When James arrives at the sheds, he lines up on the turntable perfectly... a little too perfectly, it turns out, as the strong ocean wind begins to spin James around uncontrollably like a top. Gordon arrives just in time to see the whole thing and as the turntable finally stops, Gordon asks James if he was playing roundabouts. James doesn't say a word and backs into the shed feeling very dizzy and completely humiliated.


That night, Gordon, James, and Henry hold an indignation meeting. They make a decision that it's best that, tomorrow morning, they start going on strike.

Tenders, Turntables, and Tropes:

  • Achilles in His Tent: Gordon, Henry, and James started this in the end of the episode.
  • Bowdlerize: Averted. This episode is one of the few instances where the word "fat" is kept intact in the US dub; in other episodes such as "Thomas and the Guard" and "Off the Rails", the word is replaced with more mild-mannered terms.
  • Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them: In the beginning, Gordon and Henry were alone in the shed, and missed Thomas, who was cheeky to them in previous episodes, after he went to run his branch line.
  • Cliffhanger: The scene where the engines plan on going on strike.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The first 35 seconds of the episode is mostly taken from the first story of Troublesome Engines, "Henry and the Elephant", which would be adapted more fully in the fourth season, albeit with a new introduction as a result of this.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Averted with James, who had spun on the turntable due to the strong wind, feeling very dizzy afterwards while Gordon watches on.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: Thomas and James laugh at Gordon having to pull the Express backwards after the wind prevented him from being turned around on the turntable. Then it was Gordon's turn to laugh at James for spinning around the turntable due to the wind.
  • Gone Horribly Right: James hopes that he won't get stuck on the turntable like Gordon, and he finds out that he was right, except the turntable spun around too easily thanks to the strong winds.
  • No Sympathy: The coaches showed no concern about the big engines complaining about having to fetch them by themselves:
    Coaches: You're lazy and slack! You're lazy and slack!
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Gordon believes that he was given a tender to show how important he was.
  • Stock Footage:
  • Tempting Fate: Gordon warns James that he might stick on the turntable just like he did, but James assures that he won't because he isn't as "fat" as Gordon. And James was right, except that turntable spun around too easily thanks to the strong wind and James spins around like a top. Gordon looks on with an amused look on his face.
  • Terrible Trio: Gordon, James, and Henry established this.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Despite that Gordon and James laughed at each others' misfortunes with the turntable, the two engines, along with Henry, then made an agreement to go on strike.


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