The Return of Sailor John is the 2017 Thomas and Friends special.


It is a bright sunny day on Sodor, as Thomas chuffs along his branch line with Annie and Clarabel. When he sees Bertie, he decides to have a race with him, but nearly gets into trouble along the way, narrowly avoiding rail work and nearly having a head-on collision with Toby when he passes a red signal. Bertie believes that he will win, due to him being in first place for the majority of the race, but his chances of winning become slim when he has to slow down for Oliver the excavator, who is slowly trundling along the small countryside road. Thomas gets the upper hand in the race and Bertie finally gets past Oliver, who takes a shortcut, passing by a familiar man on a bicycle. When Thomas stops at Ffarquhar, he is very pleased with himself for winning, but Annie and Clarabel are not pleased and sternly scold him for racing, but he just ignores their scolding, remarking he has raced on his branch line for years. Bertie arrives at the station, cross that he has lost, remarking that ever since the new branch line's construction site, he has been held-up by construction vehicles. Annie and Clarabel fear their branch line will be closed in favour of the new one, but Thomas dismisses it. Meanwhile, Marion is on her way to Great Topstead yard, fascinated by the enchanted scenery of the forest at Arlesburgh. As she chuffs along, two small engines dart pass her, taking her by surprise. She shuts her eyes and bumps into Toad and Oliver, who are waiting at the ballast chute. A small red engine races up the chute with some hoppers, frightening Marion. Toad asks Marion does she remember Mike, Rex and Bert which stops Marion from being frightened, but Marion still thinks that they're magical, in which Mike tries to tell her that they're not magical as they're real engines. Toad and Oliver then leave for Great Topstead yard, just as two black engines race past Marion.

At Great Topstead yard, Duck is shunting trucks, just as Donald and Douglas arrive. Duck praises them both for collecting the rails and sleepers needed for Great Topstead, the twins leave and shout "Cheerio!" to Duck. Meanwhile, the men are using dynamite to blast away the rock so more track can be laid, Jack and Alfie are getting to work, just as Oliver arrives, apologising for being late as he took a wrong turn. Then the Sodor Construction Company get to work.

The next morning, Thomas cannot wake up. His fire goes out and there is not enough steam to get him going. The other engines all wake him up, reminding him that he nee ds to shunt Gordon's coaches, but Thomas is in no hurry to do that. Meanwhile, Gordon grumpily waits at Knapford for Thomas, just as he finally arrives. Annie and Clarabel remind Thomas it is time for their first train, but Thomas tells them he has to get Gordon's coaches first, criticising Gordon for being lazy for not getting his own coaches. Gordon tells Thomas that he knows full well that tender engines are too large for shunting, telling him that is what common little tank engines do. Determined to prove Gordon wrong, Thomas decides that he will pull the express today and thunders out of the station with the coaches. Unfortunately, due to being behind the coaches, this results in an accident occurring when he fails to slow down, collides with Emily as she tried to stop to avoid being hit, and leading to the express coaches coming off the rails again.

Meanwhile, at Great Topstead yard, Marion tries to play 'Guess What's in My Shovel' with Donald, but he does not have time to play. She then turns her attention to Oliver the excavator, but he tells her that all he has in his bucket is dirt and rocks. Marion then starts talking to Oliver about the time where she thought Oliver the steam engine had turned into an excavator, but she found out afterwards that there were two Olivers, Oliver just rolls his eyes and continues working. Marion asks Oliver if he is still listening to her, in which Oliver replies that he has no time to listen to stories right now, so Marion decides maybe she could go and visit the miniature engines again which she still thinks are magical. Stanley then races past Marion causing the track underneath him to start crumbling.

Back at Knapford, the Fat Controller has arrived to inspect the damage. Thomas tries to pin the blame on Gordon and Emily, but the Fat Controller does not believe him. He tells Thomas that he will be sending him to the Great Topstead yard as a punishment. Then Thomas asks who will look after his branch line, then a shiny silver LSWR 0298 Class engine called Silver pulls up beside Thomas. Gordon and Emily gasp at his silver paintwork. The Fat Controller welcomes Silver to his railway, while Thomas looks on, shocked. The Fat Controller tells Thomas that he must collect some rails and sleepers from the Depot and all the way to Great Topstead, then he leaves. Thomas stops and stares at Silver's shiny paintwork. Silver kindly asks Thomas if he's feeling okay, but Thomas just puffs away in a huff leaving Silver behind who is now sad.

At Great Topstead yard, work goes on as usual. However, the ground beneath the tracks is still crumbling and the workmen flag down Donald just before he can pass over the line. Some engineers are called and after inspecting the area of bad track, they deem it unsafe, forcing the workmen to re-route the line.

Thomas arrives at the Depot where all the narrow gauge engines are, Peter Sam notices Thomas' sad expression on his face and asks him if he's alright, Thomas explains to him that the Fat Controller took his branch line away and gave it to a new tank engine called Silver. Rheneas asks Thomas why he was sent away from his branch line, so Thomas explains because of Gordon as he called him a silly little tank engine and made him cross. Sir Handel then says that bigger engines always act superior than small engines and he also tells Thomas that he has had issues with Gordon before such as the time he told him to be ill so he didn't have to shunt trucks. But then Rus ty remarks that he was the cause of Peter Sam to be damaged as the trucks thought he was Peter Sam, but Sir Handel just gets angrier. Skarloey blows his whistle and cuts off the argument telling everyone to be quiet. He then tells Thomas that Mr. Percival will arrive soon. Then Duncan arrives with Mr. Percival and he tells Thomas that he will be working with Duncan. But Thomas becomes sad as he knows that Duncan can be trouble. Duncan starts teasing Thomas by saying that him Main Line Engines don't know the routes of the hills which just makes Thomas cross and remarks that he isn't a Main Line engine as he has his own branch line which at the moment is being given to a new engine called Silver. Duncan laughs menacingly saying that is because he doesn't work hard enough which makes Thomas more crossover, so he remarks back by saying that them little engines don't know how to run proper trains which infuriates Duncan. Mr. Percival tells the engines to get to work. As Thomas puffs away, Peter Sam reminds Thomas that if Gordon calls you a silly tank engine again, ignore him and say that little engines can do, but Sir Handel interrupts and says "...Anything!", Thomas smiles slightly.

Later, the rails and sleepers have been loaded onto Thomas' flatbeds and he is waiting for Duncan to return with his load of rails and sleepers, then Duncan arrives, Thomas asks him if he's ready to work, which Duncan says he's ready, but secretly, he's smirking, Thomas then asks Duncan why was he laughing at him just because his branch line was given to Silver, then Duncan tells him the reason why he was laughing is because them standard gauge engines don't work hard enough. Thomas just becomes cross, then he and Duncan set off.

Thomas and Duncan arrive at a junction, which go down two tracks, Duncan suggests that Thomas should go down the track leading to the Old River Bridge which is a very old bridge that hasn't been used for years while he goes down the normal way to the yard, Duncan then chuffs away leaving Thomas on his own. Thomas then chuffs away going towards the bridge. Thomas reaches the bridge and chuffs onto it, but then part of the bridge collapses and falls into the ravine below, Thomas jolts backwards quickly, then another part of the bridge collapses and Thomas puffs even more back, then the last part of the bridge collapses and falls into the ravine. Luckily, Thomas races off of the bridge just in time.

Thomas raced back to the junction and decided to take the other track, the track had been unused for years too and bushes were in the way. After Thomas had pushed his way through all the bushes. He finds an old town which was very old and hadn't been used for hundreds of years. Thomas looks around the village and sees buildings covered in rust and ivy, and many buildings were falling apart. Thomas decides to keep on chuffing as he puffs out of the town.

Meanwhile at Arlesburgh Junction the small engines are delivering ballast for the new branch line, when Thomas sadly puffs in. When asked what is wrong by Bert, Thomas crossly tells them about Silver replacing him and what Gordon told him. The small engines tell him that bigger engines always act superior than smaller engines, even if they come out on top. The small engines then start singing "Never Overlook A Little Engine" to cheer Thomas up, but unknowingly make him overconfident. When Thomas arrives at Great Topstead yard, he remembers what the small engines told him about rails and sleepers coming before ballast and eagerly shunts some flatbeds of sleepers and rails along to the construction site. The workmen try to stop him from travelling along the unstable track, but Thomas thinks they are cheering for him. He bursts through the safety barriers and rolls over the unstable ground, just as it gives way and a large sinkhole forms. Thomas tries to escape the hole, but the trucks pull him in as his crew jumps clear. Thomas falls into the cavern, then lands on a flatbed, then he rolls down the first flatbed and rolls down the other, then he rolls onto the third flatbed which races down a slope, the flatbed crashes at the bottom of the slope and Thomas races up the flatbed and flies onto the track below, but he becomes a runaway and starts bumping into Mine Trolleys and hitting blocked-off areas of the cavern, but as he hasn't got his crew anymore, he can't stop, then he sees a dead-end right up ahead, then Thomas sees two mine carts rolling down the other two tracks beside him and sees that all three tracks connect with the same line near the end of the cavern, Thomas starts to pick up speed as he races towards the dead-end and the two Mine Trolleys fly off the rails, Thomas races off of the tracks and lands at the bottom of the cavern, Thomas is severely damaged after the mine sequence, however, he lands on a jetty which has water surrounding it, but then buried into the rocks, Thomas discovers an old treasure chest.


Characters introduced



UK and AUS



  1. Never Overlook A Little Engine (The Return of Sailor John version)
  2. We Make A Team Together (The Return of Sailor John version)


  • This special is the sequel of Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure. References to said special are also made as well as stock footage from said special also being used.
  • This special takes place between the one-hundreth and twenty-second seasons.
  • This special marks the first of multiple things:
    • Ned and Buster's first appearances in full CGI.
      • Ned:
        • His first appearance since The Great Discovery.
      • Buster:
        • His first appearance since The Great Discovery.
    • The first appearance of Sailor John since Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure.
    • The first time where engines from the North Western Railway, engines from the Skarloey Railway, engines from the Arlesdale Railway and The Pack have all appeared at the same time.
    • Rusty's first appearance in a special since King of the Railway as well as his first speaking role in a special since Blue Mountain Mystery.
    • Duncan's first appearance in a special since The Great Discovery.
  • This special marks the last of several things:
    • The final time Donald is voiced by Joe Mills as Rob Rackstraw took over the role in the twentieth season.
    • The final time Daisy is voiced by Teresa Gallagher as Tracy-Ann Oberman took over the role in the twentieth season.
    • The final time Ryan is voiced by Eddie Redmayne as Steven Kynman took over the role in the twentieth season.
    • The last appearance of Sailor John to date.
  • In the UK theatrical release and the US and Australian DVD releases of this special, Nathan Clarke is credited as Nathan Clarke Brown. However, in the UK DVD release, he is just credited as Nathan Clarke.
  • Several references were made throughout the special:
    • The opening pays homage to the original television series opening, with Thomas passing a windmill, going under a bridge and eventually pulling into Ffarquhar station.
    • Clarabel tells Thomas that his passengers do not like being bounced like peas in a frying pan. This is a reference to the first season episode Thomas and Bertie.
    • Marion believing that the small engines were magical is similar to what James and Henry thought they were in the book Small Railway Engines.
    • The way the other engines wake up Thomas is similar to Thomas and Gordon, primarily its retelling in The Adventure Begins, and just like The Adventure Begins, Henry tells Thomas that Gordon is waiting for his coaches.
    • The fifth time Thomas has been in the water with the first being in Trust Thomas, the second in Something Fishy, the third in Thomas and the Storyteller and the fourth in Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure.
    • The sixth time Thomas and Bertie have a race with the first being in Thomas and Bertie, the second being in Three Cheers for Thomas, the third being in Thomas' Shortcut, the fourth being in Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure and the fifth being in Thomas the Hero.
    • Sir Handel mentioning the time that Gordon told him to be ill so he didn't have to shunt trucks is a reference to the fourth season episode Trucks!.
    • The Fat Controller saying to Thomas that he doesn't want to hear anymore of his excuses is most likely a reference to the nineteenth season episode Who's Geoffrey?.
    • The Fat Controller saying to Thomas that, that is the second time he has been on a roller coaster ride through a mine is a reference to Thomas & Friends in 4-D: Bubbling Boilers.
  • Thomas' punishment is similar to Gordon's from The Trouble with Mud.


  • There are several mistakes in the credits, these being:
    • Christopher Ragland is credited in the UK credits despite none of his characters speaking in that dub.
    • John Hasler is not credited in the US dub despite voicing Rheneas.
    • Robert Wilfort is not credited in both dubs despite voicing Samson.
  • During his scenes at Arlesburgh Junction, Oliver's eighteenth season model is used. During the grand opening of Great Topstead, his nineteenth season model is used.
  • Same happens to Duck as during his scenes at Great Topstead at the beginning, his nineteenth season model is used and all the shots after that, his one-hundreth season model is used.

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