Really Useful Engines


Christopher Awdry

Illustrated by:

Clive Spong


1983 - present

Previous book:

Tramway Engines

Next book:

James and the Diesel Engines

Really Useful Engines is the twenty-seventh book of the Railway Series.


Dear Friends, I am happy to say that Thomas and his friends are still at work, trying as hard as ever to prove themselves to be Really Useful Engines. Sadly my father is no longer able to be involved with the Region's affairs, but it is with grateful thanks that I would like to dedicate this book to him, the person who began it all.

The Author


Stop Thief!

The guard tells Thomas' crew that the stationmaster's house was burgled the previous night, and his gardening trophies and new car were stolen. Thomas is later puffing through the valley when he sees a car very much like the stationmaster's one and warns his crew, who identify the driver and passenger as the thieves. At the next signalbox, they throw the fireman's lunch box, with a note inside, to a signalman. The thieves are stopped at a roadblock, the trophies and car are recovered undamaged, and the Fat Controller arrives at Ffarquhar to congratulate Thomas and his crew.

Mind that Bike

Tom Tipper the postman falls ill, and, when he recovers, discovers that his van has been replaced with a bicycle. When he gets to Ffarquhar, Tom is asked to fill in some papers, and he carelessly props it against Percy. A boy comes along and starts riding the bike just as Percy starts. The boy falls off and manages to get out of the way, but the bike is run over and is beyond repair. Luckily, all ends well as Tom is given his van again.


An extra load of fish needs to transported in the "Flying Kipper", but the only vans available are several old rusty ones. At Wellsworth, Henry calls for a banker and Duck arrives to help him with his train. Going up Gordon's Hill, however, a tail-lamp falls off and Duck drops behind. Henry soon slows down, and Duck collides with the vans, denting his funnel and boiler


One day after pulling the Express, Gordon feels tired and Thomas replies by tells him to become a tank engine. Later, it's discovered Gordon needs new tubes. Henry is told to pull the Express, but one day he gets sick too. Thomas, Percy and Duck (each of whom starred in one of the book's other stories) are the only engines available, so they're coupled up. On Gordon's Hill, Percy runs out of steam. They're unable to uncouple him, so they try to struggle to the Works. Duck breaks down just outside the station, and Thomas, unable to take the train himself, stops. Gordon, who watched the whole scene from his siding, makes heavy breathing noises at Thomas.

Characters present


  • "Triple Header" was the first story of the four to be written. It is based on an incident at the Nene Valley Railway involving an 0-6-0 named "Thomas".
  • Completely by coincidence, the Reverend W. Awdry planned to call his twenty-seventh volume "Really Useful Engines".
  • The first two illustrations of "Triple-Header" were quite obviously based on previous Railway Series work: the first on *Reginald Payne's second illustration of Thomas and Gordon and the second on C. Reginald Dalby's second illustration of Edward, Gordon and Henry.
  • Sir Topham Hatt sports a moustache.


  • Thomas' valance is curved again.
  • In the sixth illustration of "Triple Header" no platform for the Skarloey Railway is visible.

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