Thomas & gordon off the rails


Written by the Rev. W. Awdry


In 1990, Rev Awdry completed a final rehash of one of his earlier works, this time combining Off the Rails with Down The Mine. This was the first of two books to be illustrated by Stephen Lings, who emulated the style of Clive Spong for the sake of continuity, but did not have the same flare for technical accuracy as the original artist.

Story Summary Written by R Healy

Gordon is told he’ll have to pull a special train of trucks, and doesn’t want to do it.  His fire is deliberately sluggish, and Edward has to push him to the

turntable to make sure he’s ready in time.  All the while, Gordon is still grumbling and protesting.  In a bid to get out of pulling the train, he tries to jam the turntable to stop it from turning.  But instead, he ends up going too far and slides off the table completely, right into a muddy ditch.


The Fat Controller is furious and orders that Edward takes charge of the train instead, whilst Gordon is left to think about what he’s done.  Meanwhile, he’s teased by school children, and has the indignity of watching tadpoles swim around his wheels.  Eventually, James and Henry come to haul him free from the ditch later that evening.  Gordon then crawls home to the shed a sadder and wiser engine – and as punishment for his behaviour, he’s ordered to pull trucks instead of the Express.


Thomas enjoys teasing Gordon about his folly, much to the shock and dislike of Annie and Clarabel. Once his passenger service is done, Thomas goes off to a mine to shunt trucks.  There, he has an ambition – to run past the Danger Board, which forbids engines to pass. Thomas doesn’t realise that this is a safety precaution – he simply wants to ‘undermine’ the rules.  He knocks his Driver off the footplate and sidles into the siding, coming a cropper when the ground opens up underneath him.


The Fat Controller has seen everything, and begins sizing up how to co-ordinate the rescue.  The ground wouldn’t take a crane, but Gordon could pull him free.  Thomas isn’t sure – he wouldn’t like to meet Gordon that soon!  Gordon laughs loudly at Thomas’s misfortune, but soon takes charge of the situation and with much puffing and wheel-slip, he hauls Thomas back to the rails and to safety once more.


Both engines are now in disgrace, and both understand the other’s predicament.  Gordon suggests they form an ‘alliance’ where they both help one another in future, and Thomas duly agrees.  And together, the allies puff home – ready to face their punishments together.