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RS Reviews: Thomas Comes Home - Underappreciated But Not Forgotten

Thomas Comes Home

Reviewed by Diesel11

Some time ago, Sodor Island Fansite polled visitors on their favorite Railway Series books. Reading through an essay on the results, I was surprised to see that Thomas Comes Home received no votes at all. Does this mean that it's the worst book in the entire Railway Series? Or does it just mean that all the other books are better than this one?

Before I begin however, I must admit that this is not my favorite Railway Series book. From the Reverend I prefer Mountain Engines, and by Christopher Awdry I have yet to make up my mind (because let's face it, they're all good). Thomas Comes Home is, however, high up there on my list, even though I've never read it (though I have listened to it online).

The question is - is this the worst book in the Railway Series? In my opinion - no, it's not. It's just not the all-time best. Personally, I've always disliked Thomas and the Fat Controller's Engines, and I bring it up because I'm surprised that even it got votes, whereas Thomas Comes Home did not. However, I will say that I can understand where people are coming from. Thomas Comes Home is perhaps the most insignificant book in the series. The title is misleading - the main purpose of it is to explain what went on on the Ffarquhar Branch Line while Thomas was away at The Great Railway Show (for those curious as to what he did, you can read that in the previous book). As such, it's more a collection of tales from when he was away than having a real theme to it like many books do. Thomas being away is only really apparent at the very beginning in the introduction and at the very end when he comes home. As such, it's interesting that it would be called 'Thomas Comes Home' instead of something else like 'Branch Line Tales' or something of that sort. However, it would be understandable, considering that anything 'Thomas' in the title is easier to market to kids (some further books are even better and clearer examples of this idea).

However, Thomas really isn't present in this book. You can forget he ever existed. Percy, Toby, and Daisy all run the branch line very well in his absence, and it feels sort of like a throwback to the earlier volume Branch Line Engines, albeit here with a much better, less lazy and more hardworking Daisy. Indeed, to all Daisy fans this book does not disappoint - and to fans of Percy and Toby it doesn't either. (Thomas fans on the other hand will be sorely disappointed.)

As to the stories themselves - I have to say that they are some of my favorites. The book opens with "Snow Problem" - a nice pun BTW - one of my favorite Daisy stories and one of my favorite Railway Series stories overall. There are quite a few stories in the Railway Series and the TV Series to deal with an engine saying something like, "Snow is silly soft stuff" (can you remember Thomas?) and then having their words come back to haunt them. In this case, Daisy blows it off at first, then fails and ends up stranded for an entire week! That has got to be one of the best instances of karma I have ever seen.

"Washout!" features one of my favorite stations get (I think) it's only appearance in the Railway Series - Hackenbeck. It's a small, quaint little station that has been sorely underused in both the Railway Series and the TV Series. The story itself is another favorite of mine. Percy is worried about the bridge by Hackenbeck due to the melting snow causing flooding. One day when things look safer, Percy gets held up, and when he goes over the bridge it collapses behind him. It's perhaps the single most underrated story in the entire Railway Series - in fact, I had known all of the other stories existed for quite some time before I found out about this one (either that or I just clean forgot about it). Overall it's a nice little story that I find quite enjoyable.

"Toby's Megatrain" is another underrated story. This time, Toby forgets about his small tank whilst pulling an enormous amount of trucks, and runs out of water. The story is actually based on an annual story called "The Strawberry Special", which I haven't read but would like to. The fact that Toby has racked up forty-eight trucks I find incredible, and really, we need more of this Toby in the TV Series - one that despite the odds will still attempt to get the job done. It also has a nice throwback to "Thomas Goes Fishing" from Tank Engine Thomas Again.

Finally, the book ends with "Thomas Come Home", and this time we are reminded that yes, the little blue engine does exist and is now returning from the Great Railway Show. George pops up again, threatening to flatten the rails the engines run on, and then on the day Thomas returns, Daisy, with a special train, ends up with a traffic cone stuck in here wheels. It's quickly mended, and she hurries off again, arriving just as Thomas puffs into the yard....

And that's it. Nothing else. Just a straight-forward ended to this book. The story itself is my least favorite out of the four, but honestly, I really like that ending. Thomas comes home. That's it. As to the pictures in the book... I'm not an art critic, but there's a reason that Clive Spong is my favorite RWS artist.

So in summing-up, Thomas Comes Home is not the best Railway Series book. However, it is one of the best 'slice-of-life' books that either the Reverend or his son have written. It's by far the most underappreciated book in the series, but certainly not forgotten.

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