King of the Railway is the 2013 special, and the seventh installment in the Thomas & Friends lineup of specials. It was released on DVD on September 2nd, 2013 in the UK, and on September 17th, 2013 on DVD and Blu-Ray in the US.
After many years of travelling the world, Sir Robert Norramby returns to Sodor, with plans to restore and reopen Ulfstead Castle. All the engines want to help out with the castle's restoration, while a new engine to Sodor, Stephen, tries to prove his worth and find a job on the island. However, when Stephen goes missing, the other engines must find him.
One morning, Thomas and Percy are both shunting trucks at Brendam Docks, but are both acting silly. Cranky warns both engines to be careful, but they dismiss him and continue playing around until Thomas biffs into one of the flatbeds into another truck, causing a crate containing a suit of armor to fall out. Percy thinks the armor is alive and runs away, but Thomas reassures him that it is only a suit of armor, while at the same time wondering who it belongs to and why it is there.After the discovery of the suit of armor, the narrator tells the audience a story from the old days of Sodor. Long before the railways of Sodor were built, the Island was ruled by kings, and the greatest king of all was King Godred, who protected the Island from invaders and wore a golden crown. However, the King's crown was stolen by a group of thieves, who hid the crown. Though the thieves were caught, the crown was never seen again. Years have passed, and the castle has fallen into ruins, though the castle can still be seen on the Earl of Sodor's estate at Ulfstead.
Later, the Steam Team, Thomas, and Annie and Clarabel are called to the Washdown, where they are to be cleaned and polished. None of them know what is going on, but Emily knows that Spencer is coming to the Island, while James says that he was told a special visitor would be arriving. Just then, the Fat Controller arrives and confirms what James had said, telling the engines that his old friend, Sir Robert Norramby, the Earl of Sodor, would be returning to the Island after many years of travelling the world. All the engines are excited, and preparations are made for the Earl's arrival. At Knapford station, all the engines gather for the Earl's party, and Spencer arrives with the Earl. However, the Earl is confused about whom the party is for, and tells the Fat Controller that he promised someone named Millie that he would be meeting her at the estate by 2:00. The Earl leaves the station almost as soon as he had arrived, and all the engines are left puzzled about who he was referring to.The next morning, Thomas goes to Brendam Docks to deliver a shipment to the estate at Ulfstead Castle. When he arrives at the castle, he meets a French narrow gauge tank engine named Millie, who is the Earl's privately-owned steam engine. Millie tells Thomas that, while the Earl was travelling the world, she was kept locked up in her shed, but is now able to freely steam again. While Millie's trucks are being loaded, Thomas notices the same suit of armor he saw at the Docks and is concerned he may have damaged it, but the Earl reassures him that the armor is very durable and no harm would come to it. As the Earl climbs into Millie's coach, he mentions that he requires King Godred's crown, as it is the one thing that is missing for his plan. Millie puffs away, leaving Thomas to wonder what the Earl had meant by the crown.
That night, Spencer returns to Sodor and stops at Tidmouth Sheds, where he proudly tells the engines that he is on loan to the Earl of Sodor and will be helping him rebuild the castle. He then gets into an argument with Gordon over the importance of their jobs and who is the fastest. Percy suggests that both engines have a race to prove who is the fastest, which they both agree to do. The following morning, Gordon is waiting at Knapford for his coaches, when Spencer races through without telling him that he was ready for the race. Gordon races after Spencer, and the two race against each-other until Spencer is diverted onto another track and heads down a junction, telling Gordon he has important work to do for the Earl.
While he is shunting at Brendam Docks, Percy comes across Spencer, who he had mistaken for Thomas. Spencer tells Percy that he had brought the Earl to the Docks to have a business meeting with the Dock Manager, but Percy teases him for not having any real work to do. Later on, Thomas meets Spencer at the Blue Mountain Quarry, where he finds out that Spencer is pulling a train of stone, much to Spencer's embarrassment. This makes the other engines curious, and at Knapford, they all speculate about what the Earl is doing. Just then, Toby arrives, and reports to the other engines that Henry has broken down and that the Fat Controller wants Percy to pull his heavy goods train to the Earl's estate. Percy is excited, and sets off at once.
When Percy arrives at Brendam Docks, he finds James and Thomas already there. All three of them were told to take the train, and all of them begin arguing about which one of them is to pull the train until the Fat Controller arrives and tells them that they are meant to work together to pull the train. The three engines couple up in front of the train, and set off. The journey to the castle proves difficult, especially when the Troublesome Trucks hold the engines back, but together they manage to climb up the steep hill and make it to the estate. When the engines arrive, Thomas notices Jack working, who eagerly tells him that he is helping the Earl restore Ulfstead Castle, much to the engines' amazement.As the engines shunt the trucks into their proper sidings, the Earl notices a large crate behind Thomas and tells him that it was meant to go to the Steamworks. All three engines are excited about what is inside the crate, and together, they and the Earl go to the Steamworks. When they arrive, the crate is opened up, and underneath is a very old and rusty steam engine, who the Earl introduces as his friend, Stephen. Stephen tells the three engines that nobody has seen him in a long time, and he has not been in steam for years. As Stephen is taken to another part of the Steamworks, Thomas asks the Earl why he is rebuilding the castle and what Stephen will be doing. The Earl tells Thomas that it is all part of his big surprise and that he has a very special job for Stephen, but tells him not to tell him. Thomas promises to keep it a secret.
That night, Thomas, Percy and James tell the rest of the Steam Team about Stephen, and all of them want to meet him. They get their chance the next day when Henry is having problems with his safety valve, so Emily takes him to the Steamworks. The rest of the Steam Team tag along, where they find Stephen suspended in the air by a crane. Just then, Victor arrives and asks why all the engines have come, and the engines make up several excuses until Toby tells him they just want to meet Stephen. Stephen tells the engines that he was one of the first steam engines ever built, and explains that, back when he was a new engine, steam engines were still brand new and experimental, and he won races against other engines. Stephen says that he used to work at mines and at the docks, but was replaced by bigger, stronger and more modern engines as time went on. Percy asks Stephen if he ever saw knights in shining armor, to which Stephen laughs and tells Percy that he is not that old. The other engines laugh and leave the Steamworks, and Stephen reassures Percy that asking questions is a good thing and that he should not feel bad about it.
Soon, Stephen's overhaul is completed, and all the engines gather outside the Steamworks to see him until the Fat Controller arrives and orders them to go back to work. As the other engines leave, the Fat Controller tells Thomas, Percy and James that the Earl requires their assistance again, and they promise to do their best. However, as the engines prepare to leave, Thomas notices Stephen looking depressed, and decides to tell him about his special job. James and Percy both tell Thomas that the Earl told him not to tell Stephen, but Thomas feels sorry for Stephen and tells him anyway. Stephen believes it is a joke at first, but when Thomas assures him that the Earl really does have a surprise job for him, he becomes more excited. After that, Thomas, Percy and James travel back to Ulfstead Castle, where they head into the castle to do their jobs. They are all amazed by the sight of the restored castle.
Meanwhile at the Steamworks, Stephen asks Victor and Kevin if they know what his special job is, but neither of them know what it is. Victor tries to calm Stephen down and tells him to be patient, but Stephen is too eager to stay around any longer and leaves the Steamworks so that he can find a job suitable for him. As Stephen travels along the Main Line, he proves to be a lot slower than he once was, and slows Gordon down considerably while he is having another race with Spencer. Gordon is annoyed and asks Stephen to hurry up, but Stephen tells him to relax and that he is going as fast as he can.
At Ulfstead Castle, Thomas, Percy and James are working on restoring the castle; their job is to move a platform with scaffolding built onto it to restore the roof beams, known as the "Traveller". When Percy wobbles slightly, tools fall on top of James, annoying him. Thomas tells both engines to be careful and jerks forward suddenly, causing the roof beam to collapse and covering the place in dust. Nobody is hurt, but James complains that his lovely red paint has been ruined by the dust covering him. However, the three engines manage to get the job done, and soon the roof beams are put into place. When their job is done, the Earl shows the engines his collection of medieval relics, revealing to the engines that he will be reopening Ulfstead Castle as a tourist attraction and that Stephen will be taking visitors around the castle grounds. The Earl tells Thomas to inform Stephen about his new job, and he allows James to go to the Washdown.
Stephen arrives at Brendam Docks, where he meets Diesel and Paxton. Though Paxton tries to be friendly to Stephen, Diesel mocks him for his old-fashioned appearance and tells him to let the more modern engines do their work. Though Stephen is upset, he brushes it off and decides to continue his search. He makes his way to the Blue Mountain Quarry, where he meets Skarloey, Rheneas and Luke. Stephen believes that he is strong enough to pull the trucks of stone. However, he soon finds out that the stone trucks have become much heavier since he was first built, and he can only manage with one truck. and even then, the truck is too heavy for Stephen, and as he goes round a bend, he nearly derails. Skarloey tells Stephen that he might not be suitable for working at the Blue Mountain Quarry, but tells him that there used to be an old mine near Ulfstead Castle. Stephen decides to go investigate.
Back at Ulfstead Castle, the Earl shows the engines his collection of medieval relics, revealing that he is reopening the castle as a tourist attraction, but sadly, he does not have King Godred's crown. However, he tells Thomas that Stephen will be working at the castle, taking visitors around the castle grounds, and allows him to inform Stephen about his new job. He then allows James to go to the Washdown, just as he notices a train of trucks filled to the brim with stone.
Meanwhile, two high-speed steam engines race across Sodor, rocketing past Gordon and Spencer while they are having another race. The two engines introduce themselves as Connor and Caitlin, and they will be taking visitors to the Earl's estate at Ulfstead Castle from the Mainland. They challenge Gordon and Spencer to a race, but the two engines, knowing that they stand no chance against the newcomers, make up excuses as to why they cannot compete. The signal turns green, and Connor and Caitlin both race away.
At the bottom of Ulfstead Castle, Stephen arrives at the mine, but discovers that, much to his dismay, the mine has been closed for years. Disappointed, he believes that Thomas was wrong about the Earl having a special job for him. Meanwhile, at the top of the hill, Thomas and Percy both volunteer to take away the heavy stone train, even though James had not returned yet. As the engines travel down the hill, Percy asks if one of them should be at the front of the train, but it is too late, as the Troublesome Trucks pull the engines down the hill at high speeds. The train runs down the track leading to the old mine, and Stephen charges into the mine to save himself, losing his funnel and causing the entrance to the mine to collapse. Thomas and Percy both pull the train away safely, but neither of them know that Stephen is now trapped inside the mine.
Thomas arrives at the Steamworks to tell Stephen about his new job, but discovers that he is not there. Victor tells Thomas that Stephen left the Steamworks in quite a hurry, and he becomes worried. He tells Percy and James about this, and together they try to find him. They ask all of the engines who met Stephen, but none of them know where he has That night, they tell the rest of the Steam Team that Stephen is missing, and they plan to find him.Meanwhile, down inside the old mine, Stephen tries to find his way out, but all of the lines he goes to lead to dead ends. He tries to back up, but accidentally runs into some rocks, causing a rock fall. When the dust settles, Stephen finds an old wooden chest lying in the rocks and bumps into it, causing the chest to open. A bright light emits from the inside of the chest, and inside is something Stephen could hardly believe he had found.
The next morning, Thomas wakes the engines up and tells them that they must find Stephen. Just then, the Fat Controller arrives and asks the engines where they are going, when the Earl arrives and tells him that he is worried about where Stephen has gone. The Fat Controller allows the engines to search for Stephen, and soon all of the engines of Sodor are searching for Stephen, but no matter where they look, they cannot find him.
Down in the mine, Stephen tries to find his way out, but discovers that, much to his disappointment, he has turned around on a loop line and is now back where he had started. He tries to go back, but runs out of steam and comes to a stop. Outside the mine, Thomas and Percy pass by the junction, when Percy suggests that they check the mine just in case. Thomas goes down the old mine track and sees nothing, but before he can leave, he discovers Stephen's damaged funnel lying on the ground. He whistles to Stephen, who uses the very last of his steam to let out one final whistle. Now aware that Stephen is trapped inside the mine, Thomas races up to the castle and retrieves Jack, who clears the entrance to the mine tunnel. Then, Thomas puffs inside the old tunnel, where he discovers Stephen. Stephen tells Thomas that he was wrong about his special job, but Thomas tells him that the Earl has restored Ulfstead Castle and that he wants him to take visitors around, much to Stephen's delight.
When Thomas pulls Stephen out of the mine, James, Percy, Harold, Jack and the Earl are waiting outside, cheering Stephen on as he is rescued. As Thomas pulls Stephen along the old track, Stephen tries to tell the Earl about his discovery in the mine, when the old wooden bridge under his tracks breaks. Thomas bravely holds onto Stephen, but the track under him begins sinking. Jack jumps in and holds the track beam up, and Thomas pulls Stephen back onto the rails. The Earl then tells the engines to get ready, as tomorrow will be a very special day.The next day, Ulfstead Castle is reopened, and guests from both Sodor and the Mainland flock to the castle to celebrate its grand opening. As Stephen, now wearing a new funnel, pulls into the castle with his coaches, Percy spots the suit of armor moving and becomes scared, until he finds out it is only the Earl wearing it. The Earl announces that, though there is still some work to do, Ulfstead Castle is reopened. He then reveals to the crowd that Stephen had found King Godred's crown while he was trapped in the mine, something he believed had been lost forever. Thomas apologizes to Stephen for getting him in so much trouble, but Stephen tells Thomas that, without him, he still would have been trapped in the mine and he would have never found King Godred's crown. The Earl then announces that he would like to have Gordon and Spencer race against Connor and Caitlin, and the Fat Controller agrees. Outside the castle, the four engines line up, and the Earl starts the race. The four engines race down the hill, while Thomas and Stephen watch from the castle.
- Sir Topham Hatt
- Peter Sam
- Lady Hatt
- Sodor Brass Band
- Sir Robert Norramby
- King Godred (does not speak)
- The Thieves (do not speak)
- The first trailer for the special included footage that was produced prior to the film's final release. As a result, many of the scenes shown in the trailer are different compared to how they appear in the final special, and some of the dialogue is from early takes.
- During the trailer, there is a scene of the Earl waving from inside Millie's cab that was not seen anywhere in the final release of the film. It is unknown why this scene was cut.
- There is no lighting in the Steamworks during the scene when Stephen is first introduced. In the final special, there is sunlight coming through the windows above the workshop.
- During the scene of Thomas and Percy running out of control with the trucks, they are clean. In the final special, they are covered in dust.
- The dialogue of Thomas, Percy and James saying "Together?" is delivered differently compared to how it sounds in the final special. Likewise, the line, "Don't worry, Stephen, I'm coming to rescue you!" also sounds different.
- In the US trailer, there is a piece of dialogue where the Earl tells Thomas that he has a special job for him, James and Percy. This line is not heard anywhere in the actual special, and the Fat Controller who tells the three engines about this job.
- In the US dub, Stephen cries out "Hello! Can anybody hear me out there? Help! Help!" and "Calling all engines! Calling all engines!" while he is trapped inside the mine. These lines were excluded from the UK dub for unknown reasons.
- When Toby tells the engines that Henry has broken down, Gordon believes that Henry requires special coal again, to which Toby tells him this issue was resolved years ago. This is a reference to the first season episode, The Flying Kipper, when Henry's steaming problems were resolved. However, in episodes released prior to King of the Railway, Henry still required his special coal.
- This bit of dialogue was present in early drafts of the special, but was excluded in later versions. It was included into the special at the insistence of Sam Wilkinson.
- The scene of Henry being unable to build up steam at Tidmouth Sheds is a near-image of the beginning scene of Coal, as he is complaining to James about his inability to steam in both versions. Furthermore, both engines are in the same positions.
- When the trestle bridge at the mine begins to collapse, Jack jumps in and supports the falling bridge while Thomas gets Stephen to safety. Jack previously did a similar thing in A Friend in Need, when he held up a collapsing bridge to save Thomas.