Improper Engines
Season 1, Episode 5
Air date January 20th, 2014
Written by DonaldDouglasandToby6
Directed by DonaldDouglasandToby6
Episode guide
Where's BoCo?
The Crashing Kipper


In the old days of the North Western Railway, back when there were only six engines, Henry was a very different engine. He had a different shape and a small firebox, which caused him to not have enough steam and break down a lot. Henry was given Welsh coal, but it grew expensive. To solve the problem, The Fat Controller had sent him to Crewe to be rebuilt, and he's been in that same shape ever since, and is sick a lot less often.

However, the memories still reside with the engines, particularly James, who had always found the situation rather amusing. Even though they're friends, James often teased the big engine about being "accident-prone".

One day, Henry was puffing along the Main Line with a local train. He was having a wonderful time, seeing the sights. Suddenly he noticed a black, oily substance on the tracks. Henry gasped. "Oh no! I think that's the Diesel oil BoCo was leaking yesterday!" he thought. "Driver, we need to stop! Now!" cried Henry, but it was too late. Before Henry's driver could apply the brakes, he slipped on the oil and dashed right by a red signal! Worse still, Donald was up ahead with a slow goods. Unable to stop, he crashed right into Donald's train. A loud crash was heard behind him, and Donald quickly braked. "Losh sakes, what the blazes happened back there?" he asked worriedly. Henry was badly damaged; his front was twisted and his lamp was in pieces. Luckily, nobody was hurt, but that didn't make up for the trucks and the brakevan that were destroyed during the calamity. "Och, what have ya done?" cried Donald, "This train was full to the brim with bricks! Now they're all destroyed!" Henry felt very silly, even though he knew it wasn't his fault. The yardmaster phoned the yard, but unfortunately for Henry, the only engine available was James. Henry groaned as the red engine came into view. When he arrived, it wasn't long before James thought up a comment on the situation. "This is proof that you are an improper engine! All these mishaps will force the Fat Controller to have you retired, you poor old thing! First the Flying Kipper, then Welsh coal, then a cow, then Duck crashed into your brakevan, then another incident with the Flying Kipper, then your tubes, and now this!" chortled James. "Henry may be a bit accident-prone, but have you seen Percy lately? He recently crashed into some pumpkins and one of his mail bags exploded! Talk about real accident-prone." chuckled Donald. James laughed even harder as Rocky silently set to work; he knew better than to argue with the red engine.

Word soon spread of the incident, for James and Donald, since he wasn't damaged by the incident, chattered about it to the other engines. Gordon and James talked endlessly about it. "Talk about improper. He must be a jinx!" said Gordon. "You'd think he'd be retired by now." added James. "Shut up!" burst out BoCo as he oiled alongside, "Henry's a Really Useful Engine, just like the rest of us!" "You're lucky Henry isn't here to hear your insults. Imagine if he heard his two best friends trash him like this!" agreed Edward severely. James snorted. "You wouldn't understand! It's really starting to get distracting!" Edward just sighed.

Later, James was to take Hector and some other Troublesome Trucks from the coaling plant to the Steelworks. It was a while before he arrived. Duck arrived in the Coaling Plant to collect some coal for the Little Western. "Molly, have you heard James lately?" he asked, clearly not in the best of moods. "I can't say I have, no. Why?" Molly asked worriedly as she shunted Hector into place. "He says Henry's an improper engine, just because of a little accident with Donald! He seems to forget he was the engine who crashed into some tar wagons." snorted Duck in disgust, "Tell me Molly, how could an engine be considered improper?" "I wouldn't say an engine is improper, even the naughty ones." said Molly with confidence. "Exactly. Unfortunately James doesn't know that. I just wish something could be done about it." and Duck puffed away. Unknown to the two engines, Hector had heard everything. He was cross with James; he had met Henry on a couple of occasions and thought he was a very nice engine, and didn't deserve James' scorn.m Molly was uncoupled from the hopper and she puffed onto the other track as James backed into position. "Ugh, can you believe Henry, Molly? I swear, the Fat Controller's going to notice soon." Molly wanted to defend Henry but James interrupted her. "I mean, he must have had 50 accidents at best!" he snorted. "And... you're much better?" Molly asked quietly. James rolled his eyes. "Well, what do you think the answer is? Of course I'm better! I'm red! What color is better than red?" Before Molly could say any more, James took off. Hector was determined more than ever to pay James out. "No-one talks like that to my best friend!" he growled to himself.

He whispered a plan to the trucks. "Let's hold back on the hill! It will be great fun!" whispered Hector. The trucks giggled. "Yes, it will! Yes, it will!" James had heard the trucks giggling and biffed them. "Ow!" Hector grunted as James started to climb the hill. The red engine could feel the strain as the heavy trucks held back against him. While climbing, the driver looked back. "Looks like the trucks are playing their tricks again, James. Pull hard so we can get over this hill without any trouble." James heaved up the hill, but the trucks weren't willing to give up. He wheezed up the hill, going slower and slower with each wheel turn. "I can't do it! I can't do it!" he panted helplessly. "Yes you can! Yes you can!" encouraged his driver as the fireman worked quickly to shovel coal into his firebox. That was the boost James needed, and he huffed up to the top of the hill. "Ha! I told you annoying pests that I could beat you!" he laughed, "Clever me!" Hector was cross; his plan hadn't worked; apparently, James was stronger than Hector had first thought. He whispered to the trucks again, thinking up another plan quickly. "Change of plans. We'll be pushing James down the hill instead!" he whispered, "That'll be even funner!" "Oh yes, we love doing that!" the trucks giggled. James smirked as he started going down the hill swiftly, but was caught off guard as the trucks surged forward. "On! On! On!" the trucks laughed. Hector, in particular, felt proud. "Go forward! Go forward!" Hector chortled as James started losing control. The driver put on the brakes, but the trucks were full to the brim of heavy coal, so gravity did its work and pushed James right down the hill. "I've got to stop! I've got stop!" groaned James. He whooshed down the hill, faster and faster until he saw that Edward was up ahead at Wellsworth, resting his wheels. Edward suddenly heard James' desperate whistle. Fearing for his friend's safety, he made a decision. "Go driver, I'll take the force!" Edward called. The crews of both engines and the guard jumped clear. James, unable to stop, smashed straight into Edward's tender, making him jerk forward. "Ouch!" exclaimed Edward, "That hurt!" The driver examined him closely and found that the coupling between Edward and his tender had broken due to the pressure of James and the train. James, meanwhile, had dented buffers and a flat tyre. "Looks like you'll both have to go to the Steamworks," said Edward's driver. Edward and James sighed in dismay. James started to worry; Henry was still in the Steamworks and would probably tease him back.

Soon, BoCo was sent to collect the two engines. "Rocky will put you on flatbeds," he said. Rocky grinned. "Yes, indeed! Right away, everyone!" At last, Edward and James were tied down and BoCo started off. During the journey, his worry grew and grew until they arrived at the Steamworks. As BoCo shunted the two engines into the Steamworks, Henry noticed Edward and James. He particularly noticed James covered in coal dust, from the coal trucks earlier. Henry couldn't help but laugh. "Well, well, well! Looks like you, James, are an improper engine! How shocking!" James was very embarrassed, but some plucked enough courage to respond. "So? I've had less accidents than you! You are a jinx! Pure and simple!" huffed James. "You've had your fair share of accidents. Rusty Red." scowled Henry. The two continued to argued as Edward winced. "Oh, boy..." whispered Edward to BoCo, "This could get ugly..." BoCo could only murmur in agreement.


  • Edward
  • Henry
  • Gordon
  • James
  • Duck
  • Donald
  • Molly
  • BoCo
  • Rocky
  • Hector
  • Percy (does not speak)
  • Emily (cameo)
  • Mavis (cameo)


  • Tidmouth Sheds
  • The Coaling Plant
  • Knapford Yards
  • Maron
  • Gordon's Hill
  • Wellsworth
  • Crovan's Gate Steamworks
  • Kellsthorpe (mentioned)


  • References to the first season episodes Coal The Flying Kipper, and Dirty Objects, the second season episode Cows, the fourth season episode Fish, the fifth season episode Something in the Air, the seventh season episode What's the Matter with Henry?, and the seventeenth season episode Percy's Lucky Day are used.
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