Hero of the Rails is the 4th Thomas & Friends movie that was released in 2009.
Thomas is taking on water when Spencer rushes past. All of the engines soon have similar experiences and gather at Knapford to figure out what is going on. Halfway through their conversation, Spencer arrives. It turns out that he is staying for the summer to help the Duke and Duchess build their summer house. Needless to say, nobody is pleased with the news, especially when Spencer rushes around with his work, teasing the other engines. That night, all of the engines are tired and cross because they had all been teased by Spencer.
The next morning, at Brendam Docks, Spencer teases Thomas about his size and strength. Thomas has had enough and the other engines agree with him. Spencer then challenges Thomas to a race to take place at dawn the next day. All of the engines gather in the yard to wish Thomas good luck. Thomas and Spencer are coupled to their loads and Edward announces the start of the race.
Spencer and Thomas race across the Island. Spencer draws ahead while Thomas struggles up a hill with his load. Then the inevitable happens - Thomas' brakes fail and he thunders down the hill and along the main line until he races onto a rickety, old track. After stopping, Thomas finds an old, abandoned engine named Hiro. Thomas is amazed and asks Hiro what he is doing there. Hiro tells how he once worked on another island far away and how he was known as the "Master of the Railway". He sailed to Sodor on a big ship. Sodor was nothing like his old home, but he was still very happy. However, as the years went on, he began to show his age and Sodor did not have the necessary parts to repair him. He was hidden to avoid scrap, but the parts never came from his island and he was quietly forgotten. Thomas' immediate reaction is to tell the Fat Controller, but Hiro believes that if the Fat Controller finds out, he will be scrapped. So instead, Thomas promises to not tell the Fat Controller until Hiro can be a Really Useful Engine once again.
After he finds Hiro, Thomas goes to the Sodor Steamworks to have his brakes mended. The Steamworks is a busy, bustling place, with all sorts of work being done. One particular engine lives there, named Victor, a kind and enthusiastic engine. Thomas is soon repaired and then Spencer puffs into the Sodor Steamworks. Spencer starts to boast, but Thomas simply congratulates him on his win. Victor scolds Spencer for taking up space and sitting around chattering. Spencer leaves, very cross about having been spoken to in such a manner.
Kevin then drives clumsily over to Thomas and Victor. Victor scolds him for rushing around, while Thomas notices some engine parts on a flatbed. Thomas finishes his day's work and then comes by later to take the parts to Hiro. Victor says it is only taking up space anyway, so Thomas rushes off with it.
As he leaves, he hears Spencer behind him and quickly hides in a siding covered with trees. Spencer rumbles past and does not see Thomas. Thomas drops the parts off at Hiro's hideout and sets for home when he notices that the new summer house is dangerously close to where Hiro is hidden. Thomas knows he promised Hiro that he would look after him, but now he is worried.
That night, all of the engines are at the Shed. Thomas tells them all about his race and is about to mention Hiro when the Fat Controller arrives. The Fat Controller tells them that there is a lot of hard work in the morning, so they need to be up early and he tells Thomas not to rush around with heavy trucks for no reason; he wants Really Useful Engines - not Really Broken Engines, which makes Thomas worry more about Hiro.
The next morning, Thomas is taking machines to Farmer McColl, but he wants to help Hiro. Percy shows up and Thomas tells him everything. He asks Percy to deliver the machines for him while he goes to help Hiro. Percy does so, shunting his mail coaches into a siding in the meantime.
As Thomas heads to Hiro's Hideout, Spencer appears, wondering why Thomas is not working on his Branch Line. Thomas makes up a quick lie about going to the Docks and rushes off. Thomas waits a while before seeing Hiro again. Once there, his driver and his fireman put the new parts on Hiro. Hiro is very grateful and Thomas heads off, only to run into Spencer who chases him. Thomas soon finds Percy down the line, having broken down while delivering the goods to Farmer McColl. Spencer teases them, but Thomas takes no notice and brings Percy to the Steamworks.
At the Steamworks, Thomas and Percy tell Victor all about Hiro. Victor wonders why Thomas does not tell the Fat Controller, but promises to help. He tells them that every day, he will leave some trucks in a siding with parts for Hiro. But that night, the Fat Controller is very cross. Percy's mail coaches have mysteriously vanished and nobody can find them. Thomas promises that he will find them, but he knows this means he won't be able to help Hiro. So as soon as the Fat Controller leaves, Thomas tells the rest of the engines about Hiro.
The next day, Thomas is hard at work but Spencer is not; he is spying on Thomas to see what he is up to. At the same time, Gordon sneaks along and delivers more parts for Hiro. Thomas is beyond grateful and rushes to the Steamworks. There, Percy has been fixed, but the Fat Controller is still cross about the missing mail coaches. Victor tells Thomas he will have something for him later and the two engines rush off.
Thomas takes Percy to see Hiro. Percy is nervous about Hiro at first, but when Hiro complements him, the two become fast friends. Hiro tells them how he misses his friends from home and also jokingly talks about how he finds Gordon's face to be very unusual when he smiles. The two later head back home. As they do so, Spencer watches from the siding, determined to find out what they are up to.
The next day, Thomas and Percy go out to search for the missing mail coaches, under the Fat Controller's orders. Meanwhile, Spencer tries to harass Emily for information, but she tells him to go find out for himself. Spencer is so cross that he does not notice Percy and Thomas passing on the bridge behind him, with Edward coming down the other way.
Hiro, now in a very "patchwork" design, is feeling much better. Hiro mentions that James would be coming tomorrow, Percy comments on how he feels about James, sending Hiro laughing for the first time in years.
The next day, Thomas and Percy head to the quarry to search for the mail coaches. Spencer had secretly followed them there. But before he can do anything, Mavis appears and offers to show him around, but she is really shooing him away from Thomas and Percy while James sneaks away with more parts for Hiro. Spencer ends up under a chute and his funnel gets filled with slate.
Thomas and Percy are later getting coal and Emily is puffing off to give Hiro more parts. Edward and Henry pass with Spencer in tow, bringing him to the Steamworks. While Spencer is being taken care of, Thomas arrived. Kevin starts dropping things, which causes Spencer to wince and shut his eyes. As he does so, Thomas sneaks away with more parts.
But that night, the Fat Controller is furious. The summer house is nowhere near done, Spencer has been wandering around the Island, the mail coaches still have not been found and Thomas is not working on his branch line. All Hiro needs is one more part before he is completed, so the other engines promise to guard Hiro until Percy delivers the last part.
The next morning, Spencer is repaired and up early, searching around to find out what Thomas is up to. Just then, he finds Percy's mail coaches in a siding and whistles loudly believing that Thomas had been hiding them. James and Toby, meanwhile, are guarding Hiro and puff off to protect him by leading Spencer away from his hideout. Spencer races along with James and Toby whistling behind him, just as Thomas arrives in front of Spencer, blocking his way. The Fat Controller scolds Spencer for playing around with Percy's mail coaches and orders him to give them back at once. Spencer is infuriated and vows to make sure Thomas does not get away with it.
Thomas finds Hiro and tells him that Percy is on his way with the final part. The two are excited, until they suddenly hear Spencer's whistle. Thomas encourages Hiro to puff away from Spencer on his own. As the two make their escape, Spencer appears. Hiro speeds past him and Spencer is very surprised, having seen Hiro for the first time. As Hiro struggles on, parts begin to fall off of him. He cries out for Thomas to help, who can only beg him to keep going. Eventually, Hiro knows he cannot go on and comes to a stop. Spencer can hardly contain himself. He tells Thomas that the engine is bound to be scrapped. Suddenly, Gordon rushes by with the Express, challenging Spencer to race him. As Spencer speeds away, Thomas notices a siding where he can hide Hiro. He tells him that everything will be alright, but Hiro feels worse than ever.
Gordon and Spencer race to the station. Spencer is exhausted, having been running around all day. Gordon wins the race and who should step out of the coaches but the Fat Controller and the Duke and Duchess! While they scold Spencer, Thomas arrives, saying he will help Spencer finish the summer house. The Duke and Duchess are pleased, but Spencer's pride is shattered.
Hiro is miserable, knowing that he will soon be sent for scrap. Thomas begs him not to give up, as he knows how to make everything better. That night, Percy apologises to Thomas for hiding his mail coaches so close to Hiro since he was unaware of how far he was. However, Thomas tells the other engines that he will work so hard on the summer house that the Fat Controller will be pleased, hopefully pleased enough to understand Hiro's case and have him restored. Meanwhile, he encourages the other engines to visit him and keep him company. Thomas works very hard and the summer house is almost finished. While Spencer is talking to the Duke and Duchess, Thomas sneaks off to tell Hiro that soon, everything will be alright. He returns just in time to say goodbye. But as Thomas leaves, Spencer knows where Thomas is going and what he is about to do and decides to chase him down. The two engines race to the station. The two soon cross a bridge that goes over marshland, but one part is broken and cannot hold Spencer's weight. As he crosses, it snaps beneath him and he slithers into the mud while Thomas promises to return with help.
Thomas makes it to Knapford Station and the Stationmaster calls the Fat Controller, asking for him to come right away. When he arrives with the Duke and Duchess, Thomas tells him all about Hiro. The Fat Controller is not cross, nor does he want Hiro scrapped; in fact, Hiro is a very famous engine, the "Master of the Railway". He tells Thomas to bring Hiro to the Steamworks at once. Spencer, meanwhile, has to stay where he is, as punishment for disobeying the Duke and Duchess of Boxford's orders not to leave the summer house.
Thomas heads over to Hiro to tell him the wonderful news and the two engines are overjoyed. Thomas and Percy bring him to the Sodor Steamworks the next day. The Fat Controller and Victor promise to have him running like new again. And so, Hiro's restoration begins.
When Hiro is completed, all of the engines are there and they are amazed at how wonderful he looks. Thomas and Hiro quickly leave to find and help Spencer, who had been stranded where he is for some time. Spencer does not even recognize Hiro when he sees him. He is more than shocked when he finds out that the engine rescuing him is an engine he tried to have scrapped.
Rocky gets hooked up to Spencer and as he pulls, Hiro pulls Rocky and Spencer is soon free of the marsh. They then bring him to the Steamworks. After Spencer is repaired, he works with Thomas and Hiro on the summer house. He also apologises for his behaviour. The Duke and Duchess absolutely love their nice new summer house.
That night, Hiro confesses to Thomas that despite everything, he has become very homesick. Understanding, Thomas tells the Fat Controller, who promises to take care of everything. Some time later, a big farewell party is held at the docks in Hiro's honour; the Fat Controller had arranged for him to return to his homeland. The engines whistle at him and he whistles back. Before he leaves, he talks to Thomas and Percy one more time. Thomas hopes to visit Hiro's railway someday and Percy wonders if Hiro would ever return. Thomas promises that Hiro would always have a home on the Island of Sodor and with that, Hiro puffs away to his ship.
- Sir Topham Hatt
- The Duke and Duchess of Boxford
- Rosie (cameo)
- Diesel (cameo)
- Annie and Clarabel (cameo)
- Henrietta (cameo)
- Cranky (cameo)
- Lady Hatt (cameo)
- Sodor Brass Band (cameo)
- The Blond-haired Boy (cameo)
- The Little Engines in the Hills (mentioned)
- Farmer McColl (mentioned)
- Tidmouth Sheds
- Sodor Steamworks
- Hiro's Hideout
- Gordon's Hill
- Brendam Docks
- Sodor Shipping Company
- Topham Hall
- Sodor Slate Quarry
- The Duke and Duchess of Boxford's Summer House
- The Fenland Track
- Shunting Yards
- The Coal Hopper
- Ulfstead Branch Line
- Whistling Woods
- Sodor Suspension Bridge (intro only)
- The Smelter's Yard (mentioned)
- Kirk Ronan Junction (deleted scene)
UK and AUS
- Michael Angelis as the narrator
- Ben Small as Thomas and Toby
- Keith Wickham as Edward, Henry, Gordon, James, Percy and the Fat Controller
- Teresa Gallagher as Emily, Mavis and the Duchess of Boxford
- Togo Igawa as Hiro
- Matt Wilkinson as Spencer, Victor, Rocky, Kevin and the Duke of Boxford
- Michael Brandon as the narrator
- Martin Sherman as Thomas and Percy
- William Hope as Edward, Toby, Rocky and the Duke of Boxford
- Kerry Shale as Henry, Gordon, James, Kevin and Sir Topham Hatt
- Glenn Wrage as Spencer
- Jules de Jongh as Emily, Mavis and the Duchess of Boxford
- Togo Igawa as Hiro
- David Bedella as Victor
Mexico and Latin America
- Óscar Gómez as the narrator
- Javier Olguín as Thomas and Percy
- Blas García as Sir Topham Hatt
- Ricardo Silva as Henry
- Dafnis Fernández as Gordon
- Mario Castañeda as James
- Manuel Campuzano as Kevin
- Herman López as Edward and Toby
- Gerardo Reyero as the Duke of Boxford
- Leonardo García as Spencer
- Diana Pérez as Emily
- Irina Índigo as Mavis
- Rocío Garcel as the Duchess of Boxford
- Irwin Daayán as Rocky
- César Árias as Hiro
- Guillermo Coria as Victor
- "Thomas and Spencer" Racing Game
- "Who's Pulling into the Station" Game
- "Thomas and Friends Bedroom Makeover"
- Go, Go Thomas Karaoke Music Video
- Go, Go Thomas Karaoke Music Video
- Hero of the Rails Theatrical Trailer
- Birth of The Railway Series
- According to an interview with Sam Barlow, Hero of the Rails was initially being developed as a model/CGI production; even written before the CGI transition; but was changed into a CGI production after the script was underway.
- Nitrogen Studios released the "Patchwork Hiro" chase sequence to the public in their Studio Animation Pipeline collection illustrating the three various stages of animation the film went through before the final cut.
- This special marked the first of several things:
- The first special produced in full CGI.
- The first special since Thomas and the Magic Railroad to have characters in full CGI.
- The first special to have its own stylised opening sequence instead of using the TV series opening.
- The first time since the ninth season that Thomas' Branch Line is mentioned.
- The first time the Duchess speaks.
- The first special to feature a steam engine as the main antagonist.
- Sharon Miller's first special as producer.
- The first special narrated by Óscar Gómez in Latin America.
- The first production of Thomas & Friends directed by Greg Tiernan.
- The first time that Hiro's island, Japan, is shown. It is also the first time that a location outside of the UK is shown in the television series.
- The first DVD released in wide screen in the US.
- The first special not to feature Diesel 10.
- The first and only production to feature Dave Peacock as voice director.
- The first special in which Salty does not appear since his introduction in the sixth season.
- Spencer's accident at the old bridge is similar to the Norwood Junction rail accident, when a bridge collapsed under an engine. Unlike Spencer's accident, the bridge was made of iron and the engine was pulling a passenger train.
- In the Japanese version of the film, the Goju-no-to image from Hiro's flashback of his home is replaced with footage of Hiro talking.
- The Norwegian DVD cover states that the special is named "Dagens Helt", which means "Hero of the Day". However, the narrator and the end credits state that the special is named "Skinnenes Helt", which means "Hero of the Rails".
- The Sodor Oil Tankers' logo of the word OIL was replaced with a picture of an oil rig with oil coming out of it.
- The arched bridge on the other side of Gordon's Hill is seen again for the first time since the eighth season.
- Spencer has his first two accidents (first getting covered in slate at the quarry, then landing cab first in a marsh).
- In the scene where Spencer is staring at Emily, Thomas and Percy pass on the bridge with nothing behind them. In the trailers, however, the same scene is shown, but Thomas and Percy are pulling flatbeds full of engine parts. It can assume that the trailer showed a deleted version of the scene.
- In the first trailer, there is a scene where Victor says, "You've come to the right place, my friend". This is not featured in the film; it is from the thirteenth season episode, Creaky Cranky.
- In the first UK trailer, Thomas and Spencer had a different voice than their UK ones. Also, Toby has his US voice.
- Only the Japanese trailer mentions that Hiro is from Japan. The UK trailer merely mentioned he is "from a far-off place".
- Go, Go Thomas was played during the end credits in the US, but not in the UK version.
- This special takes place between the twelfth and thirteenth seasons.
- This special was shown in select UK theatres. It aired on PBS for Christmas in 2009 and again on May 15th, 2011 for "Thomas' Birthday Bash". It also aired on Nick Jr. on October 27th, 2012 in the UK and on TV 2 on December 28th, 2013 and January 2nd, 2014. It aired for Easter 2014 in Norway, August 16th, 2014 in Australia and August 19th, 2015 in Australia.
- The opening sequence is rendered in an art style strikingly similar to that of LNER posters.
- In the US trailer, Sir Topham Hatt says "We must help Hiro at once" while standing on the gantry of a signalbox. This scene was never shown in the special.
- Tim Whitnall narrated the first UK trailer, who later joined the voice cast in 2014.
- This is the last special to have David Eves involved in production.
- The opening theme is played by the Sodor Brass Band in King of the Railway.
- HiT Entertainment originally planned to release the film on Blu-ray, but the release was cancelled for unknown reasons.
- The Japanese version of this special is preceded by a 4 minute prologue explaining the origins of the Railway Series and the television series.
- HiT advertised that this was the first time the engines had their own voices, but this is not so, as they were individually voiced in Thomas and the Magic Railroad. However this is the first time Edward and Emily have been individually voiced.
- The front cover of the DVD shows Victor on standard gauge track at Brendam Docks with Hiro and Spencer, but Victor being a narrow gauge engine cannot run on standard gauge track.
- The US DVD release states that the film is in fullscreen, but it is really in widescreen.
- After the narrator says, "Spencer thundered away", part of James' tender is missing.
- Thomas and Percy are missing their teeth while they were talking at the shunting yards. Also in the same scene, Thomas is missing his number and red lining.
- When Spencer races past Edward, Edward is seen passing a red signal.
- When Thomas is going down the old track towards Hiro, he has a different whistle. This is assumed to be an experiment with the "Doppler" effect from the It's Great to be an Engine song.
- When the Steamworks first appears, Mavis is seen outside, but seconds later, she is inside the Steamworks facing the opposite direction.
- When Diesel goes into the Sodor Steamworks, he is front first. When he is leaving, he somehow turns around, with no turntable in sight.
- Near the end of the film during Thomas and Spencer's final race, the points were not switched, but Spencer is still able to change lines.
- The narrator talks about Hiro's engine breaking down, but Hiro is a steam engine and thus is the engine.
- When Edward speaks to Hiro in his second hiding spot, Hiro's green smoke deflector is on and the green lid for his piston cylinder is also back, but Hiro lost them in the chase with Spencer.
- When Thomas visits Hiro after he leaves the summerhouse, Hiro has his dome, but it fell off when he was chased by Spencer.
- For some unknown reason, Lady Hatt is not seen with the Fat Controller and the Duke and the Duchess of Boxford when they are having their evening meal at the Hatt's home.
- In the UK version, the Duke of Boxford and Spencer call Sir Topham Hatt "the Fat Controller" when he is with them at Maithwaite. Spencer can also be heard calling him Fat Controller at one point.
- When Gordon and Spencer race, Gordon's brake coach is backwards until they reach Maithwaite and when Sir Topham Hatt and the Duke and Duchess step out.
- From the chase with Spencer until Hiro's overhaul at the Steamworks, the golden stripes on Hiro's boiler disappear.
- When Thomas crashes into the potato trucks, a signal is in the middle of the track next to Thomas'.
- When Hiro pulls Spencer to the Steamworks, Hiro's number stops moving whilst Hiro keeps moving, so it appears to be sliding off.
- In several scenes, some of the characters are not rendered properly as they overlap the trucks. This occurs with:
- Diesel and two trucks, when he oils over the bridge as the narrator says, "Spencer watched Thomas' every wheel turn and piston pump".
- Spencer's tender and the mail trucks, during the chase when the narrator says, "Spencer had never seen an engine as old and strange as Hiro before".
- In several scenes, engines' side rods do not move as they do. This occurs with:
- Hiro, during his black-and-white flashback.
- Victor, when he is first introduced.
- Rosie, as she enters the Steamworks.
- Spencer, as he goes up the hill during his and Thomas' race.
- When Mavis is introduced in her CGI form, her front wheels are missing.
- Despite Hiro working in Japan in the flashback, the trucks that he's pulling are British.