This article is about the special. You may be looking for the VHS.

'Tis A Gift is a Christmas special. It is set between seasons one and two.


It is the Christmas holidays at Shining Time Station, and the place is bustling with activity as people are rushing to catch trains to take them to see their families. Even Schemer is in a good mood, as he reveals to the kids, Matt and Tanya, that the Indian Valley Christmas Committee is putting on a Christmas pageant and will pick one lucky contestant to play the role of Santa's Helper. Schemer is confident that he will get the role.

J.B. King, the superintendent of the Indian Valley Railroad, arrives at the station and meets a new engineer, who introduces himself as Harry's cousin, Tucker Cooper. He has come to help out following Harry's transfer to Twiddly Junction. Mr. King welcomes Tucker to Shining Time Station and asks if he's met Mr. Conductor. Tucker had not, and is a bit skeptical due to Mr. King's description.

Stacy tells the kids that Christmas is her favorite time of the year because the sight of the passengers hurrying through the station shows everyone's desire to get together for the holidays. When the kids mention having nothing to do, Stacy suggests that they write letters to Santa Claus, which they do to the accompaniment of some music performed by the Jukebox Puppets.

Having finished their letters, the kids take them to Stacy to figure out how to address them to Santa, but Mayor Flopdinger rushes in to inform Stacy that the Christmas Committee has no place to meet that night, so they've decided to hold the meeting to elect Santa's Helper at Shining Time Station, much to her frustration. The kids still don't know Santa Claus' exact address, but fortunately they are aided to Mr. Conductor, who has written to Santa before. He suggests the kids to go outside and build a snowman to pass the time waiting for Santa, and they begin to go outside with only their coats on, claiming that they don't need their hats and mittens. Mr. Conductor then tells them a story of how Thomas the Tank Engine once felt the same way about his snowplow.

Having finished his story, Mr. Conductor tells Matt and Tanya everyone has something special to offer the world, but they don't always know it. He then magically sends off their letters for them and disappears. The kids then overhear that Vickie, a bratty local little girl, will be spending the afternoon at the station with them. They both protest, knowing that Vickie is difficult to get along with, but Stacy encourages them to try to be nice to her and think of her good traits. Tanya notes that Vickie, however, does have a good singing voice.

Meanwhile, Schemer is binge eating, as he hopes to be fat enough to look the part for Santa's Helper. He also reveals his own costume for the role with an advertisement that reads "Santa says: Give Your Money to Schemer!" Stacy tries to explain to Schemer the true qualities to be Santa's Helper, only for Schemer to dismiss them with contempt. He also laughs at the idea of Stacy being Santa's Helper, provoking Stacy enough to compete for the role against him.

Tucker arrives at the station with a Christmas tree, aided by an elderly man named Mr. Nicholas. This visitor soon proves to be no ordinary passenger, as he knows several things about Stacy from when she was a child. Mr. Nicholas says he has come to Shining Time Station to catch The Northern Star. Stacy informs him that no train by that name runs on the Indian Valley Railroad, but Mr. Nicholas is confident it will come. Meanwhile, Vickie is dropped off at the station by her mother Claire, who has to leave to do her Christmas shopping. She quickly turns out to be rude and selfish as Matt and Tanya feared.

Mr. King returns to tell Stacy the weather is turning bad and if it gets any worse, the trains will have to be stopped. He takes notice of Mr. Nicholas and tries to tell him there is no train called the Northern Star. Mr. Nicholas insists that the Northern Star has never been late yet and distracts Mr. King with some memories from his childhood. Schemer, who has begun his campaign against Stacy by hanging posters all over the station, tells Mr. King, as well as Midge Smoot and the Mayor, untrue things about her. However, his words only encourage them to compete for the role as well.

Meanwhile, Vickie is still being difficult and Matt and Tanya finally tell her to go away. Sulking on the bench, she meets Mr. Nicholas who suggests she smile more. Encouraged, she returns to try again, and the kids accept her help on decorating the Christmas tree. Her helpfulness ends in disaster when she accidentally knocks over the Christmas tree while attempting to put an angel figurine on the top. The kids blame her for it, and Vickie runs off in shame. Mr. King then comes to announce that he's had to stop all of the trains due to the weather. He tells Mr. Nicholas, but he's still adamant that the Northern Star will arrive.

Mr. Nicholas also confronts Vickie, and they both watch a movie in The Picture Machine in which a little boy visits a lonely hobo to provide him some company on Christmas. Vickie learns that some people are alone on Christmas and Mr. Nicholas also teaches her that some presents don't come in decorated boxes or cost money. Vickie then expresses her desire to see Santa Claus, as she wishes for him to bring a present for her mother. Mr. Nicholas counsels that the best present comes from the heart, and Vickie realizes that her gift of song is what her mother likes best of her.

The Christmas tree is upright again, but unfortunately, the lights have stopped working, so Matt and Tanya still blame Vickie. However, Mr. Conductor tells another story about Thomas to show the kids that sometimes accidents happen and it's really no one's fault. Once the story is finished, Matt and Tanya decide to forgive Vickie.

Stacy offers to help Mr. Nicholas spend the night at the station, but to her surprise, the Northern Star arrives as he had predicted. Meanwhile, the Christmas Committee meeting has started. To everyone's surprise, the Mayor declares himself the winner of the Santa's Helper contest, and a loud argument breaks out. When Vickie asks Mr. Nicholas for help, he tells her to use her gift. Vickie does so, singing a song that not only stops the argument, but reminds them all of the true spirit of Christmas. It even touches her mother, who has just returned to pick her up. Later Schemer calls his mother to report that everyone will play Santa's Helper in the pageant.

Knowing his work is done, Mr. Nicholas leaves the station to board his train, but not before meeting Mr. Conductor and magically repairing the Christmas tree lights. The story ends as all gather around the Christmas Tree, and Vickie, with a little help from the adults, places the angel figurine on the tree successfully.

Cast and Characters

Main Cast

Special Guest Star

The Flexitoon Puppeteers

Guest Starring

Mentioned characters

Thomas Stories

Thomas hates wearing his snow plow. Snow is silly soft stuff and Thomas thinks he’ll plow right through it just fine without a snow plow. Ultimately, Thomas gets stuck and it’s up to his new friend Terence the Tractor to pull him out of the snow.

It has been a whole year since Ms. Kindly saved Thomas from a nasty accident. Christmas day is almost upon them and the engines decided to thank her properly by throwing a Christmas party for her. Unfortunately Ms. Kindly is snowed in and Thomas has to rescue her this time so she can make it to the surprise party.

Thomas is sent by Sir Topham Hat on a special mission to get a Christmas tree and bring it back for a party. But Thomas gets caught in a snow drift and goes missing. The Scottish twins Donald and Douglas are sent to rescue Thomas help him back to the party with the Christmas Tree.

Jukebox Band Segment Songs

  • Over the River and Through the Woods
  • Jingle Bells
  • It's Christmastime at the Railway Station
  • Simple Gifts (with Vickie)

Cartoons and Songs


  • This episode marked the last of several things:
  • This episode also marked the first of a few things:
    • This is the first time The Rainbow Sun is mentioned outside of the theme song.
    • This is the first hour-long episode.
  • This episode was the only time for several things:
    • This is the only Season 1 episode to be released on VHS.
    • The only appearances of Mr. Nicholas, Vickie, Claire, and Tucker Cooper.
    • The only Christmas-themed episode of the series.
    • This is the only episode to use an entirely different opening and closing sequence.
  • Mr. Conductor sings a modified bar of The Lumberjack Song from Monty Python's Flying Circus as he carries his Christmas tree. He adds "and I'm all right" in place of the song's original "and I'm okay".
  • This is the second time "Terence the Tractor" is told by Mr. Conductor.
  • This special is dedicated to all those who helped to build Shining Time Station.
  • Although generally considered to be a "special", this was the 21st and final episode of Season 1.
  • Upon its VHS release in 1992, the Thomas stories in this episode were rearranged. "Thomas's Christmas Party" was made the first story, while "Thomas and the Missing Christmas" became the final story. As Ringo Starr had left and thus never created a US version of the latter, the original UK soundtrack was used, removing all mentions of "The Fat Controller".
  • The footage used for the opening and closing sequences were filmed at the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, Arizona, and features their locomotive #18. Incidentally, the 18 makes a second appearance as it's whistle, a Southern Pacific six-chime, is used for Mr. Nicholas' heard-but-not-seen "Northern Star". The locomotive used to resides at the Mt. Hood Railroad in Oregon but as of today it's at the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad in Colorado.
  • The special was taped in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where it would remain for the rest of the series.
  • The music video, The Hobo Song, was originally going to be cut out as the producers felt it would be too emotional for young viewers, but the final decision was made that it would be kept in as it conveyed an important message.
  • Mr. Conductor's line, "See? With the help of Terence..." is cut from the VHS version as Thomas' Christmas Party is the first Thomas story instead of Terence the Tractor.
  • The sped-up voice heard in Stacy's telephone conversations is actually dialogue from her and Harry from a scene in "Promises, Promises".
  • Based on what Mr. Conductor said before telling the story, Thomas' Christmas Party may have taken place in December 1989 as it was "Last Christmas".
  • Mr. Conductor tells both stories to Matt and Tanya in this episode.


  • When Vickie picks up Mr. Conductor before she puts him on the Christmas tree, you can tell that he's a still figure.
  • In the VHS version, Mr. Conductor said that Thomas thought he did not need his snowplough in Terence the Tractor, but that Thomas episode is not on the VHS.


'Tis a Gift/Gallery

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