Is This the End? is the twentieth episode and the first season finale.
Harry is wheeling away a handcart of assorted baggage from the front of the arcade when a voice asks him to stop. Mr. Conductor appears from in front of the cart and asks Harry where he is taking the station's Lost and Found department. Harry reveals that he's on his way to load the contents onto the train bound for the new big station in Snarleyville. The station's Lost and Found is being moved there, which Mr. Conductor sees as not being a good sign. Harry admits that it's definitely bad news for Shining Time Station. Before Harry leaves, Mr. Conductor retrieves his bicycle from the cart to take one last ride around the station.
Stacy is at the station entrance and calls for Matt and Tanya to come join her. She tells them to take a good look at old #499. The children are confused and ask if #499 is being taken out of service. Harry clarifies that the train simply won't be stopping at the station anymore, and leaves it up to Stacy to break the bad news. Now that there's a new, bigger station in Snarlyville, the trains will be making a stop there instead of the smaller Shining Time Station. Matt asks if this means that the station will close, which Stacy sadly affirms.
As they all wave goodbye to #499, Schemer comes in and returns a greeting, believing that they were waving to him. When the kids correct and tell him that this will likely be the last time a train stops at the station, Schemer can't restrain his joy. After Stacy explains that the entire station will be closed, Schemer realizes that it also means closing the arcade. Visibly upset, Schemer storms off vowing that they need to do something about this.
Stacy answers a telephone call and after she hangs up is asked who it was. A tearful and choked-up Stacy tells them that J.B. King will be down later today to tell them something. Stacy believes that it's to notify them in person that Shining Time Station will be closed down. The kids are sad and Tanya asks her grandfather where he and Stacy will go. As he walks away, Harry glumly answers that they'll probably find work for them at Snarlyville Station.
Mr. Conductor appears and solemnly admits that he's heard the bad news. Tanya asks what is wrong with Shining Time Station that would make the railroad decide to close it. Mr. Conductor says that the railroad thinks that it's too old fashioned, just like his friend Trevor. Mr. Conductor decides to tell the story of Trevor the Traction Engine as it has a sad beginning but a happy ending, in the hopes that the tale will cheer the kids up. At the end of the story Tanya suggests that like Trevor, Shining Time Station can be saved too. They're interrupted by a loud thumping sound which prompts Mr. Conductor to disappear.
Schemer walks in dressed head to toe in soldier's camouflage and carrying a large supply of wood which he throws to the ground. The loud sound startles Stacy and the kids and a puzzled Stacy asks Schemer what he's doing. He informs them that he's barricading himself in his arcade and that they're at war with Mr. King and the railroad. Stacy tries to convince Schemer that she has a feeling that things will work out all right in the end, but he tells her that he is taking the closure personally. He places his army helmet over his heart and tells everyone that he loves the station and everything about it, even the old jukebox. To prove it, he readies a nickel and asks what song they'd like to hear - his treat. Stacy and the kids are surprised by his generosity and request a railroad song. Schemer then marches over to the jukebox to choose a song.
Inside the jukebox the puppets are glum realizing that they'll soon be out of a job and have nowhere to go. Didi sobs that they might be able to get a job in a popcorn maker throwing popped kernels up into the air. Schemer inserts the nickel and Tito announces that the selection is "Little Black Train". Tito asks if they can perform the song in a hard-rock groove, but is met by silence until Didi prompts them to play. While the song is playing, Harry is shown in his workshop packing away mementoes into a cardboard box, Tanya is drawing the station interior on her sketch pad, and Matt is helping Stacy to pack away papers at the ticket desk. Matt spontaneously reaches over to give Stacy a hug as the song ends.
Back at the arcade, Schemer is just about finished building his wooden barricade, buts as he hammers in the last nail the entire thing collapses. Harry comes out of the workshop and announces that he’s just about finished packing up his things. Although it may be their last day at the station, Harry asks Stacy if she knows what day it is, and she answers with a smile that she does. Matt asks Stacy about its significance, and she tells them that on this very day once a year, the Circus Train stops at Shining Time Station. Schemer becomes excited at the prospect as he looks forward to seeing his favorite circus performer, Jerry the Juggler. Just then, the Circus Train rushes by the station and Schemer starts yelling for it and Jerry to stop. When it doesn't, Schemer becomes furious and states that this calls for drastic action before stomping out of the station.
Harry and the kids go into the workshop where Tanya asks her grandfather if the Circus Train will stop at Snarlyville. Harry explains that with Snarlyville being a big station, a small station like Shining Time is a thing of the past and obsolete. He reminds them of the sad reality that there are abandoned stations on every railroad. He then sends them both away to help Stacy pack as he stares into the distance. A tearful-looking Stacy tells the kids that sometimes moving away can be really sad, but they should always remember the good times and memories they have of being at the station. Whenever they want to visit Shining Time Station again in the future, all they need to do is close their eyes and remember to make them happy again. The kids still feel sad and hug Stacy for comfort.
We watch as the station clock flashes forward from 2:05 PM to 4:40 PM. As the kids are playing near the Picture Machine, Mr. Conductor appears with his belongings tied in a kerchief at the end of a stick, hobo-style. Tanya asks him if he's leaving already, and he replies that he is. The kids beg him not to go as they'll miss him, but Mr. Conductor tells them that this is nonsense and that they'll be making new friends. The kids insist that they only want his friendship and Mr. Conductor argues that everyone likes to make new friends, even Thomas the Tank Engine. He's about to leave when the kids plead with him to tell them what happened. Mr. Conductor gives in, saying that there's always time for one more story, and tells about the first time Thomas met Trevor. After the story, Mr. Conductor is about to leave again when the kids tell him not to. Mr. Conductor removes his hat, throws it on the floor, and begins to wipe his eyes and brow with a handkerchief as he tells them that no matter what happens, they'll always be friends. He makes this a promise and leaves just as Tanya shouts out to him that he's left his hat behind. Matt sadly reflects that it's too late as Mr. Conductor is gone forever.
J.B. King enters the station and Stacy has a difficult time maintaining her composure as she greets him. He informs her that as Superintendent of the Indian Valley Railroad it's his duty to close Shining Time Station. Matt and Tanya begin to protest loudly. Mr. King asks them if they are major stockholders in the railroad, and they reply that they aren't. He explains that they recently built a large new station at Snarlyville and that they don't need little stations like this one anymore. He goes on to add that bigger is better, and asks them if they want to be big when they grow up. The kids hemming and hawing confirms to Mr. King that they're thinking correctly and that "big is better". Matt retorts that he doesn't want to be big if it means losing what's nice. Mr. King admits that he has a point just as Schemer runs into the station still attired in army gear. Ignoring Mr. King, Schemer tells Stacy that he has a plan: His Mother believes that it might be possible to move the entire station building into her back yard. Stacy kindly declines the offer as a station isn't really one without trains. Stacy introduces Schemer to Mr. King who extends his hand, but Schemer refuses to shake it and angrily accuses him of being responsible for all of the recent misery they've been experiencing by taking away all the trains at the station.
The moment is interrupted by the sound of a train stopping, and Mr. King indignantly states that trains are no longer supposed to stop there. Harry comes out of his workshop just as Jerry the Juggler comes into the station juggling several balls. Mr. King recognizes him as his most favorite juggling clown in the world. Jerry hugs Stacy, who's an old friend of his and she playfully tweaks his clown nose. Jerry then asks Stacy what's going on as the Circus Train was rerouted to Snarlyville, which he and his fellow performers found an awful place and they had to reverse their way back to Shining Time Station.
Stacy introduces an overjoyed Mr. King to Jerry, who does not share the sentiment. Instead of exchanging a handshake, Jerry shoves his hat into Mr. King's hand and angrily asks him if he's responsible for closing the station. Mr. King laughs nervously, but sobers up quickly. Jerry informs him that the circus train goes two hundred miles out of its way every year to stop at Shining Time Station because it's a special place. He begins juggling and adds they wouldn't go on tour without first stopping at the station as they consider it to be their lucky charm. Jerry tosses the balls to Schemer as he confronts King to say that he hopes that the station hasn't been shut down. King doesn’t know what to say, but Stacy does; the Circus Train stops at all small towns and big cities all over the state to give everyone the chance to see the circus. She adds that trains are like a circus in that everyone should be able to ride the train, even if they live in the tiniest of towns. If he closes the station, the residents of Shining Time will never be able to see the circus perform in their own town again, let alone be able to ever take a train that will drop them off at Shining Time Station.
A shaken King offers that he'll have to think about the decision, while Jerry adds that at least it’s a step in the right direction. Schemer calls for everyone to look at him as he begins to juggle the balls he was holding. Just as everyone looks, Jerry takes them away from him mid-air to juggle them on his own, leaving Schemer dumbfounded at what just happened. Jerry then runs out of the station to tell his fellow performers about what is going on.
King's attention meanwhile is attracted by what he sees on the arcade floor near the jukebox. He reaches down and picks up the hat Mr. Conductor left behind. Realizing what he's holding, he deduces that this is where Mr. Conductor lives. He returns that hat to where he found it and admits that the station is a special place. He addresses the kids to announce that the station will remain open. Everyone is jubilant, but King adds one condition - that Stacy obtains Jerry's autograph for him. Our friends celebrate as King leaves them to go inspect the circus train and remarks that Jerry has a serious side which he likes to see in a clown. A happy Schemer again professes his love for the station, and trips on the stairs on his way out, as Stacy and Harry follow him to see the Circus Train.
Matt and Tanya are now glad that the station will remain open, but at the same time, they are sad that Mr. Conductor is gone. They say that it's not Shining Time Station without Mr. Conductor and that they can't even put his hat in the "Lost and Found" department as it's no longer at the station. A voice chimes up to say that the hat isn't lost, and Mr. Conductor suddenly appears sitting on his bicycle. The kids express their joy upon seeing him again.
As Stacy and Harry come back into the station, Harry reminds her what she said earlier about having a good feeling that things would work out in the end. Stacy replies that things always have a way of working out right at the station, and they both exchange laughs and hugs as they both say "There's just something about this place" and walk off to the workshop. The episode ends with Mr. Conductor appearing on the Information Desk and bowing in the direction of the workshop, the kids, and the viewers.
Cast and Characters
- Ringo Starr as Mr. Conductor
- Didi Conn as Stacy Jones
- Leonard Jackson as Harry Cupper
- Nicole Leach as Tanya Cupper
- Brian O'Connor as Schemer
- Jason Woliner as Matthew Jones
- Peter Baird as Grace Bass
- Craig Marin as Rex
- Olga Marin as DiDi
- Alan Semok as Grace Bass
- Vaneese Thomas as Grace Bass
- Wayne White as Tex
- Whilst making a delivery to the scrapyard, Edward meets a traction engine called Trevor, sadly awaiting his fate, because his owner thought him “old fashioned”, Trevor reminisces his happier days with Edward, when he was useful and gave children rides. Edward wants to rescue Trevor, but can’t think who would want to buy a traction engine – until he encounters Vicar of Wellsworth. After some persuasion, the Vicar brings his two boys to see Trevor in action, with help from Trevor’s driver, Jem Cole. The Vicar is very impressed and buys Trevor there and then to live in the Vicarage Orchard. Trevor is much happier now, with new paintwork and constant work to keep him busy.
- Trevor is sent one day to help Thomas build the new harbor near the Junction. Thomas meets Trevor for the first time, but isn’t convinced that a steam engine, who doesn’t run on rails, can be of any use. Trevor proves his worth when he helps to clear a small mishap at the harbor, dragging supplies around a mess left by derailed cars, before spending the afternoon giving rides to children on the beach. Amazed and impressed, Thomas realizes how useful a traction engine can be, and takes Trevor home afterward a happier engine indeed.
- Annie and Claranel
- Charlie Sand
- Jem Cole
- The Vicar of Wellsworth
- Gordon (cameo)
- James (cameo)
- Percy (cameo)
- Märklin Engine (scrapped model cameo)
- Donald/Douglas (face mask cameo)
- Sir Topham Hatt (mentioned)
Jukebox Band Song
- Little Black Train
- The Circus Train's annual stop at Shining Time Station would be featured again in the Season 3 episode "Mysterious Stranger".
- Last appearance of the 1984 PBS logo with the split profile.
- This episode marks the first time J.B. King acknowledges Mr. Conductor's existence.
- Ringo Starr's U.S. narrations of "Saved From Scrap" and "Thomas and Trevor" were never released on home video until the 2012 DVD "Engine Friends".
- This episode marks Leonard Jackson's last appearance as Harry Cupper until the special episode "One of the Family." This is also the last episode to feature Harry Cupper as a main character, as his role as the engineer for Shining Time Station it would later be taken over by Billy Twofeathers for Season 2 onwards.
- This is the second time the episode's title asks a question, with the first being "Does It Bite?".
- This the the first (and sole) appearance of Stacy's old friend, who is also Mr. King and Schemer's idol, Jerry the Juggler.
- The person heard on the other end of the telephone conversations in this episode are actually sped-up versions of T.S. Elliot reading a few lines from his poems "The Naming of Cats", "Growltiger's Last Stand" and "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer".
- The Soccer Arcade Machine from Schemer's subplot in Ring in the Old makes its final appearance in this episode.
- Mr. Conductor tells both stories to Matt and Tanya in this episode.