The children hear someone else greeting them. The voice appears to come from the waiting area, where the passenger is calmly reading a book. The man glances at the children, smiles, and takes a ventriloquist dummy out of one of his suitcases. A second voice is heard coming from the man’s other suitcase, which turns out to be a second ventriloquist dummy. One dummy introduces himself as Lazlo, and the other Eugene. Stacy then takes a phone call from the train dispatcher, and informs the ventriloquist that his train will be late. This doesn’t bother him at all, and he asks Matt and Tanya if they will watch his luggage while he runs an errand.
Mr. Conductor appears to tell the children about how James didn’t give up when pulling a recalcitrant freight train.
After the story, Mr. Conductor tells the children that sometimes they’ll surprise themselves with what they can do. After he disappears, Matt and Tanya begin working the puppets and after only a minute or two, decide to put on a show of their own. They go off and drag Stacy and Harry away from their work to watch them, with Schemer joining to see another free show. Matt and Tanya's performance goes wrong due to them arguing. Stacy tries to calm the situation. She suggests they practice and they’ll be better next time.
Matt and Tanya aren’t convinced, and their mood isn’t helped by Schemer joking that his favorite parts of their show was when it was over and that it was free. He then invites them to cheer up by spending money in the Arcade. Matt puts a nickel in the jukebox, and selects the song “Freight Train.” None of the band knows that song, but they decide to play it anyway. Their dissonant performance shocks Matt and sparks an argument among the band members about who’s to blame. They stop arguing long enough to decide that it’s Tito’s fault, because he’s not there!
Later, Tanya is moping by the Information Desk when Mr. Conductor appears and points at her accusingly, saying she must be the culprit. Tanya is confused, but Mr. Conductor says he can tell by her face that she’s the one who ate all the lemons! Tanya denies it, which leads Mr. Conductor to suggest they look for them in the Anything Tunnel. Inside the tunnel is a music video about being able to “bounce back” after a failure.
Meanwhile, Matt finds himself in the workshop, where Harry asks if they’ll be seeing another puppet show soon. Matt strongly rejects the idea. Harry tells him he had a similar problem with Isaac. Harry tells him about Isaac Dripps, who at only 21 years of age was given the job of assembling the first railroad locomotive in North America, the “John Bull.” The engine worked but it kept derailing, among other problems. However, Isaac solved the problems and kept making improvements to the engine to make it better and better. Harry concludes his story with the fact that the engine is now in the Smithsonian Institute and is the oldest steam locomotive in America. He became a famous railroad mechanic. Isaac never gave up, Harry tells Matt, and neither should he.
Outside the workshop, Stacy finds Tanya sitting by herself. Stacy says that she remembers putting on puppet shows herself as a girl, and all she needed was a sock and a big imagination. Tanya begins to cheer up as Stacy shows her how to make a puppet with a sock and some buttons, while Harry helps Matt make his own puppet out of nuts, bolts and some metal strips. Soon, they children meet back up and show each other their new playthings. Mr. Conductor asks if that means another puppet show, but the children are reluctant as they don’t want to be made fun of. Mr. Conductor says that if they aren’t even going to try, he’ll talk to the puppets instead. He tells the puppets to think of what happened to James when the other engines made fun of him. He tells the story of how James got to prove himself by pulling the Express.
After the story, Mr. Conductor addresses the puppets again, telling them they’ll never know if they can do their best until they try again. He asks again for a show in exchange for the story, but says they should be sure they’re ready first. Over in the Jukebox Didi comments that she likes the children’s puppets while Rex suggests they provide some background music. Matt and Tanya start performing. Mr. Conductor gives them a thumbs up as they perform much better than the first time.
Just then, the ventriloquist returns and asks the puppets if they’ve seen Matt or Tanya. The children keep right on performing and impress the ventriloquist as well as Stacy, Harry and Schemer. Back in the Jukebox, Tex declares he’s just remembered the words to “Freight Train” and the band begins to play as the ventriloquist claims his puppets and goes out to catch his train. When the song is over, Schemer rushes up with a sign he just made which reads “Puppet Show, only 5 cents.” He flips the sign over to display another message, “A great deal!”
- Mr. Conductor
- Stacy Jones
- Harry Cupper
- Matthew Jones
- Tanya Cupper
- Alan Semok
- Grace Bass
- Tex and Rex
- Tito Swing (mentioned)
- Henry (mentioned)
- Gordon (mentioned)
- James (mentioned)
James is being made to stay in the shed for causing a hole in his coach. Finally Sir Topham Hat lets James come out to pull some Freight Cars. James fights with the freight cars that cause him endless trouble. The freight cars even snap their coupling and half the train rolls backward down Gordon’s Hill.
Henry and Gordon taunt James about causing a hole in his coaches that had to be fixed with boot laces. Gordon further brags about being the only one who could pull the express. One day Gordon lost his way with the express when the switches are set to the loop that takes him right back to the station where he started. James's chance to pull the express has come.
Jukebox Band Song Segment
Cartoons and Songs
- The “John Bull” was originally put on display in the Smithsonian Institute in 1884. A replica was built in 1939; however the original locomotive was steamed in 1981 in honor of its 150th anniversary, making it the oldest operable steam locomotive in North America. The footage of the “John Bull” which accompanies Harry’s story about Isaac was provided by the Smithsonian Institute and might be a depiction of the 1981 resteaming.
- This is the only time a member of the Flexitoons team had an onscreen role in an episode of Shining Time Station. Normally Alan Semok did the puppeteering for Grace the Bass.
- Tito (Jonathan Freeman) does not appear in this episode. According to the Boy Brothers, the band leader is too busy counting his nickels.
- When the "Freight Train" number ends and Schemer walks over to the ticket desk, Harry is still bopping away even though the music ended moments ago.
- When the ventriloquist leaves to catch his train, he has his two puppets but has left his suitcases behind.