The cranes are for lifting heavy things like engines and coaches and trucks.
The breakdown train is pulled to accident scenes to lift engines, coaches and trucks onto the rails. The train is manned by workmen. Thomas once brought it to rescue James after he crashed into a field from being pushed by the Troublesome Trucks.
Since Rocky's arrival, the breakdown cranes were rarely seen, but the works unit coach - in several colours - has regularly appeared in the CGI Series.
The breakdown train returned in The Adventure Begins, in the form of Jerome and Judy, gaining new colours and increasing in size. Additionally, the works unit coach is now painted orange-brown, its Railway Series livery.
In Season 22, Rajiv was seen pulling a breakdown train to rerail Thomas.
In the Railway Series, the cranes and flatbeds are based on a Cowans Sheldon 45-ton breakdown crane. In the television series, the cranes and flatbeds are based on a Cowans Sheldon 30 ton breakdown crane.
The works unit coach is based on a Great Western Railway "LE4MW" class coach, which has been converted into a workmen's compartment coach. however in the Railway Series it appears similar to non-corridor suburban coaches operated by the LMS.
The cranes and flatbeds are painted dark green-grey, as was the coach in the model series and early CGI series. In the Railway Series and from The Adventure Begins onwards, the coach is painted orange-brown with a grey roof and "WORKS UNIT" painted on its sides in white.
The Chinese cranes are painted light green with yellow hazard stripes.
The Indian cranes are painted yellow.