This Strange Engine is the ninth studio album by British rock band Marillion, released in 1997. It is the first of three albums in three consecutive years that Marillion released on a contract with Castle Communications, after being dropped by EMI Records following the relative lack of commercial success of Afraid of Sunlight in 1995; peaking at No. 16, Afraid of Sunlight had been the band's first studio album not to reach the top ten of the UK Albums Chart. Without the promotional efforts of a major label, This Strange Engine continued Marillion's decline in mainstream success; it reached No. 27 on the UK Albums Chart and stayed there for two weeks. The album sold significantly better in the Netherlands, home of one of the band's most loyal audiences, reaching #10.The first single released from the album was "Man of a Thousand Faces". A music video was also released of this track. The second single from the album was "Eighty Days". For the first time, no singles from a Marillion album entered the UK Top 40.
The 15-minute and 36 second progressive rock title track "This Strange Engine" is an autobiographical account of singer Steve Hogarth's life. Most other tracks are more mainstream rock oriented. The ballad "Estonia" was written after singer Steve Hogarth met Paul Barney, the only British survivor from the accident where the passenger ferry Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea on 28 September 1994, killing 852 people. This is Marillion's only song to feature a balalaika.
On the UK version, if you let the last track carry on playing, at approx. 29 minutes and 30 seconds there is a hidden track of Steve Hogarth having a fit of laughing, which brings the length of the title track to just over 30 minutes.
The Japanese release of This Strange Engine (on the Pony Canyon label, released in March 1997) contains the bonus tracks "Beautiful (Acoustic)" and "Made Again (Acoustic)", originally from the albums Afraid of Sunlight and Brave.
The US release of This Strange Engine (on the Velvel label, released in October 1997) contains the bonus tracks "Estonia (Positive Light Remix)", which would also be included on the remix album, and "80 Days (Acoustic)".