Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends

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Template:Infobox television

Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends (changed into Thomas & Friends) is a children's television series which was first broadcast in 1984.

The series was based on The Railway Series, a series of books created by the Reverend W.V. Awdry. They deal with the adventures of a group of anthropomorphised trains and road vehicles who live on the fictional Island of Sodor. To begin with, the books were based on stories which Awdry told his son Christopher to entertain him during his recovery from measles. Many of the stories are based on events from Awdry's personal experience. During the 1980s the television rights were sold to Britt Allcroft, and she began producing the series. The show has been narrated by, amongst others, Ringo Starr and Alec Baldwin.

Characters from the series

Characters with a * appear in the TV Series Only

Number Name Wheel arrangement Prototype
1 Thomas the Tank Engine 0-6-0 London, Brighton and South Coast Railway E2 Steam Tank Engine.
2 Edward the Blue Engine 4-4-0 Modified Furness Railway 'Larger Seagull'
3 Henry the Green Engine 4-6-0 Prototype London and North Eastern Railway A3 Steam Tender Engine, later London, Midland and Scottish Railway 5MT "Black Five" Steam Tender Engine
4 Gordon the Big Engine 4-6-2 (pacific) London and North Eastern Railway A3 Steam Tender Engine
5 James the Red Engine 2-6-0 (mogul) London, Midland and Scottish Railway Pre-group Steam Tender Engine, most likely a Hughes 2-6-0 of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway
6 Percy the Small Engine 0-4-0 Avonside steam saddle tank engine modified beyond recognition (although it should be pointed out that the Rev W. Awdry himself seemed uncertain as to his prototype)
7 Toby the Tram Engine 0-6-0 Wisbech steam tram J70 0-6-0T
8 Duck the Great Western Engine 0-6-0 Great Western Railway 57xx Steam Pannier Tank Engine
9 & 10 Donald and Douglas 0-6-0 Caledonian Railway 812 Class Steam Tender Engine
11 Oliver the Great Western Engine 0-4-2 GWR 1400 Class Steam Tank Engine
27 Harvey the Crane Engine* 0-4-0 Dubs crane tank engine
N/A Emily the Beautiful Engine* 4-2-2 Great Northern Railway Stirling Single Steam Tender Engine
N/A Fergus the Railway Traction Engine* 2-2-0 Aveling & Porter Steam Well Tank Engine "The Blue Circle"
N/A Arthur the Big Red Tank Engine* 2-6-2 LMS Ivatt Class 2 2-6-2T Steam Tank Engine
N/A Murdoch the Heavy Goods Engine* 2-10-0 BR standard class 9F Steam Tender Engine
N/A Lady the Golden Engine* 0-4-0  
N/A Molly the Yellow Engine* 4-4-0 GER 'Claud Hamilton' Steam Tender Engine
33010 Neville the New Engine* 0-6-0 SR Class Q1 Steam Tender Engine
N/A Devious Diesel 0-6-0 British Rail Class 08 Diesel Shunter
N/A Daisy the Diesel Rail-Car Bo-Bo Based on a British Rail Class 101 Metro-Cammell DMU
D 5702 BoCo the Diesel Engine Co-Bo British Rail Class 28 Diesel Engine
N/A Mavis the Quarry Diesel 0-6-0 British Rail Class 04 Diesel Shunter
N/A Derek the diesel* Bo-Bo British Rail Class 17 "Paxman" Diesel Engine
N/A 'Arry the Iron Works Diesel* 0-6-0 British Rail Class 08 Diesel Shunter
N/A Bert the Iron Works Diesel* 0-6-0 British Rail Class 08 Diesel Shunter
2991 Salty the Dockyard Diesel* 0-6-0 British Rail Class 07 Dock Shunter Diesel
N/A Diesel 10*   British Rail Class 42 "Warship" Diesel Engine
11001 Dennis the Lazy Diesel* 0-6-0 Experimental SR 0-6-0 Shunter No. 11001
N/A Bill and Ben the Tank Engine Twins 0-4-0 Bagnall Steam Saddle Tank Engine


Rolling Stock

Skarloey Railway

Based on the Talyllyn Railway in Wales.

Mid-Sodor Railway

Other Railway Series Characters

British "Other" Railway

Bluebell Railway

  • Stepney (Known as the "Bluebell Engine")

N.B. The Bluebell Railway is a real railway in Sussex, England. All of these engines may be seen there, along with a number of others.

National Railway Museum

Other engines

Sodor Construction Company (The Pack)

Note: The following characters were created by Phile Ferle for a spin-off television series called Jack and the Pack. However, when Gullane Entertainment was taken over by Hit Entertainment, the show was scrapped. So far the characters have only appeared in the two pilot episodes, "Jack Jumps In" and "A Friend in Need".


Road vehicles

Air/Other vehicles

Miscellaneous characters


Other Things

  • The Dinosaur Bones (Only seen in 'Rheneas and the Dinosaur')*
  • The Statue (Only seen in 'Thomas and the Statue')*
  • The Elephant Statue (Only seen in 'The Runaway Elephant')*
  • The Foghorn*

Buildings and Destinations

  • Slate Quarry
  • Mr. Jolly's Chocolate Factory*
  • Mid Sodor
  • The Haunted Mine*
  • New Sodor Airport (appeared in Calling All Engines)*
  • The Ice Cream Factory*
  • The Pudding Factory*
  • The Cream Factory*
  • Dryaw Airfield
  • Brendam Docks
  • Knapford Harbour
  • Tidmouth Sheds
  • The Smelters/Scrapyards
  • Ffarquhar Quarry
  • Centre Island Quarry*
  • Narrow-Gauge Incline Quarry
  • Elsbridge Cricket Field
  • The Works/Repair Yard
  • Fuel Depot
  • Bus Depot
  • Henry's Tunnel
  • The Dam*
  • The Vicarage Orchard
  • Castle Loch*
  • Black Loch Lake*
  • Strawberry Grove School*
  • Mrs. Kyndley's Home
  • Cyril's House*
  • Fat Controller's House
  • Duke & Duchess' Private Mansion*
  • The Coaling Plant
  • Brendam Bay
  • The Yard
  • Wellsworth Hospital
  • The Coach Shed
  • Gordon's Hill
  • Shen Valley
  • Arlesdale End

Season Episodes

Thomas Songs

  • 'Really Useful Engine'
  • 'Thomas We Love You'
  • 'Toby'
  • 'Let's Have a Race'
  • 'It's Great To Be An Engine'
  • 'Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover'
  • 'Percy's Seaside Holiday'
  • 'Harold the Helicopter'
  • 'Engine Roll Call'
  • 'The Red Balloon'
  • 'Snow' Song
  • 'Every Cloud has a Silver Lining'
  • 'Winter Wonderland'
  • 'Accidents Happen'
  • 'Little Engines'
  • 'There's no one quite like Emily'
  • 'Sounds' Song
  • 'Whistle' Song
  • 'Surprises' Song
  • The 'Gordon' Song
  • 'Rules and Regulations'
  • 'Never, Never, Never Give Up'
  • 'James the Really Splendid Engine'
  • 'Busy' Song
  • 'Determination'
  • 'Try to do things Better' Song
  • 'Dream' Song
  • 'Together We Made it Happen'

Thomas on television and in film

The series was first broadcast in 1984 on ITV in the United Kingdom. In 1989, Thomas and Friends was shown in North America, in a television series called Shining Time Station which was broadcast on PBS. There were two other spinoffs of Thomas. They were "Storytime with Thomas" and "Thomas and the Railway Show". Today, Thomas and Friends is broadcast in more than twenty languages around the world. In 2000 Thomas moved to the big screen, with the release of Thomas and the Magic Railroad. The film was not a success. Another film (only for DVD and video release) called Calling All Engines was released in Autumn 2005.

The Thomas and Friends stories were five minutes long. The first two series showed two episodes at a time, with a show of the characters in the middle. It changed to one at a time in series three. In each series until series eight, the number of trains on the railway increases as the railway expands.

In 2004, the series began using computer animated special effects and the story length changed from five to seven minutes. A half-hour show format (aired on PBS and Treehouse TV in North America from 2004) was also adopted, showing three episodes plus puzzles, songs, and mini stories. The new series made major changes, such as changing the famous theme tune, and many of the episodes recycled plots from older episodes.

Production history

The series has gone through numerous changes throughout its run. The producer is in charge of every aspect of the show for the relevant season(s)

Originally the series was produced by Britt Allcroft Ltd (Britt Allcroft's company) and Clearwater Features Ltd (David Mitton and Robert D. Cardona's company). Clearwater closed down in 1990 and Britt Allcroft Ltd (which changed to Gullane Ltd in 2000) produced solo until 2003, when HIT Entertainment took over. The series has always been filmed at Shepperton Studios.

Television series trivia

  • Since 1984, the show has been filmed at West London's Shepperton Studios. The layouts are expansive and fit in a hangar-sized room. The train miniatures are set on remote control and filmed using a 35mm camera, in order to get quality shots from such small objects. [1]
  • Stories were adapted from The Railway Series books in the first four series.
  • From 1998 onwards stories were written especially for television. First by the then producers of the show Britt Allcroft and David Mitton (series 5), and then by a much larger team of hired writers (series 6 onwards).
  • Throughout series 6 and 7, David Mitton continued to provide storylines and wrote his final script during the show's sixth run, "Edward the Very Useful Engine".
  • The narrator provides the story and the character voices.
  • In the Japanese version, voice actors did the characters' voices instead of the narrator.
  • Season 7 had the most stock footage.
  • Season 7 was the last season to use 35mm film.
  • Season 7 was the last season to use the Original Thomas the Tank Engine Theme Song
  • In some episodes, old models used in Thomas' short-lived sister show, TUGS appear.
  • Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell composed the show's original theme song and music from the years 1984 to 2003. In 2004, Robert Hartshorne took their place as composer, while Ed Welch wrote the new theme tune and the songs.
  • The director was David Mitton until he retired in 2003. However, Steve Asquith replaced him from 2004.
  • In the American version of the first two seasons and in other few seasons, the episodes had different titles.
  • Season 8 does not introduce any new characters (unless you count Diesel 10 and Lady being reintroduced as TV series characters).
  • The Fat Controller was known as the Fat Director in the first few of Awdry's books.
  • The new Thomas & Friends theme song is "Engine Roll Call".
  • A "new Engine Roll Call" will be an extra on the DVD Calling All Engines
  • Thomas the Tank Engine was in The Guinness Book of World Records 2004 for the world's largest model railway for the Thomas & Friends Big Live tour 2003
  • Lady isn't actually based on any existing steam engine
  • Season 9 introduces Mighty & Mac, Molly, Neville, Dennis, and Proteus.
  • Season 9 was broadcast in America from September 2005, and on Nick Jr in the UK during November 2005.
  • Bill & Ben star in Season 9, they appear in "Thomas's new trucks!"
  • Duck did not appear in Season 8. Neither did Terence, Oliver, Bill, Ben, Stepney, Fergus, or the Narrow-Gauge Engines.
  • Duck, Oliver, Murdoch, Arthur and Spencer are absent in Season 9.
  • Ben played a major role in the Season 9 episode: "Bold and Brave", although, Bill didn't appear!
  • Arthur makes a cameo in Season 9, he appears in one of the songs!
  • In the Season 8 songs, Duck, Donald and Douglas, Oliver, Rusty and Rheneas made cameos!


  • Ringo Starr (U.K. narrator: 1984–1986; U.S. narrator: 1989). Starr was the first narrator of the series; in 1989, he portrayed the Mr Conductor character for "Shining Time Station". In 1998, Starr narrated half of the second season in the British version; in 1991, he narrated the first season and the second season in the series to pursue his musical career. Starr did the narration because his grandchildren had wanted him to.
  • Michael Angelis (U.K. narrator from 1991; U.S. narrator 2003-04). Angelis continues to narrate the British series as narrator today; he wasn't mentioned in the credits in the fifth season of the British series. Angelis also replaced Baldwin for the beginning of the seventh season of the U.S. version for one DVD called "New Friends for Thomas".
  • George Carlin (U.S. narrator: 1991–1994). Carlin was the first American to narrate the series; he replaced Starr in 1991 for the American series and "Shining Time Station" as the Mr Conductor character. In the American series, Carlin re-narrated the first two seasons due to Shining Time; in 1998, he left the series to pursue his career in comedy.
  • Alec Baldwin (U.S. narrator: 1998–2003). Baldwin replaced Carlin in 1998 for the U.S. series; he left the series to pursue film roles. In the American Series, Baldwin renarrated the second two seasons due to Storytime With Thomas
  • Michael Brandon (U.S. narrator from 2004). Brandon renarrated the seventh season, and continues to narrate the American series today.

Thomas video games

Thomas models

Hornby Railways produce a range of OO scale Thomas Models. The models are not particularly detailed, but suitable in their role of toys. In the United States, Lionel offers a range of Thomas models in the larger O scale. Ertl, now defunct, produced a range of die-cast and plastic models. Learning Curve of Chicago produces and distributes the Thomas Wooden Railway System, which includes most characters, wooden track, stations, bridges, tunnels, and buildings, designed as educational and learning tools for young children. They also produce the "Take Along Thomas" range of travel Thomas playsets. Tomy produce a Motor Road and Rail plastic train model set with battery powered engines and a wide range of track types and Thomas characters.

Day Out with Thomas

Preserved Railways in Britain regularly run "Friends of Thomas" weekends. A "Thomas" locomotive is brought in, and the resident locomotives have faces attached to them. The Mid Hants Railway even went so far as to rebuild one of their engines completely in order to produce an exact replica of Thomas. Other railways generally repaint a similar-looking engine in Thomas' distinctive blue livery. According to the National Railway Museum, there are currently seven engines masquerading as Thomas in the UK. However, this number is subject to change.

Perhaps the earliest example of an engine being repainted in Thomas livery was the Talyllyn Railway's Sir Haydn, which was repainted in the early 1980s to resemble Sir Handel as a tribute to Rev. W. Awdry, a lifelong member of the railway and whose books had played a significant part in advertising the line. Christopher Awdry repaid the favour in the book Great Little Engines, in which Sir Handel actually visits the Talyllyn Railway. Since then, the railway has always had at least one engine appearing as its opposite number from the Railway Series. Peter Sam and Duncan have also been recreated, Duncan being the current engine.

The first Thomas replica was the Nene Valley Railway's Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0, whose story is told on the railway's website. This engine was built in 1947 to work the Peterborough factory of the British Sugar Corporation. This engine was acquired as a shunter by the railway society, and its blue livery meant that it was quickly nicknamed 'Thomas'. In 1971 Rev. W. Awdry made the name official.

Since then, the number of Thomas characters who have appeared on preserved railways have become almost uncountable. It seems that nearly every character has been represented at some point, and the railways often create their own characters by adding a face to one of their locomotives. In addition, the railway's staff often join in the fun- there is nearly always a larger member of the Society to dress in top hat and tailcoat as the Fat Controller.

Days Out With Thomas have divided the preservation movement. There are many who feel that to repaint a locomotive as a Thomas character is to rob it of its dignity, particularly in the case of main line engines. Other objectors feel that these events are too commercial. More than once, railways have clashed with Gullane and HIT Entertainment over matters of accuracy. For example, certain 'Fat Controllers' have been banned for such offences as having beards and not being quite as large as HIT or Gullane felt the role required. They have also insisted that each event should have a Thomas character approved by the entertainment company. The Awdrys, it should be noted, generally take the side of the preserved railways in such disputes.

Perhaps the ultimate example of this clashing was when the copyright holders demanded that the Talyllyn Railway's 'Peter Sam' should have his face changed in order not to resemble the engine as he appeared in the books because they felt it violated copyright. This caused a certain amount of outrage among preservationists who felt that, since Peter Sam was based on the Talyllyn Railway's Edward Thomas in the first place, it was unreasonable for such a complaint to be made. Nevertheless, Peter Sam's face was remodelled, and Talyllyn characters since then have carried faces that do not resemble anything from the books.

In defiance of the entertainment companies' rules, some railways chose to devise their own non-Thomas events, such as the Embsay Railway's 'Happy Tank Engines Weekend', which resembled a Thomas event in all but name.

It is important to note, however, that Thomas events do have a valuable part to play in the preservation movement. They are significant fundraisers, attracting large numbers of families who might not otherwise visit a steam railway. For some lines, this monetary boost can mean the difference between life and death.

There are other benefits to these events. Thomas characters visiting other lines can act as "roving ambassadors" for their railways, advertising them far from home. They also mean that smaller engines, which might have little practical use in everyday service, to make money for the line. Many railways have a Class 08 diesel shunter normally used for moving engines and coaches that is repainted black and dressed up as 'Diesel' for the events.

In the United States, somewhat similar events take place on tourist railroads. The Thomas for these events normally is the one owned by the Strasburg Rail Road in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It is full sized and fully functional.

It began life as Brooklyn East Terminal District locomotive 15. For years it moved freight around the Docks of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The Strasburg Railroad bought it after it had been retired, moved it to its shops in East Strasburg, and rebuilt it from the ground up into a Thomas.

There are plans to create a few non-powered copies

Whether one is for or against the events, it seems likely that they will go on for quite some time.

Thomas Books

External links


fr:Thomas et ses amis nl:Thomas de stoomlocomotief ja:機関車トーマス