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Thomas & Friends (formerly Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends) is a British 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 Wilbert V. Awdry. They deal with the adventures of a group of subanthropomorphised trains and road vehicles who live on the fictional Island of Sodor. The books were based on stories Awdry told to entertain his son Christopher 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 started producing the series. It premiered in the UK in 1984. The show has been narrated by Ringo Starr, Michael Angelis, George Carlin, Alec Baldwin and Michael Brandon.
Many businesses have been eager to cash-in on the world-wide popularity of the series. 'Thomas'-themed merchandise has appeared in almost every form imaginable, from books and magazines, through vast series of models, to duvet covers, cutlery, soft drinks and even spaghetti shapes.
Heritage railways have also benefitted from the series. "Days Out With Thomas" events, where passengers are given the chance to ride on full-size trains pulled by Thomas or his friends, provide a considerable source of income, without which many such railways would struggle to survive.
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