Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends merchandise

From TrainSpottingWorld, for Rail fans everywhere


This page, and those in the related category, were 'rescued' from Wikipedia on 1st March 2007, as they were under threat of deletion for being unencyclopedic.
At present they are in a very 'raw' state, and contain many redlinks, but you are encouraged to add information where appropriate. Please state your sources, and identify when the information you add is 'speculative'. It will not be discarded, as it would be on Wikipedia, but it should be kept separate, so that readers can have confidence in the information presented. (It would be more appropriate for new pages to be created for 'Expected models' or 'Expected appearances in TV Series', etc).
Meanwhile, I shall be resolving the problems with the original pages at WP...
EdJogg 14:34, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends merchandise describes the range of merchandise that has been manufactured to cash-in on the success of the TV Series Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. It is down to the popularity and longevity of the series – having originated in 1945 with the first of The Railway Series books by the Rev. W. Awdry – that large numbers of manufacturers have sought to produce 'Thomas'-branded items.

The most popular and wide-ranging items of merchandise are the models of the characters, which have been produced in many different ranges, some including accompanying railway systems. Other popular products include videos, books and magazines, and computer games. However, 'Thomas' merchandise has also included such diverse items as: audiobooks, annuals, colouring and activity books, jigsaws, board games, stationery, clothing, cutlery, household items such as curtains, duvet covers and lampshades, and even soft drinks and spaghetti shapes.

For a full list of the merchandise ranges covered within Train Spotting World,
      see: Category:Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends merchandise


Models of Thomas the Tank Engine and the other characters have been around for as long as The Railway Series of books. Indeed, the Rev. W. Awdry created the original model of Thomas the Tank Engine, which inspired the character, soon after the first book of stories was complete. In 1927, he built Annie, and in 1948, he built Clarabel.

The first ever commercially-produced character was Percy the Small Engine, released by Meccano in 1967 as part of a set. However, as this predated the TV Series by at least 20 years, it really counts as 'Railway Series' merchandise.

Several companies have made models of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends characters, as a result of the TV Series.

Ertl Company, now defunct, produced a range of die-cast and plastic models. Learning Curve also produce the Take Along Thomas and Friends range of travel Thomas playsets. Recently Tomy has also introduced die-cast models of the Thomas characters.

Press-out card models

The first commercial models released alongside The Railway Series, in 1957, were 'Pre-cut Model Engine Books'. These were full-colour printed cardboard kits whose pieces could be pressed out, folded and glued together to make fairly realistic models. They were produced right through the 1960s. Four titles were published:

  1. "Thomas, with Annie the Coach"
  2. "Percy, with Clarabel the Coach"
  3. "Gordon the Big Engine and his Tender"
  4. "James the Red Engine and his Tender"

The advertisements [1] on the back of the Railway Series books promised, "Other models are being prepared", although, even if ever prepared, they were never published.

Later models

A 12-page "Thomas the Tank Engine Press-out Model Book" (ISBN 0434927589) by the Rev. W. Awdry and Ken Stott, was released in September 1987.[1]

In 1994, a new range of press-out models was released, this time drawn by Ken Stott instead of C. Reginald Dalby. Each book came with accessories, track and a station. The range comprised the following characters: Thomas, Percy, James, Toby, Annie, Clarabel, Bertie, Harold.

Meccano 'Percy' train set

In 1967, Meccano Ltd released a train set featuring a clockwork model of Percy the Small Engine with some trucks – a yellow open wagon and a red closed van – and a circle of blue track. The model of Percy was a fair likeness of the pictures in the books and was about the size of an O gauge engine. The box featured special artwork by Peter Edwards and included the title, "Percy the Small Engine, brought to life by Meccano".

The plastic track was advertised as: "Gauge O track that clicks together and includes Brake Rail for automatic braking. Rails specially designed to make it easy to put train on the track." In practice, although it was advertised as 'Gauge O', this only indicated the size of the model, since the track design was not compatible with anything else (the models were effectively 'flangeless').

Adverts for the set, which showed the model train 'emerging' from the book Percy the Small Engine, appeared in Meccano Magazine and on the back of the dust-covers for several of The Railway Series books in print at the time.

The train set was only produced in 1967, and is now extremely rare. It is notable as the last O Gauge train to be made at Meccano's famous Binns Road factory in Liverpool, where the Hornby tinplate trains were made.

Photographs of the set and the adverts may be found here and a close-up of Percy may be found here.

ERTL Models

Ertl was the first company to manufacture numerous models of characters from the Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends TV series. They introduced the first die-cast models in 1984. The range was very popular in the UK, and the nature of the subject matter encouraged collecting. Eventually the range included a large number of models, although it has now been discontinued: Ertl ceased production for the US market in 2001, and for the UK market in 2004.

When the models were first released, they used stickers for faces which could be changed (for some engines, mostly Thomas) to 'happy' or 'sad'. These were soon replaced with fixed plastic faces.

The majority of locomotive models and some road vehicles had a diecast metal body with a moulded plastic chassis and plastic wheels. The bodies were fully painted and lined. They were free-wheeling (rather than motorised) although the chassis was rigid (locomotives were not fitted with separate bogies), and a steam locomotive's tender was part of the same moulding as its body. Models of coaches and trucks were assembled from self-coloured plastic mouldings, with some surface detail (such as coach sides) being applied using self-adhesive labels.

The railway models were designed to be coupled together, so that long trains could be formed. Locomotives had a moulded coupling 'eye' at each end, while rolling stock had one 'hook' and one 'eye'. The unfortunate side-effect of this was that an engine could not 'run-round' to the other end of a train, since, having no hook, there was no means to couple it up. Earlier models had plastic couplings, but later ones had moulded metal couplings, with less 'give', and were more prone to breakage.

Unusually for TV Series -related merchandise, the range included a number of characters who only appeared in The Railway Series books, such as those from the Culdee Fell Railway.


In around 1991, ERTL started to produce several miniature models of Thomas and his friends. These versions had sticker faces that were previously used in the regular models. They were packaged with random parts of a railway, and - once all were collected - formed a playset. In later years the models were adapted into keyrings.

The models in this range were essentially the 'major characters' from the TV Series.

The playset components included: a station and siding, a level crossing, a (goods?) yard, (engine?) sheds, a loop track, a windmill, and an airport. Ramp pieces and, later on, viaduct connector pieces were also included.

Ertl 'Gold Rail'

In the 90's ERTL also started another short-lived line called the Gold Rail series. These had no tracks, and the engines and rolling stock had magnetic couplings. The models in this range were about the size of an HO scale train, and were extremely similar to the Bandai range made in Japan. Again the series was comprised from some of the 'major' characters from the TV Series.


Tomy have made several ranges of 'Thomas' models.

Wind-up Series

In 1997 Tomy made a range of wind-up models that 'have an action when you wind them up'. The range was small and included only a few of the 'major' characters.

In 2006 another range was introduced. More characters were modelled than previously, and some had moving side rods. Additional models from the range were released in Japan.

My First Thomas & Friends

My First Thomas & Friends is a range of chunky plastic toys, produced by British toy company: Golden Bear Toys.

The range started in c.1994, and was advertised for young infants who enjoyed the series. The models were safe for younger fans to play with.

The range started with only a dozen or so models, and has now grown to around 40-45, the range was (for a short-lived amount of time) available in America, under the company Tomy. The toys are still available in many good retail toy shops all around the UK, and despite speculation that perhaps the range has discontinued, after the absence of three years without new products; brand new models have started to appear on Amazon.

The range included most of the major and minor characters from the TV Series.

Talking My First Thomas and Friends

The talking versions of the My First Thomas models were first released in 2001. The models are more complex than the basic ones, their eyes move, and they speak familiar phrases from the original stock narrations by Ringo Starr and Michael Angelis.


Other than the Tomix Thomas models Japan has also made a large number of die-cast vehicles. They resembled the "Gold Rail" models made by Ertl. However, this series had more characters, although none from The Railway Series. The last new model, to date, is Jack the Frontloader. Other than this Bandai had made small plastic toys (as big an index finger) labed "Pocket Thomas." There is another series where plastic models (as big as the die-casts) are sold mostly at convenience stores along with candy such as mints.

Take Along Thomas & Friends

Take Along Thomas & Friends is a series of die-cast 'Thomas' models made by Learning Curve and designed for preschool children. The models have superseded the Ertl die-cast models range, which has now been discontinued. The two ranges are incompatible as the new models use special 'two-way' magnets instead of the plastic couplers used with Ertl models.

The models are generally much chunkier, and considerably less accurate, than the Ertl range. Many items in the Ertl range were passable as 'scale' models of the TV Series characters, but the Take Along products are much more obviously toys.

The range includes all the major and minor characters from the TV series and Movie, plus Mike and Culdee from The Railway Series. The rolling stock models include many of the 'special' (non-speaking) trucks that have featured in single episodes, and the vehicles include the members of The Pack. As well as the individual characters, a number of play-sets have been produced, either containing two or more characters, or a single engine with play scene and DVD. Some specials have been produced with a metallic finish, and a few models are fitted with sound chips.

Railway systems

Several companies have produced ranges of merchandise where the intention is for the buyer to recreate a complete railway. Such ranges include track, buildings and accessories, in addition to the locomotive and rolling stock character models.

Hornby Railways produce a range of OO scale electric 'Thomas' models. The models are not finely detailed but are thus suitable for younger enthusiasts. In the United States, Lionel offers a range of Thomas models in the larger O scale. In Japan where space as at a premium and small size is important Tomix have introduced a series of N scale Thomas models. Learning Curve of Chicago produces and distributes the Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway System, which is compatible with BRIO and similar wooden toy trains. 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.

Hornby Thomas and Friends

Hornby Railways produces a series of OO gauge model engines, track, accessories and box sets, based on the characters from the TV Series. They are designed to be compatible with other Hornby trains, thus allowing an easy migration to more prototypical modelling.

The models are designed for somewhat older children than most Thomas toys, as placing them correctly on the rails requires a certain degree of dexterity, and the plastic-bodied rolling stock may break if dropped. However, the level of detail is more basic than the 'real' models produced by the company, with the result that the trains can be handled safely by inexperienced hands without fear of damaging delicate parts.


Hornby launched its range in its current form in 1985, shortly after the debut of the television series. It mainly utilised modified versions of existing Hornby engines.

List of Engines, Coaches, and Trucks

  • Thomas the Tank Engine- made using a modified version of a London, Brighton and South Coast Railway E2 tank engine.
  • Percy the Small Engine- a brand new moulding utilising the standard Hornby 0-4-0 Smokey Joe chassis.
  • Annie and Clarabel- Thomas' coaches, produced using Hornby's standard four-wheeled coaches.
  • Open Wagon - a five-plank wagon in chocolate brown, with a face printed on the front.
  • Closed Van - a ventilated van with a similar paint scheme to the Open Wagon.
  • Brake Van - a BR standard 20 ton brake van.
  • Milk tanker - four-wheeled tanker, painted white with the words 'TIDMOUTH MILK' on the side in blue. A batch has also been recorded with these words in red, but these are extremely rare.

Thomas and Percy were also released as clockwork 'Playtrains'. Percy used the same moulding as his electric counterpart, but Thomas had an entirely unique body which ran on an inaccurate 0-4-0 chassis.

In 1986, after the second series of the show had been released, Hornby added two more engines, two coaches and two trucks to the collection:

  • Duck the Great Western Engine - used the old Tri-ang GWR Class 57xx tooling.
  • Gordon the Big Engine - used the Tri-ang LNER Class A3 ("Flying Scotsman") tooling, which had been replaced in the regular Hornby range by a more accurate model.
  • Gordon's Composite Coach and Brake Coach - GWR coaches in a green and cream livery to represent Gordon's express as seen in the television series.
  • Cattle truck - A pale brown cattle truck using the Triang moulding. Although cattle trucks were used in the television series, they did not wear this colour scheme. The van also carried the words "TO BE RETURNED TO LEWES". Lewes is not a destination used in the television series, so this wording is something of a mystery. (Oh no it's not. The Triang-Hornby model was a Southern Railway 'sheep wagon', which included the decal 'To be returned to Lewes'.)

1987 saw the release of Devious Diesel, based on the old Tri-ang Class 08 diesel shunter mould, and utilising the same anachronistic inside-framed chassis that the 'real' model had suffered for several decades.

The same year also saw the release of the Breakdown Crane.

A battery-powered set featuring Thomas, Annie, Clarabel and Bertie the Bus was released, which allowed children to recreate the popular story in which Thomas and Bertie have a race. Thomas was unpowered, being pushed along by a motor in Annie.


  • James the Red Engine - used a modified Tri-ang LMS 3F (a model that had been out-of production for over twenty years). The Reverend W. Awdry made a model of James in the same way.
  • Tar Tanker - same tooling as Milk Tanker (but black and printed "Tar")
  • James' Composite and Brake Coaches - same "GWR" coaches as Gordon's, but maroon and white in colour.

The following years saw a winding down of the range. Duck, Gordon, Diesel, the Breakdown Crane, the Closed Van, the Cattle Truck, the Tar Tanker, and James' coaches were quietly retired. Annie was modified so that her face carried a surprised expression, rather than the smiling one previously carried.

It was not until 2000 that Hornby revamped their range, bringing Gordon, Duck and the Tar Tanker back into production.

  • Toby the Tram Engine - completely new body tooling.
  • Bill and Ben - new saddle tank tooling on Smokey Joe 0-4-0 chassis.
  • Two new Troublesome Trucks - new, much longer, moulding
  • track system was totally redesigned.
  • James' Coaches were re-released.

In 2001, Henry the Green Engine joined the range with a Stainer Black 5 Tooling as he looked like in the railway series, along with a reintroduced Devious Diesel. Two completely new trucks, the Sodor Fuel Tanker and the Sodor Scrap Co. truck (a blue 7-plank wagon) were also released.

  • 'Arry and Bert - same tooling as Devious Diesel.
  • 'The Diesel' - used Hornby's Class 37 tooling.

Another 7-plank wagon joined the range, S. C. Ruffey. This carried a moulded face. The following year, Oliver and Stepney were released.

In 2005:

  • D7101 (later D3) Bear and The Flying Scotsman (with a face) were added. These characters had only featured in the Railway Series books, and never on television.
  • The battery-powered Bertie was released as a separate model.
  • A circus train consisting of twelve wagons and three ice cream trucks.
  • Reworked versions of the Cattle Truck and Breakdown Crane were introduced
  • Toad, the brake van - based on Tri-ang GWR brake van moulding
  • Old Slowcoach - based on the equally fictitious clerestorey coach moulding
  • new weathered Brake Van.
  • A new range of resin buildings were released with the adult collector in mind.



The Hornby range currently includes the following Thomas the Tank Engine-themed sets:

Each is supplied with a paper trakmat with printed scenery and track layout, enough track to create a basic oval, and, in some cases, a siding, plus a power-controller. Additional Thomas-branded 'track packs' are available to complete the layout printed on the mat.

In addition, certain 'multi-packs' are included in the range. In addition to 'Thomas, Annie & Clarabel', other sets comprise three trucks.

Bachmann Thomas and Friends

In 2002 Bachmann USA made their own HO-scale electric Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends range. The models are made with new body tools, to resemble the characters in the TV series and the Railway Series.

The range includes some of the 'major' steam engines, coaches and freight stock, and non-railway characters. A number of train sets, complete with an oval of Bachmann's E-Z Track, are also in the range.

Learning Curve Wooden Railway

The Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway (TAFWR) is a wooden model railway system created by Learning Curve in Chicago and made in China. This wooden railway system is based on the Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends TV series and The Railway Series. Learning Curve makes a series of tracks, buildings, and bridges for the model trains.

The TAFWR includes characters from The Railway Series that have not been televised, such as Ada, Jane, and Mabel (coaches from the Skarloey Railway), Mike and Frank, (from Small Engines), Wilbert (from Wilbert the Forest Engine), D199 (Spamcan), Ivo Hugh, Big City Engine (Foreign Engine), and Catherine the Mountain Coach and Culdee (From Mountain Engines).

History, Design and Construction

The company "Learning Curve" was founded by John W. Lee in Chicago, 1993 . In 2003 the company was acquired by "Racing Champions Ertl" that was renamed in the same year to "RC2".[2] Learning Curve introduced some new designs for the track surface of wooden toy railways, such as the "Clicketyclack" rails patented in 1995[3] and the newer tracks with a relief to supply better traction grip for battery powered trains patented in 2003[4]. They also introduced a road track that uses the same gauge as the railway tracks.

The original models were constructed mainly from painted wood, with metal used in the coupling magnets and axles, and plastic wheels and faces. These models were relatively primitive having simple wooden stubs for the funnel and dome. Details such as windows, whistles and buffer beams were omitted.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the models were upgraded. The wooden funnel and painted smokebox were replaced with a separate plastic smokebox with a more realistic looking funnel. The tender engines received an additional upgrade of moulded plastic coal.

These improved designs were manufactured until 2004 when they were replaced with a third generation of design, which included new and more detailed faces.

Learning Curve is rapidly expanding its lineup of locomotive and locations.

Popular items

Over the several years that TAFWR has been made several items have remained popular, while others have been withdrawn. Two of the longest running items are the barrel loader, which remains in production, and the single stone tunnel which has recently been withdrawn in favour of the Knapford Covered Bridge. To date "A Day at the Works Set," is the longest running set to date.

The majority of characters from the TV Series, both major and minor, plus some of the Railway Series characters have appeared in the range. They have been acocompanied by a comprehensive range of track, buildings and accessories.

Special model types include "Sights and Sounds" locomotives and buildings, and some battery-powered models. (The majority of locomotives are hand-propelled (push-along).)

Product recall (June 2007)

On June 13, 2007, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, with RC2, jointly issued a voluntary product recall notice for a number of the models in the TAFWR range. Tests had discovered lead present in these models, and hence a risk of lead poisoning was recognised. About 1.5 million units are affected, all models containing red or yellow paint, manufactured between January 2005 and June 2007.[5] (See recall notice for details of which models are affected.)

Thomas Tomica Road & Rail

Thomas Tomica Road & Rail is a battery-operated system that was made by Tomy between the early 1990s and 2007, and is compatible with other Tomy Tomica Road & Rail sets. The engines run on a special plastic blue "track", and the roadway vehicles run on a special gray "road". Thomas Tomica Road & Rail is not compatible with other brands of model railway, although the models may run on the Learning Curve wooden track.

A large number of models have been released in the range, including the majority of major and minor characters from the TV Series.

This range appears to have changed names several times:

  1. Tomica World
  2. Thomas Tomica Road & Rail
  3. Thomas Motor Road & Rail

In 2007, HIT Entertainment's subsidiary HIT Toys acquired the license from Tomy and started producing the range under the brand name Trackmaster Thomas & Friends.

Trackmaster Thomas & Friends

In 2007, HIT Entertainment's subsidiary HIT Toys picked up the license to produce the Tomy range fomerly known as Thomas Tomica Road & Rail. The Trackmaster engines are compatible with Tomy's Motor Rail and Road merchandise. Trackmaster's life-like brown coloured track is easily connected to existing blue track from TOMY (two adapters are included in every playset). An innovation in this range is the special face-changing engines that are included in some sets.

Thomas Tomix Rail

From 1998 onwards a significant range from Tomix has been introduced providing an electric N gauge Thomas system which was still unique in 2007 and which then included four locomotives: Thomas, Percy, James and Henry. Some of the rolling stock looked similar to Graham Farish items.

Construction toys

Lego Duplo Thomas & Friends

In 2005, LEGO introduced the first sets in their Duplo 'Thomas' series. Four sets were made, starring James the Red Engine, Thomas the Tank Engine, a Troublesome Truck, Toby the Tram Engine, and Percy the Small Engine. The next year, Harold and Cranky were introduced, with a second Troublesome Truck.

Thomas Character Builder

In 2006 MV Sports made their own self-assembly Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends engines and buildings. The range consists of the following models:

  • Thomas, Toby and Mavis three pack set
  • Percy track set
  • James and station set
  • Edward and engine shed set

Computer games

A number of different video games based on a 'Thomas' theme have been released, for a variety of different computer platforms.


There were also games written for the Commodore 64 and Commodore Amiga.


Two PC-based DOS-scrolling games were developed by Peakstar and published by Alternative in 1992 and 1993:

  • "Thomas the Tank Engine"
  • "Thomas the Tank Engine 2"

Info about these games can be found at Home of the Underdogs.

Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (THQ)

Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends was an educational one-player video game, developed and published by THQ. Released May 1, 1993, it was available for the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive platforms. It featured the classic Thomas characters in eight adventures, and included "tricky" trivia questions.

Hasbro Interactive / Infogrames

In 1999, Hasbro Interactive made three Thomas & Friends games based on the television series. After Hasbro was purchased by Infogrames a further three games were released under the Infogrames name.

All of these games were designed as educational games for young children.

Games released by Hasbro

  • Thomas and Friends: Great Festival Adventures
  • Thomas and Friends: Trouble on the Tracks
  • Thomas and the Magic: Railroad Print Studio

Games released by Infogrames

  • Thomas and Friends: Building the New Line
  • Thomas and Friends: Railway Adventures
  • Thomas and Friends: Thomas Saves the Day

Playstation 2

A Day at the Races

The first game featuring Thomas for the Playstation 2. Features: Thomas the Tank Engine, Edward the Blue Engine, James the Red Engine, Percy the Small Engine, The Fat Controller.

See Also


  1. Clutterbuck, Martin; et al. 'Awdryania'. (includes photos of adverts for card models). The Real Lives of Thomas the Tank Engine. Retrieved on 2007-05-09.
  2. [The Timeline of RC2]
  3. US Patent 5,454,513 from Oct.3,1995
  4. US Patent 6,648,237 B2 from Nov.18,2003
  5. US Recall of Various Thomas & Friends™ Wooden Railway Toys. Retrieved on 2007-06-14.

External links

  • 'Awdryania' - Description of the merchandise spawned from The Railway Series before the advent of the TV series.

The world of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends
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TV Series: Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends
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Significant people and organisations
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The Britt Allcroft CompanyGullane EntertainmentHIT Entertainment
Other relevant pages
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The Railway Stories (audiobooks)Thomas and Friends video releasesShining Time Station
Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends merchandise
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Thomas & Friends fan fiction

Fan Fiction Character Glossary

Fan Fiction Series

Last of the Railroads • The Sodor Engines • Thomas and Friends: The New Life • Thomas and his chums • Thomas the Trackmaster Adventures • Thomas the Wooden Engine

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Garcia And Friends • Human Thomas and Friends

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