1 9 8 4 – 1 9 9 2 (UK)
60+ x 10/15 minute episodes
The character of Thomas the Tank Engine was created by the Reverend W. Awdry in 1944 as a means of entertaining his three-year-old son who was suffering from measles.
After a spectacular career in publishing, Thomas – the blue tank engine bearing the number “1” – and his puffer-train pals were filmed for television (as models) by the Britt Allcroft Group, with dry narration from ex-Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and later, in the same Liverpudlian manner, from Michael Angelis.
Joining Thomas in his scrapes were old Edward (the blue #2 engine), Henry (green, #3), Gordon (blue, #4), James the mixed traffic engine (red, #5), Percy, the saddle tank (green, #6), Toby, the tram engine (brown, #7), Montague, a Great Western engine familiarly known as ‘Duck’ because he waddled (green, #8), the twin black engines, Donald (#9) and Douglas (#10), and Oliver (green, #11).
Thomas’s carriages were Annie and Clarabel, and also seen were Daisy (the diesel rail car), Diesel (a diesel engine – natch) and Henrietta (another carriage).
All operated under instruction from the Fat Controller who, like the drivers, firemen and other human characters, was simply seen as a static figurine. Thomas’s other acquaintances were Terence the tractor, Harold the helicopter and Bertie the bus.
Although it was a hit with tiny tots in 43 countries, the TV show was disliked by Awdry himself, who urged children not to watch, citing as his reason “their lamentable gross ignorance” about railway practices.
He was particularly bemused by the Americans who insisted, in the cause of political correctness, in calling the Fat Controller by his proper name of Sir Topham Hat.
Meanwhile, the Britt Allcroft Group, which owned the screen and merchandising rights to the Thomas stories, made pre-tax profits of around £2 million per annum.
Reverend Awdry died in 1997.