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Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (also referred to as Thomas & Friends or Thomas the Tank Engine) is a British children's television series. It had its first broadcast on the ITV network from 1984-1992. It is based on The Railway Series of books by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son, Christopher Awdry.

Note: This article will mainly focus on the first eight seasons. For the seventeenth through twenty-first seasons, see this page.


These books follow the adventures of a group of anthropomorphised locomotives and road vehicles who live on the fictional Island of Sodor. The books were based on stories Wilbert told to entertain his son, Christopher, during his recovery from measles. Many of the stories from the first four series are based on events from Awdry's personal experiences.

Why These Seasons Are Really Useful

  1. The earlier episodes adapt The Railway Series books as well, and the original stories are also good to watch (for example: Thomas and Bertie).
  2. The idea of talking trains is really cool and realistic (as you can tell by The Railway Series).
  3. There's a large variety of engines, such as Thomas (of course), Gordon, James, Percy, Daisy, Henry, Toby, Edward, Duck, Rosie, Emily, Nia, Rebecca, Spencer, Donald and Douglas, Oliver, Stanley and the list goes on.
  4. The models in the model era are very well done as they look very realistic.
  5. The Really Useful Around the World videos are pretty interesting and fun to watch, maybe these videos would be more interesting if they were adapted to Railway Series stories.
  6. Well-done narration. Not to mention, in the model era, the first narrator was none other than the former drummer of The Beatles, Ringo Starr! The most talented actor of the entire series.
  7. George Carlin, like Ringo, has the best narration in the classic era out of every narrator. Even his voices for the listed characters really show how talented and enthusiastic he is.
    • Bill and Ben
    • Gordon
    • James
    • Sir Topham Hatt
    • Donald and Douglas
    • Trevor
    • Duncan
    • Toad
    • Tom Tipper
    • Daisy
  8. Likable main protagonist (except in Seasons 12-16 where he got flanderized all thanks to you know who).
  9. All of the theme songs from every season are catchy.
  10. Tale of The Brave and Journey Beyond Sodor are very brilliant films.
  11. Both the US dub and the UK dub are equally good.
  12. The Japanese dub is as great and superior as the UK and US dubs.
  13. The animation in Seasons 13-16 is decent, despite not aging well. However, the animation from Season 17 onwards is far superior.
  14. It even spawned a theatrical movie and a ton of Direct-to-DVD movies (though some of them weren't well-received by both fans and critics alike).
  15. The characters are based off actual railway locomotives and most of the episodes were based on real life events.
  16. The songs are well-done and catchy, such as "Thomas You're the Leader", "James the Really Splendid Engine", "Rules and Regulations", "Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining", "Percy's Seaside Trip", "Come For the Ride", "The Island Song", "Night Train", "Accidents Will Happen", "The Snow Song", "Winter Wonderland", "Down by the Docks", "The Red Balloon", "Hear the Engines Coming", "Monsters Everywhere", "Engine Roll Call", "We Make a Team Together", "That's What Friends Are For", "Will You Won't You", "Set Friendship in Motion", "Streamlining", "You Can Only Be You", "The Hottest Place in Town", "Our Tale of the Brave", "Never Overlook A Little Engine", "Let's Be Brave", "Somebody Has to Be the Favorite", "Really Useful Engine", "All The Girls Around the World", "Thomas' Anthem", "The Most Important Thing Is Being Friends", "I Want to Go Home", "On a Journey Today", "Roll Along", "Go Go Thomas" and the list goes on.
  17. The Thomas Creator Collective was as good as from its own depiction.
  18. The crashes are absolutely epic.
  19. Jam Filled Entertainment did a good job on Thomas and Friends when Season 21 came out (despite Arc animating eight episodes for said season prior to their bankruptcy).
  20. It's not afraid to be mature and have dark themes. The most common example of a dark episode is Granpuff, where Duke tells the story of an engine named Smudger who misbehaved and often rolled off the rails and then got turned into a generator for life. Then, due to no one wanting him, Duke gets buried in a shed. It's really adult and depressing. Haunted Henry was also a darker episode of the show because of the spooky atmosphere.
  21. Many good morals that kids can learn, such as "Be Patient", "Never trust toxic people", "Don't judge others from their looks/appearances", "Be careful what you wish for", "Work together", "Trust others", "Be honest", "Be yourself" and "Learn from your mistakes".
  22. Many excellent and memorable episodes, such as:
    • "Thomas & Gordon" ("Thomas Gets Tricked" in the US)
    • "Edward & Gordon" ("Edward Helps Out" in the US)
    • "Percy's Promise"
    • "Thomas & The Breakdown Train" ("Thomas Saves the Day" in the US)
    • "The Flying Kipper"
    • "Thomas the Jet Engine" ("Thomas and the Jet Engine" in the US)
    • "Percy's Chocolate Crunch"
    • "Rusty and the Boulder"
    • "Edward's Exploit"
    • "Twin Trouble"
    • "Haunted Henry"
    • "James Gets a New Coat"
    • "You Can Do It, Toby!"
    • "Rusty to the Rescue"
    • "Saved from Scrap"
    • "Old Iron"
    • "Emily's New Route"
    • "Gordon Takes a Tumble"
    • "Thomas to the Rescue"
    • "Thomas and Stepney"
    • "James and the Red Balloon"
    • "Trust Thomas"
    • "Emily's New Coaches"
    • "Gordon Takes Charge"
    • "Train Stops Play"
    • "Duncan Gets Spooked"
    • "Special Funnel"
    • "Troublesome Trucks" ("Foolish Freight Cars" in the US)
    • "Thomas Comes to Breakfast"
    • "Thomas, Terence and the Snow" ("Terence the Tractor" in the US)
    • "Thomas' Train" ("A Big Day for Thomas" in the US)
    • "Edward the Great"
    • "Make Someone Happy"
    • "Jack Frost"
    • "James Goes Too Far"
    • "Squeak, Rattle and Roll"
    • "Three Cheers for Thomas" ("Hooray for Thomas" in the US)
    • "Thomas and the Firework Display"

Confusion and Delay Qualities

  1. Seasons 9-16 and 22-24 weren't well received for a number of reasons.
    • The reboot, Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go! has taken the quality of the Thomas franchise to new levels of low, as it is considered non-canon to the original series, completely rely on cartoon physics, which is jarring, since the original series focused on realism, though with a few exceptions and dumb down the Thomas franchise worse than S9-10, 12-16 and 22-24 ever did.
  2. There are some occasional bad episodes, such as:
    • "Middle Engine
    • "The Sad Story of Henry" ("Come Out, Henry!" in the US) (first bad episode of the series)
    • "The Old Bridge" (depending on your view)
    • "Rheneas and the Roller Coaster"
    • "What's the Matter with Henry?"
    • "Dirty Objects" ("James in a Mess" in the US)
    • "Emily's Adventure"
    • "Henry and the Wishing Tree"
    • "Dirty Work" ("Diesel's Devious Deed" in the US)
  3. The seasons aren't always perfect and have their share of hiccups, even some of the ones from the classic era.
    • The earlier seasons have a lot of filming trouble and errors.
    • While still a great season, Season 1 can come off as dull and boring for some. Also, Ringo Starr's narration in the early episodes sounds a bit bland, but improved later on.
    • The VHS releases of Season 4 in the UK were a bit of a mess. Whereas the final volume of the fourth season (Thomas & the Special Letter and other stories) was made exclusively available in Australia and New Zealand, British consumers instead had the remaining 9 episodes spread across a number of compilation releases.
    • While Season 5 is great, it has a darker and edgier tone than the first 4 seasons. Some of the episodes from this season can be scary for younger audiences, like "Haunted Henry", "Duncan Gets Spooked', "Toby and the Flood" and "Rusty and the Boulder" (depending on your view).
    • While Season 6 is good, it has noticeably weaker visuals compared to the other seasons from the model era as well as a washed-out and dull camera font. Alec Baldwin's narration for this season doesn't help either as it lacks much of the energy and enthusiasm from Season 5. He still does some good voices, like Salty and Elizabeth, but that's about it.
    • Season 7 is good as well, but the addition to the New Series intro and music in the US dub angered a lot of fans.
    • While Season 8 is good and is the best season of the New Series era, it's considered to be the start of the show's decline in quality and has some inconsistencies and plot holes, like Henry being bad at pulling the express in "Henry's Wishing Tree".
  4. Some characters (those who never appeared in the Railway Series, the show's book origin series) have received a lot of negative feedback (i.e The Logging Locos, Vinnie, Charlie and Billy) for either being extremely annoying or having unlikable personalities.
  5. Misty Island Rescue and Day of the Diesels were negatively received.


  • It first aired on PBS as a segment on Shining Time Station. Then it premiered on PBS in 2004 as a standalone program. It aired on PBS until 2017. Now it airs on Nickelodeon as of the special 45 minute length episode, "The Adventure Begins".
  • The First Railway Series book, Three Railway Engines was published on George Carlin's eighth birthday in 1945.
  • Before narrating Ringo originally declined narrating the series since he hadn't read any of the Railway Series books at that time. However, after reading the books, he decided to narrate the series.
  • George Carlin was the choice for being the narrator of the series by Kenn Viselman, the head marketing for the franchise of Thomas & Friends, Tots TV, and Teletubbies.
  • According to Britt Allcroft, she chose Ringo as the narrator after hearing his voice on television and thought children would relate to him. At first, Allcroft declined the fact he was chosen because of his Beatles fame, since she was not a fan of the band at the time.
  • After Ringo Starr left the show in 1989/1990 (both British and American versions) to continue and focus more on his music career, Ringo stated in an interview following his departure that Thomas would always have a special place in his heart, and that he admits he is proud to be apart of Thomas' world.
  • Ringo Starr originally declined narrating the series since he did not read any of the Railway Series books at that time. However, after reading the books, he decided to narrate the series. He also recorded narration for the Ladybird audio books.
  • On the BBC game show "Pointless", when asked who took over narrating the UK version of the series from Starr in 1991, four out of the one-hundred people remembered that it was Michael Angelis.
  • Ringo Starr recorded the narration for the first season in eight days. That includes re-doing four episodes due to the tone of his voice.
  • The show is extremely popular in Japan as trains are one of the most common ways to travel in the aforementioned country, and because many of the show's merchandise is exclusive to the Japanese market. Infact, Fuji TV, a popular Japanese TV network which aired the program, helped co-producing the show's 3rd season and it even got 3 crossovers with a Japanese children's program named Ponkickies.
  • Alec Baldwin is the last narrator to play as Mr. Conductor.
  • Alec Baldwin is the first narrator to not narrate any Railway Series story adaptations.
  • While Carlin usually insulted most of the shows that he did attend playing the roles in, he usually spoke very fondly of both Shining Time Station and Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, even in some of his stand-up comedy routines. In an interview on "TV Legends" conducted shortly before his death, he explained that he signed on to both shows so that people could see a different side of him (meaning a good side where he isn't using vulgar language all the time).
    • In technicality, George Carlin is the first official American Thomas narrator after Ringo Starr's narrations were done.
  • Due to different societal norms in the United States, the Fat Controller is always referred to by his real name, "Sir Topham Hatt".