Saturday 11 February 2017

If It's Red It Must Be A London Bus

If It's Blue It Must Be Thomas!
But which Thomas?

When the Reverend Wilbert Awdry ...
... started writing the "Railway Series" for little Christopher ...
... he would have had no idea what a massive light blue monster he had created. Of course, "Little Christopher" grew up a bit ...
... and turned his bedtime stories into a global brand. Daddy was very prolific; he wrote 26 books to which Christopher added another 16. If you "do the math" you will work out that there are now 42! Some of the yarns are hardly stunning in their plot lines, but the little blue locomotive and his friends continue to captivate their young readers and listeners after 70 years.

Of course the Thomas franchise is now enormous with models and games, licensed world-wide.
If you want to have a "Thomas" on your preserved steam railway you need to license the project (for much fine gold) and your particular "Thomas" loco must be approved or you will get a nasty letter from Rippoff and Fiddle, the very successful firm of lawyers on the Island of Sodor; or maybe from their associates c/o the licensing company!

But which Thomas?

Here he is at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.
Notice the rectangular side tanks. Now look at the Thomas of the Awdry books ...
... or the Thomas of the TV series.
He is shorter in length and has an extra lumpy bit on his side tank. And here is the Rev Awdry's very first Thomas model, built for the model railway which he and young Christopher enjoyed.
Different again. The overall shape of the published Thomas' superstructure is very similar to a Southern Railway E2 tank engine.
There's the extended tank again, but no splashers over the wheels.
And then, to add to the confusion, here is The Rev's second Thomas, built to match the illustrations in the books ...
... with splashers but without extended tanks.

But here, on the Colne Valley Railway (Halstead, Essex), is a near definitive Thomas, matching the book illustration very closely.
But travel wider and globally and Thomas goes through some fascinating transformations. Here he is on the Kirklees Light Railway where our little blue smiling friend has suddenly become narrow gauge.
But it is by travelling overseas that the strangest Thomas "replicas" are revealed. Here is the Strasburg Railway ...
... sorry, Rail Road!

The Strasburg Rail Road is the oldest continuously operating railroad in the western hemisphere and the oldest public utility in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (in the USA). Chartered in 1832, the Strasburg Rail Road continues to operate under its original charter and original name (Strasburg Rail Road Company). Located just outside of the town of Strasburg, Pennsylvania, the railroad is a heritage railroad offering excursion trains, hauled by steam locomotives, through the heart of world-famous Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
This celebrated line also has Thomas Days and here he is, hauling a very un-Sodor like rake of vintage American coaches.
The next train along the line is headed by ...
... No 6, Percy the Small Engine. He passes by quietly, with just a wisp of smoke issuing from his funnel. Shouldn't he be working harder, hauling all those heavy coaches? He isn't because he is a non-powered Percy (or he was in the on-line video). He and his train were propelled by a diesel engine!
The Fat Controller would be aghast at the deception.
And so to Australia with yet another version of Thomas! this is on the Bellarine Railway.
The Bellarine Railway, formerly known as the Bellarine Peninsula Railway, is a volunteer-operated steam-driven tourist railway located in Victoria, Australia. It operates on a 16 km section of a formerly disused branch line on the Bellarine Peninsula between the coastal town of Queenscliff and Drysdale, near Geelong.
Their own locomotive "Klondyke" has also appeared as our famous ferroequinological friend.
But, surely, one of the least Thomas-like Thomases must be this beastie.
The Ōigawa Railway is a railway company in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. The company belongs to the Meitetsu Group. The first section of its lines opened in 1927. The company operates two railway lines: the Ōigawa Main Line and Ikawa Line. Both lines primary function as sightseeing lines. The former line is known for its steam locomotive trains, while the latter is the only rack railway line in Japan. The company also operates a bus line in Sumatakyō Onsen, Kawanehon.

Quite what our long-gone Rev would make of this "Thomas" is unclear.
But, if it's blue, it must be Thomas!

What is clear is that Thomas is popular the world over, whatever his size and shape. And, equally, fbb quite likes his own recently-delivered Thomas.
The front end is spot on ...
... with extended water tank and splashers; also note the curved "step-down" of the footplate. But at the back, the Hornby model is not quite right. Like Billington's E2, fbb's model has a curved step-down at the rear. But Thomas doesn't!
Your chubby railway modeller will not be spoiling his little blue loco by trying to change it!

After a brief call-in to Australia today, we go to Tasmania tomorrow.
The devil's in the detail!

 Next antipodean blog : Sunday 12th February 


  1. Some years ago I was at the Bluebell Railway. The train steamed in, headed by the green BR Class 4 tender locomotive. Mum cried excitedly, "Look, there's Thomas!" Her 4-year old son turned and replied crushingly, "No, it's not. That's Gordon!"

  2. Does it matter what Thomas looks like in real life? When you're four, does it really matter? - it's blue, it's got the same face, it must be Thomas.

  3. What a splendid name, Coxford! I do agree entirely. But, should we deceive youngsters just because they are only four! I was never happy with the thought of being brought by a stork; it made no sense at all.

    The blog is not meant to be a complaint - merely an interesting observation

    1. I should really log out of this account, which is my business account (as I work from home), and into my personal one. But that never happens!!

      Having done a Thomas event with a four year old, every train is Thomas!! And that was the last Thomas event we ever did - realised then it was just a way of printing money (lots of it). Mind you, that was on the Mid Hants railway, and I don't like going there anyway at the best of times!!

      One thing I did notice on my last trip to the Mid Hants, is that kids really like the Trumper. Why? Because the upside down triangle that indicates the guards van, makes it look like it's smiling and really happy! Go figure!!

  4. I wondered if the Japanese locomotive had Generically Mutated following the Fukoshima nuclear accident. But it's many miles away!

    On a different tack, I believe that it was Wilbert Awdry himself who allowed the Nene Valley Railway locomotive to be called Thomas, back in the early 70s. A certain company that organises "Thomas" days tried later to sue them for retrospective breach of copyright but failed. According to a well-known online encyclopedia, this "Thomas" is therefore specifically excluded from being used in "Day Out with Thomas" events.