What is Thomas the Train?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Thomas the Train, more often known as Thomas the Tank Engine, refers to a child’s toy, which inspired stories about the toy and then television and film renderings of these stories. The original Thomas the train belonged to Christopher Awdry, and his love for the toy convinced his father, the Rev. Wilbert V. Awdry to pen a series of stories for Christopher about Thomas’ adventures. Awdry actually made the little train for his son out of a broomstick handle, which certainly proves that many great and beloved things have humble beginnings.

Two young boys
Two young boys

Awdry’s stories became popular in his first few books, The Three Railway Engines and Thomas the Tank Engine, published in 1945 and 1946. Over time Awdry wrote 26 books featuring Thomas the Train and his friends, and his son Christopher began to add to the collection with his own stories in the 1980s. Thomas wasn’t always the main focus of these stories. Other engines that were Thomas’ friends or sometimes foils were featured significantly.

In the stories, Thomas the Train, who is a steam locomotive, has the job of station pilot. He moves other cars for larger trains. Eventually, after proving himself, Thomas is allowed his own branch line and stories about his adventures on his line prevail.

At about the same time that Christopher began writing his own Thomas the Train stories, BBC started production of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, which was initially narrated by Beatles drummer, Ringo Starr. In the US, these shorts were incorporated into the show, Shining Time Station. In 2000 the film Thomas and the Magic Railroad was released, and it has thus far been Thomas’ only appearance on the silver screen.

The books, television series and film have inspired tons of merchandise. There are toys with all of the engines featured in the Thomas the Train books. Children may enjoy wooden railway sets where they can recreate the Island of Sodor railway system, Thomas’ fictional home.

The calm stories emphasize friendship, loyalty, determination and hard work. They also feature wonderful trains, which tend to have strong appeal to young children. The books and TV and film series have made merchandise exceptionally popular and the stories have been republished in numerous ways, such as anthologies, with a variety of illustrations. What began as a broomstick has become a beloved part of young childhood, as Thomas the Train and his friends continue to “chug chug” their way through the imaginations of many.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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