Thomas and Friends merchandise – GPS Navigator With ISDB-T Player Manufacturer – Mobile Internet Dev

Models

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, while still at school, 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. The Ertl Company, produced an extensive range of die-cast and plastic models; Learning Curve produce the Take Along Thomas and Friends range of travel Thomas playsets; and, more recently, Tomy has introduced a range of die-cast models too.

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:

"Thomas, with Annie the Coach"

"Percy, with Clarabel the Coach"

"Gordon the Big Engine and his Tender"

"James the Red Engine and his Tender"

The advertisements 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.

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 the Bus, Harold the Helicopter.

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 1985. 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 pin couplings, but later ones had moulded loop 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.

The models released are listed on a dedicated page at Train Spotting World.

Miniatures

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.

Merit products

Another toy company, Merit, produced several sizes of push-along toys to tie-in with the TV series. One such example was a sit-on Thomas built for toddlers, which had a black handle on the rear which enabled it to be pushed along by the parent. Merit also produced large push along toys of Thomas, Annie & Clarabel, Percy and Troublesome Trucks. Another version of the Thomas toy had shaped holes to allow the child to match up the shape with the right hole. All the engines and rolling stock could be coupled up by means of hooks, much like the Ertl models. The company also produced even smaller toys of Thomas, Annie and Clarabel, which could be coupled up in a similar way, except the couplings were on pivots to make it easier for the coaches to follow Thomas when he is pushed along.

Bluebell Toys Miniature Railway

In 1997, Bluebell Toys released an incredibly compact but action-packed playset featuring Thomas, Percy and Bulstrode. The engines and rolling stock had metal rivet wheels that allowed them to run on three-dimensional yellow plastic rails. Features included a tunnel, station and the ability to transfer loads from a truck into Bulstrode. Smaller sets featuring other characters such as James appeared later.

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 hook-and-loop couplers provided on the 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 Movies, plus Mike, Culdee, and D199 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 and lights.

In 2006, two playsets called Train Yard Set and Working Hard Set were introduced. These were`much bigger than other playsets, being more than 1x1 metres. Original sets were less than 30x30 centimetres.

In 2010, Take-Along was bought by Mattel and became a Fisher-Price line and renamed Take-n-Play. New characters were re-released and the old models were re-released with upgraded paints and faces.

Tomy

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


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