Day Out with Thomas (originally named Friends of Thomas the Tank Engine) is a trade name created by The Britt Allcroft Company. It is a tourist event that takes place on heritage railways and feature one or more engines decorated to look like characters from Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.
The Nene Valley Railway at Peterborough in England was the first railway in the world to possess a full-scale replica Thomas. This was an industrial tank engine built by Hudswell Clarke that had been nicknamed "Thomas" due to its blue livery and resemblance to the famous tank engine. In 1971, the Reverend W. Awdry made the name official. HiT Entertainment later tried, unsuccessfully, to sue the Nene Valley Railway on the grounds that the engine was breaching their trademark. The case was dismissed as the name was given by the Reverend W. Awdry.
Since then, other tank engines around the world have been dressed up as Thomas. Some railways have gone so far as to rebuild locomotives in order to produce a better replica, most notably the Mid Hants Railway and the Strasburg Rail Road. This has divided railway preservationists: those opposed claim it disfigures historic locomotives and trivialises the preservation movement; those in favour claim they draw visitors and can kindle an interest in children.
Many "Thomas'" are not actually real engines; they are really "shells" built around a smoke machine.
Some railways have developed a further source of income in the hire of "Thomas'" to railways that do not have a "Thomas" of their own.
Events by country
Many railways now host Day Out with Thomas events. Some feature just Thomas, while others feature other engines like Henry, Gordon, James, Percy, Toby, Duck, Donald and Douglas, Oliver, Bill and Ben, Emily, Spencer, Fergus, Arthur, Murdoch, Neville, Diesel, Daisy, BoCo, Mavis, Jinty and Class 40. Some also include rolling stock characters like Clarabel, S.C. Ruffey, Rickety and Toad.
The Talyllyn Railway hosts "Duncan Days" events, for which some of the locomotives are done up to resemble the Skarloey Railway engines. The engines are repainted red to match their Railway Series counterparts. Duncan is a pivotal character during these events. The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway used to have similar events, in which some of the locomotives were decorated to resemble the Arlesdale Railway engines. As of 2020, the Ravenglass and Eskdale once again secured the licensing fee for more Day Out With Thomas events.
There are seven travelling "Thomas'", all standard gauge except for two 3'0" (narrow gauge) engines. While travelling between events, the engines are disguised. Thomas appears in full dress at Day Out with Thomas events hosted by railroads in arrangement with HiT Entertainment. Many of the larger railroad museums and tourist railroads host Day Out with Thomas events periodically.
There are two real engines (one coal-fired, one oil-fired) and five dummies. The five dummies were built at the Strasburg Rail Road in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. The coal-fired engine is former Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal #15, converted into a Thomas replica in 1999. It currently resides at the Strasburg Rail Road and is lent out to other railroads from time to time. The oil-fired engine travels between numerous railroads, including the Henry Ford, Delaware River Railroad and numerous others. In 2014, all of the dummies along with the B.E.D.T. #15 engine were updated with a CGI Series-style face and animatronic features, allowing Thomas to "talk". The work was done by Garner Holt Productions. A few heritage lines in the US began using Percy in their events in 2014. There are two Percy replicas (one standard gauge and the other narrow gauge), and as the majority of the Thomases, it is a dummy.
In October 2019, the "Day Out with Thomas" event introduced a life-sized Mavis for a Halloween event called "Thomas, Mavis and the Strasburg Spooktacular". Mavis is improvised by Strasburg's SW8 #8618 switcher, with a face and a few extra details. Following that in 2020, Rusty was added; he is improvised by Strasburg's No. 2 diesel shunter. Like Mavis, Rusty was improvised with a face and a few extra details.
- Coal Car (2006)
- Caboose (2007)
- Water Tanker (2008)
- Passenger Coach (2009, 2013 and 2016)
- Thomas (2010, 2019, and 2020)
- Box Car (2011 and 2017)
- Quarry Car (2012)
- Paint Tanker (2014)
- 70th Anniversary Car (2015)
- Luggage van with Sir Topham Hatt (2018)
- Thomas with Tanker (2007)
- Metallic Thomas with Banners (2019)
- Thomas with Balloons (2016)
- The 2014 Day Out with Thomas Thrill of the Ride Tour in the US marks the first time Christopher Ragland voices Percy after Martin Sherman left the voice cast.
Mainline Steam's Bagnall tank engine has appeared as "Thomas" at a number of different locations, including the extremely popular biannual "Day Out with Thomas the Tank Engine" weekends at the Glenbrook Vintage Railway. In the Hutt Valley, the Silver Stream Railway has a Thomas-like engine on display at its entrance.
- In Queensland, The Workshops Rail Museum adds faces to their engines, coaches and road vehicles resembling Edward, Donald, Douglas, Lady, D199, Annie, Clarabel, Trevor and George. An engine previously used for James is currently undergoing an overhaul. The event also uses a life-size Thomas replica which is not a real engine.
- Timbertown Heritage Village in Wauchope, New South Wales holds yearly events featuring replicas of Thomas, Rosie, Cranky and George.
- In Victoria, the Puffing Billy Railway decorates their 0-4-0ST Peckett as Thomas. On occasion, a face is added to their traction engine, to look like Trevor. Other engines belonging to the railway are often given faces, made to look like Oliver, Henry and Salty.
- In New South Wales, the Zig Zag Railway, Lithgow held an event referred to as "Friends of Thomas", utilising engines resembling Thomas, James, Donald and Douglas. It is currently closed due to severe damage to the rails back in 2012. It is currently being repaired and is planned to reopen in the future. The New South Wales Rail Museum, Thirlmere hosts events 2-5 times a year since 2009 using engines and road vehicles resembling Thomas, Henry, Toby, Donald and Bulgy.
- Thomas can also be found at Rail Safety Weekend and the NSW Rail Museum.
In the Netherlands, the "Zuid-Limburgse Stoomtrein Maatschappij" (South Limburg Steam Train Company) hosts a "Day Out with Thomas" event once a year. For this event, they borrow a steam locomotive, which looks like Thomas, from a railway in the United Kingdom. They use different engines, depending on the engine they receive each year. They use their own engines as Thomas' friends.
In Japan, a C11-type steam locomotive (No. 227) was decorated as Thomas by placing a face with moving eyes on the smokebox, as well as painting the body blue and adding a "splasher" on each side of the running board. This engine ran in the summer of 2014 on the Ōigawa Railway in Shimada, Shizuoka Prefecture. In addition, a JNR Class 9600 (No. 49616) decorated as Hiro is displayed at the station yard of Senzu Station as well as a Class DB1 (No. DB9) decorated as Rusty.
Thomas would run daily on a 37.2-kilometre route between Shinkanaya Station in Shimada and Senzu Station in Kawane-Honcho in the prefecture for about two months. On its first test run, three coaches the engine had been pulling were painted orange, in the vein of Annie and Clarabel. On the official opening run, more coaches were added to the train.
According to the Ōigawa Railway, James would be making an appearance in 2015. JNR Class C56 (No. 44) that runs on the Ōigawa line would be decorated as James. Both James and Thomas would be operating together with their own trains from the summer of June through October.
A full-size replica of Percy has also been made for the summer event of 2015 and is on display with the Class 9600 at Senzu Station. A rusted disused JNR C12-type steam locomotive (No. 208) that no longer operates was revamped into the replica of Percy.
In 2020, a replica of Bulgy was introduced.
- Ōigawa Railway Thomas and Coaches
- Ōigawa Railway James and Coaches
- Ōigawa Railway Thomas and Coaches (cancelled)
- Ōigawa Railway Thomas (normal, 2015, 2016)
- Ōigawa Railway Thomas
- Ōigawa Railway Christmas Thomas
- Ōigawa Railway Christmas James
- Ōigawa Railway Christmas Percy
- Ōigawa Railway Thomas and Coaches
- Ōigawa Railway Coaches
- Ōigawa Railway Thomas and Rusty
- Ōigawa Railway Coaches
Off the Rails
Since 2008, many heritage railways in the UK have withdrawn their Day Out with Thomas events due to HiT's revised licensing conditions, which include the requirement for enhanced criminal records (CRB) checks on railway staff and volunteers and training courses for actors playing the Fat Controller, whilst others refused to pay the increased license fees and costs for the rights to stage Thomas events. Several railways were affected and have not had Thomas back on their events list since. "Jimmy the Jinty" took over for the East Lancashire Railway in 2009. Despite a two year absence, taken over by Underground Ernie, the Thomas license returned to Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway in 2010 lasting until 2018.
Events at the Elsecar Heritage Railway were axed in 2010 due to the new prices and had been replaced by Peppa Pig until 2013. Thomas also left the Great Central Railway in 2009 and was replaced by Ivor the Engine until 2012 and then from 2013 onwards, Ivor was replaced with visits from Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig. However, Thomas returned to the East Lancashire Railway as of 2011 and a year later was welcomed back at the Severn Valley Railway, Churnet Valley Railway and the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. However the Midland Railway Centre and the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Railway, both announced that due to spiralling costs and a decline in the number of visitors to their Thomas events, they will no longer be hosting events during 2013, but for the first time in five years, events returned to the North Norfolk Railway. Since 2014, the East Somerset Railway started cutting Thomas weekends, before discontinuing their Day Out with Thomas events as of 2020. Starting from 2018, The West Somerset Railway and The Lakeside and Haverthwaithe Railway have discontinued future Thomas events.
After ending the partnership held with Mega Bloks since 2010 and now partnered with Fisher-Price, the franchise relaunched in 2013 with a new website and with expanded promotion and advertising. Currently, only thirteen heritage railways in the UK now hold a license for Thomas weekends. The Nene Valley Railway had overhauled their Thomas locomotive in 2016.
Towards the end of 2018, Mattel decided future plans for Day out With Thomas events would not include smaller gauge railways, leading to both the Cleethorpes and Eastleigh Lakeside Railways ending their events.
In 2020, several Day out With Thomas events were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including two railways that were going to bring the events back, which were the Swindon and Cricklade Railway and the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.
- Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway
- Caledonian Railway
- East Lancashire Railway
- Kent & East Sussex Railway
- Kirklees Light Railway
- Llangollen Railway
- Mid-Hants Railway
- Nene Valley Railway (Licensed by the Awdry family)
- North Norfolk Railway
- South Devon Railway
- Didcot Railway Centre
- Talyllyn Railway (Licensed by the Awdry family)
- Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
- East Anglian Railway Museum
- Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum
- Roaring Camp Railroads
- Orange Empire Railway
- Colorado Railroad Museum
- Illinois Railroad Museum
- Essex Steam Train
- Gold Coast Railroad Museum
- Florida Railroad Museum
- Sam Shortline
- Whitewater Valley Railroad
- French Lick Scenic Railway
- Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad
- Midland Railway
- Kentucky Railway Museum
- Henry Ford Museum
- Crossroads V & Huckleberry RR
- Lake Superior Railroad Museum
- North Shore Scenic Railroad
- Tweetsie Railroad
- NC Transportation Museum
- Conway Scenic Railroad
- Delaware River RR Excursions
- Medina Railroad Museum
- Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad
- Oklahoma Railway Museum
- Strasburg Rail Road
- B&O Railroad Museum
- Tennessee Valley Railroad
- Heber Valley Railroad
- Tennessee Central Railway
- Austin Steam Train
- Grapevine Vintage Railroad
- Northwest Railway Museum
- Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
- Heritage Park Historical Village
- West Coast Railway Heritage Park
- Prairie Dog Central Railway
- York-Durham Heritage Railway
- The Workshops Rail Museum
- Puffing Billy Railway
- Trainworks Rail Heritage
- Bellarine Peninsula Railway
- Ōigawa Railway（大井川鐵道/おおいがわてつどう）
- National Railway Museum of Pietrarsa
- Milano Cadorna Railway Station
- Roma Ostiense
- Some events feature characters that are exclusive to The Railway Series. In other cases, unofficial "new" characters are introduced, using engines that are available to the railway with generic faces.
- Sometimes, a railway company will use incorrect face plates for certain characters if the correct ones are unavailable or do not exist, such as Mavis' face for Spencer, Toad's for Class 40 and Bulgy's for Rocky.
- On the US VHS 10 Years of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, the entire video took place at a Day Out with Thomas event in Strasburg during 30th April to 2nd May 1999.
- The rare smaller-scale Thomas, which was used for Railfair '91 and Day Out with Thomas events, is on display at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA. When it is at the museum, it is stored in the Victor McCormick Train Pavilion while the engine is disassembled.
- Two official VHS tapes were released in Japan as a way to promote two different heritage lines that do Day Out with Thomas. The first one was released on 1st July 1996 called P-Chan's Hello Thomas And James released by Fuji Television Network. The character P-Chan visits the Watercress Line in England. He meets Thomas, James, The Fat Controller, Diesel and Bulgy during his journey. The second tape to be released was in 2000 called A Wonderful American Journey with Thomas and Connie released on 1st December 2000 by Gullane Entertainment. This special is about an anime character called Connie travelling to America to see American Thomas at Strasburg Railroad as he gets ready for Day Out With Thomas. She also visits the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Choo Choo Barn, Georgetown Loop Railroad in George Town, Colorado and the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Durango, Colorado.
- The font used in the 2009-2012 UK logo is Cooper Black.
- The events were occasionally seen in documentaries about preserved railways such as:
- Railway Restored: Midlands (Great Central Railway)
- Off the Rails: Severn Valley Railway (Severn Valley Railway)
- Southern Steam: Volume 2 - Childhood Dreams (Mid Hants Railway)
- Railways Restored: Wales 2 (Talyllyn Railway)