|This article is about the unaired pilot. You may be looking for the re-filmed televised episode, the Buzz Book, the German DVD or the Philippine DVD.|
- “The pilot episode was a very good path finding exercise for us.... No doubt it'll be discovered in a rusting tin at some point in the future.”
- ―Robert Gauld-Galliers
Down the Mine is the original unaired 1983 test pilot of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. It was filmed but never broadcast.
In 1979, Britt Allcroft acquired the rights to produce episodes based on the Railway Series for television. She spent over two years meeting animators and watching test reels deciding on what type of animation would be used for the series - classical, stop motion, clay, or CGI. After meeting David Mitton it was decided that live-action model animation would be used. A low budget, pre-production test pilot episode was produced to pitch the series to several networks on 3rd April 1983. The pilot was based on the Railway Series story Down the Mine and differed from the final aired version. After the series was greenlit by ITV, the story was later refilmed as the twenty-fifth episode of the first series.
Differences with Final Version
The pilot version had simpler sets, fewer characters, and flatter lighting. The models of Thomas and Gordon were also different. The models used, including the wheels, were scratch-built by Martin Gill and were more simplistic in appearance. They were made of plastic and not brass. They were never tested before being filmed in front of the camera and proved to be unreliable. All of the models used later in the series would use the more dependable Märklin chassis.
The pilot was never publicly released, only appearing in test screenings, and it is currently unknown where the footage is or who possesses it. No stills are known to exist. However, some possible recycled footage from the unaired pilot is also seen in the aired version of Down the Mine itself, resulting Thomas' pilot model being briefly seen.
- Britt Allcroft mortgaged her house to fund this episode's production.
- The pilot was filmed on C-stage at Clearwater's Battersea studio.
- The pilot only took 3 weeks (15 business days) to film between March and April 1983.
- Out of the 15 business days it took to film it, only 10 were used to film the actual pilot.
- According to Robert Gauld-Galliers, it is currently unknown as to where the pilot footage is. He also stated that, although he was unsure as to who watched the first screening of the episode, it did get a positive response.
- The Thomas and Gordon models were re-built during the production of the pilot, which means that the last scenes from the Pilot were reused in the aired version.
Reused footage from the pilot
Possible reused footage from the pilot
Behind the Scenes
- Robert Gauld-Galliers' interview with Sodor Island Fansite
- Michael Dixon's interview with Sodor Island Fansite
- Chris Lloyd's interview with Sodor Island Fansite
- A Tribute to David Mitton by Britt Allcroft on Britt Allcroft Productions
- TomsProps on Twitter
- Discussion of stock footage on Twitter
- Diesel10TV and TomsProps on Twitter