The fifth series of Thomas & Friends first aired on television in September 1998 in the UK and had twenty-six episodes narrated by Michael Angelis in the UK and Alec Baldwin in the US.
With Series 5, the decision was made to write a full series of original, staff-written stories, without using the Railway Series' books as a source. One reason for this was producer Britt Allcroft's desire to create a theatrical Thomas the Tank Engine film and requested that director David Mitton show off his modelling skills. Series 5 also took on edgier and darker plot lines and included much more intense action and crashes.
Some inspiration for the episodes came from a former LMR manager named David Maidment. In 1997, Maidment met with Steven Wright about the possibility of supporting the Railway Children charity and while Wright told him the series' staff commonly received such requests, they would consider. During their meeting, Maidment relayed stories about his railway experiences working in South Wales and as the manager at Crewe station. Maidment received a call asking if he would allow some of his stories to be used as material – the stories from the Railway Series were frequently based on true events and Allcroft and Mitton preferred this. Maidment agreed and was also asked to review each story to make sure that the railway in the show operated realistically. As a result, Maidment received writing credit alongside Allcroft and Mitton. 10,000 British pounds were later donated to the Railway Children for his work.
The design for each new character would be chosen by David Eves and given to David Mitton for approval. For ease of filming, Series 5 would introduce larger-scale versions of the narrow gauge engines and from Series 6-12, these larger models were used almost exclusively. Originally, the character Bertram was supposed to be a tank engine, but the financial difficulty in building a new model made them repaint Duke's model with Smudger's face.
|Screenshot||UK title (top)|
US title (bottom)
|Original UK release date||Episode number #|
|Cranky Bugs||14th September 1998||#01|
|A new crane called Cranky arrives at the docks and causes trouble for Thomas and Percy but eventually needs their help after a storm.|
|Horrid Lorry||15th September 1998||#02|
|Three very Horrid Lorries arrive on Sodor and start taking over the engines' jobs. Eventually, the tables are turned and the lorries get their comeuppance.|
|A Better View for Gordon||16th September 1998||#03|
|Gordon complains about the plainness of a new station and longs for a panoramic view, which he gets unexpectedly.|
|Lady Hatt's Birthday Party||17th September 1998||#04|
|On his way to his wife's birthday, Sir Topham Hatt runs into a series of problems.|
|James and the Trouble with Trees||18th September 1998||#05|
|James' bragging prevents him from listening to Henry, Percy and Terence's warnings about trees that are too close to the line.|
|Gordon and the Gremlin||21st September 1998||#06|
|Gordon has problems with his fire and the others joke of gremlins. Later, a special visitor arrives and her dog runs away into Thomas' cab.|
|Bye George!||22nd September 1998||#07|
|George the Steamroller causes a great deal of trouble for the engines.|
|Baa!||23rd September 1998||#08|
|A "Best Dressed Station" contest is being held across Sodor. However, as Percy is helping decorate Maithwaite station, a hungry ram is found at the station and the decorations are ruined.|
|Put Upon Percy||24th September 1998||#09|
|Percy complains that he is overworked. While working at the Coal Mine, some trucks escape and they crash inside the mine-shaft, which causes the mine to collapse.|
|Toby and the Flood||25th September 1998||#10|
|Toby is sent to inspect a dam and discovers a few leaks in it. It eventually collapses and causes an unsafe bridge to break, causing him to drift towards a waterfall.|
|Haunted Henry||28th September 1998||#11|
|Henry refuses to believe in ghosts, until he and his crew encounter a series of spooky events during the night.|
|Double Teething Troubles||29th September 1998||#12|
|Bill and Ben are worried when they hear that Derek, a malfunctioning diesel, is going to help them work in the clay pits.|
|Stepney Gets Lost||30th September 1998||#13|
|Sir Topham Hatt invites Stepney to work with Toby and Mavis at the quarry. Stepney gets lost on the way home, eventually arriving at the Smelter's Yard.|
|Toby's Discovery||1st October 1998||#14|
|Toby takes the Hatts on an expedition, finding a castle and an old mine. The destinations are reopened, but Toby is spooked by Thomas' story about "The Old Warrior".|
|Something in the Air||2nd October 1998||#15|
|Henry is cross when Thomas delays him and refuses to listen to his warning about a line eroded by high tides.|
|Thomas, Percy and Old Slow Coach||5th October 1998||#16|
|Thomas and Percy discover an old coach named Old Slow Coach in the scrapyard and want to save her.|
|Thomas and the Rumours||6th October 1998||#17|
|The engines discover that Harold has been hired to show a special visitor around the island and fear being replaced.|
|Oliver's Find||7th October 1998||#18|
|Oliver is put on mail duty and ends up going down an old branch line due to a dozing signalman.|
|Happy Ever After||8th October 1998||#19|
|Mrs. Kyndley asks Percy and his driver to make a "good luck package" for her daughter's wedding.|
|Sir Topham Hatt's Holiday||9th October 1998||#20|
|Sir Topham Hatt and his family go on holiday, though things start to go wrong.|
|A Surprise for Percy|
A Big Surprise for Percy
|12th October 1998||#21|
|Percy moans about his work in the mines and wants something exciting to happen. His wish comes true when a line of trucks breaks away from him on the hill.|
|Make Someone Happy||13th October 1998||#22|
|James sees Mrs. Kyndley, who is upset that her sister cannot come and visit. A "mystery tour" is arranged for her and James is chosen for it.|
|Busy Going Backwards||14th October 1998||#23|
|Toad confesses to Oliver that he wishes to go forwards for a change. On Gordon's Hill, the coupling snaps and Toad goes on a wild ride.|
|Duncan Gets Spooked||15th October 1998||#24|
|Duncan teases Peter Sam after some trucks fall into a ravine, so Rusty tells Duncan a ghost story to make him eat his own words.|
|Rusty and the Boulder||16th October 1998||#25|
|Rusty is suspicious of a strange boulder lodged in the mountains.|
|Snow||19th October 1998||#26|
|Thomas is cross with the snow, so Rusty tells him about Skarloey's own experience in an avalanche.|
|Screenshot||Title||Composers||Original release date|
|It's Great to be an Engine||Mike O'Donnell|
|1st October 1999 (UK; VHS)|
|Sir Topham Hatt||Mike O'Donnell|
|1st July 1999 (JPN; VHS)|
|Accidents Will Happen||Mike O'Donnell|
|10th August 1999 (US; VHS)|
|Night Train||Mike O'Donnell|
|2nd February 1999 (US; VHS)|
|The Snow Song||Mike O'Donnell|
|1st October 1999 (UK; VHS)|
|Harold the Helicopter||Mike O'Donnell|
|8th March 1999 (UK; VHS)|
|Donald's Duck||Mike O'Donnell|
|1st July 1999 (JPN; VHS)|
|Percy's Seaside Trip||Mike O'Donnell|
|8th March 1999 (UK; VHS)|
|Every Cloud has a Silver Lining||Mike O'Donnell|
|1st October 1999 (UK; VHS)|
|Come for the Ride||Mike O'Donnell|
|8th March 1999 (UK; VHS)|
|Cover||Title||Composers||Original release date|
|Magical Adventure||Mike O'Donnell|
|17th July 1998 (Japan; PC and Win)|
|Players get to drive as Thomas, Gordon or Percy and they can play a few minigames, as well as watching a few episodes from the series.|
- Bill and Ben
- Annie and Clarabel
- Troublesome Trucks
- Sir Topham Hatt
- Lady Hatt
- Stephen Hatt
- Bridget Hatt
- Mrs. Kyndley
- The Little Boys
- The Firelighter
- Harold's Pilots
- Scruffey (not named)
- Jem Cole (not named)
- Farmer Trotter (not named)
- Peter Sam (does not speak)
- Henrietta (does not speak)
- Donald (cameo)
- Trevor (cameo)
- Big Mickey (cameo)
- Farmer Finney (cameo)
- The Vicar of Wellsworth (cameo)
- Refreshment Lady (cameo)
- Nancy (cameo)
- The Dryaw Policeman (cameo)
- The Ffarquhar Stationmaster and his Wife (cameos)
- The Storyteller (cameo)
- The Butler (cameo)
- The Crovan's Gate Policeman (cameo)
- The Tailor (cameo)
- The Mid Sodor Railway Manager (cameo)
- The Inspector with the Bowler Hat (cameo)
- The Painter (cameo)
- The Quarry-Master (cameo)
- The Railway Board (cameo)
- The Portly Man (cameo)
- Duke (portrait; cameo)
- Bulstrode (faceless; cameo)
- Izzy Gomez (faceless; cameo)
- Märklin Engine (scrapped model cameo)
- City of Truro (scrapped model cameo)
- Douglas (music video cameo)
- Diesel (music video cameo)
- Daisy (music video cameo)
- The Diesel (music video cameo)
- Sir Handel (music video cameo)
- Jeremiah Jobling (music video cameo)
- Tom Tipper (music video cameo)
- The Queen (music video cameo)
- The Ffarquhar Policeman (music video cameo)
- The Stone-Dropping Boys (music video cameo)
- The Barber (music video cameo)
- The Ffarquhar Stationmaster's Children (music video cameo)
- The Injured Sailor (music video cameo)
- Old Slow Coach
- The Horrid Lorries
- Old Bailey
- The Fire Brigade
- Mrs. Kyndley's Daughter
- Tiger Moth's Pilot
- Derek (not named)
- 'Arry (not named)
- Dowager Hatt (not named)
- Mr. Walsh (not named)
- The Lighthouse Keeper (not named)
- Bert (does not speak)
- Bertram (does not speak)
- Rusty's Ghost Engine (does not speak)
- Butch (does not speak)
- Thumper (does not speak)
- Tiger Moth (does not speak)
- The Wedding Guests (do not speak)
- Boulder (does not speak)
- Harry Topper (mentioned)
- The Fisherman (mentioned)
- This was the first series of several things:
- The first series not to have any episodes based on the Railway Series stories by Wilbert and Christopher Awdry.
- The first series with an episode where some railway on Sodor is referred to as a railroad. This occurs in Duncan Gets Spooked. However, railroad is an American term in the US.
- The first series to introduce original characters with no connection to the Railway Series.
- Alec Baldwin's first series as narrator.
- The first series not to air on Shining Time Station due to the show ending around 1996. Episodes from the fifth series were instead aired on FOX Family's Storytime with Thomas.
- The first series to use a Proteus 2000 to compose the music.
- The first series not dubbed in Ukrainian.
- The first series to air in Canada.
- The first series dubbed by The Maidstone Studios.
- The first series in which the phrase, "confusion and delay" is said.
- The first series in which Elsbridge does not appear.
- The first series to feature Thomas' unused panicked face mask from the third series.
- The first series to feature Gordon's unused soft-looking shocked face mask from the second series.
- The first series to feature Bertie's unused surprised face mask from the second series.
- The first series where food items are transported in open wagons.
- According to an interview with David Mitton before his death in 2008, this series was supposed to be a showcase for Thomas and the Magic Railroad.
- This series features more songs than any other to date, at a total of ten.
- This was also the final series of several things:
- Britt Allcroft's final series as writer and producer.
- David Mitton's final series as producer.
- Angus Wright's last series as executive producer.
- The last series to premiere in the UK on Cartoon Network.
- The last series filmed completely in 4:3 full screen.
- The last series released on VHS in New Zealand, though incomplete.
- The last series to feature BoCo to date.
- The last series shown in Germany and Latin America until the eighth series.
- The last series to have a railway consultant until the seventeenth series.
- The last series where Thomas' shocked face had a bucktooth.
- The last series to feature a modified version of James' happy face where is bottom jaw is slightly more pointed.
- The last series in the main show where Thomas and Percy's original wincing face masks are used on-screen. A new one would later be made for Thomas in the seventh series and a new one would be made for Percy in the eighth series.
- The last series to use the sound effects in Dolby Surround Sound for diesel engines, but continues with steam engines, road vehicles, rolling stock and people
- The last series where the supports under Thomas' whistle become gold.
- The last series to have all its episodes released on VHS in the UK and Australia. The two episodes, Bye George! and Something in the Air, were featured on the ABC For Kids compilation VHS, PlayBox in the latter country.
- John L. Wright's last series as editor.
- The last series where Thomas and Percy's original smiling face masks were used on-screen.
- The last series released in the 1990s.
- The last series to use the nameboards in the UK. However, the nameboards would last up to the fourth series for the US and Japan.
- This was also the only series of several things:
- David Maidment's only series as railway consultant and writer.
- The only series where Donald appears without Douglas.
- The only series where Diesel does not appear since his introduction in the second series, possibly due to his model being recycled for 'Arry or Bert.
- The only series where Knapford Station does not appear.
- The only series recorded in Dolby Surround Sound, hence the absence of certain sound effects and music in either the UK or US version of several episodes.
- The only series to feature Thomas' unused excited face mask from the third series.
- Old Slow Coach, The Horrid Lorries, Bertram, Thumper and Old Bailey's only appearances to date.
- Michael Angelis was not credited in the opening titles for the UK narration. However, he is credited as narrator in the Hindi narration, even though it was re-dubbed and Alec Baldwin was credited in the opening titles for the US narration.
- Starting with this series up to the twelfth series, the brake sound effect from the 1964 war film, "The Train", would be used when an engine puts on the brakes.
- This series was filmed in the same room that TUGS was filmed in.
- The Japanese video game Magical Adventure utilised specially shot footage from this series.
- Out of all the Skarloey Railway engines introduced in the previous series, Duke and Sir Handel were the only ones not to make a physical appearance in this series.