This article is about the 1953 adaptation. You may be looking for the 1984 adaptation or the magazine story.

The Sad Story of Henry was a BBC television pilot which was broadcasted on 14 June 1953. It was based on The Railway Series story of the same name.




In 1953, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) approached then Railway Series editor Eric Marriott, who worked for Edmund Ward with the intention of getting the rights to adapt two stories from The Three Railway Engines for television. These episodes were scheduled to be broadcast during BBC Children's Hour on 14th June of that year.

00 scale Hornby Dublo model trains by Hornby were used to create the engines and rolling stock. P.R. Wickham designed the set to resemble C. Reginald Dalby's illustrations and painted the engines to different colors. The pilot was narrated by Julia Lang.

The pilot was transmitted live from Live Grove Studios. It has been reported that, during the broadcast, an engine (Most likely Henry) derailed due to a set of points not being set correctly. On-screen, a crew member's hand could be seen putting the aforementioned locomotive back onto the rails.

Wilbert Awdry, who watched the broadcast, complained about the "jerky" model railway operation, the on-screen derailment (which he described as an "elementary mistake"), as well as the "freely adapted" script required to fill in the ten-minute time slot. These complaints, combined with negative media attention, resulted in the next episode's delay and soon cancellation of the show.


It is believed that this pilot no longer exists, as being a live broadcast, it was likely never recorded, even if other shows from that day were recorded and released on the Internet. No stills are known to exist either. It is now only known from eyewitnesses. That being said, there was a press release confirming that other characters such as Thomas, Gordon and Percy would have appeared in later episodes.


  • This is the first example of an attempt to adapt the Railway Series books to television, the second being a series planned by Andrew Lloyd Webber in the 1970s. The third, and altogether more successful attempt came in 1984, and became Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.
  • According to a SiF page, the official name of the broadcast was the Three Railway Engines. This name can also be seen on some archived BBC schedules on that day.
  • in The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, it is mentioned that Henry, Gordon and James were modified versions of the Hornby Dublo Duchess of Atholl models.It is said in the book that The BBC said that they are " similar if not almost identical to the illustrations"!


References ( a SiF page about Charles Stidwell in which the brodcast is mentioned )

  1. 1.0 1.1 A newspaper section printed after the incident.


External Links

*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Fandom will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.