Thomas the Tank Engine Wikia
Thomas the Tank Engine Wikia
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 the episode of the BBC Children's Television series which was broadcasted on 14th June 1953. It is based on the story of the same name from The Railway Series book, The Three Railway Engines.




In the May of 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.[1]

Three 00 scale Duchess of Atholl model trains and a tank engine made by Hornby were used to create the engines. P.R. Wickham designed the set to resemble C. Reginald Dalby's illustrations and painted the engines to different colours. The Episode was narrated by Julia Lang.

Eric Marriott was invited to the studio where the episode was going to be filmed. He was disappointed when he saw that The set was not ready for the broadcast. The producers showed him some sound effects that were going to be used for the episode.

The episode was transmitted live from Lime 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 episode 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.
  • The official name of the broadcast was The Three Railway Engines.[1] However, the working title was incorrectly called as "The Three Little Engines".[3]
  • In The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, it is mentioned that Henry, Edward 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!".
  • A tank engine was supplied to the BBC, suggesting Thomas could have appeared.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Radio Times 12th June 1953, page 14 on the BBC Genome Project
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Daily Herald 23rd June 1953, page 3 on the British Newspaper Archive
  3. Charles E. Stidwell on Sodor Island Fansite
  4. Daily News 23rd June 1953, page 3 on the British Newspaper Archive


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