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, Freda Lingstrom, in charge of the the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)'s Children's Television Department, 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 the 14th and 28th June of that year[1], in offering of £1 per minute. In order for the story to fill the ten-minute time slot, R.G. Walford of the BBC's Copyright Department pointed out that the stories required adapting.

Meccano Ltd. (who manufactured the Hornby locomotives) supplied three 00 scale Duchess of Athol model trains and a tank engine which were first sent to the publisher's offices in Leicester to be lightly modified by P.R. Wickham in order to create the engines for the broadcast. He painted two of the engines to different colours and rebuilt the other two from Balsa wood, and also modified the layout given by Hornby to resemble C. Reginald Dalby's illustrations. The Episode was narrated by Julia Lang.

Eric Marriott recalled, when interviewed for the book "The Thomas the Tank Engine Man" by Brian Shelby that he later took the modified models to the studio where the episode was going to be filmed but was quite disappointed when he saw that the set was not ready for the broadcast. The producers showed him a collection of railway 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 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, and due to the BBC'S trackrecord of wiping their archives any recordings that may of existed most likely were wiped, even if other shows from that day aired on the BBC were recorded and released on the Internet. No stills are known to exist either. It is now only known from eyewitnesses.


  • 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]
  • Because the original plan was that Hornby's engines were only going to be given faces, Wilbert Awdry said that they are "similar if not almost identical to the illustrations".
  • According to Nottingham Evening Post the second planned episode would have been about James.



  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. Leicester Evening Mail 4th June 1953, page 2 on the British Newspaper Archive
  5. Daily News 23rd June 1953, page 3 on the British Newspaper Archive


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