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This article is about the television documentary. You may be looking for the biography book.

The Thomas the Tank Engine Man is a television documentary produced by Nicholas Jones of Quanta Films Ltd[1] for the BBC Bookmark series.


The documentary began production after Nicholas Jones' first meeting with Wilbert Awdry at his home in Stroud, Gloucestershire on 26 April 1993.

Nicholas managed to sell the documentary idea to both BBC and Channel 4 in Summer 1994.

Nicholas and the BBC crew spent the entire day filming Wilbert Awdry's interview on 16th September 1994, disguising the fact that Awdry was in bed the entire time due to his deteriorated health. The crew also had a chance to film Wilbert's cluttered study room, which contained his dismantled model railway layout, a relief map of the Island of Sodor and Ffarquhar timetable.

The documentary was first broadcast on BBC 2 on 25 February 1995 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of The Railway Series.





  • Toronto



  • The only interview that was cut out from the final edit of the documentary was with Pete Waterman.
  • This documentary was repeated on 15 April 1997 to mark the passing of Wilbert Awdry on 21 March 1997.
  • Clips from Percy, James and the Fruitful Day (US version), Thomas Goes Fishing, Thomas and Gordon (Japanese version) and Henry's Forest are used throughout the documentary.
  • A clip from the Shining Time Station episode "Schemer's Alone" is used.
  • Behind the scenes clips of Thomas and the Special Letter and Paint Pots and Queens were shown before the episodes were released on VHS and TV.
  • Sections of John Gielgud's narration of the Railway Series stories are played throughout the documentary. The footage of real steam locomotives dubbed with the narration was filmed at the West Somerset Railway during their Thomas the Tank Engine event. One point, after a brief narration from 'The Sad Story of Henry', a man dressed as the Fat Controller asked the driver why he was late. 
  • Hilary Fortnam, one of Wilbert Awdry's daughters, tells the story of how her father created Thomas and his friends.
  • Footage of the Lickley Incline, filmed by the late Ivo Peters, is used when Wilbert Awdry recalls his childhood memories, which inspired the story of Edward and Gordon.
  • Bandai's Departing Now series, bath toys and sandpit toys TV commercials were broadcast as examples of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends merchandise in Japan.
  • Several scenes from this special have become internet memes, including clips of Wilbert Awdry saying, "No", "You can't do it!" and "Rule 55!", and the interview with famed British Children's Writer and internet meme celebrity Michael Rosen, who exclaims in horror about Henry being bricked up in the tunnel in The Sad Story of Henry.
  • On 4 November 2021, Nicholas Jones started a Kickstarter project to remaster the entire documentary, and to make an exclusive Blu-ray release with unused footage as bonus features.[2] Two days later, the project raised its initial £3,000 funding goal and continued rising up to nearly £10,000 more by 4th December.


  • Mikiko Adachi's name is mistakenly credited as "Mikoko Adachi". Also, her interview video ends in the middle.
  • Ponkicki's title is mistakenly credited as "Pumkiki" on English subtitles. Also, as Mikiko Adachi mentioned during the interview, the correct title was "Ponkickies", which was changed from "Ponkicki" in October 1993.



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