Thomas the Tank Engine Wiki
The Railway Series

For other uses, see Thomas (disambiguation).

“Thomas was a tank engine who lives at the big station. He had six small wheels, a short, stumpy funnel, a short, stumpy boiler, and a short stumpy dome.”
― The Author introducing Thomas[src]

Thomas is a little blue tank engine who lives and works on the Island of Sodor, and is the North Western Railway's number 1 engine.


Details of Thomas' arrival on the North Western Railway in 1915 show he arrived by mistake. How this happened is unknown, but it is believed he was sent to Sodor in a wartime mix-up.[4] His driver and fireman got along well with the local people and married Sudrian women. By 1920, neither one wanted to leave the Island or their beloved engine.

Through an inquiry, the Fat Controller found out that the LB&SCR had written off Thomas as being "lost on war service". Rather than face complications resulting from a change in their books, the LB&SCR quietly sold Thomas to the North Western Railway for a "nominal sum".[5]

Thomas was rebuilt at Crovan's Gate in 1920, presumably under the design on Sir Topham Hatt I. It is probable that this was the rebuild which gave Thomas his larger driving wheels and flattened rear end of the running board. It can be assumed that Thomas was found with the faults that the E2's had and thus was rebuilt into a more reliable engine.

Thomas initally worked as the station pilot at Vicarstown, shunting trains for the bigger engines on the Main Line to take out. He enjoyed teasing the other engines, especially Gordon, who he would quietly sneak up on and whistle loudly while Gordon dozed in a siding. Eventually, Gordon managed to get back at Thomas by pulling out of the station before he could be uncoupled from his coaches, dragging him down the line at a tremendous speed. Thomas vowed to never tease Gordon again.[6]

Perhaps as a result of his brief excursion beyond his boundaries, Thomas longed to see more of the world and become a part of it and became jealous of the bigger engines for having the chance to pull trains. On an occasion when Henry felt ill, Thomas took his morning passenger train since there were no other engines available, much to his delight. However, for unknown reasons, Thomas left the station before he could be coupled to his train, leaving behind the coaches, the passengers and their luggage. Thomas was not aware of his mistake until he was stopped by a signalman who asked where his train was. Ashamed and confused, Thomas returned to the station and collected his coaches. Subsequently, the incident made him a laughing stock among the other engines.[7]

Thomas continued to grumble to the other engines, though they took no notice of him. However, Edward felt sorry for him and allowed him to take his goods train to Wellsworth while he handled his shunting duties in the yard. Although Edward had warned him to be careful around the trucks, Thomas took no notice and bumped the trucks as he started. When they reached Gordon's Hill, the trucks pushed him down the line, causing him to lose control. He only just managed to stop the train before hitting a set of buffers in Wellsworth Yard, where he was confronted by the Fat Controller. So that Thomas could learn about trucks almost as much as Edward, the Fat Controller kept Thomas there, continuing the swap with Edward, and could easily keep an eye on things, as he lives at Wellsworth.[8]

While Thomas worked there, he saw the Breakdown Train. Shortly after he learned what its purpose was, James ran right past him, out of control thanks to his trucks, and derailed in a field west of the station. Thomas fetched the Breakdown Train and rushed to James' aid, helped to clean up the broken trucks and bring James back to the shed when he was re-railed. As a reward for his actions, Thomas was given the responsibility of running the Ffarquhar Branch Line - and two faithful coaches - Annie and Clarabel, much to his delight.[9]


Thomas on his branch line

Thomas loved his branch line dearly and had many adventures during his first days on the line. He once left his guard behind by accident and on another occasion he accidentally swallowed a fish in his tank when he took on water from the lake, causing him tremendous pain.[10][11] During the autumn season, Thomas met Terence and teased him for his caterpillar tracks, though he soon came to regret this after he became stuck in the snowdrift and had to be pulled out by him.[12] Thomas later met Bertie and was challenged to a race to Ffarquhar. Although he was behind for most of the race, Thomas managed to overtake Bertie and won.[13]

In 1960, Thomas crashed into the Stationmaster's house after a careless cleaner had meddled with his controls. Being unable to stop on his own, this incident taught Thomas that he still needed his driver to control him, as opposed to when an earlier compliment by his driver had gone to his smokebox.[14] Thomas was sent to Crovan's Gate Works to be mended and received some changes to his design, including a new footplate that was now level from smokebox to bunker. When Thomas returned to the branch line, he began looking after the passenger trains with Daisy.

In 1990, Thomas was invited by the National Railway Museum to represent the North Western Railway in the Great Railway Show, an event showcasing many famous engines across the UK. Thomas was excited, but the journey to York was shaky; he damaged his front buffer beam when he hit a crossing gate and the lorry he was travelling on was booked for parking illegally.[15][16] Thomas was repaired when he arrived at the Museum and befriended Green Arrow while he was being mended, though he continued to have bad luck when he ran into a bag thrown onto the line and frightened a small child.[17] Fortunately, Thomas managed to make up for his bad luck when, as he was double-heading a rail tour with Green Arrow, he noticed the line up ahead was damaged and stopped the train. As a reward for his actions, Thomas was made an honorary member of the National Railway Museum and received a commemorative plaque.[18] Afterwards, Thomas left York and returned to Sodor.[19]

In 1995, during the Golden Jubilee of the Railway Series, Thomas derailed on his branch line after rabbits had been undermining the track.[20] He was rescued and managed to attend the Jubilee at Tidmouth albeit after being delayed at Knapford Junction after a set of points and a signal failed.[21]

In 2007, during which Toby was having to handle the overflow of quarry workers, Thomas discovered an old carriage named Victoria, who he asked to be restored and help Toby.[22] He brought her up from the Junction to Ffarquhar to meet Toby, after having to bypass Terence's toppled cart that had nearly blocked the line.[23]

In 2011, Thomas had been crossing the river bridge near Elsbridge, when he was forced to stop due to an injured swan laying on the rails. He escorted it to Ffarquhar where it was taken to a vet and after recovery, Thomas brought it back to Elsbridge where the swan was freed.[24] Later, he attended the Thin Clergyman's centenary.[25]


In his early appearances, Thomas can best be described as cheeky and immature. His cheekiness is often directed towards the big engines, in particular Gordon. This - combined with his immaturity - often gets him into scrapes. Thomas is also known for being impatient and fussy. He is easily irritated by other engines delaying the running of his branch line and will often snap at them, whether the delay was their fault or not. His impatience can also cause him to hurry and forget things, such as when he left his coaches behind or when he accidentally left the guard at the station.

Since getting his branch line, Thomas has quickly matured into a really useful engine, despite all his flaws. He feels a sense of responsibility for running the line and takes great pride in his work. Though he will often boast about how it is "the most important part of the whole railway," he ultimately means well and wants to please the Fat Controller. He is always willing to help someone in need, whether it be rescuing another engine with the Breakdown Train or helping get stranded passengers to the station.

Technical Details


Thomas is based on a London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) Class E2 0-6-0T. Thomas is one of the second batch of E2s, built with extended side-tanks. Only 105 and 106 were built early enough to be Thomas, placing his build date at either June or September 1915.

These engines were built by Brighton Works between 1913-1916 to replace the aging Stroudley LB&SCR E1 class and were primarily used for heavy shunting and short-distance goods trains in the London area and on the south coast. During their final working years, the E2 class worked as shunting engines at Southampton Docks alongside the USATC S100 Tank Engines, until they were replaced by the BR Class 07 diesel shunters. In real life, all of the E2s were scrapped, with none surviving into preservation.

While Wilbert Awdry intended Thomas to be a different engine, it was illustrator Reginald Payne who illustrated Thomas as an E2, as Payne was a southern man, and thus based Thomas off a southern engine. Although initially annoyed, Awdry was content after finding out the design was based off a real locomotive, and he allowed it to stay in the series.

In illustrations, Thomas appears to differ from the real E2s in a few significant ways. He is depicted as being shorter in length than his original basis, has two extra windows on the sides of his cab, does not have the stepladders near his front buffer beam in any illustrations, his bunker is notably longer and he has wheel splashers, something the original E2 class lacked. Interestingly, Awdry's Mk3 OO gauge model of Thomas was refitted with larger diameter wheels than those found on the E2 class, thus justifying the added splashers. Additionally, unlike the real E2s, Thomas is fitted with push-pull equipment to work with Annie and Clarabel.

Originally, Reginald Payne illustrated Thomas without the additional cab side window and also gave him a Southern Railway-style smokebox saddle and lower front bufferbeam. These features were removed when C. Reginald Dalby re-illustrated the book.

In the early volumes of the Railway Series, Thomas' running board is dipped at the front, but oddly enough is not dipped at the back. It is likely that this came from his 1920 rebuild, as the running board on Awdry's aforementioned Mk3 OO gauge model of Thomas also has this shape. Following his 1960 accident and subsequent rebuild in Branch Line Engines, his running board was levelled out from smokebox to bunker.


Thomas is painted in the standard blue livery used by the North Western Railway, with red and yellow lining. His number (1) is painted on his side tanks in yellow with a red outline. He has a black running board with red bufferbeams and valences.

Originally, he was illustrated as having red lining on the rear of his bunker. However, since Clive Spong took over as illustrator, the lining has disappeared.

When Thomas first arrived to the Island, it is likely that he would have been painted in LB&SCR Goods Black livery with red lining and yellow lettering.


The Railway Series

Companion Volumes

Pop-Up Books

Official Description

From Official Media:[1]

THOMAS: Thomas was tired of pushing trucks and coaches about at the Big Station. He wanted to pull trains and see the world. He had his chance at last, and set off happily, but nearly cried with disappointment when the signalman stopped him and said he’d left all his coaches behind!

From Official Media:[2]

Thomas The Tank Engine: Thomas The Tank Engine helped to build The Fat Controller's Railway, so he is one of the oldest engines on the Island of Sodor. He was borrowed from a Railway Company in the South of England, the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, though no-one seems to know exactly how or when he arrived. By the time the railway was finished and Thomas could go back home, his driver and fireman had both married local girls and preferred to stay on the island. So the Fat Controller arranged to keep Thomas. The brand-new locomotive works at Crovan's Gate repaired and modified him, and he began to work as station pilot at Vicarstown. Thomas then exchanged jobs with Edward, and after the trucks had pushed him down Gordon's Hill, the Fat Controller came to take special interest in him. When James had his accident, Thomas proved that he could be a Really Useful Engine. As a reward the Fat Controller gave him a branch line between Knapford Junction and Ffarquhar, and he has worked there ever since.

From Official Media:[3]

THOMAS (NWR No.1): A Billinton E2 0-6-0 tank from the London Brighton & South Coast Railway which arrived in Sodor in 1915, no-one quite knows how! His crew got on well with the local people, both married Sodor girls, and by 1920 neither wanted to be parted from their engine or leave the Island. On enquiry Topham Hatt found that the LB&SC had written off their engine as ”lost on war service”. Rather than face complications resulting from an alteration in their books, the LB&SC quietly sold Thomas to the NWR for a nominal sum.

Thomas, at first, was station pilot at Vicarstown. Then after a period at Wellsworth, he was promoted to his present position on the Ffarquhar Branch.

From Official Media:[4]

Thomas (1): As with Neil, the record as to how he reached the Island is uncertain. He is one of the Billinton-designed 0-6-0 tank engines, Class E2, of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, one of a half dozen or so which were fitted with an extension at the front end of the watertanks for dockside working at Southampton. Southampton or not, Thomas seems to have arrived rather mysteriously in 1915 - perhaps it was a wartime mix-up - and, so the story goes, by 1920 both his driver and fireman had married local girls and didn't much want to fo back to the south coast of England. The Fat Controller bought Thomas for a nominal sum, and after a spell as shed-pilot at Vicarstown, he came to Wellsworth, where, in his rescue of James he proved himself to be a Really Useful Engine. His reward was to be put in charge of the Ffarquhar branch, which runs to that village from a junction at Knapford. Various Thomas look-alikes can be found on our 'heritage' railways, but none is identical - the last of the original engines was cut up in the 1950s.

Audio Files


First used Last used Composers Theme Song
Thomas and the Twins and Other Stories Storytime with Thomas the Tank Engine Volume 2 TempoREED


  • Thomas was the first character in the Railway Series to have a number. According to Brian Sibley in The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, Awdry used the number one because it was the easiest to draw.
  • According to Christopher Awdry in an annual, Thomas was first rebuilt at Crovan's Gate Works in 1920. This could explain the reason behind his iconic shape before 1960.[26]
  • Christopher Awdry lost the original Thomas toy when he was in the United States. To this day, its whereabouts are unknown. It is unclear whether or not the original coal truck and carriage model were lost as well. However, a replica was made for a 70th-anniversary sizzle reel. The second version of the original toy was made as a "thank you" gift by Michael White.
  • He was named by Christopher Awdry, upon receiving the original wooden Thomas toy made by his father.
  • Despite being said to whistle numerous times in the text of the books, Thomas is never illustrated with a whistle outside of the original illustrations by Reginald Payne, which depict him with a tall hooter-type whistle behind his safety valves.


See also