Thomas: From Supporting Role to Star!

Thomas the Train may be a star in the hearts and minds of young people around the world, but Thomas has not always been in the spotlight. In fact, it took Thomas almost fifty years to reach star status!

In the minds of many parents today, Thomas began as a character in the 90’s television show Shining Time Station. In this live action show, we follow the lives of the people who work at and travel through a small train station somewhere along the fictional Indian Valley Railroad. In this station, children are regularly entertained by a small, magical man named Mr. Conductor. During every episode, Mr. Conductor tells them stories about a very special train—Thomas—and his friends on the Island of Sodor. Through these stories, Shining Time Station made Thomas a star. But, Thomas was created long before this memorable television show.

Those who know Thomas’s whole story know that he was a storybook character long before he appeared on television. He was one of many trains introduced to the world through the books in The Railway Series, a collection of stories written in the middle of the 20th Century by a father, for his son. After being told word-of-mouth from father to son, these stories were written down, illustrated, and first published in 1945. But, not only was Thomas not the star of these stories, but he didn’t even appear in the first book! It’s clear, though, that Thomas has proven himself as the stand-out character. He has gone from supporting role to star!

The Railway Series paved the way for the British television show Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, which spawned Shining Time Station. After that, Thomas took off as the star of spin-off Thomas & Friends  movies, books, and toys. He is now a star in his own right and is recognized by young children from coast to coast, perhaps even worldwide.