The History Behind Thomas the Tank Engine Trains

Thomas the Train is arguably one of the most famous and widely-known engines around the world, whether you’re a train enthusiast, or don’t know the first thing about railroads. Many of us even grew up with Thomas, learning valuable life lessons from his highly-rated television show. For more than 60 years, Thomas the Tank Engine has made his way across our television screens, entertaining children and adults alike with his stories of imagination and exploration. He’s even become a favorite toy in many children’s’ playrooms.  While most of us are familiar with the little blue engine that could, many probably don’t know the full story behind his adventures. So how did it all begin? Let’s ride back in time to 1942, when the legacy of Thomas the Tank Engine was born.

Thomas the Train’s Creation & Early Days in the 1940s

The story of Thomas dates back to the early 1900s. In fact, did you know that Thomas was not the first engine of his kind? Author Rev. Awdry, a lifelong railroad enthusiast who was inspired by his father’s love of railroads, began by writing “The Railroad Series,” which told stories of Edward, Gordon, and Henry. It wasn’t until 2 years later that Thomas came into existence. In December of 1942, Awdry constructed a toy tank engine named “Thomas” for his son, Christopher, as a Christmas gift. The stories of Thomas quickly began, and eventually, his first published story came in 1946.

Thomas Evolving into a Television Show & Beyond

Thomas made his 1st debut on television in 1953 on the show “BBC,” which was live broadcasting of model trains. After the show was canceled due to an incident on the air, Thomas was set up for his big break a few years down the line. His show, “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends,” first began production in 1981, with its first broadcast airing in the UK in 1984. After quickly gaining popularity, the show was adapted to suit American audiences and began airing on PBS beginning in 1989. And the rest was history! Today, Thomas’ show can be seen in 121 countries across the globe, in 20+ different languages. While the show is of course for entertainment, it also teaches timeless lessons, especially discovery, friendship, and cooperation. Although Thomas can get himself into trouble sometimes, he always comes out on top, learning a lesson or two along the way that we can all relate to.


The blue tank engine, who has 6 small wheels and a stumpy boiler, wearing a #1 on his side, can also be seen across a variety of products today. The line of products based upon Thomas the Tank Engine ranges from bedding to room decor, wallpapers, themed furniture, and of course model trains!


Purchase “Thomas the Tank” Train Models at Charles Ro

At Charles Ro, we’re proud to offer a selection of Thomas the Tank model trains, including wooden, HO scale, O Gauge, and G scale trains. From train sets to accessories, steam locomotives, and beyond, you can get all of your Thomas the Tank model train needs at Charles Ro. We’ll be glad to assist you in finding what you need! View our full selection of Thomas the Train models available for purchase online, or visit our store in Malden MA.

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