Thomas & Friends

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Name: Thomas & Friends, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends,
The Railway Series
Abbreviation(s): T&F, TTTE, RWS
Creator: Wilbert Awdry
Date(s): 1945-2021
Medium: books, animated television show
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
External Links:
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Thomas & Friends, originally Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, is a media property consisting of an animated TV show of the same name and the children's books that make up The Railway Series which the show was originally adapted from, as well as associated spin-off and tie-in materials.

The franchise is set in a universe that mirrors the real world except for the fact that trains, automobiles, and other mechanized vehicles are sentient and capable of human speech. Both the books and TV series follow the adventures of the locomotives working on the various railways of Sodor, a fictional island located off the coast of Great Britain.


The Railway Series consists of 42 books published between 1945 and 2011. The first 26 were written by the original creator Wilbert Awdry, with his son Christopher later writing an additional 16 titles.

Several companion volumes were written by both authors, ranging from standalone stories not part of the main mytharc to detailed guide books outlining the history and geography of Sodor.

Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends premiered in October of 1984 and aired for twenty-four seasons between 1984 and 2021. The first four seasons adapted the available Railway Series books and other books by the Awdrys, but shifted to telling original stories from the fifth season onward.

A spinoff series titled Shining Time Station was aired in the United States from 1989 to 1995 as a framing device to introduce the episodes of Thomas.

A theatrical film based on both series, called Thomas and the Magic Railroad was released in 2000.

In the early 2000s, a spin-off titled Jack and the Pack began production, focused on a group of construction vehicles introduced in Season 6 of the main Thomas series. Only 13 episodes out of the planned 26 were made before it was canceled in 2002 following the franchise’s acquisition by HiT Entertainment, but the completed episodes were later released on DVD in 2006.

In 2022, Thomas & Friends received a complete reboot under the name Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go!


The series has an extensive cast in both the book and television continuities, with several hundred named characters spread across multiple different railways. The cast includes sentient locomotives, the rolling stock that they carry, other sentient vehicles, as well the humans that work on and around the railway. There are also several characters from the books that were never adapted into the TV series, while later seasons of the series introduced original characters who were never present in the books.

However many characters only appear for a single episode or story, or make multiple cameo appearances without ever speaking. Characters are also grouped according to which railways they worked on.

Major recurring characters in both the books and TV series include:

  • North Western Railway: Thomas, Edward, Henry, Gordon, James, Duck, Donald, Douglas, Oliver, Toad, Annie, Clarabel, Daisy, Henrietta, Mavis, Bill, Ben, BoCo, Diesel
  • Skarloey Railway: Skarloey, Rheneas, Sir Handel, Peter Sam, Rusty, Duncan, Duke
  • Visiting Engines: Stepney
  • Other Sentient Vehicles and Machinery: Bertie, Terence
  • Humans: The Fat Controller (multiple characters with the same name), The Thin Controller (multiple characters with the same name)

Prominent recurring characters who appear exclusively in the TV series and its related media include:

  • Vehicles: ‘Arry, Bert, Diesel 10, Lady, Salty, Harvey, Emily, Spencer, Rosie, Whiff, Stanley, Victor, Kevin, Hiro, Den, Dart, Luke, Millie, Stephen, Porter, Timothy, Marion, Ryan
  • Humans: Mr. Conductor (multiple characters with the same name), Dowager Hatt, Sir Robert Norramby, The Duke and Duchess of Boxford, Alicia Botti
  • Other: Cranky the Crane


Because of its long history, the franchise has a significant following of fans who grew up with the stories and characters as children and remain actively engaged with the series as adults. The fandom for the franchise is fairly large and has been active online for many years. Outside of dedicated web forums such as the one run by the Sodor Island Fansite, the fandom is primarily active on Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

The fandom has a smaller presence on fanfic sites like or AO3.

As of this writing, there are 2,324 works on and 339 crossovers, while AO3 has 405 works and 152 crossovers.

Common tropes and concepts in fanfiction include

  • Mundane AUs where the sentient vehicles have all been reimagined as humans
  • Canon AUs that tell original stories within the universe, often written in an attempt to emulate the style, tone, and continuity of the books or show
  • Rewriting characters and events introduced in the TV series to fit within the continuity and lore of the books.
  • Expanding on character backstories and personalities in both continuities.
  • Crackfic
  • Parodies of unpopular elements and stories from later seasons.

Due to the various brands of toy models of the characters that have been released over the course of the show’s run, many fans will create videos with their model line of choice that either retell canon stories or tell new stories in the style of the books/episodes.

Because of the length of the series, the fandom divides the show’s 24 seasons into five distinct “eras”:

  • The first seven seasons are considered the Classic Era.
  • Seasons 8-12 are known as the HiT Era, referencing the show’s acquisition by HiT Entertainment in 2002.
  • Seasons 13-16 are known as the Nitrogen Era, in reference to Nitrogen Studios, the studio that animated the series for the first four years after HiT shifted the series from stop-motion to computer-generated animation.
  • Seasons 17-21 are referred to as the Brenner Era, after the show’s new head writer, Andrew Brenner.
  • For Seasons 22-24, the show was rebranded as Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures!, reflecting a shift to focus on Thomas visiting other countries to learn about their cultures. As a result, the fandom typically refers to these seasons by that subtitle, or as BWBA for short.


Outside of married human characters such as the Fat Controller and his wife, Lady Hatt, the series does not have any canon romantic relationships. However a sizable number of fanfics have been written shipping the vehicular characters with each other, both in Canon AUs and in fics that reimagine them as human.


Fan Fiction



Fan Films and Vids


Communities & Archives