Thomas The Tank Engine (CITV, 1984-1992)
This is a show that I have wanted to review for a while. I haven’t waited to do it for any particular reason, but I know that it’s a really popular show that a lot of people are fond of. Why has it taken me five years to do this one! This will be one of those pieces where I don’t really need to explain what it’s all about, so instead I’ll share some of my memories of what the show means to me.
You might remember a while ago when I wrote about a few shows featured in the CITV “for younger viewers” strand, that were recorded on to a tape for me by my parents when I was only about three or four years old. Among the shows were Puddle Lane (that I reviewed recently), but this one was really the highlight, I think that I must’ve watched it more than anything else on the tape, and I have been a fan since that young age.
Thomas The Tank Engine was based on a series of books that were adapted for TV. It didn’t feature stop-motion animation as such, but it wasn’t a cartoon either. It was set at a railway station on a fictional island. The way Thomas’s facial expressions used to change as his eyes wiggled round always amused me. As well as Thomas, there were many other trains that used to roll those wheels along those tracks. These included Edward, Henry, Gordon, James, Percy, and Toby, they all had enjoyable adventures, and this was all topped off with the narration of Ringo Starr.
This endorsement by a pop superstar really helped the show to gain some publicity and it quickly increased in popularity. It even earned a TV Times cover, and even Rainbow can’t boast that. There would go on to be more merchandise than most shows, including lots of episodes released on VHS, plus annuals and toys. Thomas The Tank Engine would also go on to be repeated rather frequently on CITV for many years.
When watching one edition online a while back, there was an introduction by Tommy Boyd, who did seem to be a fan of the show, and he said that he was trying to learn to play the famous theme music on the mouthorgan. He got it just about right, and he then said “almost!” with a real tone of excitement in his voice, and I’m sure he was right to feel proud.
Thomas The Tank Engine continued long after its original run though, and there have several more series since, with the most recent ones being computer-generated, with lots more people providing the voices. These have been shown on various channels, not only in this country, but around the world (the show was also since been re-titled Thomas And Friends), and there have now been over 550 episodes.
Another indication of the continuing popularity of the show is from when one day I decided to upload an episode that I had on a tape to YouTube. It has now gone on to be by some distance my most-viewed video (and I have uploaded almost 5,000), with almost 750,000 views. I never expected it to do that well, I’m really pleased that Thomas clearly means so much to so many people.