15 Fun Facts About Thomas the Tank Engine

Thomas and Percy are headed to Strasburg Rail Road in beautiful Lancaster County. While we’re busy prepping for this exciting event, we rounded up some fun facts to help you and your young ones become Thomas experts! Once you arrive at the Rail Road you’ll be ready to impress the Really Useful Engine in-person.

  1. Thomas the Tank Engine started as the Railway Series, written by Reverend W. Awdry for his son Christopher. Awdry originally told the Railway stories to his son before bed until Christopher became persistent about providing more details and finally took to pen and paper. Awdry’s wife, Margaret, insisted he turn his tales into books, and thus the “RailWay Series” was born. The first book was entitled The Three Railway Engines.
  2. Thomas was not a prominent character in the Railway Series until Awdry made a model of Thomas for Christopher.
  3. The first three engines were named Edward, Gordon and Henry.
  4. Awdry originally claimed the “NW” on the side of Thomas represented “No Where” but as the Railway Series developed it became the North Western Railway.
  5. The first Thomas products were sold in 1957 and consisted of cardboard kits for children to put together. The engines included Thomas, Percy, Gordon and James.
  6. In 1972, Awdry retired from writing children’s fiction. By that time he’d published 105 stories with Tramway Engines being his last. His son, Christopher, went on to create three more tales including Really Useful Engines.
  7. In 1984 Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends made its broadcast debut in the UK. Former Beatles member, Ringo Starr, joined the series as a storyteller for 52 episodes. The show was an instant success with more than 8.5 million viewers.
  8. Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends made its US debut on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) in 1989.
  9. Throughout the series, two more celebrities joined the cast as storytellers including Alec Baldwin and Pierce Brosnan.
  10. The very first US based Day Out With Thomas event was held in Wisconsin in 1996. Families and aspiring engineers were able to ride a 15-ton replica of Thomas and enjoy train-themed activities. Strasburg Rail Road’s first Day Out With Thomas event was held in 1998.
  11. Thomas’ iconic blue color is also the official color of the North Western Railway. Before Thomas was blue he was originally teal green with white lining.
  12. Thomas’ driver’s name is Bob.
  13. In the animated series, Thomas’ top speed is estimated to be between 30 and 40 miles per hour.
  14. Thomas’ official website launched in 1996. If you’re looking for even more fun facts about Thomas and his Railway friends, you can check them out here: thomasandfriends.com.
  15. In 2015, Thomas & Friends celebrated their 70th anniversary. The Three Railway Engines was published in May of 1945.

Now that you know a little bit more about our friend Thomas, join us in celebrating his Strasburg arrival by purchasing your tickets here.

The Day Out With Thomas experience will engineer miles of smiles for the whole family and introduce a new generation to the timeless excitement of railroading. This 9-day event is filled with train rides and lots of Thomas- and train-themed activities.

After purchasing your tickets, read our tips for Fun Ways to Plan for Your Day Out With Thomas here.