Nightmare Fuel: Thomas the Tank Engine

This, children, is what happens to the engines that aren't 'Really Useful.' Sweet dreams.

Thomas the Tank Engine is a series where perfectly sentient beings are cut up while still alive, abandoned for years in places where nobody else can find them while they helplessly rot away, other people's incompetence can get you killed and have you blamed for it, and even some of your coworkers are out to have you killed. This is a series for children.

    open/close all folders 

    The Railway Series 

  • Donald and Douglas' backstory was pretty horrifying,
  • In the story Bluebells of England, Donald explains to Percy why they had to escape to the Island. Complete with a painting of faithful steam engines, facing the cutting torch, whilst all alone in a cold, damp and dark siding and literally staring death in the face is awful! In the background, you can see 'dead' steam engines, men cutting them up and cranes ripping them apart. It was more of a jab by the author at the British Government and British Rail at the time in the 1960's. New steam engines were built, so that BR could function and help rebuild the UK after the war. By the 1965 good, efficient diesels were starting to appear. So, we see a mass culling of steam engines - many had only been built, and in spite of the UK having plenty of coal for steam, but needing to import oil for diesels. "Yes, you've worked really hard all of your short little life - but there's a new, shiny design avaliable! So, you're going to have to die now. But, it's all good. Some of your parts will be melted down, and remade into parts for a diesel!" Got knives, forks or spoons made in Sheffield post 1940's - take a wild guess where the metal came from....
  • Godred was an unruly mountain engine who wouldn't apply his auto-brakes and eventually had an accident. He fell halfway down a mountain. Godred was still alive. Not scary enough? They said "We can't afford to mend you again" so they took him to the shop where he got smaller and smaller... They took him apart and used his parts to repair the other engines.
    • Even worse, the crash is among very few to actually use a Gory Discretion Shot, just a panel of a crowd looking down the mountain horrified as smoke flies from below. They mercifully don't even try to depict his fate in the shop. Despite the morbid condition of most accidents shown in the series, Godred's was apparently brutal enough that they decided not to depict it.
    • Godred's story is based entirely on that of L.A.D.A.S., the first engine of the Snowdon Mountain Railway. This is what happened to said engine.
    • Culdee made that story up to keep unruly engines well behaved; though perhaps Wilbert Awdry only included that line as to not frighten the younger readers…
      • Word of God states that was his concern, yes. Oddly enough, some Thomas And Friends media and toys also use Godred, despite not appearing once in the TV series and being a minor character in the books anyway. Perhaps showing a present day Godred, alive and happy, was their way of easing concerns of traumatised kids happening upon the books and reading about an engine being slowly hacked to death.
  • Ok, I don't know why this isn't here yet, but the opening of 'Duck and Dukes' leaves a lot of nightmare fuel in my heart. When Duck and Peter Sam are talking about the Duke of Sodor being scrapped, Peter Sam's facial expression isn't just saying 'Oh no, the birthday celebration is going to be ruined', it looks like he is guilty for something. Five books later when we learn about his and Sir Handel's past (as Stuart and Falcon) with Duke (Named after the Duke of Sodor), we realize that isn't just a throwaway gag and Peter Sam and Sir Handel could have lost one of their closest friends for good, had they not spoken up about him.
    • While on the topic, why didn't Sir Handel and Peter Sam just speak up about Duke the day they came to the Sk R? Survivors Guilt, perhaps? But, even so, the thought of a little engine being locked away forever is scary in of itself.


  • In The Sad Story of Henry, Henry gets bricked up inside a tunnel for, "always and always and always" for being disobedient. The worst part? The story ends with Henry still trapped, alone in the tunnel as we're told by Ringo that "he deserved his punishment." Those sad eyes peeking over the wall... Luckily, Edward, Gordon and Henry shows him being freed.
    • In fact, when Awdry first sent the series to the publishers, the original story did not include Henry getting out of the tunnel. The publishers demanded otherwise, lest the children be disturbed.
  • The episode Percy Runs Away when Percy forgets to tell the signalman to let him switch tracks and thus suddenly realizes that Gordon is hurtling straight towards him. The looks of absolute horror on both the trains faces will make you wince.
    • The aftermath, with Percy left speeding backwards in terror, begging to stop, is also somewhat distressing (helped partly by the dramatic Runaway theme blaring throughout). This is especially evident in the Japanese version, where Percy's voice actress makes his terrified sobbing sound like a legitimate scared child.
  • The accident in The Flying Kipper, where Henry gets into that massive wreck after crashing into the breakvan of another train. The sudden strike, dark lighting, and the sight of Henry derailing are disturbing in their own right, with a dose of Tearjerker for seeing Henry in this state.
  • There's a brief scene in "Old Iron" where the camera is directly in front of the tracks where James rolls in unnervingly close with said angry expression glaring directly at the viewer. It also doesn't help that his coat is red, which is usually the color to signify anger.
    • There's also his terror when he realizes there's nobody in his cab.
  • Diesel's growling in Pop Goes the Diesel. And then in Dirty Work, he managed to turn everyone (except the Fat Controller) against Duck with a few simple rumours. Even now, in the new series, he still turns up despite other characters falling by the wayside. He's just that good.
  • In Donald and Douglas' introduction episode Break Van, Douglas smashes through the Breakvan, splintering it to pieces. Granted, the Spiteful Breakvan is an Asshole Victim, but seeing a crane tote its face away is kinda unnerving.
    • In the original novel version, the brakevan is in agony during the incident, screaming for the trucks to stop the prank, only to refuse and ultimately set about his demise via Douglas. The trucks sociopathy and disregard for anyone's well being extends to their own kind.
    • While the following episode The Deputation focuses on making sure Donald and Douglas aren't sent away to be scrapped, the the show never really established why they would be scrapped—unlike Oliver, for instance, they were in good condition and proved to be immensely useful once they got to Sodor. It seemed to hint that any engine could, and would, be scrapped if it was convenient for the humans, regardless of how 'useful' they actually were.
  • The ghost train sequence in Percy's Ghostly Trick. If the jerkily animated ghost train doesn't scare you, the horror-movie soundtrack will...
  • In Thomas, Percy & The Dragon, Thomas is hired to take a dragon decoration to another town on Sodor for a festival. Percy is downright scared of it and from a kid's point of view, the dragon was scary, and the music that played whenever it appeared didn't help.
  • Smudger's fate in Grandpuff, which was to be turned into a stationary generator. What makes it worse is Duke's nonchalant response of "You can see him behind our shed. He'll never move again." And what really makes it horrifying is that you can see that Stuart and Falcon are just as disturbed by this as the viewers. However, Duke is actually smiling as he tells his unhinged story.
  • In Sleeping Beauty, after the rescuers fall through the ground into Duke's shed, there is a severe close-up on Duke's face. Couple this with the fact that there are cobwebs all over him. When this episode was paired with Granpuff, the previous episode, as a Buzz Book, a poorly lit version of the extreme close-up is what was chosen as the cover picture.
  • In the episode Trucks, some troublesome trucks, attached to the top of a hill by a cable, snap loose and roll down the hill yelling, "hurrah, hurrah," and then smash into Peter Sam and are completely destroyed (Peter Sam is badly battered himself, and is left for a while surrounded by and covered in debris).
  • In Toad Stands By, S. C. Ruffey, at the head of Oliver's train so that he can bumped if he causes nonsense. S. C. Ruffey tells the rest of the trucks in the train to hold back, which turns out to be his fatal flaw. Effectively, Oliver pulls on S. C. Ruffey and tears him apart in Sodor's own version of Drawing and Quartering. Granted, he's put back together at the end of the episode.
    • Though not in the original books. There, Sir Topham Hatt inspects Scruffey's remains and discovers he was extremely poorly built and maintained, and decides to scrap him.
  • In A Better View for Gordon, Gordon, unable to stop himself, smashes through the back wall of Sodor's main station and ends up hanging halfway out the hole. His wheels are hanging below him, having come off in the impact. This is the equivilant of having your legs ripped off, only attached by a few bits of flesh.
  • Stepney Gets Lost is an episode where, well, Stepney gets lost while going down the tracks at night. He comes across a disturbingly red glow and finds himself in the scrapyard. His driver and fireman go out to search for any help, leaving Stepney stranded on the line (and thus, completely unable to move). The diesels Iron 'Arry and Bert come up alongside and behind him, smirking at his situation while Bert pushes a helpless Stepney beneath a massive grabber with the intent of leaving him to be scrapped. And they take pleasure in this idea. If it hadn't been for the arrival of Sir Topham Hatt, poor Stepney might have been...lost forever.
    • Even worse? In this episode, Iron 'Arry and Bert are both Karma Houdinis. The effect is diluted due to Villain Decay in later episodes, but their first appearances here are frightening. The fact that they take pleasure in pushing a helpless engine towards a scrapping death...
    • According to one of their bios, they are known as Grim Reaper figures due to their work in the scrapyards and have a desire to see Oliver get scrapped. Villain Decay or not, that's messed up.
    • They manage to revive this creepy quality in their later cameo in Fergus Breaks the Rules. When Fergus ends up at the scrapyards, Iron 'Arry and Bert appear through the hellish red glow and ominously ask if Fergus "likes it there".
  • Boulder from Rusty and the Boulder really plays up Uncanny Valley. True, it's just a carved version of Gordon's displeased face mask, but seeing it fade is a tad creepy. So is the final shot of Boulder looming over the quarry where it zooms up to Boulder's frozen expression.
    • Boulder is creepy throughout the episode. Look at the damage it does. Look how close it came to running over several engines. One notable instance is when Rusty gets around the corner and believes he's safe, only for Boulder to somehow appear behind him.
  • In the episode Scaredy Engines, Duck ropes Thomas into staying at the Smelter's Yard to get back at him for teasing Percy. As soon as they exit the sheds, and suddenly we see the large door slam shut and Thomas is all alone and the scene itself is rather unsettling.
  • James' manipulation of the nighttime fog and some steel pipes in The Phantom Express is quite frightening. There's also Stephen creeping through the tunnels of Ulfstead Castle as we hear him puffing ominously.


  • From Thomas and the Magic Railroad:
    • Diesel 10's original voice was apparently far too sinister for a children's film, so all the lines had to be redone without his Russian accent. Despite this, his face and giant claw are still terrifying.
    • Diesel 10 sneaking up on Mr. Conductor and the engines, and attacking the sheds.
    • The original cut featured P.T. Boomer, who was supposed to have been the show's first true human villain. Whilst his motives were supposed to have extremely petty and the way that he ultimately went around accomplishing them could've been done more effectively, he was still supposed to have been shown in a very threatening light. A good portion of the film's original conflict focused on how his presence in Shining Time was completely out of place, with scenes like him deliberately crossing the railroad tracks seconds before the train went through, how he planned on blowing up Muffle Mountain and how Stacy feared what he could do to Mr. Conductor had he known of him. And this was to have been done with human characters, not the models, giving his scenes far greater gravity. And think about it, almost all of the humans in the series have been portrayed as kind authoritative figures (The Ffarquhar policeman notwithstanding), but here, we get a human character whose only motives are pure undiluted destruction for the most petty of reasons. Now, think about if TATMR wasn't about magic, just Sodor, think about if the live-action scenes had more interaction with the models, and put this dark, motorcycle rider into the peacefulness of Sodor. You have a recipe for a truly terrifying Knight of Cerebus.
  • In Calling All Engines, the engines have nightmares about what happens when they are no longer deemed "useful", and some of their dreams are very surreal and disturbing... particularily Percy's. He dreams he's used as a roller coaster. And, for whatever reason, he has massive bloodshot eyes in his dream.
  • Hero of the Rails has Hiro, the old Japanese engine, falling apart while running for his life. And it doesn't help that's he's screaming in agony as all his parts go flying off of him, and all Thomas can do is yell for him to keep running. It's the train equivalent of bleeding to death.
  • From Misty Island Rescue:
    • Diesel, who's just trying to be useful, who ends up hanging off the edge of an unfinished bridge...on only two wheels, trying not to fall into the sea below.
    • The scene where Thomas and the logging engines get trapped in the underwater tunnel with nobody knowing they're there.
    • And then Diesel 10 creeps up in during The Stinger...
  • From Tale of the Brave, we get the Scrap Monster. It resembles a twisted, metal monster with twirling eyes, jagged teeth, a crooked nose, and a giant shovel arm. Percy encounters it late at night, and is understandably terrified. It's really just a pile of old scrap metal on some flatbeds, left by James to scare Percy.
    • Monsters Everywhere, the show's first ever Disney Acid Sequence!
    • Cranky nearly topples over trying to retrieve a ship. Thomas, Porter and Salty are suitably horrified. Adding to this, we have the engines, dockmen, and Cranky himself screaming in agony and terror that he might fall.]
    • The landslide in the climax, mainly in that it's the most destructive one in the series, even more so than the one in "Put Upon Percy". An easy example is the fact that it actually catches Percy and carries him along for a short distance. It's quite intense really.
  • From The Adventure Begins, James' crash. While it happened off-screen in "Thomas and the Breakdown Train", here we get to see it play out in its entirety. We even get a shot of the guard looking back in terror, just before his breakvan buckles and derails on its side. The bonus of hearing James' screams for help and the sinister remix of the Runaway theme throughout don't help at all.
    • It's made even worse when the cars come off the rails. You can hear the Troublesome Trucks SCREAMING, COMPLETELY TERRIFIED. They're the ones that caused it in the first place, but still!
  • Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure is the first movie/special to officially have a human antagonist. This antagonist, known as Sailor John, is utterly ruthless. Not only does he spout some incredibly dark threats, but he also throws a stick of dynamite at Thomas!
    • Skiff's predicament in the climax is actually terrifying in its own right, with him being used as a getaway vehicle for a crime he doesn't even want to take part in, and his friend being forced to potentially destroy him in order to put a stop to the crime!
    • The scene in which Thomas shunts the cars into the closed cutting. The way the ground just opens up beneath him, and the way the rails give out, makes it literally a reprise of "Down the Mine", except so much more destructive. This time, Thomas is dragged in by the flatbed in front of him...and he doesn't even stop falling when he enters the hole.
      • The way Thomas comes out after that scene is quite bad.
    • The scene with the flaming dynamite cars, in which the engines and diggers frantically try to get rid of the dynamite before it can explode. Thomas manages to get into action, but Ryan ends up in front of him and the dynamite cars, completely terrified and in the absolute worst place possible.


  • There's a nightmarish quality to the Troublesome Trucks/Freight Cars themselves. They are utter sociopaths; they giggle and take pleasure in engines' misfortunes, like to be a pain and interference, and are even willing to undergo their own destruction for the sake of getting back at an engine.
  • The second season had a recurring Leitmotif for whenever an engine crashes. While it also qualifies as Awesome Music, the rising Jaws-esque riff gives a heavy sense of inevitable dread as you know something brutal is about to happen to the engine in question.
    • Especially effective in "Thomas Comes To Breakfast" and "Percy's Predicament". It starts with the character's themes playing as their run as normal, then as things start to awry, the themes become out of key and dark, slowly fading into the standard danger theme. The extended version in the former even has a shock chord as the stationmaster's house comes into view, the synthesised whistle sounding almost like an engine screaming.
  • Some of the engine's face masks (prior to the CGI transition) look kind of creepy, due to a tad Uncanny Valley in their facial designs and expressions. Thomas and Percy's original "eyes closed tight" expressions stand out in particular, due to the unpleasant contortions of their faces (though it doesn't help they were almost always used as they were about to smash into something face first).
    • James easily has the nastiest angry face out of the main engines, simply because of how pissed off he looks.
    • Gordon's angry face is on the same boat as James'. The wrinkles on his forehead help make it look very unpleasant to look at.
  • The "Really Useful Dragons" Game Mod for Skyrim replaces all the dragons with Thomas and Friends. It is as terrifying as it is hilarious.
  • The faces from A Day Out With Thomas (real engines modified to look like those in the show) dip deep in the Uncanny Valley.
  • Sodor: The Dark Times, a three-parter on YouTube, dives into a darker side of the Island of Sodor that is never seen. Includes sociopathic B12s and the engines we've come to know and love getting Killed Off for Real.
  • TOMICA Thomas and Friends may be a mature, hillarious Affectionate Parody of the show, but it features two Eldritch Abominations: The Slender Engine, and an unnamed demon. Both are horrifying creatures, the former needs no explanation (Think Slenderman as a steam engine), while the latter was the focus of a Story Arc where it possessed Duck through unknown means and tried to destroy all of the diesel engines on Sodor before the cast sealed it away in S.C.Ruffy. While both do have their small moments of comedy, that's all done away with in the 3rd Halloween Episode, where the Slender Engine absorbs the demon and proceeds to vanish away most of the cast. He's stopped from getting Thomas and Percy thanks to an engine version of Sam from the film Trick r Treat, only for the latter to get them in Slender Engine's stead.
  • The worrying connotations of trains given sentience, unable to deviate from their predetermined path, are explored in the Cheeky Moon sketch Thomas the Tank Engine's Existential Crisis.
  • The music video for Boo! Boo! Choo-Choo deserves explanation. Most music videos in this show always reuse footage from their stories, but it sometimes has a tendency to use new footage or alternate versions of reused footage. Among this music video was all kinds of new footage, and the new footage is...creepy, to say the least. You've got a breakdown train and lawn gnomes that are apparently able to move on their own. That's not really much of a problem due to the regular motion of animation...but the creepy owl is. The music video hits you right off the bat with a quick zoom right up on his face. And his glowing eyes...they're nothing like the usual motion of animation we're used to seeing in this show! But perhaps the biggest frightening moment of them all was a scene at the Smelters, where an owl is just sitting there...and then, right out of nowhere, a gigantic puppet-like owl popped up right behind him. That is bound to catch one off-guard.