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Western Animation: Thomas the Tank Engine
aka: Thomas And Friends

"It's Thomas The Tank Engine,
Hip, hip, hip, hooray,
Chugga-Chugga, Chug Chug,
Chuff, Chuff, Chuff,
He rides along the way,
And when you hear that whistle,
It can only be one train,
Our Favorite little engine,
Thomas is his name."
-Thomas Anthem

Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends, now known as Thomas and Friends, is a British series first broadcast in 1984. It began life as The Railway Series, a series of books about a group of talking steam engines living on the Island of Sodor and the adventures they have under the guardianship of the Fat Controller (Sir Topham Hatt). The books were originally written by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry; his son Christopher now has the job. There is also a widely-available series of books based on TV episodes.

The books were adapted for British television by Britt Allcroft in 1984. The first four series followed the books, but since Series 5 the show has gone in a completely different direction, so much so that the show and books are almost unrecognizable to each other. In the US, the stories were originally encapsulated into the live-action PBS show Shining Time Station; later series are Direct-to-Video.

The show steadily became a worldwide hit, leading to the franchise becoming increasingly Merchandise-Driven (especially following it's new ownership by toy company Mattel), many recent additions are developed at least with the partial intent of selling new toys to kids (with varying degrees of subtlety). Thomas has also spawned a popular long running magazine series, that similarly has played its part in elements of the show itself.

The episodes—and until Hero of the Rails, the characters as well—are told through a narrator, with many of the stories being renarrated for North American audiences. These narrators include:

UK:
  • Ringo Starr: 1-2.
  • Michael Angelis: 3-16.
  • Pierce Brosnan: The Great Discovery.
  • Mark Moraghan: 17 and onward.

North America:
  • Ringo Starr: 1-2.
  • George Carlin: 3-4, renarrated 1-2.
  • Alec Baldwin: 5-6.
  • Michael Brandon: 7-16.
  • Pierce Brosnan: The Great Discovery.
  • Mark Moraghan: 17 and onward

In addition - long before the series was televised - some of The Railway Series stories were made into audiobooks narrated by children's TV presenter Johnny Morris and comedian Willie Rushton. The stories were released in the 1960s on 45rpm records under the Delyse label.

Oddly enough, care to take a guess at the group of children that favours Thomas above all other kids' shows? Autistic children. People with autism can be extremely sensitive to sensory input, but the visuals in Thomas are largely static - unless the trains are traveling, the only things moving are their eyes and the occasional smoke. Even when the trains do travel, it's not a particularly "busy" visual. Furthermore, the static, expressive faces help children with autism (or the milder Asperger's syndrome) to understand expressions and their connection to emotions. And the narration approach (as opposed to individual voices) also seems to help.

Here is a list of all the main characters for more information.


The series includes:

  • The Ace: Stanley and Spencer.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: In season 15, "Firey Flynn". Thomas's firebox catches on fire. Let that sink in for the moment.
  • Achilles in His Tent: The Sad Story of Henry.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: This happens to many engines who were given important jobs, rewards, or are praised for their feats.
    • Thomas becomes a bit stuck-up after he gets his branch line in season 1.
    • Percy became cocky about overcoming the rainy weather from "Percy's Promise".
    • Oliver experiences this after positive remarks about escaping from scrap from Gordon, James, and Henry.
    • Scruff refuses to do work at the wastedump after getting a repaint in "Scruff's Makeover".
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Many characters of The Railway Series have ended up altered in the television series due to Flanderization coming into play during the show's long run. Thomas in particular is a more rude and pretentious character in most of the novels (only warming in the very later books). While early seasons kept to this depiction, he quickly became more altruistic and kind as the show branched away from the novels, as well as becoming something of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander come the CGI transition. Wiser supporting characters such as Edward and Toby also became more flawed and childlike to enable more spotlight episodes, while Henry, Gordon and James underwent a more thorough Divergent Character Evolution.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Season 17 had a lot of these; to compare, the amount of episodes dedicated to secondary characters (18) were more than double the amount which focused on the core cast (8). This is almost certainly an attempt by the writing team to avoid having Loads and Loads of Characters existing purely for merchandising reasons.
  • Adorkable: Thomas himself along with Percy are perhaps the most prominent examples. Other engines such as Henry, Toby and Edward are this Depending on the Writer.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Especially in the later seasons, with Thomas, James, Gordon and Duncan being the worst offenders.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: These trains have personality issues. Not to mention the ridiculous amounts of crashes that they seem to get into. (See Incompetence Inc below)
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Harvey's crane, Peter Sam's special funnel, Sir Handel's wheels—although these make him egotistical until the events of "Steam Roller".
    • Percy suffers from this on a few occasions, mainly in episodes such as "Put Upon Percy" and "Percy's Chocolate Crunch".
    • Duck in the early episodes, though he really brought it on himself with his constant harping on about the inherent superiority of the Great Western Railway above all others.
    • Thomas was subject to this treatment in the first few episodes, but this is mainly because of being a cheeky and fussy Attention Whore.
  • All There in the Manual: The books The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways, Sodor: Reading Between the Lines and The Thomas the Tank Engine Man explain between them pretty much everything about the early series.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: This is the theme song in Japan.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Most of Sodor's freight cars, along with any engine who actually gets along with them.
  • Always Male/Always Female: The trucks and coaches, respectively. The engines tend to prefer pulling the latter.
  • Always Someone Better: Stanley in Thomas & The Great Discovery. Also Spencer and City of Truro for Gordon.
  • Anachronic Order: Seasons 1-4 occasionally fall to this when the books are adapted out of order. The series is episodic outside of the occasional Story Arc, so it's usually not too obvious, or the script is edited to fit continuity. A jarring example however is the Season 2 episode "Percy Takes the Plunge", which references the events of "Percy's Promise", televised the following season, and Season 4's "Paint Pots and Queens", which takes place directly after Season 1's "Down the Mine" (though at least it's made clear in a flashback).
  • Anachronism Stew: The current series, as of Misty Island Rescue, is set in The Sixties, yet uses engines from different time periods and locations on Sodor. A Truth in Television, since most modern steam railways use engines from different time periods and locations.
  • An Aesop: including, but not limited to:
    • Be Yourself
    • The Power of Friendship
    • Never be cocky or become careless around heavy machinery and freight cars.
    • Team Spirit: Particularly in the later series.
    • Broken Aesop: Sadly, a good portion of these popped up very often during the first four CGI seasons. The worst offender may be the episode "The Biggest Present of All". Thomas is given the task of telling the other engines about a welcome party for Hiro at the Big Station, but Thomas thinks finding Hiro a welcome present would be more fun instead. He tells all his friends he's looking for a gift, but never tells them about the party. Later, he finds that Hiro is alone at the station, waiting for guests. Thomas is horrified and runs off to tell the others about the party, but they're all looking for presents too. Thomas promptly chews them out for doing the exact same thing he JUST did. Another example hailing from the CGI incarnation is depicted in the episode "Play Time," where a new engine keeps goading Thomas into games and races on duty by challenging his fun-loving reputation. This results in the delayed delivery of an opera singer to a theater for a scheduled performance, and when the pair are chastised for their irresponsibility she reassures them that she had a great time nonetheless, cheering them on. So not only is it okay to neglect your duties just to prove yourself worthy to a bad influence, but everything will still turn out fine in the end.
    • On a positive note, "Henry's Forest" handled the Green Aesop pretty well. Helps that it was an early episode, and that the last scenes are very pretty.
  • Another Dimension: The Island of Sodor in Thomas and the Magic Railroad. Also doubles as a Magical Land. This is particularily odd as in the books and TV series Sodor was simply a small island directly besides Britain. The books also established that all the engines in the world, not just the Sodor ones, were alive, unlike in the movie where you can see nonsentient locomomtives.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: In Thomas and the Magic Railroad, gold dust and coal from Sodor.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: No matter what kind of horrific damage the engines cause, Sir Topham Hat always, always yells at them for causing "confusion and delay."
  • Art Shift: Hiro's flashback in Hero Of The Rails, as well as the opening credits.Misty Island Rescue also does it.
  • Ascended Extra: Some recurring engines like Diesel only appeared in a handful of stories from The Railway Series.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: The earlier storylines, like "Saved From Scrap," implied, but did not show, that characters could be scrapped when they could no longer work. Later, however, some of the books/episodes, like "Stepney the Bluebell Engine" and "Twin Engines" got absolutely vicious with this concept, after the Reverend decided to do a Take That against BR's Modernization Plan. The way the mass scrapping is portrayed, especially in the books, sometimes goes beyond Fantastic Racism and implies that the characters think of it more like genocide.
    • About half of the very long Nightmare Fuel page for this show is about scrapping.
  • Backstory: Hero of the Rails takes some time off to explain Hiro's past.
  • Bad Dreams: In Calling All Engines, the characters have bad dreams about what might happen to them if no holiday makers came to Sodor anymore.
  • Barsetshire: The whole fictional setting of the Island of Sodor (which is supposed to be between the lake district and the Isle of Man).
  • Batman Gambit: Thomas pulls one off on Gordon in Old Reliable Edward. To get payback on Gordon being rude to Edward, Thomas challenges him to a race the following morning. Gordon, not seeing Thomas as a challenge, gives Thomas a ten-minute head start. Thomas uses this ten minutes to switch onto Gordon's line. Gordon, now stuck behind Thomas, slows down and get stranded on the hill, forcing him to call Edward for help and make amends.
  • Berserk Button: Just a few examples:
    • Never remind James about his incident with the bootlace.
    • Don't make Gordon pull trucks instead of coaches.
    • Never call Toby "electric".
    • Don't bump or even boss around the Troublesome Trucks or they will attempt to throw you off the rails.
    • Never pull Thomas's coaches without his consent.
    • Don't compare Duck's Motor Mouth to a quacking duck.
    • Don't bump coaches.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Thomas developed a huge case of this as the show drifted into it's own continuity (if not always with the best results). Played with for Edward and Toby since while they often act as kind elderly mentors, their self esteem issues and bullying from others sometimes leads younger engines such as Thomas and Percy to stick up for them.
    • Donald is a Twin Brother Instinct variant for Douglas as he gave the Spiteful Brake Van a fierce bump for making his trains late.
  • Big Budget Beef-Up: To hold up better on the big screen, the characters and sets featured in Thomas and the Magic Railroad were all rebuilt from scratch. In Series 6, they began to replace some of the older models.
  • Bigger Is Better: In "Thomas's Trusty Friends", the foreman kept fitting Oliver with bigger wrecking balls to knock a particular wall down.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The titular box in "Henry's Magic Box" can somehow fit more than a dozen Christmas trees despite its small size.
  • Bittersweet Ending: About few episodes have these such as "Down the Mine", "Percy's Predicament", and "Percy, James, and the Fruitful Day".
  • Black and Gray Morality: Somewhat of a case with the rivalry between the engines and the diesels in the later seasons. Although the diesels (some of them anyways) are presented as bullying Jerkasses towards the engines and want to see them scrapped, the engines themselves can sometimes be presented as condescending and unsympathetic, even to the point when the diesels aren't hardly causing any trouble.
  • The Blank: City of Truro in Series 3, and some of the trucks and coaches, depending on the episode. Henrietta was, but Series 18 depicts her with a face (as the books eventually did in Thomas and Victoria).
  • Bowdlerise: The Fat Controller was referred to by his Sunday name "Sir Topham Hatt" in the US version.
    • The UK narrations of the earlier episodes were replaced with more lenient versions for the US. For example, "The Sad Story of Henry" became "Come Out, Henry!", and in that episode, the line "so that Henry couldn't get out of the tunnel anymore" was changed to "so that other engines wouldn't bump into him", and the line "We shall leave you here for always and always and always" was replaced with "we shall leave you here until you are ready to come out".
  • Bottle Episode: "Steamy Sodor" (season 13) and "Victor Says Yes" (season 14), both which take place at the Steamworks.
    • "Thomas, Percy and the Coal" may also count. Apart from the first few scenes, the episodes takes place entirely at the Tidmouth complex. The episode is believed to have replaced The Missing Coach, so this was probably done to save time and money.
  • Breakout Character: Thomas of course, who was only as prominant as most other recurring engines in the books.
  • Break the Cutie: This happened to Thomas in "Trust Thomas". After getting snapped at by Bertie, manipulated by James and pushed into a river by the trucks, his positive outlook starts to fade. Luckily things get better from there.
  • Break the Haughty: Expect this to happen to Gordon or James, and probably any other character trying to be important.
    • Duck is a rare case. Despite being a hard working engine, he is often boastful about his Great Western heritage, much to the annoyance of the other engines. In the episode "Dirty Work", this trope came into play when Diesel tells lies to the troublesome trucks that Duck had made names about Gordon, Henry, and James. When Duck is berated by the three engines, and when the Fat Controller orders Duck to go to Edward's station, Duck lets out a tear, knowing that everyone is against him, while Diesel smirks of this successful plan.
  • Brick Joke: Bulgy was made into a henhouse after getting stuck under a bridge. In "Train stops Play", you can see him in the background.
  • Broken Ace: Later episodes tend to give the older more experienced engines more prominent shortcomings and insecurities, some of which they are unwilling to admit to the younger idolizing engines they usually mentor. "Edward and the Mail" is a standout example.
  • Call Back: The pipe trick James uses to distort his whistle in "The Phantom Express" comes up again as a plot point in "Flatbeds of Fear".
  • The Cameo: Famous locomotives City of Truro and Flying Scotsman, or at least models of them.
  • Canon Immigrant: Meta example. Andrew Brenner wrote many stories for the promotional magazines. Not only were some of these adapted into actual episodes in Seasons Three and Five, but Brenner eventually took over as lead writer for the show itself come Season Seventeen.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Thomas can't resist telling a downbeat Stephen about his special job in King Of The Railway, pivoting the chain of events. Subverted in Blue Mountain Mystery, the narrow gauge engines think Thomas blabbed about Luke in trying to clear his name, but he did so via shrewd investigation.
  • Captain Obvious: "And banannas are no good for building sheds!"
  • Cast Herd: The Standard Gauge, Narrow Gauge, roadway, trucks and carriages, and then everyone else.
  • Catch Phrase: "Really Useful Engine(s)", "Cinders and ashes!", "Confusion and delay", "Bother(ations)!" "Hurry, hurry, hurry!" The Narrator's "Then there was trouble", "He/She/They was/were very cross/pleased.", "Luckily, no one was hurt" and "An idea flew into his/her funnel". "Bust my boiler/buffers!", "'On, on, on!' yelled the cars," Ferdinand's "That's right!", Gordon has any phrase involving the word "Indignant!", Gordon, James, and Henry say the respective words, "Disgraceful, disgusting, and despicable.", and The Fat Controller's "You're a really useful engine."
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: Especially the form "Thomas and the....."
  • Chekhov's Gun: It's pretty obvious from the minute the Breakdown Train shows up that Thomas is going to have some reason to haul it out later in the episode.
    • The Canvas Barrier in the Season 5 episode 'Put Upon Percy'
  • Chekhov's Skill: The Scottish Twins were allowed to stay on Sodor after they demonstrated a particular talent for plowing snow. Later episodes showed them clearing the tracks after snowstorms and rescuing some of the other engines that had gotten trapped by snowdrifts.
  • Christmas Episode: The series has had several winter and Christmas-themed episodes each season. However, one episode, 'Thomas and Percy's Christmas Adventure' was Bowdlerised into a Thanksgiving episode, as the Shining Time Station episode it premiered on was Thanksgiving-themed. A controversial Bowdlerisation in the later winter episodes was that the season would always be referred to as the 'Winter Holidays' rather than the 'Christmas Holidays', despite Christmas trees and presents appearing in the episodes.
  • Colour Coded Characters: The Skarloey Railway engines in the TV series - their original uniform color was thought to confuse younger viewers, and Rusty with black colors could be confused for Diesel. Now the only engines with similar colors are Sir Handel with Mighty Mac, and Skarloey with Rheneas.
  • Companion Cube: Henrietta, Toby's personal coach, has turned into this. She only ever had a speaking role in her first appearance way back in season 1. She's been completely silent ever since, even though Toby still treats her if she was alive. This has been resolved come Season 18, where she has been redesigned with a face and converses with the other characters, defining her more clearly as an actual character.
    • The movie Misty Island Rescue has a few machines with names but no faces - a crane called Old Wheezy and a steam donkey called Hee-Haw.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Thomas Comes to Breakfast. When Thomas skids off the rails and crashes into a house, just as the family within is sitting down to breakfast, the stationmaster's wife is more upset about her ruined pancakes that the freakin' locomotive that just drove into her living room.
    • A barber is angry when Duck took out half his shop for scaring his customers, so to get back, he puts shaving cream on his face.
  • Conspicuous CG:
    • The cell animated bees in season 3's (James Goes) Buzz Buzz.
    • In season 12, the show was a hybrid of CG animation and models. Often the engine's faces did not have the proper lighting for the scene, making them stand out awkwardly. Meanwhile, Harold was completely converted to CG animation, making him look unusual next to the model engines.
  • Continuity Nod: An early episode has Henry crashing because snow weighed a lower-quadrant signal down to its "clear" position. In the next series Percy is confused when he sees an upper-quadrant signal which points "up" to its "clear" position. In the third series, upper-quadrant signals are seen frequently in the background.
  • Continuity Snarl: In the books and television series, the island of Sodor is off the coast of England. Shining Time Station put it in another dimension. Thomas and the Magic Railroad placed Sodor in another, magical dimension, kept afloat by Lady and her gold dust, even though there was nothing mystical about the series until (or after) that point (pushing Magic Railroad toward Fanon Discontinuity).
  • Cool Train
  • Crapsaccharine World: An alternate interpretation. Imagine this- as a locomotive, you live in a world where it's nearly impossible to leave a set line of rails (and for those who do attempt this the results are almost always very, very bad), you deal with the Jerk Ass trucks every day, the overtaking diesel engines, and absolutely everything is your fault. If you're late? They forget that you're being driven by people and blame you. If you crash? They usually blame you for that too and apparently forget that you're alive and could actually be in pain. All this leads to the fact that you're called "useful." Think about the fact that if you're not "a really useful engine" it means being scrapped, AKA, death. You work for a job where you can be executed for uselessness. Enjoy your day.
  • Darker and Edgier: Season 5 is often viewed as this. It featured more darker plotlines and crashes than the other seasons.
    • An interview with David Mitton explained this was due to the team wanting to showcase the series' potential before the movie was produced, and trying for original stories with more dynamic scenes.
    • Season 2 as well has a much more moody tone compared to the first thanks to the direction and soundtrack, and dealing with plotlines like the rise of diesel engines and scrapping.
    • The original The Railway Series also was a lot more mature in many ways. For starters, Word of God states that in the first book, "The Sad Story of Henry", was going to be the end of the book right there. With Henry locked in the tunnel for God knows how long. Another example would be the genocidal diesels, who murdered all but one of Gordon's brothers, and continue to do it in the Bluebell Railway. If that wasn't enough the original story of "Henry's Sneeze", described the boys who had been sprayed with ashes as "Dark as niggers".note  It may have written in the 1940s, it still was supposed to be a children's book.
    • Many of the feature length specials have more actionized plots and involve the characters getting into mortal peril. Tale of the Brave is quite possibly the shining example of it, being the most dramatic and emotional special to date.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: A number of diesels.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: "Henry's Hero" regarding the Determinator trope. Hiro and Henry both fall ill because of bad coal. While Henry decides to wait in the shed cautiously, Hiro insists on pulling the trucks they were supposed to take by himself, which he successfully does with much effort. Later on he is assigned to pull a train of heavy iron girders and persuades Henry to be his backing engine. On Gordon's Hill Hiro breaks down because of overexertion. Henry, inspired by Hiro's determination, pushes both the flatbeds and Hiro up the hill despite his failing health.
  • Demoted to Extra: Edward from seasons 4-6, but everybody gets this treatment in the newer movies. The only characters to get a lot of Focus are Thomas and the new engine introduced. Toby's been getting the worst it lately. In Hero Of The Rails, not only does he get only one line, not only one word, but one Syllable. He doesn't even appear in Tale of the Brave! And to make matters worse, unlike Edward, who quickly underwent Character Rerailment during his first Brenner-era episode, Toby still has yet to fully return to his former persona.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "That tricky Thomas and his tricks!"
  • Determinators: Hiro and later Henry in "Henry's Hero".
  • Disneyfication: Some episodes based of the novels in the earlier seasons were less dark and had more leniency. One example includes from the novel "Resource and Sagacity", where Oliver falls into a turntable thanks to the troublesome trucks and was given a stern talking to by The Fat Controller, Donald, and Douglas, whom the latter two were angry that he had broken their turntable. In the television version "Oliver Owns Up", The Fat Controller was more forgiving towards Oliver and advised him on how to handle trucks better and the other engines felt sorry for Oliver and hope that he comes back from the works to be mended.
    • Perhaps most evident with "Tenders For Henry" (adapted as "Tender Engines"), which omits almost all references to steam being abolished in other railways and all but one of Gordon's brethren being scrapped.
    • The TV adaptation of "Wrong Road" tones down a Black Comedy moment, in which Bill and Ben argue whether they should push Gordon into the sea or scrap him, in increasingly graphic detail ("Besides, he'd make a lovely splash!").
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The trucks/cars have been known to do this. Their way of getting retribution on engines that bump them one time too many (or annoy them) is often to tease them (often with Pop Goes the Weasel-rhyming songs) or even worse, push them back. And whenever the Trucks/Cars push back, they try to cause a crash of some kind. "A Close Shave" features them breaking away from Edward and trying to push Duck into a train, another shows them pushing Oliver into a turntable well, and perhaps one of the most disturbing is when the trucks/cars decide to get revenge on Sir Handel by riding down the hill into his face. And they don't realize it's actually Peter Sam they suicide-themselves onto!
    • They've caused violent accidents for Percy and Oliver simply because they didn't like their tone towards them.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Toby and Flora. Flora's debut episode was even entirely focused on her being the "new steam tram" and her personality more or less mirrored Toby's at the time.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: Gordon, Henry and James, while having many solo stories initially, usually acted as a near interchangeable trio of arrogant peers, bickering with other engines or making pompous remarks. As seasons passed the three began to appear together less and gained more individual characteristics. Henry in particular became far less egotistical, converting into a sensitive Hypochondriac and Nature Lover. James and Gordon retained their vanity as their defining quirks, however while Gordon became the main team's Grumpy Bear, James became more cheerful and mischievous.
  • A Dog Named Dog: A diesel named Diesel (sometimes called "Devious Diesel").
    • Diesel 10 to a lesser extent.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The episode "Trouble in the Shed", in which the tender engines Gordon, James and Henry go on strike. Sir Topham Hatt calls for Edward (who is also a tender engine) to fetch coaches for them. Later on, the striking engines are shown to be acting rudely and hissing at Edward, saying that he has "black wheels". "Black-legged" is a synonym for a strikebreaker, a worker who works despite an ongoing strike.
    • In addition to this, the episode was adapted from a Railway Series story that was written during the time that BR workmen were striking, and Awdry saw fit to mirror it in his stories.
  • Doomed Hometown: The Railway, where Duke, Peter Sam, and Sir Handel once lived. Great Waterton may also count. As well as Toby's old line (though it inexplicably reappears in later episodes).
  • Downer Ending: Some episodes from the earlier seasons end with this such as "The Sad Story Of Henry", "Off The Rails", "Dirty Work", and "Thomas Comes To Breakfast". However, such episodes are part of arcs, and will then be resolved and given a happy ending in their continuation.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Duncan and Bertie. "Come for the Ride" is a whole song dedicated to this, with Duncan getting a whole verse to himself.
    • Amusingly, The Fat Controller is portrayed as a notoriously bad driver.
  • Eagleland: Misty Island (all the locomotives there are of an American build) is portrayed as a mixture of types one and two- the Logging Locos are rather loud, boorish, and mischevious, but they all have a good heart and always have the best intentions.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Many of episodes end with this, especially if said episodes are the last ones of an arc. Common examples include "Edward, Gordon, and Henry", "Thomas and the Breakdown Train", "Troublesome Trucks", and "A Close Shave".
  • Edutainment Show: Following Hit Entertainment's takeover. Season 17 onwards seem to be returning to the more subtle approach of the original stories however.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Inverted: Duck doesn't like that the people who coined his name say he waddles, but still prefers it to his real name, "Montague."
  • Enemy Mine: The engines and the troublesome trucks have a few of these in "Special Attraction" when dealing with Bulstrode, a disagreeable boat, and in "The World's Strongest Engine" when going against Diesel. For the latter episode, Thomas and Percy lampshade that sometimes, troublesome trucks can do an engine a favor, which is getting rid of a haughty diesel.
    • This also happens with the steam engines and diesels in Calling All Engines.
  • Ennio Morricone Pastiche: In some episodes between Seasons 3 and 7, there is a music cue for when something is about to go wrong or there is a standoff between two characters. It sounds like something out of the Dollars Trilogy.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Fat Controller.
  • Everything's Worse with Bees: (James Goes) Buzz Buzz.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: Used a lot since the show went CGI.
  • Expy: New characters Connor and Caitlin are generally seen as expies of the Railway Series characters Pip and Emma, as they're both high-speed engines that run a regular passenger service from Vicarstown to the mainland (the difference being that Pip and Emma are a modern Intercity 125, while Connor and Caitlin are American streamliners from the 1930s.
  • Extreme Omni Goat - usually eating the Fat Controller's hat. Sometimes a goat, sometimes a ram.
  • Failsafe Failure: A fairly realistic example caused by heavy snow. In The Flying Kipper, some points are frozen to their current setting, which leads into an occupied siding. The relevant signal is set to danger to warn about this, but the snow also forces this signal into the down (green/go) position. This causes Henry and his crew to unknowingly pass a signal at danger and suffer a horrific crash.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The Spiteful Break Van, who was smashed to pieces by Douglas, and S.C Ruffey that Oliver broke apart (though he was rebuilt). For Fridge Horror, there are scrapyards.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Many examples, especially in the early years when the railway accidents were fairly realistic.
  • Fan Fic Magnet: Mostly James, sometimes Edward or Smudger.
  • Fantastic Racism: The steam engine/diesel hatred came to a head in Calling All Engines, and has mostly disappeared since then.
    • To a lesser extent, there's the trains and the vehicles.
  • Feud Episode: Many examples, especially in early seasons. To name but few, Thomas and Percy in "Thomas, Percy, & The Coal/Double Trouble", Bill and Ben in "One Good Turn", and Donald and Douglas in "Twin Trouble".
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Gordon implied that he and Thomas were this in "Down The Mine" after helping him from the mine accident. This was referred back to in "Paint Pots and Queens/Thomas Meets The Queen".
    • Gordon and James are also an example in the end of "James and the Express".
  • Flanderization: Edward and Toby went from being old and wise to being just old, Gordon went from being somewhat pompous to being completely full of himself, James went from being snobbish, but cheerful and hard-working to being a lazy, spoilt narcissist and Percy went from being somewhat naive to making Homer Simpson look intelligent.
    • Season 17 has reversed this however, Edward and Toby have returned to being wise, Gordon has become less pompous and able to knock an engine down a peg, James has gained a more mischievous side, and Percy has regained his intelligence whilst still being naive. Some traits of the later episodes are still evident (eg. Thomas is still a Cloudcuckoolander while Henry is still softer and less arrogant) but they qualify more as Hidden Depths to their now revived original personas.
  • Follow the Leader: The biggest complaint about the Poorly Disguised Pilot Jack and the Pack was that it seemed to be a knockoff of the fellow HiT Entertainment show Bob the Builder.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The original tender engines: James is Sanguine, Gordon is Choleric, Henry is Melancholic, and Edward is Phlegmatic.
  • Framing Device: Shining Time Station introduced when the series was shown in America.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: In early episodes especially, the engines are often shown laughing or smirking whenever another has an accident or other humiliating incident, no matter how dire. Downplayed in later episodes, where they often show a more consistant concern for each other whenever they seem to be in trouble.
  • Freudian Threat: A bizarre Freud Was Right train-equivalent example occurs in "Home at Last" where Sir Topham Hatt threatens to "cut Duncan down to size" if he acts up again. It's shown that he's referring to Duncan's rather long funnel and Duncan immediately behaves upon hearing said threat.
  • Friend to All Children: Any engine who happens to he pulling a "special" special related to children. Namely, Thomas. Trevor was first introduced as this.
  • The Friends Who Never Hang: Most of the "Steam Team" have had an episode together within the long run. Edward and Emily have had very little interaction however. Edward also rarely interacts with Toby, likely due to similarities in character (and even being Flanderized in a similar manner).
  • Friendship Trinket: In The Magic Railroad, Lily gives her Burnett a friendship bracelet to remind them of their friendship. Later in the film, Lily puts the gold dust Junior gives to her on her bluebird toy, also to remind her of her friendship with Burnett.
  • Fruit Cart: In "Percy, James and the Fruitful Day", Percy crashes while pushing some trucks full of fruit. He gets covered in smashed fruit. "The Spotless Record" has Arthur crashing into Duck's train full of fruits.
  • Funny Background Event: A bonus of the CGI transition is the show's ability to now animate funny goings on in scenes on a regular basis, usually from the crewman inside or behind the engines as they talk.
  • Furry Confusion: Though all locomotives are alive, the depiction of the road vehicles vary widely. Some, like Bertie, are sentient, while others, like Sir Topham Hatt's car, are not.
    • Coaches. During seasons 1-2 faceless coaches were sentient and could talk, but eventually the show treated all coaches as non-sentient save for exceptions like Annie, Clarabel and Henrietta.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the episode 'Mavis, the titular character gets stuck over a road crossing. An angry farmer is seen telling her 'just what she could do with her train'!
  • Green Rooming: Several engines, especially in later seasons, are granted an introductory episode, only to be forgotten about for several episodes, if not seasons before making so much as a cameo again.
  • Hard Work Montage: Used quite frequently when shunting rolling stock is part of the episode plot.
  • The Hedonist: New engine Charlie has shades of being this, described as 'the most fun engine' and seeking fun and games from the other engines in the form of racing, jokes, and shirking their responsibilities.
    • Averted in Season 17, where Charlie mainly tells his jokes during the off periods in between his and his fellow engines' work instead of doing it whenever he pleases.
  • Heroic RROD: When the engines are old, or overworked, they begin to break down and show damage. Such as Edward losing his siderods in "Edward's Exploit."
  • The Hero Sucks Song:
    • In "Special Funnel", Peter Sam is the butt of the other engines' jokes due to his funnel being wobbly, and after said funnel was knocked off by an icicle while he was passing by a tunnel, Sir Handel sings about Peter Sam's funnel, much to the amusement to the other engines.
      "Peter Sam's said again and again
      his new funnel will put ours to shame
      He went into the tunnel
      lost his old funnel.
      Now his famous new funnel's a drain!"
    • In the episode "Toad Stands By", the troublesome trucks sing "Pop Goes Ol' Ollie" to Oliver as ridicule for him falling into the turntable well in "Oliver Owns Up".
      "Oliver's no use at all;
      Thinks he's very clever.
      Says that he could manage us;
      That's the best joke ever!
      When he orders us about,
      With the greatest folly,
      We've just pushed him down the well!
      Pop Goes Ol' Ollie!"
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Thomas and Percy. Gordon and James could count, too. Especially in the earlier seasons.
  • The House of Windsor: Queen Elizabeth II comes to visit the engines in a season 4 episode.
  • I Have No Funnel, and I Must Steam: Scrapping. Also Smudger, who was converted into a stationary steam pump.
  • Idiot Ball: Expect stupidity, accidents, or unrealistic things to ensue whenever anybody is put in charge of a special. It's even more jarring when older, experienced engines are the ones making the mistakes, though this has been toned down since Season 17.
    • Sanity Ball: Though it's not rare for some of the younger, more reckless engines to sometimes show moments of clarity as well. Thomas and Percy in particular switch irratically between being arrogant dimwits or kind natured voices of reason.
  • Incompetence, Inc.: With all of the crashes and runaways on Sodor, how does the railway stay in business? The logging company on Misty Island, too, which probably makes absolutely no profit since cranes keep throwing logs into the river.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: From Magic Railroad:
    Splatter (to Diesel 10): Liar, liar.
    Dodge: Pants on fire.
    Splatter: Does he wear pants?
    Dodge: Well, training pants.
    Splatter: Alright.
  • Indy Escape: The Episode Rusty and the Boulder.
  • Inspector Javert: The Constable in Thomas In Trouble.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Percy and Toby, Thomas and Hiro in Hero of The Rails.
  • Ironic Echo: Practically a staple in Andrew Brenner's writing, especially in Tale of the Brave.
  • Jerkass: Diesel is the most prominent example in the series, not to mention that most of the diesels like Arry & Bert will fit under this category as well. Duncan, Sir Handel, The Troublesome Trucks, and The Spiteful Brakevan count as well.
  • Jerk Jock: Gordon, James & Henry in season 2.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Some of the engines may be cocky, scornful, and ill-mannered at times, but they prove to be just as kind and helpful to other engines and always compensate for their previous misbehavior toward them. Gordon and James are common examples. Even Diesel has his redeeming qualities on occasions.
  • Just in Time: From season 8 onward, this happens all the time. Happens quite frequently to Paxton. The poor guy.
    • Inverted whenever an accident is inevitable: "...but it was too late..."
  • Just Train Wrong: This applies to numerous railway gaffes from season 6 onward, where the writers (no longer working from Awdry's books) seem to know little about the workings of steam engines and railways. Nitrogen Studios seems to have very little knowledge of how steam engines are supposed to work. For example, in real life, cylinders for big tender engines are attached to the engine's main frame. But in the animated series, the cylinders appear to be completely independent from the rest of the body. 'Misty Island Rescue apparently has a railway track built inside a hollow log.'' What the hell?
    • Thankfully, Season 17 and onwards now has a railway consultant to deal with this.
  • Karma Houdini: The adapatation of "Old Iron" neglects to mention the fate of the two boys who meddled with James' controls and caused him to run off out of control, whereas in the book they are caught by the police and "soundly walloped" by their fathers.
    • The Troublesome Trucks are often the reason why many engines are chewed out for their accidents, and they are never seen to be held responsible for them. In most accidents, however, they will get destroyed in the process, not that it will stop them from laughing about the trouble they've caused.
    • Subverted with Daisy. In the titular episode, she made a fib about her fitter ordering her not to pull trucks because it's bad for her swerves just to avoid pulling a milk tanker. In "Percy's Predicament", the Fat Controller scolds her for her laziness, but then decides to give her another chance after she helped clear Percy's accident.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: The troublesome trucks can play tricks on an engine who is rude and arrogant towards other engines (i.e, James in "Dirty Objects" and Diesel in "Pop Goes The Diesel").
  • Kid-Appeal Character: One of the reasons Thomas became the star of the show is likely because of his childish personality. Percy counts as well.
  • Killed Off for Real: The Spiteful Brakevan is the only character in the entire show to die permanently.
    • A few other trucks are shown dismantled in episodes. Also the show kept in S.C. Ruffey's destruction from the novels, but had him repaired rather than scrapped.
  • The Klutz: Kevin the crane.
  • Leitmotif: Each character had their own theme in the earlier series.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: This will happen to any engine, whether it's the result of being prideful, stubborn, or just being a Jerkass. Most often, their mishaps prompts them to see the error of their ways and to make up for their behavior in the end of the story.
  • Last of His Kind: The real life engines that Thomas, Toby and Edward were based on were all scrapped, with none of their numbers surviving to preservation beyond replicas of the characters themselves.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Double Teething Troubles featured a BR "Clayton" diesel which, as in real life, suffered from having insufficient engines crammed into a compact space. While originally named "Paxman" after the contained engines, the producers decided the company might not take so kindly to the reference. He went unnamed in the episode, but the merchandise now calls him "Derek."
  • Leave Me Alone: This was frequently played with in many Seasons 8-16 episodes. An engine will refuse to let the other engines help them with their work until circumstances rise, and said engine will learn that they needed their help after all.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Hi T episodes from Seasons 8-16, combined with a bit of Denser and Wackier. Most of the realism was thrown out the window until Season 17 brought it back, even the nastiest of engines tend to show a redeeming side, and scrapping is refered to a lot less (or when it is, is made clear that Sir Topham has no interest in it whatsoever, though to be fair, he never once had any interest in it to begin with in both the original show and the books).
  • The Lost Woods: Several: Henry's Forest, the Whistling Woods, and Misty Island could all qualify.
  • Lovable Coward: Toby in later seasons. Percy and Henry sometimes get in on it too.
  • Lightning Bruiser: These are trains afterall.
  • Engines and Diesels and Humans... Oh My!
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Adding more in each season doesn't help.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: In "Don't Tell Thomas", the engines are planning a surprise party for Thomas, and he grows suspicious. Eventually he gets fed up enough that he runs away, leaving Harold to find him and tell him about the party.
  • Looks Like She Is Enjoying It: In "Pop Goes the Diesel" the trucks made a very... suggestive sound when Diesel forcefully pulls them. Also, rare male and non-human example.
  • Long Runner: The television series has been running since 1984. The Railway Series, meanwhile, originally ran from 1945 to 2011.
  • Loony Fan: Rosie to Thomas in "Thomas and the Birthday Mail".
  • Lost Aesop: Misty Island Rescue is supposedly about making decisions, but this message is inverted and subverted so many times it's impossible to tell whether the writers support or condemn the idea of Thomas making decisions for others.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Children singing about railway accidents in a cheery voice, accompanied with a montage of the characters getting into violent crashes.
  • MacGuffin: The special specials from Seasons 13 to 16.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Diesel, and occasionally, Gordon.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Thomas and his friends have been on 3 compilations that include almost no excerpts in them. First is Thomas and Gordon (unsurprisingly. Additionally, the music in the first 2 seasons of this and the music in the 1983 Mr. Men cartoon have somewhat similar sounding music) in NSPCC Children's TV Favourites Volume 2 in 1993, then Thomas' Train in Calling all Toddlers in 1999, and then again in its sequel in 2001.
  • Meaningful Name: In a very odd example, Gordon. His name was chosen to be meaningful to Christopher Awdry, the late Reverend's son. It was meaningful because the character is bossy, and there was a bossy boy living on the Awdrys' street named Gordon.
  • Medium Blending: The CGI faces in season 12 and the full CGI in Hero Of The Rails. Earlier, the 2D-animated bee that stings James in "Buzz, Buzz."
  • Merchandise-Driven: Arguably; some characters are only in one episode and seem to exist purely for merchandise reasons. The worst case of this is currently Day of the Diesels. Three new characters - Norman, Paxton and Sidney - are introduced and marketed...and none of them have a single line of dialog, only seen creeping around in the background. A few characters from The Railway Series that were never adapted into the show have also made it onto Thomas And Friends merchandise.
  • Metaphorgotten: In one episode when Peter Sam is put in charge of finding a new location for the Refreshment Lady's stand:
    Peter Sam: I can find her a beautiful place.
    Refreshment Lady: I knew it! It will be a piece of cake!
    Peter Sam: Tea rooms don't live in cakes...
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: "Hector the Horrid".
  • Mood Whiplash: The Flying Kipper starts off most memorably in this manner. As Henry pulls his train through the wintry countryside, it has such a magical, almost "Christmassy" atmosphere to it. Then a yellow caution signal appears followed by a green clear signal, okay fine, but the music turns threatening for an impending disaster. Ice and snow have fouled the signals and points taking Henry straight into the back of a goods train. Following this we cut forward to a broken down Henry on the ground feeling very sorry for himself (with the sad variant of his theme playing in the background), fast forward again to a rebuilt Henry happily puffing down the bridge with his usual cheery theme playing.
    • Luke's backstory in Blue Mountain Mystery is noticeably dark compared to the rest of the movie. Not to mention it's juxtaposed with Thomas' optimistic, almost oblivious reaction to the story.
    • Tale of the Brave as a whole is quite an emotional roller coaster. The intro brings us a storm and a landslide, and things only get more hectic from there.
  • Morton's Fork: Donald and Douglas's backstory. Sir Topham Hatt only expected one of them to come to Sodor, and decided to send the one that was less useful back to the Scottish Region of British Railways—where, unknown to him, they would be scrapped. For either of them to do their best work would be to doom the other, but to shirk off just a bit might mean to doom themselves. Fortunately, the situation was eventually resolved.
  • Motive Decay: Originally the diesels were a reminder to the steam engines that Technology Marches On and the more efficient, mass-produced engines were becoming the rule instead of the exception. Since around Series 7 there's been no mention of scrapping and steam's still alive on the mainland, yet the steam and diesel engines are more at each other's throats than ever.
  • The Movie: Two theatrical, three direct to video with another to follow in 2011, to be directed by Shane Acker and written by Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Almost every engine, particularly in later seasons, is hard working and effecient, but often causes great problems due to a defining flaw (eg. Thomas' poor attention, James' arrogance, Toby's cowardice, Percy's naivete). Most of their spotlight episodes revolve around them overcoming their flaws to be "really useful", while in supporting roles they often act as more capable Straight Men.
  • Must Make Amends: Very common in the newer series before Season 17 where an engine makes a lot of mistakes in their given job due to their Fatal Flaw and The Fat Controller calls them out for causing "confusion and delay". This prompts the engines to make things right, and as they did, The Fat Controller praises them by calling them "really useful engines".
  • Narrator
  • Never Live It Down: In-Universe. Back when continuity was a thing, whenever an engine gets into an accident the other engines (even their friends) won't miss a beat to bring it up whenever possible to tease them for the next few episodes. For example, the incident involving James and bootlaces.
  • Never My Fault: The engines getting blamed for the railwaymen's mistakes. This helps contribute to the Fridge Horror and Nightmare Fuel of the series - no wonder the trains look sad when they're in an accident!
    • Compared to the books, the show does at least have a handful of subversions however. In "Thomas And The Rumors", when Gordon crashes into an unfinished tunnel, the Fat Controller is explained as having a stern word with the driver, not the engine. Also in "Wayward Winston" the Fat Controller himself takes blame for Winston becoming a runaway, when Winston reminds him he forgot to put his brakes on.
  • New Technology Is Evil: The diesels, who are usually portrayed as arrogant, rude, and cruel. However, most of the recurring diesel cast are extremely likable (Rusty, who is nice, Daisy who is a Spoiled Brat but can be a Spoiled Sweet if she wanted to, Mavis, who has received a great amount of Character Development and is a much more responsible engine, and Paxton, a gullible, but very likable engine) . This trope mainly applies to one-shot diesel engines who eventually end up suffering from a Break the Haughty moment.
  • Nice Guy: Edward, Toby, BoCo, and many others.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Thomas pulls this off in "The Great Discovery", and because of this, Great Waterton almost doesn't get completed in time.
  • Noble Fugitive: Oliver, Toad and Stepney.
  • Non Sequitur: Invoked by Diesel in "Disappearing Diesels" to distract Paxton.
  • No OSHA Compliance: After the Awdry adaptions ended, many of the engines have done things that real railways would consider irresponsible or even illegal, Season 5 is a great example of this, more than half of the episodes in that one Season featured a large crash.
    • The Shake Shake Bridge. See for yourself.
    • Building a quarry under a mountain with a giant boulder resting on top, which by the way, was from Season 5.
  • No Sympathy: This tends to be common in the series. Whenever there's an engine who gone through a misfortune, they will receive belittling and smug insults from the other engines about them. This treatment on the engine depends either if the engine brought it upon themselves due to their misbehavior or that the engine is just being rude or arrogant, in which case something will likely lead them to get A Taste Of Their Own Medicine shortly afterwards.
    • Gets subverted during Tale of the Brave towards the end, where James jokes about a (currently-missing) Percy being brave. After all the other things he did to Percy earlier in the movie, the other engines' expressions make it clear they know James has gone much too far.
  • Not so Above It All: A few episodes depict a day in the life of Sir Topham Hatt, which often end disastrously with him getting into mishaps and vehicle related blunders he is constantly scolding the engines for.
    • A lot of the wiser more rational engines such as Edward and Toby were given more prominent flaws and moments of incompetence during the HIT Seasons until Season 17 came along.
  • Now Let Me Carry You: In The Great Discovery, Stanley rescues Thomas, but breaks down in the process. Thomas then helps Stanley back home, and the two become good friends ever since.
  • Oh Crap: Often without need for words, apart from the narrations. The facial expressions speak for themselves.
  • Oireland: Luke has an Irish accent despite being based on a British locomotive design. May double as Truth in Television however, as many Irish narrow gauge engines were British-built. Connor and Caitlin have Irish accents as well. This is extremely strange, considering where their prototypes are from...
  • Older than They Look: The target audience is meant to identify with Thomas thanks to his childlike personality. However, he was (according to external sources) built at least sometime before 1915, making him older, or at least along the same age as, the bigger engines that tend to look down on him (Gordon, Henry and James to name a few). For reference, Misty Island Rescue is set in 1960.
  • Ominous Fog: Used in Misty Island Rescue, when Thomas first arrives on the island. It's seen again when Edward, James, and Gordon get lost.
  • One Mario Limit: The name "Thomas" is forever linked with the series' title character.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted: we have Bertie/Bert/Bertram, Bill/Billy, two characters named Oliver, and a literal handful of diesels without proper names: Devious Diesel/The Diesel(261)/Diesel 10/D 199/Derek the Diesel. Whew!
  • Only Six Faces: Averted. According to one British newspaper, the engines' facial expressions are actually more expressive than human faces!
    • Some are similar enough that modelers seem to mix up character's face masks however (in particular Thomas and Percy, while having unique facial designs, frequently use each other's masks without it looking glaringly off model).
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Edward suffered a small number of these from season 6 until Season 17, though he's yet to have a starring episode, he does seem to have reverted to his normal persona.
  • Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: "Percy's Big Mistake" had Percy overhearing The Fat Controller say something about scrap and thought it meant he was to be scrapped (he's a steam engine). The Fat Controller actually said that Percy was working to hard recently and so after taking some scrap metal to the smelters he would be given the somewhat easier job of carrying the mail for a week.
  • Overtook the Series: From season 5 onward due to the well of Railway Series stories drying up. Admittedly not every story from the original books has been adapted and the direction the television series is taking means it will probably never happen. This is complicated further by the show also adapting stories from other medias such as the magazines and annuals (mostly during Season Three, though a handful of episodes from Season Five onward are also adapted roughly from the magazines).
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Thomas and Rosie, figuratively and literally.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The prime example in "Fish"' where Duck and Henry work together to haul the extra-long Flying Kipper up Gordon's Hill. Henry pulls his train harder than he realises, then a tail lamp falls off the rear-most van. Duck loses sight of the train, whistles, but gets no reply. Without his bank engine, Henry starts to slow down, and Duck crashes into the Kipper.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: For the proposed Spinoff, Jack and the Pack. In the episode, A Friend in Need, Jack worries that Ms. Jenny will be cross with him after holding up a bridge to save Thomas from falling off it (Also bending his arms as a result). However, it's this very act that gets him accepted as the newest member of The Pack.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Surprisingly, this trope is invoked at times, even in a kid's show.
    Percy: I must be brave.
  • Pulled From Your Day Off: In "Thomas' Day Off", Sir Topham Hatt gives Thomas a day off and sends a diesel engine named Dennis to do his work for him. However, Dennis is a lazy diesel and lies about having something wrong with him to get out of doing his work. Thomas is still happy to help Dennis despite wanting to enjoy his day off, even when Dennis actually does have something wrong with him.
  • Punny Name: Guess what Sir Topham Hatt wears? Lampshaded in Misty Island Rescue by the Logging Locos, saying that he sounds funny.
  • Real Person Cameo: H.M. the Queen in "Paint Pots and Queens" and three real trains: City of Truro, Flying Scotsman and Stepney.
  • Reccuring Extra: Starting from the Nitrogen era, Stanley and Rosie. They have yet to play any meaningful roles besides appearing as cameos Once per Episode.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Just any pair of engines usually run into this if the story is based on a calm and level-headed engine advising an excited and brash engine to avoid causing trouble. James and Edward play this a couple of times.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: A lot of new premises considered gimmicky or unrealistic are actually based on proper research. Nearly every engine is based closely on a real life counterpart as they were in the novels (if via a wider spectrum of models) as are some of the locations and concepts that are deemed cartoony (eg. Victor and the Steamworks were actually based on high profile locomotive works fitted with a narrow gauge engine to help deliver workloads to different departments).
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Why the Logging Locos were sent to Misty Island (apparently they misbehaved on their old mainland railway).
  • Remember the New Guy: Fearless Freddie randomly appears one day... but it's all okay! He was just hiding off screen, never mentioned, for the entire series until then!
  • Replaced the Theme Tune: Due to the original composers resigning, the theme tune was replaced with the Engine Roll Call in Season Eight onwards. The rest of the original soundtrack was also replaced.
    • Theme Tune Cameo: It reappears as the calliope's music in "Percy And The Calliope" however.
  • Retcon: In addition to Hiro building the railway, Fearless Freddie is now established as the oldest engine on the Skarloey Railway.
  • Retool: From Season 8 onward. Whilst the series could have been said to have done this when the Awdry adaptions ended, Season 8 was most certainly a full-on retool. The character cast was streamlined into a central cast known as the 'Steam Team', the episode lengths were increased and became less realistic, and several character personas were completely changed.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Thomas gets a few in The Great Discovery. "I am brave and I am strong. I'll get to the wharf and it won't take long!" Since then, the engines seem to come up with a recurring mantra almost Once an Episode. They are finally done away with in Blue Mountain Mystery, much to the relief of the fans.
    • Sadly, during Flatbeds of Fear, Henry got scared back into rhyming. "I don't want to hear the Flatbeds of Fear, I don't want to hear the Flatbeds of Fear..."
  • Rightly Self-Righteous: Some engines are occasionally conveyed this way; e.g., Toby, Duck, Donald and Douglas, and Fergus. They can often be smug and heckling to the other engines, but are competent hard workers. Usually, any attempts to ignore or belittle them only lead to a karmic accident or humiliation. It's usually avoided in later episodes, where each engine gets his shortcomings and arrogant moments spotlighted equally, with most of said characters being put Out of Focus or having a completely altered personality. (Toby, far from this role, became a Shrinking Violet who usually underestimates his worth until Season 17, while Duck's stubbornness has been shown to be a bit more problematic.)
  • Ripped from the Headlines: All the episodes based on the Reverend's original books were in turn inspired by real life railway events. Everything in the railway series has happened to some engine, somewhere, at some time. This site has an entire database of the real-life anecdotes which inspired the Reverend's stories.
  • Rookie Red Ranger: Jack would have been this in the proposed Jack & The Pack Spin-Off.
  • Rule of Three: From season 8 onward, almost all plots follow this, where a character must make one mistake three times in the row before realizing what they did wrong, and then things get Anvilicious.
  • Runaway Train: Naturally a recurring plot line. The early episodes even had a recurring Leitmotif for such moments.
  • Same Language Dub: Mostly due to differences in railway terminology between the US and UK (such as "trucks" in Britain and "freight cars" in America).
  • Santa Claus: Has a minor appearance in the Season 2 finale.
  • Save Both Worlds: Basically the entire plot of Thomas and the Magic Railroad.
  • Save the Villain: Thomas saves Diesel from rolling off an unfinished bridge in Misty Island Rescue.
    • Tale of the Brave has Percy saving James. Yes, JAMES is the villain here!
  • Scenery Gorn: The Vicarstown Dieselworks, which is filthy, grimy and full of broken machinery, including a broken crane. And then it catches fire.
  • Scenery Porn: The modelers for before the series went CG made some beautiful scenery and backgrounds for the trains to roll around in. There's still quite a lot of it in the CG series, especially in Misty Island Rescue. In addition Arc Productions, the current animators for the series, really enjoy using various shots that show a great deal of scenery.
    • The animation team went all-out for Tale of the Brave, with some really breathtaking shots of the Suspension Bridge and the clay pits.
  • Serious Business: Pretty much every race Thomas gets in. Similarly the railway itself is a Serious Business since pretty much everything on Sodor is somehow affected by the railway. Especially in later seasons.
  • She's a Man in Japan: Rusty was referred to as she in the US narration of season 9, though this had quickly been corrected.
  • Short Cuts Make Long Delays: If an engine even thinks of taking a shortcut somewhere, expect them to get lost, trapped, crashed, or otherwise delayed.
  • Shout-Out: There's no way that the song played in the beginning of Misty Island Rescue wasn't partially inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean theme.
  • Shouldn't You Be Working On Schedule Right Now?: There are multiple episodes where an engine, who should be working at a 'Special Special', is instead seen travelling light-engine around the island with nothing in tow, allowing themsleves to stop at any location they please. One has to wonder if the railway schedules still exist, or can The Fat Controller just order any engine to do something on a whim.
  • Shown Their Work: Rev. Awdry was a railway nut and obsessive about details being right. Many stories in the original books were based on stories from railway workers. He would often fire or insult away book artists who hadn't gotten enough details right. The early TV seasons were based directly on the books, so inherited the accuracy of detail. Plus, while the new episodes are less realistic, the characters are still (mostly) based on real machines, with maybe some proportional changes. The addition of a railway consultant has also helped in this, with engines starting to receive realistic headcodes as well as several bits of real-life railway workings being used as plot points.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Bill and Ben, and to a far lesser extent Donald and Douglas. Bash and Dash rely heavily on this trope, to the point where they finish each other's sentences.
  • Single Tear: This happens to a few engines in the earlier seasons. James in "Troublesome Trucks", Thomas in "Thomas, Terrence, and the Snow", Toby in "Toby and the Stout Gentleman", and Duck in "Dirty Work".
    • Tears of Remorse:
      • Happens with James in the beginning of "Troublesome Trucks", learning of the trouble he's caused with the coaches.
      • This also happens with Thomas twice. One in "Thomas, Terrence, and the Snow" where he regrets not taking his snowplough while being stuck on the snow. The other in "Down the Mine" when he is reprimanded by the Fat Controller for falling down a mine.
  • Sixth Ranger: Percy and Toby in season 1. Duck in season 2. Emily also fits.
  • Slice of Life: Arguably, the earlier seasons. Season 17 and onwards invokes this trope a bit more.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The Railway Series featured just two female engines, Daisy and Mavis, neither of whom were exactly strong characters. The TV series added more female engines in later series, such as Emily, Molly and Rosie. However, coaches such as Annie and Clarabel were always female. Which, given that the coaches couldn't even move without an engine's help, made things worse.
  • Sneeze of Doom: Variant example. In an early story, boys drop stones on Henry and his train. He pays them out on his return trip by "sneezing" ashes from his smokebox on them.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Being steam engines means that the consequences of their actions will be strange and pretty impractical for it to happen to humans. Some examples include:
    • Tell lies, and you might get turned into a chicken coop.
    • Do sloppy work, and you might get turned into a stationary generator
    • Be vain, and you might get bricked inside a tunnel.
    • It's OK to kill out of the guy that's bullying you and your brother, as long as it technically happens accidentally.
    • Don't be rude or you will crash into tar wagons.
    • Don't annoy or tease others or they will play a trick on you, whether it be dragging you along with their train or making you believe that you saw a ghost.
    • It's OK to pretend you're another species as long as you understand the time and place for it.
  • Spice Up the Subtitles: One pirated Indonesian DVD (commonly sold at stalls in markets) of Calling All Engines! translated Thomas' exclamations "Cinders and ashes!" and "Bust my buffers!" as something that roughly means "Son of a bitch!" in English.
  • Sorcerer's Apprentice Plot: Done frequently whenever an engine makes a slight alteration to their work run, or is given the job of another more experienced one. Naturally they usually have to face the annoyance of the Fat Controller afterwards.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: S.C. Ruffey was scrapped in the novels after being dismanteled by Oliver. In the show he is repaired and appears in later episodes.
    • In the original novels Bulgy was last seen acting into a chicken coop. In the show however, he is redeemed and converted back into a working bus.
  • Spoiled Brat: Daisy. She even gets away with some spoiled antics in her introductory episode by throwing a tantrum. Although she does get called out on it a couple times, and is given another chance because she helped clean up the mess caused when she (indirectly) caused an accident to Percy.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Thomas, who reached near Creator's Pet levels from Season 8 to Season 16. To some extent Percy and James, who have the most recurring roles after Thomas and are the most merchandised supporting characters. This is partly due to their best friend status with the main character as well as them being even more prominant than Thomas himself in The Railway Series books that the initial seasons adapted from.
  • Stealth Pun: The Island of Sodor is named for the Diocese of Sodor and Man, which by Awdry's day had dwindled down to just the Isle of Man. So he invented an Island of Sodor to go with it.
  • Steam Never Dies: Steam locomotives are forever and ever and ever. And ever. (This is somewhat justified, as steam was still in operation in The Sixties, which is when the current television series is set.)
  • Steam Punk: Being steam locomotives, obviously.
  • Stepford Smiler: Common in the HIT episodes where characters ignorantly cause damage to everything and everyone around them. As of Season 18, this has ended.
  • The Stinger: After the credits of Misty Island Rescue, Diesel 10, the Big Bad from Thomas and the Magic Railroad, appears watching the Sodor engines, with an Evil Laugh and promising ruin and destruction.
  • Story Arc: During Seasons 1, 2, and 4, mostly consisting of Character Development. Season 1 deals with the main cast's respective arcs, Season 2's has Duck and Diesel's, with several minor characters such as BoCo getting their own, while Season 4's arcs are centered around the narrow gauge engines.
  • The Storyteller: The Narrow Gauge Engines
  • Supermarionation: The earlier seasons, before CGI. The engines were all model trains on a miniature set. Their eyes, wheels and even ability to let off steam were controlled by off-camera puppeteers. It helps that it was overseen by Thunderbirds veteran David Mitton.
  • Survival Mantra: Plenty of them. Starting from The Great Discovery it's been combined with rhyming as well. As of season 18 the rhyming aspect's mostly disappeared, save for an abrupt return in "Flatbeds of Fear", courtesy of Henry.
  • Synchronous Episodes: "Thomas And Stepney" is a rare case of this playing alongside a novel. The events of the episode mostly mirror those of The Railway Series story "Stepney's Special" albeit from Thomas' perspective. "Buzz Buzz" seems to act as this in places with the novel version of the story as well, though other changes probably apply more as Adaptation Decay.
  • Take That: King of the Railway has two cases of this towards the previous writing style, particularly towards Henry needing Special coal. And Tale of the Brave adds one more with Thomas jokingly asking Percy about if he'll "take a giant balloon on a flatbed."
  • Tear Off Your Face: This is how one of the Scottish Twins actually kills the Spiteful Brakevan (a bullying caboose) at the end of the episode "Brake Van", by ramming into him face-on, smashing the caboose to bits, and tearing off his face.
  • Terrible Trio: Diesel sometimes forms one with 'Arry and Bert in later episodes. Gordon, James and Henry were a lighter example in the earlier seasons (being more just arrogant peers than villains) while Diesel 10 formed one with Splatter and Dodge in Thomas And The Magic Railroad.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Basically every episode will have some variation of "That made (character) feel very (emotion)." This was strictly limited in earlier seasons, but became more prominent from season 8 onward, mainly because it was a selling point for autistic children.
  • Theme Tune Extended: The original theme tune is in fact a mere snippet from the original two minute long track.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: 'Arry and Bert.
  • Title Drop: Just a number of the episodes are this. "Down The Mine", "Pop Goes The Diesel", "A Close Shave", and many others.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Thomas was a lot more of a pompous brat in the early episodes based on the original novels. As the show began to branch off on it's own however, he became more altruistic and high spirited. A few other engines such as Sir Handel have also been tamed a little in later seasons.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Edward was a kind-hearted and patient engine in the earlier seasons, but at the start of season 6 and on wards, he is prone to rude and arrogant moments Depending on the Writer.
  • Tooth Strip: In the original books and TV series. Averted with some Trucks. Interesting to note, in the early days of the TV series, the production crew did make an individually toothed face for a smiling Gordon... It didn't look too well. They also made one for Thomas, though it was mainly a joke prop.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: The majority of the accidents in the show is this, because the engines did not stop to think before they act.
  • Trans Atlantic Equivalent: PBS' Shining Time Station added a Framing Device with a live action Ensemble Cast to the British footage. The Narrator's actor became a character (Mr. Conductor) who told the stories to the children.
  • True Companions: The main 'Steam Team' consider themselves this.
  • Twin Switch: Bill and Ben in "The Diseasel". A variation since instead of acting as each other, they pretended to be one unnamed engine. Besides, they are pretty much the same in personality. They also pulled the same trick on Connor in "Bill or Ben?".
    • Donald and Douglas also used this early in their tenure on Sodor, when Sir Topham Hatt was still trying to decide which one to send home. If one ever seemed to be outperforming the other, they'd switch tenders (the only places their numbers were painted) and do each other's work until their records evened out, so the boss couldn't make a decision.
  • Ultimate Job Security: The railway men are hardly ever punished for their mistakes.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Nobody seems to notice or care that their vehicles are alive and sentient. Many of the engines are good friends with humans and vice versa.
  • Viewers Are Morons: HIT's reasons for extensively retooling the show.
  • Violent Caledonian "Spite Douggie, will ye? Take that!"
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Some of the engines will have their differences and will throw out their quips from time to time, but in the end, they will always help out each other when needed.
    • The trio of Gordon, Henry, and James run into this.
    • James in particular runs into this with several more introverted engines such as Edward and Toby, especially in later seasons where Not So Different moments are more common.
    • Thomas and Percy are this in the earlier seasons.
    • Thomas and Bertie too. They are rivals when they race, but they're good friends outside competitions.
    • Percy and Harold parallels Thomas and Bertie's rivalry. Episodes such as "Percy's Promise" and "A Bad Day for Harold the Helicopter" shows that they can have their friendly moments too.
    • This trope is taken Upto Eleven between Thomas, Percy and James (the Spotlight-Stealing Squad). James is trying to scare Percy, who is angry at Thomas for not sticking up for him about the monster. Thomas, for his part, is not pleased with James' increasingly mean-spirited antics.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: In "Tender Engines", Henry is jealous of a visiting engine with two tenders (the two that No. 4472 Flying Scotsman carried while on tour in the '60s). Duck and Donald overhear and tell Henry they have six tenders for him to take. Once everyone has gathered to see him, Henry finds out the tenders are all old, grimy, and sludge-filled.
  • Watching the Sunset: Thomas, Percy, and Duck at the end of 'All at Sea.'
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: Emily and Daisy.
  • What Happened to the Mouse??: Much of Salty's story about Misty Island. He says they use smoke signals there, but aside from Thomas using it as a way to get Percy's attention across the bay, we never see it used on the island. Salty also mentions that an engine was lost there once, but after "puffing three times" we don't know what happened to him, and it's never mentioned again.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Rosie isn't strong enough to pull heavy loads, but is really good for pulling trucks full of balloons.
  • White Sheep: Most trucks on Sodor range from mischievous to outright sociopathic, teasing the engines or outright causing accidents for them. Toad the break van and Hector the coal hopper however are kind natured and help the engines keep the other rolling stock at bay.
    • Though the diesels' nature varies Depending on the Writer, a fair number of diesels starting from BoCo are shown to be consistently good throughout the series. In addition, in the episode Disappearing Diesels in Season 18, the narrator says that some engines give the diesels a bad reputation.
  • With Friends Like These...: The engines are such assholes to each other, sometimes it's hard to remember that they're supposed to be friends. Especially evident in the earlier seasons. Examples include everyone teasing Gordon for his size, making insensitive remarks about Henry's condition, belittling Thomas and Percy for being small engines, jokes involving Edward and scrapping, having your embarrassing accidents brought up again and again, and so on.
  • You Didn't Ask: Duck and Diesel in "Pop Goes The Diesel".
  • Younger than They Look: Used perhaps most oddly when Salty is telling Thomas and Percy stories of the railway's past, despite them being far more likely to know from experience. How Thomas and Percy have remained small children although Thomas was built in 1915 and Percy was built in the 1930's and The Railway Series was created in the 1940's. Although they DO look that young in appearance, and the only reason they fit this trope is when they were built would make them Older than They Look, but apparently doesn't.
    • Hiro is said to be the oldest engine on Sodor, but in fact, that title goes ot Skarloey and Rheneas. The fact of the matter is that the entire Steam Team is older than Hiro (whose was built in 1936). Yes, even Thomas.


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alternative title(s): Thomas And Friends; Thomas The Tank Engine
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