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Western Animation / Thomas the Tank Engine

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Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, now known as Thomas & 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 were aired as a Three Shorts format program with short interstitials or songs in between each story.


The show steadily became a worldwide hit, leading to the franchise becoming increasingly Merchandise-Driven (especially following its 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:


  • Ringo Starr: 1-2
  • Michael Angelis: 3-16.
  • Pierce Brosnan: The Great Discovery.
  • Mark Moraghan: 17-21.
  • John Hasler (as Thomas): 22-present

North America:

  • Ringo Starr: 1-2.
  • George Carlin: 3-4, renarrated 1-2.
  • Advertisement:
  • Alec Baldwin: 5-6.
  • Michael Brandon: 7-16.
  • Pierce Brosnan: The Great Discovery.
  • Mark Moraghan: 17-21
  • Joseph May (as Thomas): 22-present

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.

The series has been known to have had a following among people with disabilities, especially people with Autism and Aspergers, in part thanks to the usage of static imagery in the model seasons.

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

Here is the recap page for all of the episodes.

Here is the list of the feature-length specials of the series.

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     A - L 
  • Aborted Arc: Season 5's "Oliver's Find" ends with Oliver discovering an abandoned railway station and shed, along with a house and workshop, and the Fat Controller talks about having them restored. The station is never revisited or mentioned since.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The post-Miller episodes still occasionally forgo railway realism for the sake of telling a story.
  • 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".
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Lady is voiced by Britt herself, and also shares the same color scheme as the Queen of Night from Mumfie, another show Allcroft worked on before.
    • Keith Wickham voices a character named Willie who says "Crumbs!", similar to another character who he voiced in Angelina Ballerina, who is named William.
    • Fergus Duncan in both English and Japanese. He is voiced by Rob Rackstraw, who also played Mr. Fussy and Mr. Bently (both characters who obey by rules). In Japan, he shares the same actor as Giovanni from Pokémon (they resemble each other).
    • Katsuji Mori played a character before who is energetic and likes racing. They also support the number 5.
    • Rachael Louise Miller voices Rebecca, a new member of the main cast. Her previous voice acting role also involved voicing a notable main character of said series. Both series in question are also from HIT Entertainment.
  • Adaptation Name Change: More of a number change, but in the TV series Class 40 goes from having the number D4711 to having the number D261.
  • 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.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Played with a bit. Though Thomas debuts in the same story as in The Railway Series ("Thomas and Gordon"/"Thomas Gets Tricked"), it is aired before those of "Three Railway Engines" (which he now also cameos in) so the first episode revolves around the title character.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Due to budget constraints, Flying Scotsman's role from Enterprising Engines is reduced to a brief appearance by his tenders in Series 3's "Tender Engines".
    • In the original version of "Escape", Oliver and Toad are accompanied by an autocoach named Isabel. When Duck's branch line opens, they are joined by additional Great Western coachesnote , none of whom appear in the TV series.
    • Stories adapted from The Eight Famous Engines use existing characters in place of the Mainland engines.
    • Although Daisy had been introduced in the previous season, her appearance in "Mavis" is rewritten to feature Diesel instead.
    • When the Skarloey Railway was introduced, Mr. Sam, The Thin Controller, was nowhere to be seen (The Fat Controller appearing in his place). However, an equivalent character, Mr. Percival, is introduced when the narrow gauge characters reappear in Series 9.
    • The Arlesdale Railway had a small role in "Sleeping Beauty", since it was built over Duke's old line. In the adaptation, Duke's rescuers travel with Skarloey instead.
    • Further supporting characters from The Railway Series have never been introduced due to the transition to mostly original material after Series 4.
  • 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.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Seasons 8 through 12 had them in small doses, and seasons 13 through 16 had them in every episode.
    • "Cranky the Crane was quick to criticize," in "Horrid Lorry".
    • A particularly cringe-inducing example is present in "Percy's New Friends": "Cranky cranked crankily."
    • "Snow is silly soft stuff! They won't bother me!"
    • Gordon, James and Henry's old Catchphrase: "Disgraceful! Disgusting! Despicable!"
  • 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.
    • An odd early example: "Trust Thomas" had a similar story to "Trucks" from The Little Old Engine, but using characters who were already in the TV series. In each, Gordon convinces one engine to fake illness to avoid work, and another engine has an accident as a result. The following season included a more faithful adaptation of "Trucks", making it seem like Gordon hadn't learned his lesson.
  • 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. However, in Season 18, there are now male coaches, subverting the latter.
  • Always Someone Better: Stanley in Thomas & The Great Discovery. Also Spencer and City of Truro for Gordon.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Not wildlife per se, but the most vibrant colour you would have seen on a British railway in the franchise's time period would have been apple green or garter blue. Here? Just about every colour in the spectrum has been painted on an engine.
  • 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). "Bullseye" is the worst offender, coming between "Daisy" and "Percy's Predicament" in the novels. The latter two stories aired in season 2, while Bullseye aired in season 4.
    • Made even more egregious when the show came to America, both on Shining Time Station and the VHS releases. Everything is straightforward until "The Flying Kipper", after which there's a mix of episodes from Series 1 and 2 (and eventually 3). Series 4 onward were similar, though it became less common to mix episodes from different series.
  • Anachronism Stew: The current series, as of Misty Island Rescue, is set in The '60s (since steam engines are the most common engines used, and steam was popular back then), 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 who shouldn't be worth your time, 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.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Duke warns Stuart and Falcon with the story of a misbehaving engine that was turned into a generator, immobilizing him forever. It gets even more horrifying when the Fridge Logic sets in as he was presumably buried alive along with the rest of the old railway, trapped underneath several feet of dirt and unable to call for help.
    • Duke himself was abandoned in his shed, which was covered over by nature and buried for many years, until he was unearthed in "Sleeping Beauty".
    • "The Sad Story of Henry" ends with Henry left to rot in the tunnel for "always and always and always". The narrator even mentions how Henry has no steam left to answer with.
    • In the special Misty Island Rescue, Thomas and the three Logging Locos get trapped in an underwater tunnel (Bash, Dash and Ferdinand running out of fuel) with nobody knowing where they are.
  • Animation Bump: The characters' facial expressions have gotten much more fluid and exaggerated as the series progressed. The animation is also noticeably faster since Big World! Big Adventures!.
  • Another Dimension: The Island of Sodor in Thomas and the Magic Railroad. Also doubles as a Magical Land. This is particularly odd as in the books and TV series Sodor was simply a small island between the Isle of Man and the British Mainland. 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 locomotives.
    • By extension, this was implied to also be the case with the Shining Time Station series, meaning the movie took cues from this as an attempt to cement the relationship between Shining Time and Thomas And Friends.
  • 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 Hatt always, always yells at them for causing "confusion and delay."
    Sir Topham Hatt: "Hiro, you have caused confusion and delay...and terrible trouble to my trousers!"
  • Art Evolution: The twelfth season incorporated CGI elements while still using models. Season 13 onward switches to entirelly CGI.
    • After switching to Arc Productions from the seventeenth season on, the colors are more dull but the animation is much smoother, complete with new camera angles, very clever scene transitions, and a wider range of facial expressions.
    • Starting in Season 23, the engines became much more detailed, with such things as rivets, handrails, and various other realistic little things that had been missing from the Nitrogen and Arc models.
  • Artistic License – Engineering:
    • Locomotives of different gauges are scaled up or down to run on Sodor's two gauges. This is taken to an extreme in The Great Race, with engines from all around the world running on the same gauge for an Olympics-style competition. Additionally, many American engines can run on Sodor's rails just fine, despite Sodor being a British railway while American engines are far taller and heavier than British engines.
    • In the Trouble On The Tracks PC game, Harold's pilot uses Harold's radio to call The Fat Controller's telephone. In reality, the two devices would not be able to interact.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Thomas' LBSCR livery in the special The Adventure Begins. In real life, the LBSCR livery for tank engines was brown with yellow lettering and lining. In the Thomas universe the livery appears to be teal with white lining, matching the colors of the original Thomas toy Wilbert made for his son. He also carries the number 70 (referencing the franchise's 70th anniversery), while the E2 class locomotives were numbered between 100-110.
    • The Flying Scotsman's appearance from The Great Race onwards has two tenders, smoke deflectors, a double chimney, and his number painted on his side, and he is painted in LNER green. While the real Flying Scotsman has had these features, it never had them all at the same time.
  • Art Shift: Hiro, Stephen and Gator's flashbacks in each of their debut specials. Also, the CGI specials invoke this trope in their intros.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Some recurring engines, like Diesel, only appeared in a handful of stories from The Railway Series, but were given bigger roles in the show.
    • Several minor and one-shot characters, such as Paxton and Charlie, have had their roles greatly expanded upon since Andrew Brenner took over as head writer.
  • 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. In the foreword for "Stepney the Bluebell Engine", though, Awdry sets the record straight regarding Percy's opinions that BR officials are cruel and take sadistic pleasure in scrapping steam locomotives, stating that they are not, and that they willingly assist in the preservation movement.
    • 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 "Bad Acting": In Who's Geoffrey?, Thomas puts on a falsetto voice, pretending he's another engine. The Fat Controller is convinced, however.
  • 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.
  • Bee Afraid: (James Goes) Buzz Buzz.
  • Berserk Button: Just a few examples:
    • Never remind James about his incident with the bootlace.
      • Same goes for the tar wagon incident.
    • 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.
    • Don't call The Fat Controller "boss".
    • Never take Edward's helpfulness and generosity for granted.
    • Don't threaten Douglas in Donald's presence (or the other way round for that matter).
  • Big Brother Instinct: Thomas developed a huge case of this as the show drifted into its 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. And when Douglas was stuck in the snow, Donald's immediate reaction is to go and look for him despite having a feud earlier that day. Douglas has been proven to have some of this rub off on him as Duck barely has time to mention Donald's accident in one episode and he goes to rescue him without any second thought, again, despite a feud they had.
  • 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 second half of Series 3 uses a different set for the interior of Tidmouth Sheds with at least nine berths. The exterior set only had six berths until the sheds were rebuilt in Calling All Engines.
    • The titular box in "Henry's Magic Box" can somehow fit more than a dozen Christmas trees despite its small size.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: The much advertised trio of James (big), Thomas (thin) and Percy (short).
    • Alternatively, there is the original big engine trio of Henry (thin), Gordon (big) and James (short).
    • The three female main cast members as of the “Big World! Big Adventures!” Series also fit this - Emily (thin), Nia (short) and Rebecca (big).
      • This was even pulled in the books, with the Fat Controller running the standard railway, the Thin Controller running the narrow-gauge railway, and the Small Controller running the small railway. Subverted in that the Small Controller is actually taller than either of the other two.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor:
  • Bittersweet Ending: About few episodes have these such as "Down the Mine", "Percy's Predicament", and "Percy, James, and the Fruitful Day".
  • 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).
  • Blue Is Heroic: A number of protagonist engines are painted blue which includes Thomas, Edward, and Gordon.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: The Fat Controller borrows Gordon's "Oh, the indignity!" in "Buckled Tracks and Bumpy Trucks".
  • Bowdlerise: This happens in the US narrations/dubs.
    • The Fat Controller is instead referred to by his Sunday name "Sir Topham Hatt".
    • For a similar reason, Thomas berates Henry for being lazy instead of fat in the US version of "Thomas and the Guard" which was retitled "Thomas and the Conductor".
    • The UK narrations of the earlier episodes were replaced with more lenient versions for the US. One example includes "The Sad Story of Henry" which was retitled "Come Out, Henry!". In that episode, 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", and 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".
  • 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 prominent 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.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • In "Diesel's Ghostly Christmas", Paxton soliloquys saying that he must be good at pretending after Diesel says there's no such thing as ghosts.
    • Percy says "And then there was trouble!" to the audience in "Reds Vs. Blues".
    • Just like in the story it was adapted from, "Tit for Tat" ends on Bert telling the other engines that The Thin Clergyman is going to write about him in a book. He also states that he's going to show him off "in moving pictures on the television". Lampshaded by the narrator.
  • 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.
    • Hugo, a rail zeppelin, is so fast and modern that the other engines think he can replace them. However, he sees himself as too flawed to replace them, since he can't pull trucks or coaches and people think his propeller is too dangerous. Seeing an actual, flying zeppelin even convinces him he doesn't belong on the rails.
  • 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".
    • In the Mr. Perkins segment "Mr. Perkins Tidies Up", he mentions that there's a paper about taking care of big blue parrots, a reference to the second Mr. Perkins segment, "Mr. Perkins and the Parrot".
    • 'Emily Saves The World' is chock-full of these. A brilliant one courtesy of Gordon goes all the way back to Season 4 and the Railway Series when he describes the time he had the Queen on the express.
  • The Cameo:
    • Famous locomotives City of Truro and Flying Scotsman.
    • It wasn't uncommon to see characters from TUGS in the background in some of the classic series episodes (Robert Cardona worked on both shows after all). Though they are either facing away from the camera, or their faces are covered up entirely.
      • Big Mickey can often be seen in Brendam Docks, even in the CGI era. He became a fully fledged character in Season 21 though.
  • 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.
  • Can Only Move the Eyes: Only the engines' eyes move as part of their models. When the show switched to CGI, unlike other Sentient Vehicles, the engines can only move their eyes and talk.
  • 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 bananas are no good for building sheds!"
  • Cast Herd: The Standard Gauge, Narrow Gauge, roadway, trucks and carriages, and then everyone else.
  • Catchphrase: Plenty of them.
    • The Fat Controller's "Really Useful Engine(s)" and "Confusion and delay".
    • Thomas often says "Cinders and ashes!" and "Bother(ations)!"
    • "Bust my boiler/buffers!" is usually said by a few engines, but Thomas says it the most.
    • Some engines, particularly Gordon, usually say "Hurry, hurry, hurry!".
    • For the Narration, "Then there was trouble", "He/She/They was/were very cross/pleased", "Luckily, no one was hurt", "An idea flew into his/her funnel" and "But it was too late".
    • The coaches used to say "Trickity Trok, trickity trok!"
    • The troublesome trucks' "Clankity clank, hold back!" and "On, on, on!".
    • Ferdinand's "That's right!"
    • Gordon has any phrase involving the word "Indignant!", but his official catchphrase is "O, the indignity!". Also, "Express coming through!"
    • In the earlier series, Gordon, James, and Henry say the respective words, "Disgraceful! disgusting! And despicable!"
    • Duck's "Beg pardon, sir...". Also, "There are two ways of doing things, the Great Western Way or the wrong way!"
    • Skarloey once said "I'm ashamed of you!"
    • Fergus' "Do it right".
    • Duke: "Impudent scallywags" and "That would never suit his grace."
    • George: "Railways are no good! Turn 'em into roads!"
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: Many episode titles follow this format, especially in the form of "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.
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out:
    • In the ending of "Troublesome Trucks", James thinks that The Fat Controller will be sure to be angry with him again much like in the previous episode where James breaks a coach's break pipe. Thankfully, The Fat Controller commends him for making the trucks behave and allows him to keep his red paint.
    • In the end of Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, Thomas thinks that The Fat Controller will scold him yet again due to the previous events in the movie that served to anger him. Instead, the Fat Controller applauds him for trying to save the treasure, assuring Thomas that his engines are more important and Thomas made up for his previous actions with his heroism in trying to stop Sailor John.
  • Christmas Episode: The series has had several winter and Christmas-themed episodes each season. However, one episode, "Thomas and Percy's Christmas Adventure" was changed into a Thanksgiving episode, as the Shining Time Station episode it premiered on was Thanksgiving-themed. A controversial change in the Christmas episodes from Seasons 8-16 were always referred to as the 'Winter Holidays' rather than the 'Christmas Holidays', despite Christmas trees and presents appearing in the episodes. The Christmas term would be reinstated in Season 17, due to a request from Rev. W. Awdry’s late daughter Hilary Fortnam.
  • Cold Open: Since Season 22, every episode is preceded by an introduction by Thomas introducing the episode as a flashback.
  • 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.
  • Composite Character: Written example. During Brenner's run, the series does its best to mix the feel of the HIT seasons with the feel of the Mitton era. These stories even include references to the Railway Series books by the Awdry family while maintaining continuity with the Miller seasons for the large part. A lot of the characters are also compromises of the personalities they gained in both eras.
  • Compressed Adaptation: A number of episodes based from The Railway Series books are this. An example includes the episode "James and the Coaches" which were merged from the two stories "James and the Top-Hat" and "James and the Bootlace". Also, "Whistles and Sneezes" were based from the two books "Gordon's Whistle" and "Henry's Sneeze" while "Percy's Trousers" was to take place between the two stories, but was adapted in season 3.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: Has quite a few of these:
    • Perhaps the earliest was the second season's Christmas Episode, "Thomas and the Missing Christmas Tree", where every character introduced at the time (except for Daisy) appeared.
    • The Great Discovery features appearances and cameos from multiple characters, some of whom who haven't appeared for several seasons, from the Skarloey Engines to Jack and the Pack (both of whom actually play a pretty significant role in the film) to Jeremy the Jet Plane to Bill and Ben to Madge to Terence the Tractor, to name just a few.
    • In the song "Will You, Won't You" from The Great Race, most of the engines who are currently in the show get a singing role.
  • 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. As a result of this change, previous mainstays of the series were removed, particularly the drivers and the rest of Sodor's human cast, as well most of the engines (Only 6 appeared in the film). Not only that, but plot points that had been resolved in the previous seasons were all forgotten about (With the biggest one being Henry needing Special Coal, for entirely different reasons in the movie). This has pushed Magic Railroad toward both Fanon Discontinuity and Canon Discontinuity as a result, with only one character introduced in the movie (Diesel 10), actually making consistent appearances in the actual show.
    • Sometime between "Percy and the Signal" and the CGI series, they went back to using lower-quadrant signals for no reason. (See Continuity Nod above.) One CGI-era episode had Toby being confused by signals at a busy junction and they were all lower-quadrant.
    • Season 21's "The Fastest Red Engine on Sodor" has James find out about Rosie's new red livery for the first time, and also has him crash into Tidmouth Sheds. And because of the damage he caused, in the following episode, "A Shed for Edward", Edward has to stay in other sheds, until he chooses to move to a shed at Wellsworth permanently. However, Journey Beyond Sodor has James meet Rosie in her new livery again, yet Edward is once again staying at Tidmouth Sheds without explanation.
  • Cool Train
  • Creator Cameo: The Reverend Awdry made cameos in the Railway Series and in Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, where he was known as, in the Railway Series at least, as the Thin Clergyman.
    • Britt Allcroft, the person responsible for creating the TV series, voices Lady in Thomas and the Magic Railroad.
    • Season 22, the start of the Big World! Big Adventures! Series, has another one. Tim Bain, the writer for the Australia-themed episodes of the new series and several YouTube shorts, voices Aiden, one of the Australian twin coaches.
    • Another one in Season 22, with repurposed “mobile classroom” coach Dexter being voiced by Mark Moraghan, who previously narrated for Seasons 17-21.
  • Cultural Translation: The American narration/dub of replaces British railroad terminology with its American counterparts: "trucks" become "freight cars", "guards" become "conductors", etc. Some other relatively minor changes are also made to better fit American culture, such as the Fat Controller almost invariably being referred to by his actual name, "Sir Topham Hatt", due to the more Bowdlerise negative connotation the word "fat" has in the states. See Bowdlerise for more examples.
  • 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 so on the Other 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.
      • And Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure manages to top it, as it involves an Expy of the cut PT Boomer known as Sailor John as the main antagonist, a thief who tries to steal the titular lost treasure via explosives, which were used as a marketing point for the special, culminating in what can be considered an actual fight scene in the climax where Sailor John actually tries to blow Thomas up with dynamite!
  • Dark Is Not Evil: A number of diesels.
  • Deadpan Snarker: It's almost like Andrew Brenner and his team are trying to make everyone act like this from time to time these days. Reg is outright stated to be this. Sodor may even be a World of Snark!
  • 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. As of Season 22, Edward, Henry and Toby have been demoted from the main cast entirely, in order to make way for two new female main characters, Nia and Rebecca.
  • Denser and Wackier: Zig-Zagged. While the newer seasons have brought back railway realism, the episodes are much more humourous. The series becomes even more wackier in Season 22, titled Big World! Big Adventures!, with a notable focus on fantasy sequences, cultural traditions (in this case China, India and Australia) and wild animals.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "That tricky Thomas and his tricks!"
  • Depending on the Writer: Sometimes the trains can apparently drive themselves, sometimes they need drivers to start and stop moving, and sometimes it's implied to be both. There's not really a clear answer as to which it's supposed to be.
  • Determinators: Several.
    • James in "Troublesome Trucks".
    • Edward in "Old Iron" and "Edward's Exploit".
    • Percy in "Percy's Promise".
    • Rheneas in "Gallant Old Engine".
    • Toby in "You Can Do It, Toby!"
    • 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, complete with a happy ending with Oliver happily returning from the works.
    • 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!").
    • Reconstructed with "A Scarf For Percy", which maintains the whole story of "Percy and the Trousers" but adds a extra final scene where Percy is cleaned off and makes amends with Henry.
  • 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 also caused violent accidents for engines simply because they didn't like their tone towards them (i.e., Percy in "Percy's Predicament").
  • 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.
    • Season 22 also gets another one - Thomas and his new Chinese female counterpart Hong-Mei. Both are blue tank engines with similar size proportions, have the number one on them (Hong-Mei's being Chinese characters for the word "one", in a case of Bilingual Bonus), and they both have their own pairs of coaches, Annie & Clarabel for Thomas, and An-An & Yin-Long for Hong-Mei.
  • 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"). Also 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.
    • One of the main arcs of Tale of the Brave is Percy finding a new best friend in Gator while steadily growing apart from Thomas. The montage in the special that's set to "Our Tale of the Brave" really doesn't help. And if that's not enough there's also the entire plot of the Season 18 episode "Missing Gator".
    • Season 22’s episode “Trusty Trunky” depicts elephants shunting trains on the Indian Railway. This was also the case on Indian railways in real life.
  • 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.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Bradford the brakevan is a kid-friendly version. When he rants at the trucks, military-style drumming can be heard in the background.
  • 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.
    • Hank and Sam are more straightforward Type 1 examples.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Season 1:
    • Annie, Clarabel, Percy, and Toby are only introduced later on.
    • There are no diesels.
    • Many of the crashes aren't as intense as you've likely come to expect from this show.
    • The phrase "really useful engine" is hardly ever said.
    • The harbour only appears in one scene in one episode.
    • Henry spends the first part of the season in his old shape.
  • 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.
  • Economy Cast: During the first twelve seasons, the entire cast plus the narrator was voiced by the same person, which changed for the UK and US version. From Season 13 onwards, the main cast is played by a handful of people. This is even more apparent in the UK dub, as half of the Steam Team, (prior to Season 19), plus the Fat Controller, is voiced by Keith Wickham. In later seasons, however, new characters have unique voice actors. For example, Marion, Samson, Gator, Skiff, Ryan, Sailor John, Luke, Connor, Caitlin, Millie and Nia have completely unique voice actors. In Season 22, the narrator is removed entirely, and is replaced by Thomas doing a Breaking the Fourth Wall narration style.
  • 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.
  • Engines and Diesels and Humans... Oh My!
  • 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.
  • Episode Title Card: Each episode has these. Starting from Season 9 the narrator says the episode's name.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Fat Controller and The Thin Controller. Subverted in the American dub, where they are simply known as "Sir Topham Hatt" and "Mr. Percival", respectively.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: Used a lot since the show went CGI.
    • Toned down in the Brenner era.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: In "Disappearing Diesels", Diesel is stunned into silence when Paxton freely offers to help him even after being pranked.
  • 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.
    • The new Slip Coaches in Season 18 may count as expies of Duck's Railway Series autocoaches Alice and Mirabel, as both have similar GWR origins and act as Duck's official coaches in the series.
  • Extra-Long Episode: From 1984 to 2003, episodes were four and a half minutes long. After the series Replaced the Theme Tune in 2004, the episodes were extended to being seven minutes long. Since 2009, after the series' transition to using C Gi, as opposed to the live-action scale models of the previous seasons, the episodes are now eight and three-quarter minutes long. Starting in 2018 series Big World! Big Adventures! the episodes return to the seven minute runtime, at the cost of the stories now being shorter in order to accommodate learning segments and musical numbers at the end.
  • 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.
  • Fake–Real Turn: Implied at the end of "Flatbeds of Fear".
  • 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" and "Love Me Tender".
  • 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".
    • Gordon also initially acts completely mean towards Nia and Rebecca, due to them taking Edward and Henry’s places in the main group.
  • 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, spoiled narcissist, Henry went from a cynical but kind Gentle Giant into a cowardly Hypochondriac, 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, Henry has slowly become less of a coward, 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 Bouncing Ball: The sing-alongs at the end of almost every VHS, as well as the engine roll-call at the end of every episode since season 8, have a white puff of smoke bounce along the lyrics. Some of the specials also inject a sing-along sometimes, though lately this has been moved to DVD Bonus Content.
  • 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.
    • The new faster-paced format in Big World! Big Adventures! is an attempt to copy other modern preschool shows, namely PAW Patrol which had dethroned Thomas as the most popular children’s brand in recent years. Some fans are worried this direction is clear desperation and may plunge the series into another Dork Age.
  • Foreshadowing: In The Adventure Begins, Annie and Clarabel explain to Thomas that the Breakdown Train is only taken out in emergencies, like lifting carriages back onto the line. Just then, James comes in, and Thomas can smell his wooden brakes burning.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The original tender engines: James is Sanguine, Gordon is Choleric, Henry is Melancholic, and Edward is Phlegmatic.
  • Framing Device:
    • "Grandpuff" and "Sleeping Beauty" are portrayed as Thomas telling a story to the other engines at Tidmoth sheds (both episodes were adapted from actual Railway Series stories in case you were wondering).
    • Since Season 22, the episodes are told in flashback by Thomas, who presents the story and explains its moral in Book-Ends.
  • 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 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'!
    • One episode, "Tender Engines" goes even further. When Gordon complains of being unhappy and Duck jokingly suggests it's boilerache (stomachache) Henry quips that Gordon could use a washout to clear his boiler of sludge. Henry's cheeky tone, plus Gordon's chastising response to Henry to not be vulgar seems to indicate Henry was suggesting Gordon get the locomotive equivalent of an enema.
    • From the same episode, Henry pulls several tenders full of boiler sludge. The human equivalent of boiler sludge is excrement.
    • In "Donald's Duck", Duck tells Donald to "quack himself".
    • In "Fiery Flynn", after Flynn soaks Sir Topham Hatt, Den says "Fiery Flynn fudges it!", "fudge" being a family-friendly version of a certain F-word....
    • In "No More Mr. Nice Engine", white stuff splatters all over Sir Topham Hatt, Edward, and Hiro..... thankfully, it's just milk.
  • Getting the Baby to Sleep: In the episode, "Thomas the Babysitter", Thomas has to deal with a baby on his train, who cries every time the train comes to a stop, but calms down and goes to sleep every time the train moves. This initially gives Thomas the idea not to stop at all, but Annie and Clarabel are horrified at this, reminding him that he has to stop at every signal and crossing gate so all of his passengers will be safe. Towards the end of the episode, Thomas talks to Sir Topham Hatt about a request to miss his break to make a journey without stopping, which Sir Topham Hatt finds a wonderful idea. This journey gives both the baby and his mother some much-needed sleep. At the end of the episode, Albert, one of the workmen, congratulates Thomas on looking after his wife and son for him, and decides to name his son "Thomas" in honor of that day.
  • Gilligan Cut: Used hilariously in Tale Of The Brave. When Percy goes missing, Thomas attempts to coax James into helping, and when all else fails, he resorts to the only other way:
    Thomas: James, you're not scared, are you?
    (cut to James immediately opening his eyes and leaving with Thomas)
  • Go to Your Room!: A train variant. The Fat Controller occasionally punishes misbehaving engines by ordering them to stay in their sheds for a couple of days until they learn their lessons. Some examples include in the beginning of "Troublesome Trucks / Foolish Freight Cars" where James had been in the sheds after making a leak on one of his coaches, and in "Trouble in the Shed" when Gordon, Henry, and James were shut up in the sheds for a couple of days for their harassment of Edward and their vehement protests that "tender engines don't shunt".
  • Go-to-Sleep Ending: The first three episodes that focus on Trevor the Traction Engine, "Saved From Scrap", "Thomas and Trevor/A New Friend For Thomas", and "Edward, Trevor, and the Really Useful Party" all end with Trevor falling asleep in his shed after a hard day's work.
  • 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.
  • Grenade Hot Potato: Jack, Alfie, Oliver the excavator and Marion do this with a lit box of dynamite in Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure. Though nobody gets hurt.
  • Happy Ending Override: "Oliver Owns Up" had a Lighter and Softer ending than the source material, with the Oliver learning his lesson and the narrator stating that he never had trouble with trucks again. When they did get around to adapting "Toad Stands By", however, Oliver had to earn respect from the S.C. Ruffey and the rest of the trucks. And even after that, Oliver had some scrapes with the trucks in Series 5.
  • Hat of Authority: The Fat Controller provides the current page image.
  • 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.
  • Hey, That's My Line!: Henry borrows Gordon's catchphrase in "Henry Gets The Express":
    Henry: Express coming through!
    Gordon: But that's my line!
    • Then in "Buckled Tracks and Bumpy Tracks" the Fat Controller borrows Gordon's other catchphrase.
    Fat Controller: Oh the indignity...
    Gordon: That's my line!
  • Hope Spot: The Adventure Begins adds an extra sequence to it's adaptation of "Thomas and the Breakdown Train", where Thomas attempts to couple to James' Runaway Train to help him stop. Anyone who's read the book or watched the original episode knows how things will turn out.
  • 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.
    • In one of the movies, Thomas chases a villain. It doesn't occur to the villain to just get off the railway and go where Thomas wouldn't be able to follow him.
  • Imagine Spot: In the Big World! Big Adventures! series, it is featured as a new gimmick in every episode, often to showcase something toyetic.
  • Immortal Immaturity: The engines can't really age note  and have been active for decades, yet often behave like bickering children.
  • 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.
    • From "The Adventure Begins":
    James: Oh, dear!
    (A deer promptly runs away from him.)
  • Indy Escape:
    • The second half of the episode, "Rusty and the Boulder" involved a boulder being dislodged from a mountain and chasing Rusty, Skarloey, and Rheneas. It finally stopped rolling when it crashed into a station, barely missing Percy.
    • In the episode, "Emily Saves the World", after the giant globe Emily tries to deliver to the Sodor Animal Park falls off her flatbed and starts rolling around Sodor, it chases Thomas, Annie, and Clarabel. They manage to escape it by switching lines.
  • Informed Kindness:
    • In a "A Bad Day for Sir Handel". Peter Sam and Sir Handel arrive to the Skarloey Railway with Sir Handel complaining about leaving the railway they previously worked at and insults Skarloey. Peter Sam rebukes him and tells Skarloey that he's a nice person, he's only a bit homesick. The narration then states that Skarloey felt sorry for Peter Sam.
    • Peter Sam says the same about Duncan in "Home At Last" supposing that he probably does mean well, but is rather rude and careless. While we do see shades of his softer side in the following episode, the current story has Duncan act like a thoroughly arrogant Jerkass.
    • In the episode "Kevin's Cranky Friend", Salty reminds Kevin that despite Cranky's nature, he has a heart of gold, and he was good as his word when Cranky took the blame for causing Kevin to fall off the sea.
  • Inspector Javert: The Constable in Thomas In Trouble.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Two of these were used. Seasons 1 through 7 used a condensed version of a song by Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell simply called "Thomas the Tank Engine", seasons 8 through 10 used an instrumental version of "The Engine Roll Call". Seasons 11 and onwards Subvert this by just using the last verse of said song.
  • 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.
  • Irony: In "Don't Be Silly, Billy", Billy thinks Thomas is being bossy, when really, he is the bossy one.
  • It Belongs in a Museum: The Fat Controller's engines are often told this by other characters due to their age.
    • In "Edward's Exploit" Gordon tells the aging Edward that he should "give up and be preserved before it's too late."
    • In "Horrid Lorry" one of the titular lorries tells Toby that he should be in a museum instead of working at a quarry.
    • In "Toby Feels Left Out", a new museum is opening on the Island of Sodor and the Fat Controller assigns all of the engines (except for Toby) to help with the grand opening. Toby is worried that the Fat Controller intends to put him in the museum but it's later revealed he wanted Toby to pull a special train for the museum goers.
    • In "Heart of Gold", when Toby comes to Ulfstead Castle to fill in for Stephen while the latter is being repaired at the Steamworks, Devious Diesel asks Toby if he's come to be put on display. Some passengers also say that Toby looks like he belongs in a museum when Toby is about to begin the tour of Ulfstead Castle, but they stick up for him at the end of the episode when they learn that Toby stopped a pair of thieves that tried to steal King Godred's crown.
  • 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: A number of engines can 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 a Kid: Big engines like Gordon often look down on the little engines like Thomas and Percy, but they're proven wrong eventually.
  • 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.
      • The locomotives also tend to...bounce a lot more than actual steam locomotives would during collisions and crashes. While most engines have some shock-absorbing qualities in their suspensions to help smooth the ride over rough rails, the degree of movement the Sodor engines make is more indicative of a road vehicle's suspension than a locomotive's.
    • 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. Unfortunately, said railway consultant has been downplayed from Season 22 onwards, due to the demand by Mattel executives to have more unrealism and nonexistent physics in order to compete with other modern preschool shows (specifically PAW Patrol), in a similar vein to Seasons 13-16.
  • 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, "soundly walloped" by their fathers, and forbidden to watch trains for quite some time.
    • 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 outside the realms of fanfiction. 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.
    • In "Thomas Comes to Breakfast", a careless cleaner meddles with Thomas' controls while he's under steam. He gets off scot-free while Thomas is yelled at by The Fat Controller.
    • The signalman and whoever is maintaining the landlines also get off scot-free in "Something in the Air", as The Fat Controller completely and unfairly blames Henry.
    • The Fat Controller also blames Percy for going onto the coal tipper in "Middle Engine", even though 'Arry and Bert, as well as Henry, were the cause (though in Henry's defense, he didn't know Percy was right behind him when the former collected his coal cars which bumped into to the latter, causing Percy to be hoisted on the hopper). Again, this is a popular Fix Fic topic.
    • In "Gordon Takes a Tumble", Gordon is blamed for the mistakes of his driver and the signalman.
    • This is actually a recurring issue, with railwaymen making many of the series' mistakes. Yet The Fat Controller seems to live in his own world where engines have free will, when it's been established many, many times that the engines can't drive themselves (with a few exceptions, such as in Thomas and the Magic Railroad and at many points in the HiT seasons prior to Andrew Brenner taking over).
    • 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"). Either way, it doesn't matter which engine they target as long as they enjoy it.
  • 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.
    • Mattel created Nia and Rebecca with this approach in mind, particularly with Nia’s bright orange African background livery, and Rebecca’s yellow with Speed Stripes race car-like design.
  • Killed Off for Real: The Spiteful Brakevan is the only character in the entire show to die permanently.
    • A few other trucks are shown utterly destroyed in episodes. Also the show kept in S.C. Ruffey's destruction from the novels, but had him repaired rather than scrapped.
    • The nameless engine in Rusty's story in "Duncan Gets Spooked".
  • The Klutz: Kevin the crane, and S22 main cast newbie Rebecca.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: This will always 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.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: Fans of The Railway Series may be taken aback by later episodes, which not only cease adapting stories from the books, but have a much Denser and Wackier narrative (For Seasons 13 through 16 at least), with such elements as painful rhyming, constant alliteration, and seemingly zero knowledge of railway operations, transitioned from model puppetry to CGI animation (with all the cast fully voiced and animated) and have altered several characters in role and personality (or disposed of them altogether in favor of numerous more gimmicky new ones for merchandising purposes, though this practice has since been reversed, with characters who had been Demoted to Extra back during Season 8 making the transition to CGI, and new characters are given much better development, while the gimmicky ones are fleshed out, Paxton, Scruff, and Winston being prime examples).
    • The series also becomes even more unrealistic in Season 22, going under the title Big World! Big Adventures!. The series becomes more fast-paced, along with marking the first radical changes to the main cast since Season 8 with Edward, Henry and Toby getting written out for new female members Nia and Rebecca, as well the series returning to focus on new gimmicks for merchandise (much like Seasons 8-16) in the form of fantasy sequences and animals. There are also new characters who are notably racially different, being races such as Latin, Asian, Indian, African and Australian. Some fans have liked it so far, but others are concerned it will be another dark age.
  • Laughing at Your Own Jokes:
    Diesel 10: [singing] Old MacDiesel had a plan/Heh! Heh! Heh! Heh! Heh!/With a pinch pinch here/ And a pinch pinch there/ Here a pinch/ There a pinch [laughs] I crack myself up.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Averted starting from Season 22, where at the end of each episode, Thomas speaks to the audience and gives a summary of what happened in the episode, even though the audience already has already seen the events in question, and Thomas' summary adds no new information.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Double Teething Troubles featured a BR Class 17 "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."
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, Duck remarks that it felt like years since he had last seen Donald and Douglas.
  • 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.
  • Leitmotif: Each character had their own theme in the earlier series.
  • 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). Season 22 reverts back to the Season 8-16 format to an extent, throwing out the realism again, coupled with the engines’ new non-static body movement.
  • Lightning Bruiser: These are trains after all.
  • 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.
  • Long Runner: The television series has been running since 1984. The Railway Series, meanwhile, originally ran from 1945 to 2011.''
    • By contrast, Shining Time Station only ran from 1989 to 1993 (although it went into reruns until 1998).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Luminescent Blush: The engines get these whenever embarrassed or tired.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Children singing about railway accidents in a cheery voice, accompanied with a montage of the characters getting into violent crashes.

     M - Z 
  • MacGuffin: The special specials from Seasons 13 to 16.
    • It is implied both in the Magic Railway movie and throughout the series that Sodor Coal is this to the engines of the island, giving them the ability to be sentient.
  • Made of Iron: Most engine crews don't suffer too many injuries after crashes, with the exception of "A Better View for Gordon", where one of Gordon's crewmen is sporting a cast on his arm after Gordon crashes through a station wall.
  • 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 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. He also appeared alongside many other characters, such as Bob the Builder, Postman Pat, Fireman Sam, Pingu and Paddington Bear, in Peter Kay's Animated All Star Band for Children in Need in 2009. Ringo Starr even reprised his role as Thomas!
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Rename: Stuart and Falcon, having been purchased by the Skarloey Railway, are renamed Peter Sam and Sir Handel (after the line's controller and owner) respectively.
  • 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...
  • The Migration: Many steam engines, and later, non-standard diesel engines heard stories of Sodor. How the railway kept it autonomy from the rest of the mainline. How great its controller is, who will never send away an engine who works hard. Oliver is one such example threatened with scrap, but whose story ended happily. Many others, sadly didn't make it.
  • 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, and a few direct-to-video.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Almost every engine, particularly in later seasons, is hard working and efficient, 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.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In the "Mr. Perkins' Storytime" segment containing "Thomas & Gordon", Mr. Perkins states that it was the first story about Thomas that he had ever heard, referencing the fact that it's the very first episode of the series (although the episode itself is Out of Order in terms of when the story appears in The Railway Series).
    • The US-only "10 Years of Thomas & Friends" VHS and DVD transitions between the live-action segments and Story Stops using Mr. Conductor's whistle, and a fade to and from white, referencing America's first exposure to the show.
    • PBS airings of HiT era episodes have the "Thomas the Tank Engine" Railway Series book at the start of each episode, though the design of the cover is completely different. The book also opens up, and shows the same letter that Awdry wrote to Christopher, also in that book.
    • The Adventure Begins has Reginald Payne's original Railway Series illustrations accompanying the credits.
    • The opening of Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure pays homage to the show's original opening.
    • A promotional image for "Thomas & the Magic Railroad" can be seen hanging on a wall in "Flour Power" as a poster, though the title itself is cropped out.
  • Musical World Hypothesis: The music videos have the feel of All In Their Head, describing what the engines are doing.
    • The Great Race (The first musical film in the franchise) uses the Alternate Universe type. "Streamlining" also has a pitch of All In Their Head (Thomas was only imagining himself streamlined), while "Will You Won't You" is slightly Adaption.
    • Rex, Mike and Bert get their own Pep-Talk Song "Never Overlook a Little Engine" in Sodor's Legend Of The Lost Treasure, though this could be classified with them singing as they work.
    • Mavis leads everyone else at the docks in a sing-along near the end of "Thomas the Quarry Engine", making it seem Diegetic. Same goes for Salty leading everyone in a sing-along at the end of "A Cranky Christmas".
  • Must Make Amends: Constantly happens in the newer series before Season 17. After an engine makes three mistakes in their given job due to their Fatal Flaw or is just being plain incompetent, and after The Fat Controller calls them out for causing "confusion and delay", the engine will begin making things right with absolutely no problem at all. The engine does their job on time and The Fat Controller praises them by calling them "really useful engines".
  • Narrator: Used to make the episode feel like a story read to someone at home. Season 13 has the introduction of voice actors, though narration is still used. In Season 17, narration happens less frequently, most often in specials. In Season 22, the narration is removed entirely, and is replaced by Thomas telling the episode from his perspective, in an attempt to make the series more interactive towards younger children.
  • 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.
    • One of the earliest stories was "Edward and Gordon" where the latter gets stuck pulling heavy trucks on a steep hill and the former helps him up. Ever since then, the hill has been known by most characters as "Gordon's Hill". Other engines would later have trouble on the same hill but since Gordon was the first, it's officially named after him.
  • 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.
    • A major cause of the conflict in Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure stems from Thomas' putting the blame on others for his mistakes. He learns his lesson though.
    • Gordon suffers this in "Henry Gets the Express", blaming Henry for the episode's events (Gordon refused to have his firebox cleaned out, resulting in him being late, which then results in Henry taking the express). Gordon has this again in "Henry in the Dark", ableit more justified in this episode.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted in "Toad and the Whale". The rescuers plan to have Butch haul the beached whale to the water. Harold points out that the tide is too far out, and one of the workmen tells Butch that the whale "won't survive" being pulled all that way.
  • New Season, New Name: The series was originally called "Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends". Season 7 dropped the "The Tank Engine" part of the title, making it simply "Thomas & Friends". Season 22 onwards has the show titled as “Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures!”.
  • 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 Girl: Most of the female engines, such as Mavis, Rosie, Molly, Caitlin, and the three female members of the main cast, Emily, Nia and Rebecca.
  • 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.
    • Happens in "Don't Be Silly Billy". New engine Billy is too excited to listen and mistakes Thomas' wise advice for being bossy, much to Thomas' anger and shock. After failing to get Billy to listen, Thomas gives up and leaves Billy alone...and he runs out of coal and water as a result.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between:
    • Thomas, Percy, and Toby were this in the earlier seasons. Toby is nice and respectful, Thomas is cheeky, arrogant and a bit troublesome, (although he has become nicer and kind-hearted later on the series). Percy mediates between the two where he can be nice, but has moments of being cheeky and troublesome like Thomas.
    • There's also the original Terrible Trio of Gordon, James, and Henry. Henry is nicer and more sympathetic than the other two while James is more vain and arrogant than Gordon, who occasionally shows his soft and humble side more than James does.
    • Before James came along, there was the trio of Edward, Gordon, and Henry from the The Three Railway Engines book as well as the episodes "The Sad Story of Henry" and "Edward, Gordon, and Henry". Edward is nice and friendly, Gordon is pompous and haughty, and Henry is in between due to realizing his mistake in being pompous and stubborn to leave the tunnel.
    • Some later episodes such as King of the Railway make Thomas, James and Percy into this. Thomas is now more altruistic and idealistic, James is the narcissistic Jerk with a Heart of Gold, while Percy is pretty much the same as before. Thomas and Percy sometimes interchange, due to still having shades of earlier cheekier forms.
  • 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's 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 Even Bothering with the Accent: Alec Baldwin in his narration of the U.S. version of Season 6. Unlike Ringo Starr, George Carlin and Michael Angelis, he made no attempt whatsoever to give Donald and Douglas a Scottish accent.
  • Not in My Contract: Gordon, Henry and James often complain about shunting, but particularly hate pulling some of the various good trains. The coaches criticize them for this. All three fail to understand the majority of any railway's revenue comes from freight, not passenger work. As Sir Topham Hatt says in "Trouble in the Shed", "No engine is too important for small jobs".
  • 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...
    • Although this is justified, as apparently this is a reference to how the New York Central and Chesapeake & Ohio were built by Irish immigrants.
  • 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/Bertram/Bert (two Berts actually), 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!
    • Marion used to believe that Oliver the steam engine and Oliver the excavator were the same engine/vehicle.
  • 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 and Toby suffered a number of these from season 6 until Season 17, in which they regained their original persona somewhat. As of Season 18, Edward has almost completely recovered, but Toby hasn't made it quite yet...
  • 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.
  • Overcrank: In "Useful Railway", complete with Slow Nos when Rex and his driver see the bales of wool.
  • 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. Among the most notable books never adapted were "Small Railway Engines" and "Mountain Engines", most likely because it would have been a nightmare to create the Arlesdale Railway engines, and the mountainous landscapes of Culdee Fell. Ensemble Dark Horse Bear was also noticeably left out of the TV series. 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).
    • In recent years, the writers have revisited the source material. 2015 saw the release of The Adventure Begins (a remake of the first few stories), and after the Arlesdale Railway's introduction in Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, three stories from Small Railway Engines aired in 2017.
  • Parental Bonus: While it's downplayed from the books, a lot of episodes have details and expressions that the adult audience can enjoy. The Hit seasons dumbed the show down for a while, though this seems to be returning in full throttle, especially now the show's full animation and acting gives more potential.
  • Pet the Dog: In "Disappearing Diesels", Diesel still can't bring himself to thank Paxton for helping him out, but he does manage to smile at him at the sheds that night.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Thomas and Rosie (prior to her repaint), figuratively and literally. Thomas also has a similar dynamic with Ashima, due to the latter also being pink.
  • 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. Fortunately, though, Duck is not blamed by The Fat Controller, who instead blames the accident on the tail lamp not being properly secured.
  • 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.
  • Recurring Extra: Starting from the Nitrogen era, Stanley and Rosie. They have yet to play any meaningful roles besides appearing as cameos Once per Episode. Rosie has been slowly creeping back into prominent roles after her repaint to red in Season 21.
  • Recycled Title: Several episode titles have been reused over the years, including "Fish" (Series 4 and 8), "Dirty Work" (Series 2 and 11) and "Thomas in Trouble" (Series 1 and 11).
  • 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 Ensues:
    • In "Best Engine Ever", it's shown that Caitlin and Connor are limited in their ability to push other rolling stock, since their American designs lack buffers on their fronts.
    • Similarly, Porter's buffers are very low compared to most NWR rolling stock - and in "Gone Fishing", the buffers of a flatbed truck impact with his bunker while shunting.
  • 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).
  • Record Needle Scratch: Heard in "Diesel and the Ducklings".
  • 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.
    • And again (along with a fair few more of the original Leitmotifs) in The Adventure Begins.
    • As of Season 22, the Engine Roll Call is retired as the main theme (though is still kept at the end of the episode), now being replaced by a version of "Set Friendship In Motion" with altered lyrics, plus this roll call at the beginning:
      James! Percy! Nia! And Gordon! Rebecca! Emily! And Thomas Number One!
  • 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" consisting of Thomas, Edward, Henry, Gordon, James, Percy, Toby and Emily. The episode lengths were increased and became less realistic, and several character personas were completely changed.
    • The series receives another retool in Season 22, under the new title Big World! Big Adventures!. The premise of the show becomes more fast-paced, focused on cultural traditions, fantasy and animal gimmicks. In an attempt to appeal to young girls and minority groups by having more female main characters to be able to identify with, the "Steam Team" undergoes another radical change, with Edward, Henry and Toby being retired from the main cast and relegated to minor roles. The new Steam Team lineup consists of Thomas, Gordon, James, Percy, Emily, and series newcomers Nia and Rebecca.
  • 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.
  • 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. Even more literal due to Jack's colour also being red.
  • 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. This got toned down by Season 17, but has been slowly returning to episode plots in Season 22.
  • 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).
  • Sanity Slippage: Rather unexpectedly for a pre-school show, it actually happens. The Fat Controller becomes more comically unhinged after he gets stranded at sea in "Skiff and the Mermaid", with a Shout-Out to Cast Away to boot.
  • 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.
  • Sentient Vehicle: Basically, the vehicles have grey human faces on their fronts, making them humanlike.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • The older seasons get into this sometimes due to the Anachronic Order of the books. One example includes "Percy's Predicament" where it was stated that Percy has never been to the quarry before which doesn't explain him visiting the quarry in "Percy and Harold".
    • The series get into this quite a lot in the HiT era to. In "Gordon Takes Charge", the episode focuses on Percy learning how to pull passenger trains, although he already knows how to do that in the earlier seasons. The plot vaguely excuses this in that he has pulled only goods for a long while, though he has been shown pulling passenger trains in frequent episodes just prior. Also in "Henry and the Wishing Tree", Henry is inexplicably incompetent at carrying passenger trains this episode, despite being able to do (to the point of taking pride in it over freight) in episodes both before and after.
  • 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.
    • In the Greek dub, Duck (Montague) is a female engine named "Jackie".
  • 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.
  • Shorter Means Smarter: Say what you want about them post-Season 8, but Skarloey and Rheneas appear more experienced and smarter than anyone in the standard gauge cast, bar Edward.
    • Zigzagged with Thomas, Percy, and many other tank engines, who are more childish and cocky, but not without Smart Ball moments over the bigger engines.
  • 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 themselves 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.
  • 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.
    • Thomas attempts to stop James' runaway in The Adventure Begins by coupling up to the back of his train, similar to the climax of Unstoppable.
    • New main cast member Rebecca is a yellow streamlined engine with a blue roof on her body, with a personality of being very happy and seeing the positive side in everything. She’s basically the steam locomotive version of Joy.
    • At the end of "A Cranky Christmas", Cranky admits to dropping the crate full of ice rink supplies. Right after it starts snowing, he asks if they could just let it go.
    • The Season 22 Christmas Episode “Kangaroo Christmas” depicts kangaroos wearing red sweaters.
    • Merlin is two shout-outs in one. The first is his name, which is derivative of his basis, LSWR N15 class which was the "King Arthurs." The second is his misguided belief that he can turn invisible by closing his eyes, which alludes to the real-life purpose of his three funnels: They were meant to redistribute the smoke so that they were less visible to Luftwaffe aircraft during the Second World War.
    • In "First Day On Sodor!", the Pack members imagine what the new machine will look like. They imagine them as a absurd-looking road-paving machine called The Roadinator, who is a reference to Terminator, complete with shades and a German accent.note  He even says "Come with me if you want to pave", mirroring the line "Come with me if you want to live".
  • 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.
  • The Show of the Books: Seasons 1 through 4 and The Adventure Begins are all adaptations of The Railway Series. Everything else is original.
  • Simple-Minded Wisdom: Thomas and Percy frequently supply in this.
  • 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".
  • Sixth Ranger: Percy and Toby in season 1. Duck in season 2. In Season 7, Emily, who joins the main cast in the following season. And in Season 22, Nia and Rebecca join the main cast in order to make a Gender-Equal Ensemble.
  • Skewed Priorities: See Comically Missing the Point
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: The female engines are as much free game to accidents and follies as the male ones.
  • Slice of Life: Arguably, the earlier seasons. Season 17 and onwards invokes this trope a bit more.
  • Slow "NO!": Thomas screams one in "Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure" right as he falls into the cavern. He screams another in "A Cranky Christmas" after his load is launched into the air after screeching to a halt on the icy rails.
  • Theme Naming: So far, every special more than two words long (except Thomas and the Magic Railroad) have "of the" in the title.
  • 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, Rosie, Nia and Rebecca. However, coaches such as Annie and Clarabel were always female.
    • However, two of Duck's slip coaches are male.
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • 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 to others 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.
    • Never think that you can go without your driver or you will crash into a stationmaster's house because a cleaner touched your controls.
  • 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.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: S.C. Ruffey was scrapped in the novels after being dismantled 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. This died down in season 17, but came back in season 19 and onwards. Season 22 onwards also forces him into every episode, due to him replacing the usual narrator.
    • 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 prominent than Thomas himself in The Railway Series books that the initial seasons adapted from.
    • Big World! Big Adventures!-related marketing also focuses heavily on new female main cast members Nia and Rebecca.
  • 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 '60s, 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 appears watching the Sodor engines, with an Evil Laugh and promising ruin and destruction, foreshadowing Day of the Diesels.
  • Stop Helping Me!: In "The Truth About Toby", when Toby is stuck without coal at the scrapyard, Reg the crane decides to lift him off the rails so passing engines will see him. Toby isn't pleased. To make matters worse, instead of getting another engine's help, Toby's cries for Reg to put him down end up fueling rumors that he's being broken up for scrap.
  • 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.
    • A minor arc focusing on the Logging Locos was present in Season 15, while Season 18's arcs focus on the aftermath of Tale of the Brave and the creation of the Earl's new Dinosaur Park.
  • Storybook Opening: The PBS airings of the HiT era start out with one after the "Making Tracks to Great Destinations" clip. However, instead of the inside of the book showing the show itself, it instead shows the letter seen at the beginning of The Railway Series book "Thomas the Tank Engine". The book seen in this segment even reads "Thomas the Tank Engine by The Rev. W. Awdry".
  • The Storyteller: The Narrow Gauge Engines.
  • Surpassed the Teacher: Not fully, but there are times Thomas and Percy show more awareness or capability to a situation than their older mentor friends or the Fat Controller, especially in later episodes.
  • 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."
    • From "Duck and the Slip Coaches", there's Emily not getting a spot in the sheds which could be construed as the Emily replaced Duck debate.
      • Season 22's "What Rebecca Does" has a scene of Duck and Emily together, also likely taking a jab towards the "Emily replaced Duck!" controversy.
    • Season 22's episode "Forever and Ever" also serves as this towards Edward and Henry’s departure from the main cast, with Gordon being upset about it and showing his refusal to accept radical changes. Also doubles as Take That, Audience!.
    • Another Season 22 episode, "Hunt the Truck", has a scene of Edward interacting with Nia, the character who took Edward's place in the main cast. This was likely Mattel taking a jab at "Nia replaced Edward!" detractors.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The steam engines and a number of antagonistic diesels in the later seasons.
  • 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.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: As Henry put it best. All the engines have their differences. So while they may quarrel and argue often, they never talk about each other behind their backs to the trucks.
  • 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.
    • "No Help At All" uses the trope repeatedly as a plot point, and eventually as a Meaningful Echo to the climax.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass:
    • Percy's childlike attitude was exaggerated heavily. Seems to be getting downplayed as of recently however (or at least isn't much worse than the other engines).
    • Thomas himself also qualifies. Most commonly, he becomes more impatient and easily distracted from his duties. Similar to Percy, it became more moderated during the Brenner 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.
    • As of Tale of the Brave and Season 18, James has spiraled so high in terms of jerkass levels that it's actually hard to believe. He also did this in his appearances after "James and the Express".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Transatlantic 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.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: A number of engines were arrogant and rude in the earlier seasons. Though the later Lighter and Softer seasons usually allow them more moments of clarity and have them make amends after their wrongdoings, leaning most of them more into Mr. Vice Guy territory.
  • 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.
  • 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 have their moments of teasing each other 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 Up to 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.'
  • A Way Out of a Cave-In: In "Duncan and the Old Mine", Duncan comes across an Abandoned Mine, and when he goes inside, he bumps into a roof support, causing the roof behind him to collapse and seal him in. For a while, Duncan is trapped inside the mine with no way out, but when he biffs into what appear to be buffers, he hears a squeaking sound, revealing the buffers to be coal trucks. He uses the coal trucks as a battering ram to break through the boards on the other side.
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: Daisy, Mavis (initially), and Emily.
  • 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.
  • Whole Episode Flashback:
    • The whole premise of the special The Adventure Begins, showing what happened upon Thomas' arrival on Sodor. Highlights from the trailer include Thomas in his (albeit incorrect) LBSCR livery and James painted black.
    • Implied with the TV broadcasts of the Series 22 episodes onward, which begin with a prologue of Thomas recalling the episode as a moment from the past.
  • Windmill Scenery: The Post Windmill on Thomas's Branch Line, an especially prominent landmark that features in the title sequence of most of the pre-CGI seasons.
  • 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.
  • Wham Episode: “A Shed For Edward” ends with Edward deciding to stay with Philip at Wellsworth, and the engines at Tidmouth Sheds wondering who will stay in his place. In Season 22's "Forever and Ever", Nia joins the main cast and takes Edward's place.
    • Another one comes in Season 22, in "Forever and Ever". Henry gets transferred to Vicarstown on the opposite side of Sodor (and very far away from Tidmouth), and Gordon gets angry over his oldest friends leaving him, coupled with other radical changes to the railway. In the following episode "Confusion Without Delay", Rebecca joins the main cast and takes Henry's place.
  • World Tour: The premise of Big World! Big Adventures!, which sees Thomas visit China, South America, Africa and North America. In Season 22, he visits China again, as well as Australia and India, and in Season 23, he visits Brazil and Italy.
  • Wrap-Up Song: Starting with Season 8, the show ends with the "Engine Roll Call", a song about the eight members of the Steam Team; Thomas, James, Percy, Gordon, Emily, Henry, Edward, and Toby, in that respective order. In Season 22, as part of the changes made for the Big World! Big Adventures! era, the song is given updated lyrics, with Nia and Rebecca taking Edward and Henry's positions.
  • You Didn't Ask: Duck and Diesel in "Pop Goes The Diesel".
  • You Mean "Xmas": During the sixth and sixteenth seasons, the holiday Christmas was changed to "Winter Holidays" because of political correctness. Unfortunately, this upset Wilbert's late daughter Hilary Fortnam ranted that "Those who now write his stories should not take Christ out of Christmas." This resulted some of the S14-16 episodes in the UK redubbed to "Christmas holidays". This was fixed in both English regions when Brenner took over.


Alternative Title(s): Thomas And Friends


TTTE: Buzz Buzz

A beehive breaks at a station, causing mass panic and trouble for James.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / BeeAfraid

Media sources:

Main / BeeAfraid