Thomas the Tank Engine

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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

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

Thomas and his friends are given a voice by a Narrator (at least until the CGI series), with many of the stories being renarrated for North American audiences. These narrators include:


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

North America:

  • George Carlin: 1-4.
  • Alec Baldwin: 5-6.
  • Michael Brandon: 7-16
  • Joseph May as (Thomas): 22-present

In addition - long before the series was televised - some of the stories were narrated by Johnny Morris (a children's television presenter best remembered for narrating and voicing the animals for Animal Magic). The stories were released in the 1960s on 45rpm records under the Delyse label.

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

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

Tropes used in Thomas the Tank Engine include:
  • 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: Thomas becomes a bit stuck-up after he gets his branchline in season 1.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Especially in the later seasons, with Thomas, James and Duncan being the worst offenders.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: These trains have personality issues.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Exclusively Evil: Most of Sodor's freight cars, along with any engine who actually gets along with them.
  • Always Someone Better: Stanley in Thomas & The Great Discovery. Also Spencer and City of Truro for Gordon.
  • Anachronism Stew: The current series is set in modern times, 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:
  • Another Dimension: The Island of Sodor in Thomas and the Magic Railroad. Also doubles as a Magical Land. This is particularily odd as in the books and TV series Sodor was simply a small island directly besides Britain. The books also established that all the engines in the world, not just the Sodor ones, were alive, unlike in the movie where you can see nonsentient locomomtives.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: In Thomas and the Magic Railroad, gold dust and coal from Sodor.
  • Art Shift: Hiro's flashback in Hero Of The Rails, as well as the opening credits.Misty Island Rescue also does it.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: The earlier storlines, like "Saved From Scrap," implied, but did not show, that characters could scrapped when they could no longer work. Later, however, some of the books/episodes, like "Stepney the Bluebell Engine" and "Twin Engines" got absolutely viscious with this concept, after the Reverend decided to do a Take That against BR's Modernization Plan. The way the mass scrapping is portrayed, especially in the books, sometimes goes beyond Fantastic Racism and implies that the characters think of it more like genocide.
    • About half of the very long Nightmare Fuel page for this show is about scrapping.
  • Backstory: Hero of the Rails takes some time off to explain Hiro's past.
  • Bad Dreams: In Calling All Engines, the characters have bad dreams about what might happen to them if no holiday makers came to Sodor anymore.
  • Barset Shire: The whole fictional setting of the Island of Sodor (which is supposed to be between the lake district and the Isle of Man).
  • Bigger Is Better: In "Thomas's Trusty Friends", the forman kept fitting Oliver with bigger wrecking balls to knock a particular wall down.
  • The Blank: Henrietta (Toby's passenger coach) and City of Truro
  • The Boo Radley: "Hector the Horrid".
  • Bowdlerise: In the US version, The Fat Controller was referred to by his Sunday name "Sir Topham Hatt", "The Sad Story of Henry" became "Come Out, Henry", and in that episode the line "so that Henry could never get out" was changed to "so that other engines wouldn't bump into him", and the line "We shall leave you here for always and always and always" was cut.
  • Bottle Episode: "Steamy Sodor" (season 13) and "Victor Says Yes" (season 14), both which take place at the Steamworks.
  • Break the Haughty: Expect this to happen to Gordon or James, and probably any other character trying to be important.
  • 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.
  • The Cameo: Famous locomotives City of Truro and Flying Scotsman, or at least models of them.
  • Captain Obvious: "And banannas are no good for building sheds!"
  • Cast Herd: The Standard Gauge, Narrow Gauge, roadway, trucks and carriages, and then everyone else.
  • Catch Phrase: "Really Useful Engine(s)", "Cinders and ashes!", "Confusion and delay", "Bother(ations)!" "Hurry, hurry, hurry!" The Narrator's "Then there was trouble", "He/She/They was/were very cross/pleased.", "Luckily, no one was hurt" and "An idea flew into his/her funnel". "Bust my boiler/buffers!", "'On, on, on!' yelled the cars," Ferdinand's "That's right!", Gordon has any phrase involving the word "Indignant!"
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: Especially the form "Thomas and the....."
  • Chekhov's Gun: It's pretty obvious from the minute the Breakdown Train shows up that Thomas is going to have some reason to haul it out later in the episode.
    • The Canvas Barrier in the Season 5 episode 'Put Upon Percy'
  • Chekhov's Skill: The Scottish Twins were allowed to stay on Sodor after they demonstrated a particular talent for plowing snow. Later episodes showed them clearing the tracks after snowstorms and rescuing some of the other engines that had gotten trapped by snowdrifts.
  • Christmas Episode: The series has had several winter and Christmas-themed episodes each season. However, one episode, 'Thomas and Percy's Christmas Adventure' was Bowdlerised into a Thanksgiving episode, as the Shining Time Station episode it premiered on was Thanksgiving-themed. A controversial Bowdlerisation in the later winter episodes was that the season would always be referred to as the 'Winter Holidays' rather than the 'Christmas Holidays', despite Christmas trees and presents appearing in the episodes.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: 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. 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 livingroom.
    • A barber is angry that Duck took out half his shop, so to get back, he puts shaving cream on his face.
  • Conspicuous Cel Animation: The bees in (James Goes) Buzz Buzz.
  • Continuity Nod: An early episode has Henry crashing because snow weighed a lower-quadrant signal down to its "clear" position. In the next series Percy is confused when he sees an upper-quadrant signal which points "up" to its "clear" position. In the third series, upper-quadrant signals are seen frequently in the background.
  • Continuity Snarl: In the books and television series, the island of Sodor is off the coast of England. Shining Time Station put it in another dimension. Thomas and the Magic Railroad placed Sodor in another, magical dimension, kept afloat by Lady and her gold dust, even though there was nothing mystical about the series until (or after) that point (pushing Magic Railroad toward Fanon Discontinuity).
  • Cool Train
  • Crap Saccharine World: An altenate inrerpretation.Imagine this- as a locomotive, you live in a world where it's nearly impossible to leave a set line of rails (and for those who do attempt this the results are almost always very, very bad), you deal with the Jerkass trucks every day, the overtaking diesel engines, and absolutely everything is your fault. If you're late? They forget that you're being driven by people and blame you. If you crash? They usually blame you for that too and apparently forget that you're alive and could actually be in pain. All this leads to the fact that you're called "useful." Think about the fact that if you're not "a very useful engine" it means being scrapped, AKA, death. You work for a job where you can be executed for uselessness. Enjoy your day.
  • Cute Shotaro Boy: Thomas and sometimes Percy.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: A number of diesels.
  • 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.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "That tricky Thomas and his tricks!"
  • Development Hell: Thomas & The Magic Railroad was far changed from what it was originally. Even the main villain changed.
  • 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. One episode 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!
  • Distaff Counterpart: Toby and Flora. Flora's debut episode was even entirely focused on her being the "new steam tram".
  • 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.
  • Eagle Land: 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.
  • 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."
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Fat Controller.
  • Everything's Worse with Bees: (James Goes) Buzz Buzz.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Used a lot since the show went CGI.
  • Executive Meddling: Negative examples - see Did Not Do The Research above. Also, Thomas and the Magic Railroad got butchered thanks to Hollywood executives being ignorami.
  • Extreme Omni Goat - usually eating the Fat Controller's hat. Sometimes a goat, sometimes a ram.
  • 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.
  • Flanderization: Many characters have been hit hard with this during the seasonal rot era.
    • Thomas himself (Seasons 12-16) went from a cheeky and fussy, yet optimistic and playful protagonist into a troublesome, irresponsible and unreliable engine who almost never listens to Sir Topham Hatt and frequently causes confusion and delay. Worst of all, when he supposedly learns his lesson at the end of an episode, he completely forgets everything he's learned in the next episode.
    • Edward and Toby (Seasons 9-16) went from being old and wise to being old and wimpy.
    • Gordon (Seasons 8-15) went from being somewhat pompous to being completely full of himself.
    • James (Seasons 9-16) went from being snobbish, but cheerful and hard-working to being a lazy, spoilt narcissist.
    • Percy ("Day of the Diesels" and Seasons 15-16) went from being somewhat naive to making Homer Simpson look intelligent.
  • Follow the Leader: The biggest complaint about the Poorly-Disguised Pilot Jack and the Pack was that it seemed to be a knockoff of the fellow HiT Entertainment show Bob the Builder.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The original tender engines: James is Sanguine, Gordon is Choleric, Henry is Melancholic, and Edward is Phlegmatic.
  • Framing Device: Shining Time Station introduced when the series was shown in America.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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'!
  • Hard Work Montage: Used quite frequently when shunting rolling stock is part of the episode plot.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Thomas and Percy. Gordon and James could count, too. Especially in the earlier seasons.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Linda Ballentyne and Susan Roman respectively voiced Percy and James in Thomas & The Magic Railroad.
    • While the UK and American version of the show didn't start using individual voices alongside the narrator until Hero of the Rails, the Japanese version on the other hand used a narrator and individual Seiyuu for each of the characters since the first season. To name some of the characters, Edward is Artemis, Henry is Vegeta, Gordon is Recoome, James is Ken the Eagle, Percy is Esmerelda, Diesel is Mr Satan, Trevor the Traction Engine is Char Aznable, and Sir Topham Hatt is Master Roshi.
  • 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.
  • Incompetence, Inc.: With all of the crashes and runaways on Sodor, how does the railway stay in business? The logging company on Misty Island, too, which probably makes absolutely no profit since cranes keep throwing logs into the river.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: From Magic Railroad:

Splatter (to Diesel 10): Liar, liar.
Dodge: Pants on fire.
Splatter: Does he wear pants?
Dodge: Well, training pants.
Splatter: Alright.

  • Indy Escape: The Episode Rusty and the Boulder.
  • Inspector Javert: The Constable in Thomas In Trouble.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Percy and Toby, Thomas and Hiro in Hero of The Rails.
  • Jerk Jock: Gordon, James & Henry in season 2.
  • Just in Time: From season 8 onward, this happens all the time.
  • Just Train Wrong: This applies to numerous railway gaffes from season 6 onward, where the writers (no longer working from Awdry's books) seem to know little about the workings of steam engines and railways. Nitrogen Studios seems to have very little knowledge of how steam engines are supposed to work. For example, in real life, cylinders for big tender engines are attached to the engine's main frame. But in the animated series, the cylinders appear to be completely independent from the rest of the body. 'Misty Island Rescue apparently has a railway track built inside a hollow log. What the hell?
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: The 1999 Fox Family series Storytime With Thomas. It would feature two episodes from series 1-5, sandwiched with an episode of Britt Allcroft's other show The Magic Adventures Of Mumfie in between. No VHS or DVDs were ever released of the show, and it was never sold to other networks.
  • Killed Off for Real: The Spiteful Brakevan is the only character in the entire show to die permanently.
  • The Klutz: Kevin the crane.
  • Leitmotif: Each character had their own theme in the earlier series.
  • Last of His Kind: The real life engines that Thomas, Toby and Edward were based on were all scrapped, with none of their numbers surviving to preservation beyond replicas of the characters themselves.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Double Teething Troubles featured a BR "Clayton" diesel which, as in real life, suffered from having insufficient engines crammed into a compact space. While originally named "Paxman" after the contained engines, the producers decided the company might not take so kindly to the reference. He went unnamed in the episode, but the merchandise now calls him "Derek."
  • The Lost Woods: Several: Henry's Forest, the Whistling Woods, and Misty Island could all qualify.
  • Lightning Bruiser: These are trains afterall.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Adding more in each season doesn't help.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: In "Don't Tell Thomas", the engines are planning a surprise party for Thomas, and he grows suspicious. Eventually he gets fed up enough that he runs away, leaving Harold to find him and tell him about the party.
  • Looks Like She Is Enjoying It: In "Pop Goes the Diesel" the trucks made a very... suggestive sound when Diesel forcefully pulls them. Also, rare male and non-human example.
  • Long Runner: The television series has been running since 1984. The Railway Series, meanwhile, is Older Than Television, originally running from 1945 to 2011.
  • 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.
  • Lost Episode: Though 'The Missing Coach' was never finished, the production team took a few still shots corresponding to this story. When these got out on the Internet, for a while some people did think the entire thing had been filmed.
  • MacGuffin: The special specials.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Diesel, and occasionally, Gordon.
  • Meaningful Name: In a very odd example, Gordon. His name was chosen to be meaningful to Christopher Awdry, the late Reverend's son. It was meaningful because the character is bossy, and there was a bossy boy living on the Awdrys' street named Gordon.
  • Medium Blending: The CGI faces in season 12 and the full CGI in Hero Of The Rails. Earlier, the 2D-animated bee that stings James in "Buzz, Buzz."
  • Merchandise-Driven: Arguably; some characters are only in one episode and seem to exist purely for merchandise reasons. The worst case of this is currently Day of the Diesels. Three new characters - Norman, Paxton and Sidney - are introduced and marketed...and none of them have a single line of dialog, only seen creeping around in the background.
  • 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...

  • 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 Caledonian Railway—where 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.
  • The Movie: Two theatrical, three direct to video with another to follow in 2011, to be directed by Shane Acker and written by Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi.
  • Nakama: The main 'Steam Team' considers themselves one.
  • Narrator
  • 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!
  • New Technology Is Evil: The diesels, who are usually portrayed as arrogant, rude, and cruel. There are some exceptions. (Rusty, who is nice, and Daisy who is a Spoiled Brat but can be a Spoiled Sweet if she wanted to.)
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Thomas pulls this off in "The Great Discovery", and because of this, Great Waterton almost doesn't get completed in time.
  • Noble Fugitive: Oliver, Toad and Stepney.
  • No OSHA Compliance: In recent seasons, many of the engines have done things that real railways would consider irresponsible or even illegal.
  • 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 [dead link].
  • Oireland: The Logging Locos in the UK dub have Irish accents. This is extremely strange, considering where their prototypes are from...
  • Older Than They Look: Sort of. According to Word of God, Thomas was built over one hundred years ago, but still acts like a child.
  • Ominous Fog: Used in Misty Island Rescue, when Thomas first arrives on the island. It's seen again when Edward, James, and Gordon get lost.
  • One Mario Limit: The name "Thomas" is forever linked with the series' title character.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted: we have Bertie/Bert/Bertrum, Bill/Billy, two characters named Oliver, and a literal handful of diesels without proper names: Devious Diesel/The Diesel(261)/Diesel 10/D 199/Derek the Diesel. Whew!
  • Only Six Faces: Averted. According to one British newspaper, the engines' facial expressions are actually more expressive than human faces!
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Edward's been suffering a small number of these from season 6 onwards.
  • 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.
  • Playing Against Type: George Carlin, the legendary comedian famous for his profane material played Mr. Conductor in the US version.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: For the proposed Spin-Off, Jack and the Pack.
  • 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.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Why the Logging Locos were sent to Misty Island (apparently they misbehaved on their old mainland railway).
  • Remember the New Guy?: Fearless Freddie randomly appears one day... but it's all okay! He was just hiding off screen, never mentioned, for the entire series until then!
  • Retcon: In addition to Hiro building the railway, Fearless Freddie is now established as the oldest engine on the Skarloey Railway.
  • Retool: From Season 6 onward, arguably.
  • 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, with examples like:
  • 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 [dead link] has an entire database of the real-life anecdotes which inspired the Reverend's stories.
  • Rookie Red Ranger: Jack would have been this in the proposed Jack & The Pack Spin-Off.
  • Rule of Three: From season 8 onward, almost all plots follow this, where a character must make one mistake three times in the row before realizing what they did wrong, and then things get Anvilicious.
  • Santa Claus: Has a minor appearance in the Season 2 finale.
  • Save Both Worlds: Basically the entire plot of Thomas and the Magic Railroad.
  • 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.
  • Scenery Gorn: The Vicarstown Dieselworks, which is filthy, grimy and full of broken machinery, including a broken crane. And then it catches fire.
  • 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.
  • Seasonal Rot: The general consensus is that this first occurred after Season 7 when Britt Alcroft and many other original crew members departed from the series and Hit Entertainment took over.
    • While Season 8 is regarded as when the series began to lose steam, though it has been Vindicated By History to a number of fans.
    • Seasons 9-12 are a low point for the series. The storylines got dumbed down to appeal to a very young audience and became increasingly repetitive and formulaic, such as by having the three strikes formula, where a character makes a mistake three times before realizing their error and setting things right, the narrator started always explaining actions as if the audience couldn't figure it out on their own, the characters getting flanderized a ton, one-off characters started being introduced for the sake of merchandising, and worst of all, it became clear that HiT Entertainment saw the series as nothing more than a marketing machine, and it effectively became a 30-minute toy commercial.
    • Seasons 13-16 are the lowest point of the series and worsened the problems of Seasons 9-12. The writing got much worse and extremely poor ("His firebox was on fire" is a prime example), the three strikes formula got way overused, there were multiple continuity errors and much more.
    • It wasn't until Season 17 when the series finally returned to its former glory thanks to Andrew Brenner taking over as head writer, who knew how the series worked.
    • Sadly, this didn't last as the series went downhill again with the "Big World! Big Adventures!" rebrand from Seasons 22-24.
  • Shallow Parody: Thomas The Chav Engine [dead link]
    • Ernest the Engine Cart from Australian series Comedy Inc..
  • She's a Man In Japan: Rusty was referred to as she in the US narration of season 9, though this had quickly been corrected.
  • Short Cuts Make Long Delays: If an engine even thinks of taking a shortcut somewhere, expect them to get lost, trapped, crashed, or otherwise delayed.
  • Shout-Out: There's no way that the song played in the beginning of Misty Island Rescue wasn't partially inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean theme.
  • Shouldn't You Be Working On Schedule Right Now?: There are multiple episodes where an engine, who should be working at a 'Special Special', is instead seen travelling light-engine around the island with nothing in tow, allowing themsleves to stop at any location they please. One has to wonder if the railway schedules still exist, or can The Fat Controller just order any engine to do something on a whim.
  • Shown Their Work: Rev. Awdry was a railway nut and obsessive about details being right. Many stories in the original books were based on stories from railway workers. He would often fire or insult away book artists who hadn't gotten enough details right. The early TV seasons were based directly on the books, so inherited the accuracy of detail. Plus, while the new episodes are less realistic, the characters are still (mostly) based on real machines, with maybe some proportional changes.
  • 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.
  • Sixth Ranger: Percy and Toby in season 1. Duck in season 2. Emily also fits.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The Railway Series featured just two female engines, Daisy and Mavis, neither of whom were exactly strong characters. The TV series added more female engines in later series, such as Emily, Molly and Rosie. However, coaches such as Annie and Clarabel were always female. Which, given that the coaches couldn't even move without an engine's help, made things worse.
  • Sneeze of Doom: Variant example. In an early story, boys drop stones on Henry and his train. He pays them out on his return trip by "sneezing" ashes from his smokebox on them.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Being steam engines means that the consequences of their actions will be strange and pretty impractical for it to happen to humans. Some examples include:
    • Tell lies, and you might get turned into a chicken coop.
    • Do sloppy work, and you might get turned into a stationary generator
    • Be vain, and you might get bricked inside a tunnel.
    • Don't throw rocks at trains, or they might sneeze at you.
    • It's OK to beat the living crap out of the guy that's bullying you and your brother, as long as it technically happens accidentally.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Steampunk: Being steam locomotives, obviously.
  • Stepford Smiler: Common in episodes where characters ignorantly cause damage to everything and everyone around them.
  • The Stinger: After the credits of Misty Island Rescue, Diesel 10, the Big Bad from Thomas and the Magic Railroad, appears watching the Sodor engines, with an Evil Laugh and promising ruin and destruction.
  • The Storyteller: The Narrow Gauge Engines
  • Tear Off Your Face: This is how one of the Scottish Twins actually kills the Spiteful Brakevan (a bullying caboose) at the end of the episode "Brake Van", by ramming into him face-on, smashing the caboose to bits, and tearing off his face.
  • Terrible Trio: Gordon, James and Henry in season 2. Diesel 10, Splatter and Dodge in 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.
  • 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.
  • Trans-Atlantic Equivalent: PBS' Shining Time Station added a Framing Device with a live action Ensemble Cast to the British footage. The Narrator's actor became a character (Mr. Conductor) who told the stories to the children.
  • 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.
    • Donald and Douglas also used this early in their tenure on Sodor, when Sir Topham Hatt was still trying to decide which one to send home. If one ever seemed to be outperforming the other, they'd switch tenders (the only places their numbers were painted) and do each other's work until their records evened out, so the boss couldn't make a decision.
  • Ultimate Job Security: The railway men are hardly ever punished for their mistakes.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Nobody seems to notice or care that their vehicles are alive and sentient. Many of the engines are good friends with humans and vice versa.
  • Viewers are Morons: HIT's reasons for extensively retooling the show.
  • Violent Caledonian "Spite Douggie, will ye? Take that!"
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Gordon and James are Type 2.
  • 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.
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: Emily and Daisy.
  • What Happened to the Mouse??: Much of Salty's story about Misty Island. He says they use smoke signals there, but aside from Thomas using it as a way to get Percy's attention across the bay, we never see it used on the island. Salty also mentions that an engine was lost there once, but after "puffing three times" we don't know what happened to him, and it's never mentioned again.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Rosie isn't strong enough to pull heavy loads, but is really good for pulling trucks full of balloons.
  • Watching the Sunset: Thomas, Percy, and Duck at the end of 'All at Sea.'
  • You Didn't Ask: Duck and Diesel in "Pop Goes The Diesel".