Home Open Account Help 243 users online

Model Railroading > Thomas & Friends Operation

Date: 01/20/23 22:17
Thomas & Friends Operation
Author: Cumberland

Watching PBS's series of Shining Time Station (1989 - 1993) was one of my fondest memories. As a part of each production, the English series of Thomas & Friends was intertwined into each plot. Now, all of its episodes can be found on YT. Average people, in this day in age, are only able to remember the Thomas & Friends venue.

Anyway, here's a question on the Thomas & Friends side of things that I've wondered about for over 30+ years:

Does anyone know how each character (locomotive) was independently operated? It wasn't like there was stuff, like DCC, etc., in the late-1980s to my knowledge.



Date: 01/21/23 11:46
Re: Thomas & Friends Operation
Author: grahamline

My son and I got started with "The Three Railway Engines" in the late '80s when a local children's bookstore offered me a deal on a set of several little Kaye & Ward editions that someone had ordered but never came in to pick up. 

He loved the stories and we would read the tales each night as long as he would stay awake.  The Rev. Awdry was basically producing child-level sermonettes on how to behave and get along with others.  As a railway enthusiast, his technical details were better than you would expect for locomotives that talked and could roll their eyes.  They were sort of a train version of Beatrix Potter's books.

We found the "Shining Time Station" TV series with Didi Conn, Ringo Starr, and later George Carlin and watched them over and over on Beta tapes.
As the boy got older he found his own stories to read but Thomas would come out occasionally.  It seemed to me that the later TV shows were less creative and in more conventional form, with more cliched characters and stock situations, and the flood of merchandise swamped the direction of the original effort.

I had the pleasure around 1989 of meeting and talking with Christopher Awdry at a book signing (well, a table under a portable awning at a preserved railway) and he politely lamented the direction things had taken after the books were sold away from the family's ownership.

To answer the operation question, both US Model Railroader and, I think, British Railway Modeller had articles telling how the original 'live action' TV shows were filmed.  You'll notice a lot of double and triple track.  It appears the individual set-ups for each scene were using straight DC for control.  IIRC, the engines and rolling stock were about the size of LGB narrow gauge models, or larger


Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 01/21/23 11:54 by grahamline.

Date: 01/21/23 18:07
Re: Thomas & Friends Operation
Author: wabash2800

Matthew: I believe it it being animated, the items were moved and filmed, frame by frame if necessary. I thought I read that there were various faces applied to the locos. This was time consuming. I believe, state-side, that was how "Gumby" was filmed.

Victor Baird

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/23/23 20:30 by wabash2800.

Date: 01/21/23 18:20
Re: Thomas & Friends Operation
Author: ts1457

if you do a search on YouTube, you can find stuff on the layout "sets" used for the production.

The locomotives did have interchangeable faces for the various moods, but somewhere in the back of my mind I recall that the moving eyes were controlled by servo's.

Date: 01/22/23 08:44
Re: Thomas & Friends Operation
Author: Jettrainfan

Yep, eyes were controlled by servos via remote control.

Date: 01/22/23 09:35
Re: Thomas & Friends Operation
Author: NSDTK

Most of the old TV show was filmed with G gauge as i understand, Plenty of room for a remote control system 

Date: 01/22/23 13:30
Re: Thomas & Friends Operation
Author: sixaxlecentury

[ Share Thread on Facebook ] [ Search ] [ Start a New Thread ] [ Back to Thread List ] [ <Newer ] [ Older> ] 
Page created in 0.0513 seconds