Thomas and Friends
Thomas & Friends is one of the few children's brands with a heritage in publishing. Based on the Railway Series of books created by the Rev. W. Awdry, the stories tell of a group of talking steam engines with human characteristics.
The most famous of all the engines is a little blue tank engine called Thomas. Thomas is a cheeky, mischievous character, who goes on adventures with his friends and in the end always strives to do the right thing. The engines' adventures take place on a steam railway on the Island of Sodor, under the watchful eye of The Fat Controller.
Thomas and his friends live on Sodor, a fictional island off the British Mainland and near the Isle of Man. Their adventures take place on a steam railway, under the watchful eye of Sir Topham Hatt, who is fondly known by his engines as 'The Fat Controller'.
The series' author, Reverend Wilbert Vere Awdry, had a passion for steam railways and as a child would invent personalities for the engines that passed his house near Box station.
In 1940, Awdry's son Christopher came down with measles. His father entertained him with a story about a sad little engine called Edward. Christopher loved to hear the story of Edward – and eventually Wilbert Awdry wrote it down and illustrated it with simple line drawings. Bedtime stories about Gordon and Henry followed, and Margaret encouraged Wilbert to send them to a publisher.
In May 1945, the first of the classic books – The Three Railway Engines – appeared on bookshelves around the country, and Thomas the Tank Engine followed a year later. From James the Red Engine in 1948, Awdry published a new Railway Series title every year until his last book in 1972.
In 1996 he was awarded an OBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List. Then in 1983 his son, Christopher Awdry, had the first of his own books in the Railway Series published. Fourteen more titles would follow, with the latest volume Thomas and Victoria published in 2007.
During the 1980s, the television and film rights were sold to producer Britt Allcroft, who translated the books' timeless values of friendship, cooperation, problem-solving and adventure to the small screen.
Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends first aired in October 1984 and became an instant hit with a new audience of children and adults alike. Within just a few months, 8.5 million viewers were tuning in to watch the adventures of the little blue tank engine and his friends. The early shows were narrated by Ringo Starr, the ex-drummer of The Beatles and featured many of the Reverend Awdry's original tales, as well as some new ones.
Later to become Thomas & Friends, the series is now broadcast to over 145 countries worldwide and in 38 different languages. Former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan is the latest high-profile star to take on the role of narrator. In the UK, Thomas & Friends is shown in Milkshake on Channel Five and daily on Nick Jr.
Children can also meet the engines online at Thomas' own website, on one of the many 'Days Out with Thomas' events across 30 heritage steam railways in the UK, at the new Thomas Land theme park at Drayton Manor Park and on the live theatrical tour. This activity allows parents and children alike to enjoy a unique experience – ensuring Thomas will remain the world's Number One Engine for many years to come.
Over 200 million Thomas books have been sold worldwide since the publication of the first book in the Rev. W. Awdry's Railway Series in 1945. This is testament to Thomas' enduring popularity among children, collectors and railway enthusiasts.
This includes a phenomenal 10 million sales worldwide of books in Egmont's Thomas Story Library, whose first titles were published in 2003 for a modern audience of young Thomas fans. Each book tells the tale of an individual character and his most famous adventure on the Island of Sodor. The global appeal of the series is demonstrated by its publication from as far afield as Japan, Korea, Australia and Hungary. 2009 will see the publication of the 60th title in the Thomas Story Library, proving Thomas is not only a Really Useful Engine, but with so many friends to meet, a popular one too!
On this website, you will find a Thomas book to suit every person and every pocket, from classic and collectible story books, fun learning, colouring and activity books to truly interactive books with real play value. We hope you will enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed creating them.
© 2008 Gullane (Thomas) Limited. A HIT Entertainment Company.