On the afternoon of the 4th September 1984 a new children’s television series started on ITV, and has gone on to become an icon — Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.

It was actually the second attempt to put Thomas onto the small screen, but an attempt by the BBC back in 1953 was so badly delivered that the Reverend Wilbert Awdry and the book publishers refused to work with them again.

So it was not until 1983 that a group came together to try and turn the books into a TV series again.

The first series was shot in studios based in Battersea, although later production moved to Shepperton.

That first episode, of that first series was finally shown 30 years ago today. Viewers in London very nearly didn’t see it, as a strike by staff at the TV company had ended only the day before. A near miss for railway history.

Thirty years later, the TV show is still in production, although it has changed radically from the original concept.

It’s one of those shows that often introduces young future trainspotters to their art, and it’s reliance on steam trains shows that despite all the modern advances in transport services, we still love the old engines and their puffs of steam.

Even modernist crazy Japan loves Thomas.

In decades to come, children are probably going to still be growing up entertained by talking steam trains and a fat controller.


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  1. Gillian Lawrence says:

    ha ha…. “fat controller”

  2. Tom says:

    Actually it was October 9th that the show started, if you look at the interview with one of the people behind Thomas. He kept a TV Times magazine from the day the show premiered: http://www.sodor-island.net/episodeguide/rgg.html

    The magazine states ‘…this week…’ meaning on that week the show aired and that there was an interview with the first narrator, Ringo Starr, on Good Morning Britain promoting the series with the Rev.W.Awdry. When they’ve interviewed with Ringo alone, the interviewer mentioned that it would’ve been John Lennon’s 44th birthday, which was October 9th. Plus the date of the guide shows Thomas the Tank Engine under ‘new series’.

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