Day out with Thomas
Day Out With Thomas is a trade name, licensed by HiT Entertainment, for tourist events that take place on heritage railways and feature one or more engines decorated to look like characters from the children's TV series, Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.
The Nene Valley Railway at Peterborough in England was the first railway in the world to possess a full-scale replica Thomas. This was an industrial tank engine built by Hudswell Clarke that had been nicknamed "Thomas" due to its blue livery and resemblance to the famous tank engine. In 1971 the Rev. W. Awdry made the name official. Later HiT Entertainment tried unsuccessfully to sue the Nene Valley Railway claiming that this loco was breaching their trademark. However as the name was given by the Rev. Awdry it has been allowed to remain. However, this "Thomas" does not come under or cannot be used for any HiT Entertainment "Day Out With Thomas" events.
Since then other tank engines around the world have been dressed up as Thomas. Some railways, most notably the Strasburg Rail Road and Mid Hants Railway, have gone so far as to rebuild locomotives in order to produce a better replica. This has divided preservationists. Those opposed claim that it disfigures historic locomotives and trivialises the preservation movement. Those in favour claim that they draw much-needed visitors and can help to kindle an interest in steam within young children.
Some railways have developed a further source of income in the hire of "Thomas" engines to railways that do not have a suitable engine of their own.
As of 2008, many heritage railways in the UK have withdrawn their "Day Out With Thomas" events due to HiT's revised licensing conditions, which include the requirement for enhanced criminal records (CRB) checks on all the railway's staff and volunteers.
Events by country
In Australia, several railways have hosted Day Out With Thomas events: in New South Wales the Zig Zag Railway, Lithgow, and the NSW Rail Transport Museum, Thirlmere; in Queensland, the Workshop Rail Museum; and in Victoria the Puffing Billy Railway and the Bellarine Railway.
In the Netherlands once a year a public day is held at the Simpelveld railway.
In New Zealand, Mainline Steam's Bagnall tank locomotive has appeared as Thomas on a number of different locations, including at the Britomart Transport Centre in Auckland and has also appeared at the extremely popular biannual "Day out with Thomas the Tank Engine" weekends at the Glenbrook Vintage Railway, south of Auckland.
Many heritage railways have hosted Day Out With Thomas events; some feature just Thomas himself, and others, such as the Watercress Line, Llangollen Railway, and Spa Valley Railway, feature other dressed-up engines. In Scotland, the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway, Caledonian Railway (Brechin) and Strathspey Railway all host Day Out With Thomas events. As a result of the licensing cost and other demands made by HiT, some railways have replaced their Thomas events with similar ones which also feature engines with faces. For example the East Lancashire Railway has created "Jimmy the Jinty".
United States and Canada
In the United States there are seven traveling Thomas engines: one that is a "real" locomotive and six that are dummy engines. All were built or rebuilt by the Strasburg Rail Road. The dummy trains usually consist of a standard diesel locomotive (the Valley Railroad in Connecticut, which formerly used the full-steam powered Thomas, currently uses a steam locomotive/dummy configuration due to lack of adequately-sized diesels) operated as a pusher, with an unpowered Thomas engine at the opposite end. Thomas's whistle is powered by the train's compressed air system. Two are narrow gauge, while the others are standard gauge. While in transit between events, Thomas' face is covered. Both standard and narrow gauge units are transported from location to location via flatbed truck. Thomas appears in full dress at Day Out With Thomas events hosted by railroads in arrangement with HiT Entertainment. Many of the larger railroad museums and tourist railroads across the United States host Day out with Thomas events periodically. The same trains are also used for the three Canadian events (in BC, Alberta and Ontario). The National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin was the first railroad museum in the United States to host a "Day Out With Thomas" event. In December of 1996, a small replica was revealed at this museum.
- R. Jones: Major lines pull out of Thomas. Heritage Railway magazine, Issue 106, Dec. 2007, page 26
- Manchester Evening News -- "Thomas The Tank Engine Derailed"(accessed 2009-09-08)
- Pusher/dummy seen August 4, 2008 at Roaring_Camp_and_Big_Trees_Narrow_Gauge_Railroad, operated on standard gauge tracks to Santa Cruz by Santa Cruz Big Trees and Pacific Ry.
- "US Day out with Thomas events". Retrieved 2008-02-24.
Media related to 'Thomas' events on real railways at Wikimedia Commons