Thomas and the Magic Railroad

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Thomas and the Magic Railroad
Thomas and the magic railroad ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Britt Allcroft
Produced by Britt Allcroft
Phil Fehrle
Written by Britt Allcroft
Based on The Railway Series 
by Rev. W. Awdry
Starring Alec Baldwin
Peter Fonda
Mara Wilson
Michael E. Rodgers
Cody McMains
Didi Conn
Russell Means
Eddie Glen
Neil Crone
Narrated by Alec Baldwin
Music by Hummie Mann
Mike O'Donnell
Junior Campbell
Cinematography Paul Ryan
Edited by Ron Wisman
Gullane Pictures
Isle of Man Film Commission
Distributed by Destination Films (USA)
Icon Film Distribution (UK)
Release date(s)
  • 14 July 2000 (2000-07-14) (United Kingdom)
  • 26 July 2000 (2000-07-26) (United States)
Running time 86 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $19 million
Box office $19,748,009

Thomas and the Magic Railroad is a 2000 British-American adventure fantasy film based on the British TV series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, The Railway Series by the Rev. W. Awdry, and the American TV series Shining Time Station. The film was co-produced by Gullane Entertainment (a wholly owned subsidiary of Mattel) and the Isle of Man Film Commission and distributed by Destination Films (a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment).[1] It was written, produced and directed by Britt Allcroft.

It was first released in the U.K. where critics were unfamiliar with the characters from Shining Time Station and accused the film of "Americanizing" Thomas.[2] Critical reception in the U.S. was somewhat better, but still mostly negative, in stark contrast to the praise given to the original Shining Time Station, which was an award-winning show.[3][4][5] Since the film's release, various specials based on Thomas & Friends have been released, although they are not directly related to this film. This was Mara Wilson's final film appearance.


Sir Topham Hatt, the supervisor of all of the engines on the railway on Sodor, is on holiday leaving Mr. Conductor (played by Alec Baldwin) in charge. Meanwhile, whilst talking at a station, Thomas (voiced by John Bellis/Eddie Glen) & Gordon (voiced by Neil Crone) encounter an evil diesel locomotive named Diesel 10 (voiced by Keith Scott/Neil Crone), who states he has incomplete work on Sodor. He is planning to get rid of steam engines on Sodor once and for all. Mr. Conductor has problems of his own; the mysterious gold dust that allows him to magically teleport from place to place is running low, and therefore cannot travel from Shining Time to Sodor or back again. There is a lost engine that is able to travel between Sodor and Muffle Mountain using the Magic Railroad as she is kept hiding in a safe place.

Burnett Stone (played by Peter Fonda), an elderly man, lives on Muffle Mountain, near Shining Time Station, in which Stacy Jones (played by Didi Conn) was the manager. Unknown to everyone, he is the owner of the lost engine named Lady (voiced by Britt Allcroft). The engine crashed after an earlier encounter with Diesel 10 after using all the coal provided for her. Regardless of the restoration, she cannot produce any steam despite the types of coal provided. Percy (voiced by Michael Angelis/Linda Ballantyne) and Thomas find out that there is a secret railway and there are magic buffers that lead to it. However, Diesel 10 overhears them. Toby (voiced by Colm Force) follows Diesel 10 and hears him telling his diesel locomotive sidekicks Splatter (voiced by Patrick Breen/Neil Crone) and Dodge (voiced by Patrick Breen/Kevin Frank) of his plans to destroy the steam locomotives. Diesel 10 thinks that the humiliation seems possible mainly because Mr. Conductor's whistle contains gold dust inside which he uses to travel is running out, and he is therefore becoming too weak to stop Diesel 10. Wanting to warn his friends of Diesel's plans, Toby rings his bell to distract them. Diesel 10 then tries to destroy Toby, only to trap himself, Dodge, and Splatter in their shed.

Burnett's granddaughter Lily (played by Mara Wilson) visits him, and meets C. Junior, Mr. Conductor's good-natured but lazy cousin (played by Michael E. Rodgers), who takes her to Sodor and introduces her to the engines who live there. Later, Thomas is assigned to transport Lily back to Burnett on Muffle Mountain after inadvertently discovering the entrance of the long-abandoned Magic Railroad by an old grotto. He takes his lost truck of special Island-of-Sodor coal and arrives on the other end of the Magic Railway, located at the edge of a high cliff near the top of Muffle Mountain. Lily goes to her grandfather's house, leaving Thomas stranded on the mountain. However, the wind causes Thomas to accidentally uncouple himself from the truck, causing him to roll off the mountain into a field where he re-enters the Magic Railroad in a secret portal.

Lily meets Burnett in his workshop, where he shows her Lady and explains the problem getting the engine to steam. Using the Sodor coal truck, the engine eventually comes to life and makes the steam. Lily and Burnett take Lady along the Magic Railroad, regenerating itself in the process. Lady comments that Burnett had never forgotten about Magic. They reunite with Thomas and find their way back to Sodor, where Diesel 10 finds them and goes after them (in the original cut, P. T. Boomer (played by Doug Lennox) flew out of the Magic buffers from the Magic Railroad and landed on Diesel 10, then chases them). When Thomas and Lady cross the crumbling viaduct, one of its arches begin to collapse. Lady makes it across, and Thomas jumps a large gap in the supports. After the arch collapses, Diesel 10 fails to stop in time, falls off, and plunges into a barge filled with sludge.

When evening falls, Thomas, Lady, Burnett and Lily meet Mr. Conductor and C-Junior. They use the water from a wishing well and shavings from the rails of the Magic Railroad to make more gold dust, and the Island of Sodor and Shining Time Station are saved. C-Junior, encouraged by his success in being able to help out, offers to take a job on Sodor, and Mr. Conductor presents him with his conductor's cap so that C-Junior can now take over Mr. Conductor's role on Sodor, while Mr. Conductor says that he will now travel back to serve at Shining Time Station. Meanwhile, Thomas happily returns home in Tidmouth Sheds to tell the other engines about his encounter with Lady.


Live-action actors[edit]

Voice actors[edit]

Actor Role(s)
Eddie Glen Thomas
Linda Ballantyne Percy
Kevin Frank Henry, Bertie, Harold and Dodge
Neil Crone Diesel 10, Gordon, Splatter and the Tumbleweed
Susan Roman James
Colm Feore Toby
Shelley Elizabeth Skinner Annie and Clarabel
Britt Allcroft Lady

Original cast[edit]

Live-action actors[edit]

  • Alce Baldwin as Mr. Conductor
  • Peter Fonda as Burnett Stone
  • Mara Wilson as Lily Stone and the Narrator
  • Cody McMains as Patch
  • Michael E. Rodgers as C. Junior
  • Didi Conn as Stacy Jones
  • Russell Means as Billy Twofeathers
  • Lori Hallier as Lily's Mother
  • Jared Wall as Young Burnett
  • Laura Bower as Young Tasha
  • Robert Tinkler as Older Patch
  • Doug Lennox as P. T. Boomer

Voice actors[edit]

Actor Role(s)
John Bellis Thomas
Keith Scott Diesel 10
Patrick Breen Splatter and Dodge
Neil Crone Gordon, the Troublesome Trucks and the Tumbleweed
Kevin Frank Henry, Bertie, Harold and the Troublesome Trucks
Michael Angelis James and Percy
Colm Feore Toby
Shelley Elizabeth Skinner Annie and Clarabel
Britt Allcroft Lady



As early as 1994, even prior to the launch of the fourth season of the television series of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, Britt Allcroft planned a Thomas the Tank Engine feature film. Then in 1995, Allcroft was approached by Barry London, then Vice-Chairman of Paramount Pictures, with an idea for a Thomas film. His interest is thought to have stemmed from his daughter, then 3, being enthralled by Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.

In February 1996, Allcroft signed a contract with Paramount Pictures to write a script with the title, Thomas and the Magic Railroad, with a release date of 1997.[6] However when Barry London left Paramount Pictures, plans for the film were shelved by Paramount, leading Allcroft to seek other sources of funding.

Then in the Summer of 1998, Allcroft saw an Isle of Man Film Commission advert. They were offering tax incentives to companies wanting to film on the Island. Allcroft visited and felt the location perfect.

Then in 1999, Barry London became Chairman of the newly founded Destination Films. He renewed his interest in the project and Destination Films became the main financial backer and studio for the film.[7]


The movie was filmed at the Strasburg Rail Road in Strasburg, Pennsylvania (United States), as well as in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and on the Isle of Man. Castletown railway station on the Isle of Man Railway formed part of Shining Time Station and the goods shed at Port St Mary railway station became Burnett Stone's workshop. Running shots of the "Indian Valley" train were filmed at the Strasburg Rail Road location. The large passenger station where Lily boards the train is the Harrisburg Transportation Center. Norfolk & Western 4-8-0 475 was repainted as the Indian Valley locomotive.

Sodor was realised using models and chroma key. The models were animated using live action remote control, as on the television series. The model sequences were filmed in Toronto, Canada instead of Shepperton Studios, the "home" of the original TV show; however, several of the show's key staff were flown over to participate. The Magic Railroad was created using models, CGI and water color matte paintings.

Original version[edit]

In a 2007 interview, director Britt Allcroft commented the finished film was drastically changed from what it was originally going to be the way she had written it, with the original antagonist P.T. Boomer, (originally played by Doug Lennox) being deleted from the film after the US test audiences said that he was too frightening for the younger audience (but still seen in a number of trailers). Lily Stone (played by Mara Wilson) was supposed to be the narrator of the story.[8] Before filming, Thomas's voice would be provided by John Bellis, a fireman and part-time taxi driver who worked on the film as the Isle of Man transportation co-ordinator and facilities manager. Bellis received the role when he happened to pick up Britt Allcroft and her crew from the airport. According to Allcroft, after hearing him speak for the first time, she told her colleagues, "I have just heard the voice of Thomas. That man is exactly how Thomas would sound!" Bellis accepted the role.[9] Unfortunately he lost the role after a test screening. Audiences in Los Angeles disliked Bellis's voice for Thomas due to his Liverpudlian accent, claiming that he made Thomas sound too old. Subsequently, Bellis's role was removed and was replaced by Edward Glen, who gave Thomas a lot more of a youthful-sounding voice. Bellis did receive a credit for his work on the Isle of Man, and his voice can still be heard extensively in one or two of the trailers. Bellis said he was "gutted", but wished the film-makers well. "It was supposed to be my big break, but it hasn't put me off and I am hoping something else will come along."[10]

Home Media Release[edit]

Thomas and the Magic Railroad was released onto VHS and DVD on October 31, 2000.


The film was premièred at the Odeon Leicester Square; for the purpose, a steam locomotive, no. 47298 painted to resemble Thomas, was brought to the cinema by low loader on 9 July 2000.

The film earned $15,748,009 in ticket sales, compared to its $19 million budget. During its second weekend of screening in Britain it only took in £170,000.[11]

Thomas and the Magic Railroad received generally unfavorable reviews from critics.[12] The film has a score of 19% on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus: "Kids these days demand cutting edge special effects or at least a clever plot with cute characters. This movie has neither, having lost in its Americanization what the British original did so right."[13] However, it did receive a positive review from Associated Press and Gannett newspapers. Nell Minow of Common Sense Media also gave the film a positive review, giving it three out of five stars and writing that it "will please [Thomas fans]" but that the plot "might confuse kids".[14] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one star out of four, and wrote "(the fact) That Thomas and the Magic Railroad made it into theaters at all is something of a mystery. This is a production with 'straight to video' written all over it. Kids who like the Thomas books might kinda like it. Especially younger kids. Real younger kids. Otherwise, no." While he admired the models and art direction, he criticized how the engines' mouths didn't move when they spoke, the overly depressed performance of Peter Fonda, as well as the overall lack of consistency in the plot.[15]

Video game[edit]

A video game was released based on the film. Thomas & the Magic Railroad: Print Studio was published by Hasbro Interactive and released for PC on August 25, 2000.

Possible sequel[edit]

HIT revealed that its theatrical division would be piloted by a "Thomas" film. Originally targeted for late-2010 release,[16] in September 2009 this was revised to "Spring 2011".[17] As of January 2011, the release date had been pushed back further to 2012 and the name of the production had still not been announced. The initial draft of the script was written by Josh Klausner (screenwriter for Shrek Forever After), who has also said that the film will be set around the times of World War II, Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi also helped write the script. [18] On 8 June 2011, Deadline announced that 9 director Shane Acker will direct the live-action adaptation of Thomas the Tank Engine, with Weta Digital designing the film's visual effects.[19]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Elley, Derek (15 July 2000). "Thomas and the Magic Railroad". Variety. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Thomas And The Magic Railroad". Daily Mail (London). 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Thomas makes tracks for a fat-free run along Hollywood lines.Alexandra Frean Media Correspondent. The Times, Thursday, February 22, 1996; pg. 9
  7. ^ "SiF: About the Magic Railroad". Retrieved 06/08/13. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Thomas finds his voice". BBC News. 16 July 1998. 
  10. ^ "Hollywood vetoes Liverpool accent as voice of Thomas the Tank Engine". The Independent (London). April 29, 2000. Retrieved 27 November 2007. [dead link]
  11. ^ Guardian Wednesday, July 26, 2000 P22, In house stocks, Go off Menu
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Thomas And The Magic Railroad". Chicago Sun-Times. 26 July 2000. 
  16. ^ Hayes, Dade (3 March 2009). "Hit Entertainment gets into movie biz". Variety. 
  17. ^ "Hit Entertainment's Hit Movies Division Begins Development Of First Feature Film Based on the Adventures of Thomas and Friends". HIT Entertainment. 30 September 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  18. ^ "Thomas Theatrical Film Pushed Back AGAIN!". (Thomas news). Sodor Island. 5 January 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  19. ^ Fleming, Mike. "'9' Helmer Shane Acker Boards Feature Based on the Thomas The Tank Engine Toys". Retrieved 1 October 2011. 

External links[edit]