Day out with Thomas

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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.


Thomas on the Watercress Line Alresford
Toby the Tram Engine (replica) at Bitton Station on the Avon Valley Railway

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 heritage railways, most notably the Strasburg Rail Road and Mid Hants Railway, built working locomotives from vintage engines producing operational replicas of the characters. This caused some controversy among train preservationists who claimed it disfigured historic locomotives and trivialized the preservation movement. However, those in favor claimed the new projects would draw much-needed visitors and would help rekindle interest in steam engines and historical train travel with young children. Since then, railways experienced an increase of income with appearance fees for "Thomas" engines to railways that do not have a suitable engine of their own.

As of 2008, most heritage railways in the UK have withdrawn their "Day Out With Thomas" events due to HiT's revised licensing conditions, which include the requirement for enhanced criminal records (CRB) checks on all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.[1] However, the "Day Out With Thomas" events have thrived in the United States and Canada.[2]

Events by country[edit]


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.

New Zealand[edit]

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.

United Kingdom[edit]

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".[3]

United States and Canada[edit]

Thomas the Tank Engine on the Virginia and Truckee Railroad in Virginia City, Nevada

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.[4] The dummy trains usually consist of a standard diesel locomotive 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.[5] 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.[6] 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, unveiling a small replica in December 1996. Recently, a full-scale unpowered replica of Percy has also been built.


The Oigawa Railway started running Thomas and James from 2014.


  1. ^ R. Jones: Major lines pull out of Thomas. Heritage Railway magazine, Issue 106, Dec. 2007, page 26
  2. ^ "All Abroad for Day Out With Thomas". TicketWeb. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Manchester Evening News – "Thomas The Tank Engine Derailed"(accessed 2009-09-08)
  4. ^ "Day Out With Thomas". Strasburg Rail Road. Strasburg Rail Road Company. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  5. ^ Pusher/dummy seen 4 August 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.
  6. ^ "Day Out With Thomas". TicketWeb. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 

External links[edit]

Media related to 'Thomas' events on real railways at Wikimedia Commons