The unmistakable theme tune, the bright colours and the storytelling of Ringo Starr, Thomas the Tank Engine has become a prominent theme in many households across the UK.
When people look back on their childhood a lot will remember being sat down in front of the television to find out the latest adventures of Thomas, Gordon, James, Henry and the Fat Controller with fond memories. The "very useful engines" will have a special place in many people's hearts and are still popular to this day with the latest series, King of the Railway, being released this year.
Who would've thought that when the adventures of the engines on the Island of Sodor were first broadcast in the UK in 1984 the unlimited success it would have. It managed to bring steam trains into the homes of people all over the nation and would have no doubt inspired young children to be interested in locomotives. Many would be excited to see the next bit of mischief that Thomas and co would get into each week.
Initially starting with a small cast of Thomas, Edward, James, Henry and Gordon, later expanding to Percy and Toby, the programme now boasts a cast of over 100. It is not just confined to steam engines as there are now a host of carriage, bus, car, boat, plane and helicopter characters. The evolution of the programme has also moved with the times. Where once the series was filmed using models, it has now done using digital CGI effects.
It instantly became a children's favourite with former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr providing the voiceover as both the narrator and engine voices. The storylines were simpler yet interesting for youngsters and with the introduction of Netflix, parents do not have to search high and low for a DVD or video of the older episodes.
The television programmes were just a small part of the Thomas & Friends franchise as it expanded way outside of the confines of the BBC. Any Thomas fan would have a full array of models while there was also a range of miniature railway accessories which would provide the perfect accessory for most sets. The child-friendly Brio and Tomy train sets featured Thomas & Friends toys.
Many heritage lines across the UK saw the introduction of Thomas as a way to relate steam trains to a younger generation. Various stations hold Thomas the Tank weekends where the regular steam trains took on a more jovial tone with the front being replaced with a face and were dubbed Henry, Gordon or Edward for the day.
Special events would be carried throughout the weekend involving the range of steam trains available to the stations. One of the most popular for children was getting the chance to ride on a specially designed Thomas replica complete with Annie and Clarabel carriages. A day out such as this would be something that every youngster would look forward to during the summer holidays and an event that they would never forget.
Thomas & Friends will always have a special place in the hearts of many across the UK, grown ups included.