Railways can often provide a sense of wonder for many children especially when they get that rare treat of seeing a steam train.

The link between youngsters and railways is deep-rooted and is perfectly portrayed by the amount of television programmes and films centred around cartoon trains. While different generations have grown up with superheroes, Teletubbies and the Tweenies, the railways have always played a prominent part of many childhoods.

Seeing a character on television and then being able to go down to the train station and see the real thing can be a thrill so here are a selection of engines that made their way into the hearts of youngsters all over the country.

Thomas the Tank Engine

Undoubtedly the most well-known and loved steam engine character in the world. Thomas & Friends quickly became a major favourite and a staple of children's television with even Beatles drummer Ringo Starr lending his voice to the series.

First created in The Railway Series books by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry, the little steam engine has a special place in the hearts of many youngsters.

With a range of toys and merchandise, Thomas & Friends quickly made its way into homes across the world. There have also been a number of feature films detailing the various adventures of the engines on Sodor.

Many heritage railways hold Thomas the Tank weekends where real working steam locomotives are given the Thomas makeover. There are also a number of real Thomas replicas running at these events.

Ivor the Engine

While not having the commercial notoriety of Thomas the Tank Engine, Ivor the Engine was still a children's television favourite.

Originally broadcast in 1959, the programme was given a rebirth between 1975 and 1977 and then repeated numerous times during the 1990s. It featured Ivor, an engine with a mind of its own, whose dream it was to play in The Grumbley and District Choral Society.

Manned by its driver Edwin Jones, Ivor went on a host of exciting adventures and has been recreated at a number of heritage railway lines across the UK including Battlefield Line Railway in Leicestershire.

The Little Engine That Could

The Little Engine That Could was first created as an illustrated children's book published in the US but has since been remade twice as a feature film.

It tells the tale of a small train managing to overcome the odds and pull a number of carriages designed for much larger engines. The phrase of "I think I can" is repeated throughout the film and teaches children about overcoming various challenges to reach their goals.

The book was remade into a 30-minute animated in film in 1991, co-financed by both Wales and the US before being given the Hollywood treatment by Universal Studios in 2011. It featured stars such as Whoopi Goldberg and Jamie Lee Curtis providing the voices for the characters.


Chuggington is the railway programme for children of the 21st century. The CGI animation characters all live in a roundhouse in the fictional town of Chuggington.

The BBC Two series, which has been running since 2008, follows the adventures of Wilson, Brewster, Koko, Hoot, Toot and Piper which are all trainee engines.

Each of the episodes have an overriding positive message to children with the engines learning the true value of loyal friendship, the importance of telling the truth and persisting under adversity.

Like with its predecessors, Chuggington is becoming a major part in many children's daily lives.