A special page for Thomas merchandising made before Britt Allcroft was drawn to or thought of...

For Audiophiles...

The cream of the crop are these long-players from the 1960s, for which I'm greatly in the debt of Michelle Bennett, who started the show with Vols 1 and 5. The eagle eyes of the SIF Tiger Team Ben Pennock and Daniel Howells located the others on Ebay and elsewhere.

The Johnny Morris Recordings...

The Railway Stories Volume Volume 1 by Johnny Morris
The Railway Sories VoluneVolume 2 by Johnny Moris
The Railway Stories Volume Volume 3 by Johnny Morris
The Railway Stories Volume Volume 4 by Johnny Morris

The late Johnny Morris was a much-loved children's broadcaster famous for his BBC show "Animal Magic" in which he voiced various animals at Bristol Zoo. As you can see, he provided the voice for records 1-4 corresponding to books 1-8 on the Decca label. No. 3 is dated by hipster DJ Mr Hopkinson to 1963.

The Willie Rushton Recordings...

Railway Stories Volume 1 Narrated by Williw Rushton
Railway Stories Volume 2 Narrated by Willie Rushton
Railway Stories Volume 3 Narrated by Willie Rushton

The late Willie Rushton was a cartoonist and a founder of the satirical magazine Private Eye, who also became a well-known TV figure. While only these three recordings (books 9-14) were committed to wax on the Argo label, he finished the canonical Railway Series on tape, an example of which is provided below courtesy of Callum Walker.

Cassette of Willie Rushton Railway Stories

The Album Back Covers...
Rear cover of Volume 1
Here are the interesting back covers of Michelle's albums; Johnny Morris of the left, and on the right, Willie Rushton depicts himself in railway uniform. Michelle has kindly transcribed the Rev Awdry's introduction on the back of both albums as follows:

"My father was a railway enthusiast and brought me up accordingly. Our home at Box, Wiltshire, was near the Great Western main line and listening to heavy freights clawing up the grade it was not hard to imagine train engine and banker talking to each other, and for me, steam engines developed personality.

Rear cover of Willie Rushton album

So when my son caught measles at the age of three I told him these stories to amuse him. They were not written down at first, I made them up as I went along. But I had to tell them so often, carefully using the same words, that both he and I soon knew them by heart.

It was only later, at my wife's suggestion, that I wrote them down, so that other children might have pleasure from them too."


More Johnny Morris Recordings...

Johnny Morris' stories were also issued in 7" format (presumably 33rpm being advertised as "long playing") by Delyse Records. Here are five of the discs spotted by Ben and Daniel - the first dates from 1961.

The Sad Story of Henry, Edward Gordon and Henry narrated by Johnny Morris in 1961
Thomas and the Trucks, Thomas and the Breakdown Train
James and the Top Hat, James and the Boot Lace
Troublesome Trucks, James and the Express
Thomas Terrence and the Snow, Thomas and Bertie

TRLOTTTE site visitor Patrick shares his extensive collection of Delyse RWS album covers in the slideshow below (with our thanks!).

And Finally...

Here is an extremely rare EP (7" running at 33rpm) read by the Rev W. Awdry himself, "with background effects taken from real engines". This first known Railway Series recording was pressed in 1957 by Chiltern Records of Princes Risborough. Pics below of album cover and record spotted on eBay by Callum Walker

Record LP of Railway Series stories read by the Rev. Awdry in 1957


Models: Life Before Learning Curve...

PRE-CUT MODEL ENGINE BOOK, which started in 1957 and were produced pretty well continuously through the 1960s while the Railway Series was in print. The example below (left) spotted on eBay appears to be an early version, while the cover for Book No.4 (right) was found by Callum Walker.

Thomas Cut-Out book James Cut-Out book

Callum also came across these high-resolution facsimiles of Books 2 and 3 in a blog post by Laura Massey from The Cataloguer's Desk - Dispatches from a Rare Book Shop: Peter Harrington in London reproduced here with the kind permission of Pablo Pico, with our many thanks! Click on the images below to see the larger versions. The cut-outs might make this a worthwhile project if you have access to some high-quality cardstock paper and a decent colour printer!

Cover: Book No.2 - Percy With Clarabel the Coach Story
Instructions Percy Cut-out
Instructions Percy Cut-Out
Clarabel Cut-Out Book (Rear)
Clarabel Cut-Out Book (Rear)
Cover: Book No.3 - Gordon the Big Engine & His Tender Instructions
Gordon Cut-Out Gordon's Tender Cut-Out
Gordon Cut-Out Gordon's Tender Cut-Out

Pictured below (with, once again, many thanks to Jim Gratton!):

Dustjaket rear of 8 Famous Engines (1957)
Left: Percy, Gordon+tender, James (from dust-cover of Eight Famous Engines, 1957). Note "other models are being prepared", but were never made!
Right: Gordon (from dust-cover of Duck and the Diesel Engine, 1958) Note Gordon's name-plate, and the ad for the Rev W Awdry's record.
Dustjacket Rear of Duck and the Diesel Engine (1958)

Here is the Meccano plastic model of Percy, produced for one year in 1967, predating Tomy, Learning Curve and their compatriots by the best part of 2 decades. Despite fabulous box art from Peter Edwards, the set did not sell well and was remaindered in France with a red smokebox and funnel. Nowadays the sets are rarer than hen's teeth! - bottom right hand pic is from the back of the set's box. Many thanks to SiF's Keith West for spotting this on eBay.

Box cover for Meccano Percy
Inside the box of Meccano Percy set.
Meccano Percy on the rails
Percy advert Meccano Magazine

*NEW* (2009-11-23): UK resident and site visitor Alan Rowlands sent us few photos of what is undeniably the most immaculate Percy the Small Engine set that has survived to this day with both contents and packaging in mint condition. Alan tells us that the set is an ex-display item from a Manchester department store, which to his knowledge, has never been played with. Click on any of the photos below to view the details of this wonderful set at a higher resolution. Our many thanks go to Alan for sharing these with us! :)

Cover of Percy Meccano set
Inside Box
Out of the box!
Out of the box!
Rear Cover
Rear Cover
Percy Meccano set: Side View
Side View: Identical on all 4 sides.
Alan Rowlands' mint condition (very rare!) Meccano Percy the Small Engine set

And here is the other ad under the terms of the Meccano-Kaye and Ward agreement, on the dust-cover of Stepney the Bluebell Engine in 1967, courtesy of Jim Gratton. While Hamleys, Harrods and Selfridges still thrive, Gamages is no longer with us.

Percy Meccano advert

Finally, did you know that the Percy Meccano set had a cameo in an episode of The Avengers? The model can be seen after the opening preview and credits In Series 5, Episode 13: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station (1967). Here is a clip of the scene in question courtesey of Jim Gratton. There is an additional scene in this clip which begs the question whether this episode's scriptwriter was in some way influenced by the Rev. Awdry's works!


For Artisans...
The first merchandising item from the Railway series in the 1950 was the Tank Engine Thomas Again Painting Book, with further volumes first appearing in 1951. These spotted on eBay by CPK
Painting Books from 1951
Painting Book cover from 1951
Detail of 1951 Painting Book
They were swiftly followed in 1951 by Postcards like these, a total of 36 scenes. Note the last postcard of this group spotted on eBay shows a scene of "Stepney" from 1963 and thus implies that the postcards were also produced continously.
Postcard of Gordon and James
Postcard of Thomas
Postcard of Thomas
Postcard of Thomas and Bertie
Postcard of James with Circus
Postcard of Henry and Edward
Postcard of Percy at the docks
Postcard of Stepney and Douglas

Jigsaw Puzzles...
Below some old jigsaws hunted down on eBay. The example on the left is from the 1950s, the middle, the 1960s, and the right, the 1970s.
1950s jigsaw puzzles
1960s Jigsaw Puzzle of Percy
Jigsaw puzzle from the 1970s

And here are a few more sets from Callum Walker's personal collection with others found on eBay. The 80 and 30 piece puzzles were manufactured by Michael Stanfield in the U.K., and are likely 1980s vintage.

80 piece jigsaw puzzle: Thomas the Tank Engine 80 piece jigsaw puzzle: James the Red Engine 80 piece jigsaw puzzle: Henry the Green Engine
30 piece jigsaw puzzle: Tank Engine Again 30 piece jigsaw puzzle: Percy Runs Away
These three puzzles were also spotted on Ebay by Callum Walker.
30 piece puzzle by Michael Stanfield ref# 1569
From 1983, a 30 piece Gordon the Big Engine puzzle by Michael Stanfield
1972 Whitman 30 piece puzzle
...and this 1972 30 piece puzzle of Henry the Green Engine by Whitman
1972 Whitman 30 piece puzzle
..plus another 1972 Whitman 30 piecer of Thomas the Tank Engine (Again)

And again, Callum shares what appears to be a 1970's era 30-piece jigsaw puzzle - cover and assembled.

30 pc jigsaw puzzle: Percy and Thomas at the Station

Complimenting the jigsaw collection are these rare 12" x 9" puzzles from 1973 stored in cardstock tins found by C.W. on Ebay.
54 pc tin puzzle: The Three Railway Engines
The Three Railway Engines

54 pc tin puzzle: Tank Engine Thomas Again
Tank Engine Thomas Again

54 pc tin puzzle: Seven Famous Engines
Seven Famous Engines

54 pc tin puzzle: Little Old Engines
Little Old Engines


For Chocolate Lovers...

Here are some of the Nestlé’s Railway Series Bars - chocolate wrappers from the early 1970s. They were small and red with a picture from the books on the front, although there was nothing special about the chocolate itself. These loose wrappers were tracked down on EBay by a reader:

Nestlé Chocolate Bar of Thomas
Nestlé Railway Series Chocolate Bars

The pictures were meant to be cut out and stuck in this booklet, some examples inside supplied by Stuart:

Cover of Nestlé booklet
page 3
page 4

Read the entire book here in PDF format (requires Acrobat Reader, 604 KB file), with very many thanks to Jim Gratton

As visible above, there is a two-page introduction and brief character profiles from the Rev W Awdry himself. The book's publlcation date is 1970.


For Directions to Sodor ...

Standalone Map Covers: The maps themselves are viewable here. The 1958 map (left) counted among earlier merchandising, although the 1971 map (right) deputised for an expected Railway Series volume between Duke the Lost Engine (1970) and Tramway Engines (1972), as did the Surprise Packet from 1972 below.

1958 map cover
1971 map: Front and back
1958 map (back)


The 'Surprise Packet' ...

From 1972, nearly midpoint along the 60-year curve of Thomas history: Peter Edwards' SURPRISE PACKET of "stories, games, puzzles, things to make and things to do". Coming out instead of a Railway Series volume after Tramway Engines (which in this case never arrived), this product had a great deal of input from the Rev Wilbert anyway.

Thanks so very much to our correspondent David Butchers for sharing this with us. Both images click onto larger ones in new windows. At left is a railwayman's satchel and at right another homage to real railways - fabulous art-deco railway posters of the 1930s. Contains board games and a cardboard model of Skarloey powered by rubber band and cotton-reel. ***NEW*** David has been busy with his camera and a fully legible Surprise Packet is here as a PDF file!!! Rather a large file at 4MB, 5 mins to download at 1 Mbps, needs Adobe Acrobat. Once again, humungous thanks are due to David Butchers for this time and effort on our behalf! (click image of poster to see bigger version)

1972 Surprise Packet
Surprise Packet Railway Poster

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Activity and Colouring Books ...

An Activity Book from 1976 (all of 15p), and two others spotted by Joe Smith on Ebay of indeterminate date, but obviously soon afterwards, because of similar design, but note inflation to 25p! An obvious step up from the Activity Books was the first Thomas Annual of 1979, brought to us by the generosity of Ryan Healy. With so many images to show, this has been given a separate page of its own.

Famous Engines Activity Book
Famous Engines Activity Book
Famous Engines Colouring Book

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Board Games ...

The Rev W Awdry's "All Change" game from 1974, spotted on Ebay by Daniel Howells, who also found the 1970s jigsaw puzzles above, which appears to be by the same company, Whitman Publishing.

All Change game
1974 All Change Game

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Playing Cards ...

For rainy days, a set of 44 Thomas the Tank Engine Railway Snap playing cards issued by Michael Stanfield in 1984, courtesy of Callum Walker. Click image to see a larger legible version of the card game instructions.

Railway Snap Playing Cards

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For the stamp collector ...

Webmaster Martin Clutterbuck picked up a special set of stamps released by Royal Mail in June, 2011 celebrating the Rev. W. Awdry's Centenary. These special edition stamps can be viewed here.

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Miscellaney ...

Found on Ebay by Callum, these laminated wipe place mats of RWS covers (390mm x 265mm) from 1985 whose retail authenticity still needs to be verified.

laminated wipe mats from 1985

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Finally, from David Butchers:

"I have also found I have a press out Thomas and station which was published by Kaye & Ward in 1987, so is after the TV series started. I am not sure when the rights went over to Britt Alcroft, but this must be one of the last bits of independent merchandising."

Why not see it for yourselves? Download the 1987 press out book - 876 KB PDF, needs Acrobat.