Visual history of Thomas the tank engine’s design.
- The original wooden model Rev. Wilbert Awdry made for his son.
It’s loosely based on the LNER J50 class. He made it sometime in the early 1940s, a few years before the first Railway Series book, Three Railway Engines (1945).
- Rev. Awdry’s first illustration of Thomas.
- Reginald Payne’s illustration of Thomas from the Railway Series Vol. 2: Thomas the Tank Engine, published in 1946. Payne reimagined Thomas as an LB&SCR E2 class.
- Rev. Awdry’s scale model of Thomas, built for his home layout sometime after 1970. This model and others Rev. Awdry built are preserved at the Talyllyn Railway in Wales, a preserved narrow gauge railway Rev. Awdry helped promote and volunteered at.
- The original model built for the television series, which premiered in 1984. It’s a custom-built design, and faces were cast in resin. As only the eyes could move, the face was swapped to a different expression between shots. The design more closely resembles the illustration rather than the locomotive Thomas is based on.
- The new model for Thomas, built for the movie Thomas and the Magic Railroad, 2000. This one is made mostly from brass, has newly recast face masks, and brighter eyes.
- The updated Thomas model with a CGI-rendered face, from season 12, 2008. In this experimental season, models and CGI animation by Nitrogen Studios were mixed together, with people, animals, and the characters’ faces being animated.
- Full CGI render, used since the show went full CGI in 2009. It includes a number of minor visual touches to make him more resemble a real locomotive, like a proper cab interior, underworkings, etc.