|This article is about 'the unaired pilot'. You may be looking for 'the re-filmed televised episode, the Buzz Book, the German DVD or the Philippine DVD'.|
- “The pilot episode was a very good path finding exercise for us.... No doubt it'll be discovered in a rusting tin at some point in the future.”
- ―Robert Gauld-Galliers
Down the Mine is the original unaired 1983 pilot of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends that was filmed, but never publicly broadcast.
In 1979, Britt Allcroft acquired the rights to produce episodes based on the Railway Series for television. She spent over two years meeting animators and watching test reels deciding on what style of animation would be used for the series - classical, stop motion, clay, or CGI. After meeting David Mitton it was decided that live-action model animation would be used. A low budget, pre-production test pilot episode was produced to pitch the series to several networks. The pilot was based on the Railway Series story Down the Mine and differed from the final aired version. After the series was greenlit by ITV, the episode was later refilmed as the twenty-fifth episode of the first season.
Differences with Final Version
The pilot version had simpler sets, fewer characters and flatter lighting. The models of Thomas and Gordon were also different. The models used, including the wheels, were scratch-built by Martin Gill and were more simplistic in appearance. They were never tested before being filmed in front of the camera and proved to be unreliable. All of the models used later in the series would use the more dependable Märklin chassis.
The pilot was never publicly released, only appearing in test screenings, and it is currently unknown as to where the footage is or who possesses it. No stills are known to exist. However, Thomas' pilot model was briefly seen in the aired version of Down the Mine.
- According to crew member Christopher Noulton, the Gordon model used in the pilot was refurbished by him for the second season for use as a stand-by model. It was later cut up and used as scrap set dressing.
- Britt Allcroft mortgaged her house with her bank in order to fund production.
- According to Robert Gauld-Galliers, it is currently unknown as to where the pilot footage is. He also stated that, although he was unsure as to who watched the first screening of the episode, the response was positive.
Behind the Scenes
- Robert Gauld-Galliers' interview with Sodor Island Fansite
- Michael Dixon's interview with Sodor Island Fansite
- Chris Lloyd's interview with Sodor Island Fansite
- Britt Allcroft Productions - A Tribute to David Mitton by Britt Allcroft