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Ertl Company

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The Ertl Company is a toy company which produced several Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends toys from 1985 to 2004. The most notable of the toy ranges made was a line of 1/64 scale die-cast models and playsets of characters from the Railway Series and Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.


The first Thomas products released by ERTL in 1985 were a die-cast Thomas with a sticker sheet of different facial expressions and a larger, motorised pull-back version of Thomas.

Later in the same year, die-cast models of James and Henry were released, both with a happy face. Because the sticker faces peeled off easily, they were soon replaced with fixed plastic faces. The ranges were released in the US in 1989 following the premiere of the series on Shining Time Station.

New vehicles, destinations, and playsets were produced for the die-cast range on a near yearly basis, tallying up to over 100 vehicles. Due to the franchise's popularity, other ranges were made such as miniatures, keyrings, larger Gold Rail vehicles, pull backs and wind-up toys.

Production for the Thomas ranges ceased for the US market in 2001. Due to RC2 acquiring the ERTL Company in 2004, the Thomas ranges were discontinued to avoid conflict with the then existing license held by Learning Curve, which produced the similar looking Take-Along Thomas system.

Die-cast range


The numbers in parentheses show what number each model was on the portrait card. The numbers in the braces, e.g. { }, show what number each model was on the Shining Time card. The numbers in the brackets show what number each model was on the cartoon card.


The card of these models is mostly the same colour as the model with a white oval in the centre, containing an image of the character. The smoke cloud that normally contained "Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends" held the name of the character and was above the oval. A blue stripe across the bottom contained the ERTL and Thomas logos.

Thomas, Henry and James originally had white bufferbeams, but were later replaced with red bufferbeams. All the engines had sticker faces. The sticker face was the same as the face of the character's image in the oval. Thomas came with an optional sad/tired decals.



In 1989 the range was released in the US. There were no new models this year.


1990 saw the release of new models as well as updated versions of previous models.  These models featured 3-D plastic faces much like those used on the larger motorised models of Thomas and Percy, as the original sticker-face models were prone to losing their faces. The trucks were originally painted brown, but from 1991 onwards, they were released in their normal grey livery.



The range was revamped this year with the UK packaging featuring a "portrait card", while the US featured a Shining Time Station themed card.

The Shining Time Station card is an aerial image of countryside with many fields and a few bridges. There is track coming along the left-hand side of the image which turns and comes across the card. Behind the model is a white box that joins to the typical smoke cloud and contains the model's name and sometimes a small detail. The Shining Time Station logo is situated above the image, and uses a frame to encompass most of the image. The back of the card features a large illustration on the model, with a small statement beneath about the model's character and a collectors card number to the left.

A twin-pack with Donald and Douglas and one with Bill and Ben were briefly available in the "Shining Time" range.


The portrait card was an image of the character towards the right hand side of the card, passing a bush of flowers on the right and a mound of grass on the left. Between the character and the grass, aspects of a British village can be seen in the background. Depending on the character, there were rails, road, or water between the flowers and the grass. These were illustrated by Owain Bell. The portraits double as collector cards when cut out, as the reverse side of the portrait contained a paragraph on the character, and a paragraph of Historical Information; often containing the specifications of the real-life locomotive counterpart and when they were in service.



A special gold-plated Thomas was released to celebrate the Railway Series' 50th anniversary.

Two different portrait cards of George exist: one where he is similar to the model, and one where he is entirely green (as depicted in the RWS).

Culdee, Godred and "City of Truro" were marked as "Special edition engines" for the "Shining Time" range.


This was the last year to use Shining Time Station packaging in the US.


Starting this year, the portrait card packaging already used in the UK began being used in the US.


This was the first year that metallic engines were released.

Bulstrode's portrait card is the only exception to the scene in the background. It is set at a dock with him tied to the right-hand side of the dock. There is a cottage, cliff face, lighthouse, and fishing charter along the left-hand side and background.

The metallic engines do not have a portrait collector's card number.


The back of Bluebell's portrait card is divided in half between English and French. The same is true for the Crane and soft-side truck.


These models were the last to feature the "portait card". The packaging changed to a predominately blue background with a yellow rectangle behind the model which had a red boarder. There was a face-on image of Thomas in the top left hand corner with the "Thomas and Friends" smoke cloud beneath. The name of the model was found above the model, centered between the new Thomas logo and the bar on the right, which was made of five circles displaying a "T", right-hand arrow, clock, two flags, and a number "1". There was no collector card with this change.

Special packaging was used for Lady, Diesel 10, Splatter, Dodge, Thomas, Henry, Gordon, James, Percy, Toby, Bertie, Annie and Clarabel and the Troublesome Trucks to celebrate the release of "Thomas and the Magic Railroad". This packaging was similar to that of the redesign. The rectangle behind the model was a cloud-like render with a yellow-sparkle render for the background, and the bar on the right featured small cartoons of Diesel 10, Thomas, Splatter, Lady, and Dodge. An image of Thomas appeared in the bottom left corner. A P. T. Boomer figure (known as Pete Boom) was supposed to be released at this time, along with figures of Mr. Conductor and Lily . While the Mr. Conductor figure was eventually released, the Boomer figure was officially shelved after the characters' scenes were removed from the film after negative test audience reception. Lily was also cancelled.



The range was discontinued outside the UK this year.

The packaging changed again, now with the engine's name in red, a cartoon of the character in the top right-hand corner, and rails drawn under the model. The collectors card returned to this style of packaging; but had only a brief paragraph of the character's personality, not any factual historical information.

The coupling style now changed from the basic "hook and eye" style to a U-hook, believed to be sturdier and longer-lasting.



A. J. Chetwynd was the designer of the final new release of vehicles.

Special Edition

There have been a few special edition toys.

  • Thomas with Mr. Conductor to celebrate the release of "Thomas and the Magic Railroad"
  • Melody and Motion Thomas with a wind-up Fat Controller
  • Christmas Thomas and grey or red "Toybox" S.C. Ruffey
  • Thomas and the Christmas Tree Gift Set - Thomas with Christmas hat and scarf, flatbed with Christmas tree and the Fat Controller dressed as Santa


A small portion of packs containing multiple different trains, vehicles, and stock were released, mostly commonly for Shining Time Station.

  • Gift Set - containing Thomas, Diesel, Scruffey and a truck (released 2002)
  • Gift Set - containing Thomas, Troublesome Trucks and a Fire Engine
  • Gift Set - containing Thomas, Lady, Sir Topham Hatt, Bertie, express coaches, Annie, and Clarabel
  • Two pack of Percy and S. C. Ruffey
  • Three pack of Toby, Henrietta and Henry
  • Three pack of Bertie, James, and Henry
  • Three pack of Thomas, Annie, and Clarabel
  • Three pack of Thomas, James, and Henry
  • Four pack of Thomas, Henry, Diesel, Annie and Clarabel
  • Metallic Engines set – Metallic Thomas, James and Henry
  • Metallic Engines set - Metallic Thomas, Percy, Rheneas and Duncan (released 1998)
  • Five pack of Thomas, Bluebell, Annie, Clarabel, and Godred
  • Five pack of Percy, Toby, Peter Sam, tar wagon, and milk wagon
  • Five pack of Lady, Old Coaches, Wilbert and Terence
  • Six pack of Thomas, Toby, Bertie, Terence, Rheneas, and Duncan
  • Six pack of Thomas, Toby, Bertie, Percy, Terence, and Harold
  • Six pack of Mavis, Edward, Daisy, Duck, and trucks
  • Six pack of Thomas, Henry, James, Caroline, Skarloey, and Harold
  • Six pack of Sir Handel, Rusty, D199, express coaches, and the Fat Controller's car
  • Five Piece Value Pack, including Thomas, Terence, Old Slow Coach, Derek, and a carry case.
  • Ten Piece Value Pack, including Thomas, Gordon, Percy, Bulstrode, Bulgy, Rheneas, Trevor, milk tanker, and tar tanker, and the breakdown crane

Playsets and Accessories

The earliest playsets used a playmat with illustrations of track. A proper track system was later made, originally of grey plastic with rails etched into it. It was eventually replaced by green plastic with a sticker of rails on top.

  • Starter set
  • Thomas, Percy, Annie & Clarabel Playset, no track; made from card.
  • Deluxe set with branchline, water tower, crane and turntable
  • Circle Line set (Percy and Express Coaches)
  • Branchline
  • Water tower
  • Crane
  • Windmill
  • Tunnel
  • Quarry
  • Crossing
  • Turntable
  • Station house
  • Real sounds
  • Construction
  • Bridge
  • 2x Straight Track
  • 2x Points Track
  • Thomas Playset, including Thomas, Percy, and two Express coaches; released 2001.
  • Skarloey with two points
  • Duncan with two points
  • Diesel with four points
  • Oliver with four curves
  • Stepney with four curves
  • Rheneas with four curves
  • Toby with four curves
  • Percy with four straights
  • Sir Handel with four straights
  • Viaduct Bridge Playset

Around 1996, accessory track assortment sets had been planned and advertised to include Toby and his shed, Percy and a coal hopper, Duck and a signal bridge, and Terence with a flatcar, although advertised in the American ERTL catalogue they were never released the US, nor advertised in the UK and Australia.


Around 1991, a miniature range was produced. The vehicles had sticker faces and were packaged with a small section of a railway. Once all were collected, the parts formed a playset. In later years all of the models, besides Henry, Mavis, Bertie, and Harold were adapted into keyrings. The background imagery of these packs continued the landscape from the die-cast range.


  • Thomas with station
  • Edward with water tower
  • James with signalbox
  • Percy with sheds
  • Toby with signals and sidings
  • Duck with watermill
  • Bill with part of a viaduct
  • Ben with viaduct
  • Diesel with tunnel
  • Bertie with level crossing
  • Trevor with windmill
  • Harold with airport
  • Henry
  • Mavis


Multipacks released for Shining Time Station include:

  • Thomas, Annie, and Clarabel
  • Thomas, James, and trucks
  • Edward, Bertie, and Trevor
  • Edward, James, and Percy
  • Diesel, Harold, and Toby


  • Four-corner set with Thomas, Annie and Clarabel
  • Six-corner set with Thomas, Trevor and the Troublesome trucks

A re-release of the range introduced Henry and Mavis. The new range had some changes, with 3-D faces and "Lego-like" bases. A Lego-like set included Toby and Harold

Gold Rail

The Gold Rail Series was a short-lived line in the 90's. Being extremely similar to the Gold Rail range made by Bandai in Japan, the models had magnetic couplings, and are a fraction smaller than an HO scale train. The back of the model's boxes featured the same illustration as those on the Shining Time collectors cards of the die-cast range.


  • Thomas
  • Edward
  • Henry
  • Gordon
  • James
  • Percy
  • Toby
  • Bill
  • Ben
  • Annie
  • Clarabel (released 1993)
  • Truck 1
  • Truck 2
  • Bertie
  • Harold



Collector Cards

Collector Cards were produced in packs of eight similar to the cards on the die-cast range portrait card packaging.


By 1985, 1/32 scale models of Thomas and Percy were released with motors.

Remote Control

In 1988, a remote control Thomas was released.

Pull Back and Go!

Thomas, Percy, Toby, and Bertie models with wind up motors were released for Shining Time Station, that could be operated by dragging the model backwards along the floor so their wheels could "wind up" and letting go to "unwind".

Wind up

A large walking wind up Fat Controller with large feet was released individually, and with the Melody and Motion Thomas. There were also a range of Wind-up Ertl engines, these included:

  • Thomas
  • Henry
  • James
  • Percy
  • Bill
  • Ben
  • Bertie


Under the Shining Time range Just Toys released bendable characters, under the slogan: 'Bendable, Poseable, Collectible'

  • Mr. Conductor
  • Schemer
  • Stacy
  • Didi
  • Music Band, as a five piece gift set

ERTL Collectibles

There was also an ERTL Collectibles series in 2001, which featured a 1/64 scale Ford, which appears to be the Fat Controller's car.


  • Misprints exist such as the name "George" appearing on the card of Lorry 2, "Splatter" appearing on the Magic Railroad card of Thomas, Duck put in Diesel's packaging, Rheneas put in Thomas' packaging, and Donald in package with Douglas' nameplates on the sides and still maintaining his Number 9.
  • The Christmas Thomas wearing a Santa hat and a "Toybox" S.C. Ruffey in christmas cracker shaped packaging were packaged under "Chad Valley" instead of ERTL.
  • The narrow gauge engines' models, excluding Duke, Bertram, and Rusty, are much more closer to their Talyllyn Railway counterparts than their television series models.
  • Catherine's model has no buffers, but on the packaging she does.
  • Bertie's model has an overly slanted windscreen.
  • Percy's 1/64 scale model was used as a toy in one scene of the episode Flour Power.
  • The Sodor Oil Tankers are actually Fuel Tankers.
  • Bluebell and Flying Scotsman are just modified versions of the Thomas and Gordon models, respectively. Bluebell's prototype model was accurate to the real life counterpart and even included a driver in the cab window. The reason why it was changed was likely because it would be too delicate for small children to play with.
  • Bluebell's packaging incorrectly states that she is a LBSCR E2, when she is actually a SE&CR P class. However, as the model did reuse Thomas' molding, the statement is correct for this range.
  • Bertram's name is misspelled as "Bertrum".
  • Duke's packaging incorrectly states that he was built in 1863 by George England in London, which would have made him a year older than Skarloey.  Duke was actually built by Boston Lodge in Minfford, Wales in 1879.
  • Lady's prototype model used Rheneas' shape.
  • Derek's model has a BR logo with the words "Thomas Tank" written instead of "British Railways".
  • Some models of Henry have red siderods.
  • Diesel 10 is incorrectly depicted as a 1Co-Co1.
  • Smudger's model has his nameplate incorrectly placed on the sides of his coal bunkers.
  • BoCo's model has a black bufferbeam instead of red.
  • Toad's bufferbeams are red instead of black.
  • Daisy's model does not have a front coupling.
  • The Dyson Low Loader was never released in the United States.
  • The slates on the model of the Slate Trucks are much too tall than compared to the model and the slates in the television series.
  • Emily's driving wheels do not move.
  • Diesel 10's model is a repainted version of D199's, with the claw added.
  • Skarloey's prototype model had black lining, silver buffers and the hand-rail above his smokebox.
  • Sixteen's prototype model had black-and-yellow 'hazard' stripes on his front bufferbeam. However, his released model just had yellow bufferbeams with no 'hazard' stripes.
  • Interestingly, despite the rerelease of Sir Handel as Falcon, there was never one of Peter Sam as Stuart made, the most likely reasons being it would require changing his special funnel into a regular one, or because the range was discontinued before ERTL had a chance to produce it.
  • Fourteen characters that only appeared in The Railway Series were produced.
  • Several sketches on Fast Forward and a sketch on The Footy Show featured ERTL models.
  • George's prototype had a green face.
  • Ben's (and most likely Bill's) wind up model(s) had SCC written in red.
  • Butch's Arm is stuck in place and his hook is imbedded into the arm.
  • Sir Handel does not have a coal bunker and Peter Sam has a Proper Giesl ejector like in the Railway Series.
  • A model of Bulgy appears in the film, Kingsman.
  • Several models appeared in a Chucklevision episode titled Traction Attraction.


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