The Ertl Company is an American toy company which formerly produced several Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends toys from 1984 to 2004. The most notable of these 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 1984 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 models. Due to the franchise's popularity, other ranges were made such as miniatures, keyrings, larger Gold Rail vehicles, pull backs and wind-up toys. Ertl also produced other non-Thomas ranges, such as TUGS.
Retail of the Thomas ranges ceased in markets outside the UK in 2002. Due to Ertl acquiring Learning Curve International in 2003, the Thomas ranges were discontinued in 2004 to avoid conflict with the then existing Take Along Thomas system license held by Learning Curve. Since then, the Ertl toys have become very valuable; some more than others, with models such as Emily, Spencer and Jock Being extremely hard to find and when found are often very expensive. Often there have been repeated calls to resurrect the range, but none of these have been successful.
The models were mostly 1/64 scale, however, the scale was not consistent, with smaller engines being enlarged to make them easier to handle and larger engines scaled down somewhat to remain within size restrictions.
1/64 Scale Die-cast range
1984 - 1992
The 1/64 Scale Die-cast range launched in the UK in 1984 with a model of Thomas, before releasing Henry and James later the same year. All the engines had sticker faces. The sticker face matched the face of the character's illustration on the packaging card. Thomas' model also came with optional sad/tired decals. The packaging card of these early models was predominately one feature colour, often matching the model, with a white oval in the centre, containing an illustration of the character. Above the illustration was the smoke cloud logo that normally contained "Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends", but instead held the full name of the character. Below the illustration was the model in a moulded plastic blister. A blue footer contained the Ertl and Thomas logos. The reverse side of the card listed other available models and commercial details. The models of Thomas, Henry and James originally had white running boards with red applied to the sides, but these were later updated with red running boards in 1985. Also in 1985, the range was expanded to include Percy, Toby, Bertie, Annie and Clarabel. Models of Edward and Gordon were released in 1988.
Although no new models were released in 1989, the range was released outside of the UK. The packaging card used in the US was a similar, but more compact design, removing the illustration of the character from the centre and featuring a consistent blue colour for all models. The blue footer was changed to red to contrast with the rest of the card. The reverse side of the card listed other available models, but also included a feature illustration and a brief description of the character. 1990 saw the release of new models as well as updated versions of previous models. These updated models featured 3D 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 Troublesome Trucks were originally painted brown, but from 1991 onwards, they were released in their normal grey livery.
1993 - 1999
The packaging card for the range was revamped in 1993 with the US featuring a Shining Time Station theme, while the UK and everywhere else had packaging featuring the character's "portrait" as illustrated by Owain Bell. Both card styles included a "collectors card" that could be cut out containing a brief description of the character and a card number.
The Shining Time Station card is an aerial image of countryside with many fields, a few bridges and some village buildings. There is track coming along the left-hand side of the image which turns and comes across the card. The model is located on this track in a moulded plastic blister. Behind the model is a white box that joins to the typical smoke cloud and contains the model's full name. The Shining Time Station logo is situated above the image and uses a frame to encompass most of the image. The collector card on the rear of the card features a large illustration of the character, a small statement beneath about the illustration and the collectors card number to the left of the illustration.
The portrait card was an image of the character towards the right hand side of the card, passing between a bush of flowers on their left and a mound of grass on their right. 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. The portraits form the front of the collector cards when cut out. 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. The model was located below the portrait in a moulded plastic blister and the reverse side displayed a numbered list of available characters.
Variations of the Shining Time cards include three packs of Annie and Clarabel with either Thomas or Percy, with the later having a different collectors card number. Culdee, Godred and "City of Truro" were marked as "Special edition engines", with "City of Truro"'s collector card claiming to be the "Star of Gordon and the Famous Visitor". Also released in 1995 was a limited edition gold-painted Thomas on the portrait card to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Railway Series. This portrait card featured a gold foil ribbon under Thomas' name and the collectors card was numbered "1". George is unique in that two different portraits exist: one where he is similar to the model and one where he is entirely green (as depicted in the Railway Series).
The Shining Time themed card in the US was discontinued in 1996, after that show ended and from 1997, the US would use the same portrait style cards as the UK. Further variations arose in 1998, with Bulstrode's portrait and the first wave of limited edition metallic engines. Bulstrode's portrait is the only exception to the illustrated location on the card. 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. Thomas, Percy, Rheneas and Duncan formed the first wave of metallic engines, featuring metallic paint, their portrait images embossed with coloured foil, a limited edition plaque drawn above their names and no collectors card number. The second and final wave of metallic engines was released in 1998 featuring Duke, Sir Handel, Rusty and Lord Harry. Many collectors cards released in 1999 also featured bilingual (English and French) descriptions and historical information of the character. The portrait style packaging card was discontinued after 1999.
2000 - 2004
With the exception of the Silver Millennium Thomas (which was the last model to feature the "portrait card" and its collector card), the packaging card style was changed again in 2000. Featured artwork was removed and a predominately blue background was made consistent for all models. The revised "Thomas and Friends" logo, featuring the face-on image of Thomas with the smoke cloud beneath, was made more prominent in the top left hand corner, beside the name of the model in a stylised nameplate. The model, in its moulded plastic blister, was located below these, with a yellow rectangle behind and a red border. Down the right had side of the card was a bar of five circular pictograms (a letter "T", a right-hand arrow, a clock, two flags and a number "1"). There were no collector's cards with this change. The Ertl logo was moved to the bottom right hand corner, replacing the Britt Allcroft logo and the Gullane logo took its place in the bottom left hand corner. The reverse side lacked any form of art or information of the model and only displayed bilingual commercial details.
A special packaging variation was also used this year for models of 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". The revised "Thomas and Friends" logo was replaced with the logo of "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" and the nameplate was given a wooden render. Instead of the predominately blue background, a sparkling yellow background was used and the rectangle behind the model was a cloud-like render with a red-sparkle border. The bar on the right used additional pictograms and featured small cartoons of Diesel 10, Thomas, Splatter, Lady, Dodge and James. An image of Thomas appeared in the bottom left corner. There was no variation from the 2000 packaging card on the reverse side.
Model figures of P.T. Boomer (known as Pete Boom) and Mr. Conductor were also supposed to be released at this time. 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.
The range was discontinued outside the UK after 2001.
The packaging card style changed again in 2002. The prominent logo in the top left corner was shrunk, the blue background was replaced with two tone diagonal stripes and the pictogram bar was changed to a footer with additional images. A cartoon illustration of the model was included in the top right-hand corner and rails were drawn under the model in their moulded plastic blister. The collectors card returned to the rear of this style of packaging; with a larger copy of the illustration on the front and a brief paragraph of the character's personality, but not any factual historical information.
The new models released this year also featured a change with a new coupling style, which changed from the basic "hook and eye" style to a U-hook, for their rear coupling. This was believed to be sturdier and longer-lasting and allowed for the engines to couple together. This also changed the direction in which the rolling stock with the basic "hook and eye" coupling faced when connected to an engine with the U-hook, as both hooks were incompatible together. The track was also revamped to look more realistic. Additional details were having a green grass edge, grey ballast, silver rails and brown sleepers, replacing the previous plain grey moulded track (that still had a grass edge and moulded rails and sleepers).
In 2003 the U-hook coupling style was applied on all the existing models with the basic "hook and eye" coupling. The age profile also changed, from 3 years to 2 1/2 years. 2004 was the final year of new released models. These were designed by A. J. Chetwynd.
The table below lists the released models, their first year of release and the number of their collectors card with the appropriate packaging card style, where applicable.
To sort by multiple columns, hold down the shift key while clicking on the column headings or sort individually in the sequence desired.
|Model||Original Release Year||Portrait number||Shining Time number||Cartoon number||Notes|
|Thomas||1984||1||1||1||Thomas was updated in 1985.|
|Henry||1984||3||3||3||Henry was updated in 1985|
|James||1984||5||5||5||James was updated in 1985|
|Percy||1985||6||6||21||Two early variations exist|
|Annie and Clarabel (with Thomas)||1985||13||11||20||Initially only in a three pack with either Thomas or Percy until 1990.|
|Troublesome Trucks||1990||12||22||26||Brown coloured in 1990, replaced with grey from 1991. Available in a three pack with James.|
|Fat Controller and Porter||1990||22||20||38||The Fat Controller is listed as Sir Topham Hatt and the porter is listed as The Engineer on the Shining Time Station packaging.|
|Bill||1991||15||15||23||Also in a Shining Time twin pack|
|Ben||1991||16||14||24||Also in a Shining Time twin pack|
|Donald||1992||9||9||34||Also in a Shining Time twin pack|
|Douglas||1992||10||10||35||Also in a Shining Time twin pack|
|Henrietta||1992||17||18||18||Originally available in a twin pack with Toby|
|Tar and Milk Wagons||1992||25||27||29|
|Old Coaches||1992||30||37||?||Only available with Edward or James as a limited edition, in a three pack until 1994|
|City of Truro||1993||29||34||15||Marked as a Shining Time Station Special Edition Engine|
|The Breakdown Train||1994||28||36||42|
|Gold Anniversary Thomas||1995||1||-||-|
|Scrap Trevor (on flatbed)||1995||33||-||50|
|The Sodor Mail Coaches||1995||34||43||93|
|Godred||1995||37||39||?||Marked as a Shining Time Station Special Edition Engine|
|Culdee||1995||36||40||?||Marked as a Shining Time Station Special Edition Engine|
|George||1995||35||41||44||There are 3 different portrait packaging variations|
|Sir Topham Hatt's Car||1996||45||49||51|
|The Chinese Dragon||1998||54||-||?|
|S.C. Ruffey||1998||52||-||?||Paired with a troublesome truck for a limited time|
|Henry's Log Car||1998||57||-||?|
|D. Fusit Gunpowder Wagons||1999||59||-||37|
|The Mail Van||1999||61||-||?|
|Bertram||2000||-||-||?||Originally released as BertrUm|
|Silver Millennium Thomas||2000||1||-||-|
|The Pump Trolley||2001||-||-||?|
|Lorry 1 on a flatbed||2001||-||-||?|
|Sir Topham Hatt and Lady Hatt||2001||-||-||?|
|Old Slow Coach||2001||-||-||?|
|Gordon's Special Coaches||2001||-||-||?|
|Sodor Recovery Unit||2001||-||-||68||Originally released as the Recovery Unit in 2001, but from 2002 was released as Butch.|
|The Silly Trucks||2002||-||-||10||Versions exist with the U-hook couplings at either end.|
|Dowager Hatt and Mrs. Kyndley||2002||-||-||14|
|Wind up Fat Controller||1990||-||25||-||Released within the Shining Time Station range (1993-1996) and given a Collector Card number|
|Bill & Ben Twin Pack||1993||-||30||-||Packaged together in the Shining Time Station range (1993-1996) with a shared Collector Card number|
|Donald & Douglas Twin Pack||1993||-||31||-||Packaged together in the Shining Time Station range (1993-1996) with a shared Collector Card number|
|Annie & Clarabel (with Percy)||1993||-||12||-||Re-Packaged together with either Thomas or Percy in the Shining Time Station range (1993-1996) with a unique Collector Card number|
|Thomas (with Annie & Clarabel)||1993||-||23||-||Packaged together with Annie & Clarabel in the Shining Time Station range (1993-1996) with a unique Collector Card number|
|Percy (with Annie & Clarabel)||1993||-||24||-||Packaged together with Annie & Clarabel in the Shining Time Station range (1993-1996) with a unique Collector Card number|
There have been a few special edition models and variations. These differ from the rest of the range by having unique packing variations, no collector card number and were usually not reissued.
- Melody and Motion Thomas with a wind-up Fat Controller
- Musical Thomas
- Metallic Engines set – Metallic Thomas, James and Henry
- Released in 1998:
- Metallic Thomas
- Metallic Percy
- Metallic Rheneas
- Metallic Duncan
- Metallic Engines set - Metallic Thomas, Percy, Rheneas and Duncan
- Released in 1999:
- Metallic Duke
- Metallic Sir Handel
- Metallic Rusty
- Metallic Lord Harry
- Released in 2000:
- Christmas themed:
- Christmas Thomas - Christmas hat Thomas with a snowplough
- Santa Thomas - Christmas hat Thomas and "Toybox" S.C. Ruffey with presents
- Thomas and the Christmas Tree Gift Set - Thomas with Christmas hat and scarf, flatbed with Christmas tree and the Fat Controller dressed as Santa
In addition to the regular range and Special Editions, a portion of packs containing multiple different vehicles were released. Some of these were exclusive to the Shining Time Station range.
- Five pack of Thomas, Henry, Diesel, Annie and Clarabel
- First released between 1984 and 1999
- Three pack of Thomas, The Fat Controller and Porter
- Three pack of Thomas, Annie and Clarabel
- Three pack of Percy, Annie and Clarabel
- Three pack of Thomas, James and Henry
- Three pack of Edward, Gordon and Percy
- Three pack of Toby, Henry and Henrietta
- Three pack of Terence, James and Percy
- Three pack of Bertie, Harold and Thomas
- 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 two Troublesome Trucks (Shining Time Station)
- Six pack of Sir Handel, Rusty, D199, two express coaches and the Fat Controller's car (Shining Time Station)
- First released between 2000 and 2004
- Gift Set - containing Thomas, Diesel, S.C. Ruffey and a Troublesome Truck (released 2002)
- Gift Set - containing Thomas, Troublesome Trucks and a Fire Engine
- Gift Set - containing Thomas, Harold, Sixteen, Toby and two Express Coaches
- Gift Set - containing Thomas, Lady, George, two Dfusit Gunpowder wagons, Fire Engine and Sodor Recovery Unit
- Gift Set - containing Thomas, Lady, Sir Topham Hatt, Bertie, express coaches, Annie and Clarabel
- Sodor Gift Set - containing Thomas, Percy, James, Skarloey and S.C. Ruffey
- Sodor Gift Set - containing Thomas, Toby, Harold, Old Slow Coach and Duke
- Two pack of Percy and S.C. Ruffey
- Two pack of Thomas and Lady (a Fundraiser for the National Autism Society)
- Three pack of Bertie, James and Henry
- Five pack of Percy, a milk wagon, a tar wagon, Peter Sam and Toby
- Five pack of Lady, two Old Coaches, Wilbert and Terence
- Five pack of Thomas, Annie and Clarabel, Godred and Bluebell
- Six pack of Thomas, Henry, James, Caroline, Skarloey and Harold
- 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 wagon, tar wagon 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 interlocking grey plastic with rails etched into it. The grey plastic track was updated in 2002 to green plastic with a sticker of rails on top.
- First released between 1984 and 1993
- Thomas, Percy, Annie & Clarabel Playset (no track; made from card)
- Playtrack mat
- First Released between 1993 and 1999
- Starter set (including 8 pieces of track, Thomas, Annie & Clarabel)
- Circle Line set (including Percy and Express Coaches)
- Real Sounds Playset
- Branchline Playtrack
- Turntable Playtrack
- Deluxe Playtrack (featuring branchline and turntable playtracks and water tower and crane accessories)
- Water tower Accessory Set
- Crane Accessory Set
- Windmill Accessory Set
- Tunnel Accessory Set
- Quarry Loading Accessory Set
- Crossing Accessory Set
- Stationhouse Accessory Set
- Diecast Engines with track
- First released between 2000 and 2004
- Roundhouse and Carry Case Deluxe Set
- Sodor Viaduct Bridge Playset (includes Thomas, Sir Topham Hatt's Car and Old Coaches)
- Sodor Mainline Playtrack (featuring Real Sounds Stationhouse, Road Bridge and Level Crossing Accessories)
- Thomas Playset (includes Thomas, Percy and two Express coaches; released 2001)
- Peep! Peep! Thomas Set (includes Carrying Case, Thomas, Annie, Clarabel and track)
- Branch Line Playset - Extra Added Value Pack (includes George, Bertie, Thomas and Wilbert)
- Turntable and Engine Shed Accessory Set
- Road Bridge Accessory Set
- 2x Straight Track
- 2x Points Track
- 2x Curved Track
- Die-cast Engines with track
- Diesel with four points
- Shining Time Station exclusive playsets
- Construction Playset
- Seaport Playset
- Railyard Carry-Along
- Wellsworth Station Carry-Along Playset
- Playmat (3'x5')
Around 1996, additional accessory track assortment sets had been planned and advertised. These were 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, nor advertised in the UK and Australia.
- This section is about the ERTL Gold Rail range. You may be looking for the Bandai Thomas Engine Collection Series.
The Gold Rail Series was a short-lived line in the 1990s. Designed by Bandai in Japan, the models had magnetic couplings and are a fraction smaller than a HO scale train. The back of the models boxes featured the same illustration as those on the Shining Time Station collectors cards of the die-cast range.
- Henry (cancelled)
- Clarabel (released 1993)
- Truck 1
- Truck 2
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 Signal Box
- 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
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 3D faces and "LEGO-like" bases. A LEGO-like set included Toby and Harold.
A large walking wind up Fat Controller with large feet was released. This was released individually and later together with the Melody and Motion Thomas.
There was also a range of Wind-up Ertl vehicles. These included:
In 1985 a 1/32 scale model of Thomas was released with motors. A motorised Percy was released later.
Remote and Radio Control
In 1985, two variations of a controlled Thomas were released, one with a corded remote control and one with a wireless radio control.
The remote control Thomas is a large plastic vehicle similar in design to the smaller scale versions. The two rear wheels are the driving wheels and feature rubber tread to improve traction. There is an idle jockey wheel between the two front wheels, which is displaced when in reverse, creating the perception of turning. The cord to the remote runs from under the rear buffer and is approximately 120cm (48in) long. The remote is mostly just a housing for batteries, but features two push buttons at the top, left one for reverse and right for forward and a sticker with directional arrows for the buttons and the Kaye & Ward style logo. The packaging lists four features of the remote control Thomas: Forward, Reverse, Turns in Reverse, Battery Operated (Uses 2 AA batteries - not included). The rear side of the packaging shows illustrations of radio controlled Thomas and the personalised money box. Its product number is #4731.
The radio controlled Thomas' product number is #4688.
In 1985 a "Personalised Money Box" Thomas was released. Its product number is #1055.
Pull Back vehicles
The first set of pull back vehicles were large 6 inch die cast models of Thomas and Percy, released in 1984. These could be operated by dragging the model backwards along the floor so their wheels could "wind up" and letting go to "unwind".
After 1993, another set of pull back vehicles were released. 1/64 scale die cast models of Thomas, Percy, Toby and Bertie used the same mechanism. These were under the range of "Pull back & go!" and used the Shining Time Station themed packaging card.
In 1998, a series of numbered Collector Cards were released, featuring Owain Bell's artwork from the 1/64 scale packaging cards. These were manufactured in the UK and sold randomly in foil blind packets of eight cards. 57 cards were produced (matching all the models up to 1998) and featured a quote from Sir Topham Hatt about the character on the reverse side. Three additional cards of Thomas were also produced, coloured Gold, Silver and Bronze and illustrated in an 'etched' style; resulting in a total of 60 cards in the series. Although labelled as "Series 1", a second series was never produced.
Within the Ertl's 'Collectables' range, a red car with white tyres resembling Sir Topham Hatt's Car was released in 2001. The packaging states 'Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends', 'based on The Railway Series by the Rev W Awdry' and bears the Britt Allcroft logo.
In 2001, Ertl produced a plastic Thomas case, containing a copy of One Blue Engine inside.