Wooden Railway was a Thomas & Friends merchandise line that consisted of wooden model trains, tracks and accessories and is a railway system created by Learning Curve in 1992. Learning Curve held the rights until 2011, until the range was acquired by TOMY, who owned the rights to Wooden Railway in 2012. From 2013 to 2017, the Wooden Railway range has been produced by Fisher-Price. The Wooden Railway line was replaced with Wood in Fall 2017.
Wooden Railway worked alongside BRIO and other wooden train brands due to using a nearly-identical track system. However, its successor, Wood, has a different track connecting system, thus ending compatibility with other brands, though adapters for the older Wooden Railway track pieces have been made and released.
Product History, Design and Make
The Wooden Railway merchandise line for the Thomas & Friends franchise was created by Learning Curve in 1992. These original models were primarily constructed with painted wood, along with metal used in the coupling magnets and axles and plastic for the wheels and faces. These models were relatively simple, with simple wooden stubs for the funnel and dome, while details such as windows, whistles and buffer beams were omitted.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the line was overhauled and the majority of the models underwent major redesigns. The wooden funnel and smokebox were replaced with a separate plastic smokebox with a more realistic funnel. The tender engines received an additional upgrade, with a moulded plastic coal pile for their tenders.
These improved designs were manufactured until 2002, when they were replaced with a third generation of design, which included new and more detailed faces. 2011 saw another slight re-design in the form of new faces to coincide with the recent CGI switchover.
In late 2011, TOMY bought out Learning Curve and as such acquired the rights to the Wooden Railway line. They sold the products previously planned to be released by Learning Curve for early 2012. The products due to be released in late 2012 coinciding with the special Blue Mountain Mystery were cancelled because Learning Curve had only developed the computer generated prototypes, before they were acquired by TOMY. Most of these cancelled releases with the new CGI style models were re-constructed by TOMY and sold under their name and a few others were later released by Fisher-Price. TOMY held the licensing until the end of 2012.
Since 2013, Fisher-Price began manufacturing and distributing the Wooden Railway merchandise line and this change introduced another re-design. This upgrade was used for all of the Wooden Railway merchandise line until late 2017. All the engines, rolling stock and vehicles were re-constructed with more paint detailing, current CGI styled faces as well as curved edges to prevent edge-wear and wood-break. All models with multiple bogies had their chassis made of plastic and other slight plastic incorporations were utilised to cut down production costs. The Wooden Railway merchandise range became one of Thomas & Friends' longest-running and most popular merchandise lines.
In late 2016, some engines received smaller faces that no longer cover the whole smokebox front and others' faces were changed.
In late 2017, twenty-five years after the debut of the Wooden Railway line, it was retired and replaced with Wood. The replacement was originally announced to take place in 2018, but ended up happening sooner.
"Lights and Sounds" Engines
Learning Curve Era
- Thomas (discontinued)
- James (discontinued)
- Percy (discontinued)
- Holiday Lights Thomas (discontinued)
"Roll and Whistle" Engines
Light-Up Reveal Engines
- Bertie (cancelled)
- Annie & Clarabel
Talking Railway Series
The Talking Railway Series was a range of interactive engines and playsets. The engines have special gold magnets which, when they are at a destination, will cause the Fat Controller to greet them. This range is discontinued.
My Custom Engine Series
In the summer of 2014, Mattel announced that fans can design their own Wooden Railway characters and purchase them online. Fans also receive a personalized story book. The five colours that fans can choose from are blue, red, green, purple and silver. They can also name and number their character. In November 2014, Mattel released limited editions of each engine, that came with either snow, Christmas lights, or snow and lights designs.
- Friendly Steamie (using Charlie's design)
- Helpful Steamie (using Peter Sam's design)
- Spunky Steamie (using Scruff's design)
- Diesel (unreleased; using Norman's design)
My Thomas Story Library Book Packs
Also website-exclusive products, Book Packs have been released containing a My Thomas Story Library Book, as well as the engine the each book was named after.
- Thomas the Tank Engine
- Percy the Small Engine
- Gordon the Big Engine
- James the Red Engine
- Emily the Stirling Engine
- Salty the Dockyard Diesel
Sodor Story Collection Book Packs
- Logan and the Big Blue Engines
- Sam and the Great Bell
- Dustin Comes in First
- Dustin and the Sodor Storm Team
The Early Engineers brand was a compatible extension of the Wooden Railway range. The engines were larger, blockier and had fewer wheels. The range has been discontinued.
From the introduction of the Wooden Railway system, Learning Curve, TOMY and Mattel have made yearbooks to feature their items. The items would be shown with standard "mugshots" for engines and cars, while sets would be shown assembled. The cover would also feature the new items on it with Thomas usually being in the foreground.
- At 25 years, Wooden Railway was the longest-running and most popular Thomas & Friends merchandise line (with ERTL being the second longest-running at 20 years).
- Some items were bundled with US DVDs and VHS tapes. Some were only available in these bundles, such as the Honey Barrel Car.
- In Asia, the series is called the Thomas Wooden Rail Series.
- Thomas and Stepney, along with a Green Fossil Car were seen on a wooden train set in The Big Bang Theory episode, "The Friendship Algorithm".
- Cranky, the Sodor Engine Wash, and the Water Tower were seen in Parks and Recreation episode, "Donna & Joe".
- The Roundhouse set and the Playtable are visible in a scene of Marley & Me.
- The Awdry-style Thomas has a unique set of wheels which have only been used on said model. The model also has a face, which the Rev W. Awdry's Thomas model lacked.
- One of Harvey's prototype models showed his magnet attached to a string.
- Jack Frost Percy, Stephen, Scruff, Porter, flashback/rusty Victor, Philip, the light and sound engines and the battery operated engines are the only models with buffers (painted on).
- Hugo is the final new character introduced in the Wooden Railway line.
- Some models share the same base.
- Ryan's model has the same base as Thomas'.
- The NW Brake-van's model has the same base as Henrietta's.
- In 2007, several Wooden Railway products were recalled by RC2 Corp due to traces of lead in the paint, which posed a poisoning hazard. About 1.5 million products were recalled, although no cases of children being affected were reported. The recalled products included:
- Lights & Sounds James
- James with Team Colours
- Old Slow Coach
- The Fire Engines
- Red Musical Caboose
- Red Sodor Line Caboose
- Red Coal Car labelled "2006 Day Out With Thomas" on the Side
- Red Baggage Car
- Red Holiday Caboose
- "Sodor Mail" Car
- Fire Brigade Truck
- Fire Brigade Train
- Deluxe Sodor Fire Station
- Red Coal Car
- Yellow Box Car
- Red Stop Sign
- Yellow Railroad Crossing Sign
- Yellow "Sodor Cargo Company" Cargo Piece
- Smelting Yard
- Ice Cream Factory
- The Lead Paint Crisis also involved the cancellation of the Holiday Station.
- The Lead Paint Crisis in September 2007 also involved Toad, A green Maple tree, a signal base, the cargo car from The Brendam Fishing Dock, and the Cargo Piece from Deluxe Cranky.
- Many characters' prototypes used faces from other characters' models:
- The prototype for Skarloey used Percy's face.
- The original Bill and Ben prototypes used James' face.
- The prototypes of Stepney, Oliver and Ryan used Thomas' face.
- Oliver's (the excavator) prototype had Salty's face.
- Some models have/had wheel inaccuracies:
- The earliest model of Thomas as seen in the 22 Piece Starter Set can be seen with red wheels.
- Toby has four wheels instead of six.
- One of Salty's prototypes was longer and had eight wheels instead of six.
- The 2004 Rheneas model had white wheels.
- Trevor's original model's wheels are black instead of red.
- Oliver's original model had black wheels.
- Harvey has black wheels.
- Luke and Stafford's prototypes had six wheels. Also, one of Luke's prototypes had green wheels instead of black.
- Kevin's original 2009 model had red wheels instead of yellow.
- Hugo is depicted with eight wheels instead of four.
- While Whiff's model has the correct amount of wheels, this results in him being longer than engines who should be the same size as him.
- Belle's late 2013 model had completely blue wheels despite it having blue with the red centre.
- Millie's model is smaller than the other narrow gauge engines produced by the line.
- Flying Scotsman's reintroduced model features the British Railways logo with "Mainland Railways" printed in place of the British Railways text.
- Flying Scotsman's reintroduced model's box features the tenders and text in the wrong positions.
- Connor's prototype was Spencer's model repainted.
- Rheneas had an inaccurate carmine livery, the 1997-2001 model also has this inaccurate carmine livery.
- The name underneath Duke's tender reads "Duke's Coal Car" instead of "Duke's Tender".
- Catherine's model is actually based on illustrations of the Truck, with the tool van section treated as a separate carriage and labelled with Catherine's name.
- Sidney's hazard stripes are on his front buffer beam instead of under his face.
- Bertram's original model depicts him in his proposed tank engine form, with a complete new design and face. In his TV series appearance, he uses Duke's model with Smudger's face. When he was reintroduced in 2016, he was given a tender, but retained his bunker.
- Hank's model does not have a front coupler like other Wooden Railway engines and his television series appearance. Interestingly, Connor and Caitlin's wooden models have front couplers, while their front couplers are concealed in the TV series.
- Duck's original model had no funnel and his reintroduced model's prototype had a green one. His production model, however, has the correct black one.
- Donald and Douglas' models have no funnels.
- Rosie's models never included her lipstick or blush until her Battery Powered model in 2011.
- The first editions of Bill, Ben and Toby used stickers for detailing.
- A total of fifteen characters exclusively from the Railway Series have been released in the Wooden Railway range. However, before Mike and the Flying Scotsman were introduced to the television series, a total of seventeen characters were released.
- Marion's model does not have a coal bunker and has a front coupling which Marion should lack.
- Kevin's original 2009 model was extremely out of proportion and did not have freckles. These problems were fixed in his 2013 release.
- Harvey's model's cab is oddly short to accommodate his hook. He is also brown instead of maroon red and does not have a boiler.
- Fergus' reintroduced model has entirely white wheels despite his original model having the correct red wheels with a white rim.
- Flashback Victor's saddle tank around his smoke box is entirely black, when only the front area around his face should be.
- A Wooden Railway toy of Thomas along with Peter Sam were seen in Australia's Funniest Home Videos.
- Rusty and Duke's Models cameoed in a magnet video with black paper concealing some of their details.
- Green Salty's prototype's running board and warning stripes were purple.
- The reintroduced models of Bill and Ben comprises of Bill in yellow and Ben in blue, even though in the episode with which this release coincides, Bill was the first of the two to be repainted blue and Ben was only repainted blue while Bill was also blue.
- Lady's 2014 model has a black roof instead of a purple one. All her other models, except for her battery-powered model, have the correct purple roof.
- The prototype for the original version of Sir Topham Hatt's car had it green with the windows blacked out.
- Sir Topham Hatt's Model was seen in a sketch in The Footy Show.
- James' 2001 Battery Powered Prototype had the correct black wheels while his real model has grey ones.