Wooden Railway is a Thomas & Friends merchandise line that consists of wooden models, tracks and accessories and is a model 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. Since 2013, the Wooden Railway range has been produced by Fisher-Price. It is one of the longest-running Thomas & Friends merchandise lines. Wooden Railway can work alongside BRIO trains due to using a nearly-identical track system.
Product History, Design and Make
The Wooden Railway merchandise line for the Thomas & Friends franchise was created by Learning Curve in 1992. It is unknown whether they were officially released in that same year or in 1993. 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 1990's and early 2000's, the models were upgraded. 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 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. These cancelled releases with the new CGI style models were re-constructed by TOMY and sold under their name. 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 is currently being used for all of the Wooden Railway merchandise line. 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. Fisher-Price still produces the Wooden Railway line and their current designs are being used presently. The Wooden Railway merchandise range has become one of Thomas & Friends' longest-running merchandise lines.
In late 2016, some engines received smaller faces that no longer cover the whole smokebox front and others' faces were changed.
"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, the Fat Controller will greet them. This range is discontinued.
My Custom Engine Series
In 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 (coming soon; 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.
- The earliest model of Thomas as seen in the 22 Piece Starter Set can be seen with red wheels.
- The prototype for Skarloey used Percy's face.
- The 2004 Rheneas model had white wheels and an inaccurate carmine livery.
- The name underneath Duke's tender reads "Duke's Coal Car" instead of "Duke's Tender".
- The original Bill and Ben prototypes used James' face.
- One of Salty's prototypes had eight wheels. Another had a black buffer beam.
- Trevor's original model's wheels are black instead of red.
- Oliver's original model had black wheels.
- The prototypes of Stepney, Oliver and Ryan used Thomas' face.
- Some items were bundled with US DVDs and VHSs.
- Luke and Stafford's prototypes had six wheels. Also, one of Luke's prototypes had green wheels instead of black.
- 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.
- 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.
- One of Harvey's prototype models showed his magnet attached to a string.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Asia, the series is called the Thomas Wooden Rail Series.
- Marion's model does not have a coal bunker.
- Kevin's original 2009 model was extremely out of proportion, did not have freckles and had red wheels instead of yellow. 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.
- Harvey's wheels are black instead of his respective livery.
- Fergus' reintroduced model has entirely white wheels despite his original model having the correct red wheels.
- Flashback Victor's smokebox is entirely black, when only the front area around his face should be.
- Belle's late 2013 model had completely blue wheels despite it having blue with the red centre.
- Oliver's (the excavator) prototype had Salty's face.
- Donald and Douglas' models have no funnels.
- Green Salty's prototype's running board and warning stripes were purple.
- The Awdry-style Thomas has a unique set of wheels which, so far, have only been used on said model. The model also has a face, which the Rev W. Awdry's Thomas model lacked.
- Items from this range can be seen on a wooden train set in The Big Bang Theory episode, "The Friendship Algorithm."
- The Roundhouse set and the Playtable are visible in a scene of Marley & Me.
- 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. 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Ryan's model has the same base as Thomas'.
- Bert's model has the same base as Mike's 2015 model.
- Some items from this range were seen in the background in some scenes of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.
- 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 Wooden Railway models of Henry, Gordon, Donald and Douglas made a cameo in the 2004 film "離婚弁護士(Rikon Bengoshi) ".
- Hugo is depicted with eight wheels, similarly to his basis, instead of four.
- The prototype for the original version of Sir Topham Hatt's car had it green with the windows blacked out.