Thomas and the Magic Railroad (lost test footage of 3.5" character models for British children's TV series; 1995)

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Britt Allcroft and David Mitton with the test footage models.

Status: Lost

After the difficulties of working on a small scale were made apparent during Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends' fourth season with the narrow gauge engines and Britt Allcroft's movie based on the franchise, Thomas and the Magic Railroad moving further into production, the film crew made the decision to run a test of filming with models on a larger scale as well as testing special effects with putting live-action footage of a person into the Thomas world. Veteran concept artist Bob Gauld-Galliers played the role of Mr. Conductor from the show Shining Time Station. Models of Thomas and Percy were built by modelmaker David Eves. These two models were 3.5" gauge and built to twice the size of the standard engines used for the filming of the show previously, gauge 1.


The crew was left with footage that had a runtime less than a standard episode. It was ultimately decided that it would be too costly to rebuild an entirely new fleet of engines. The crew returned back to the Gauge 1 models for the fifth season of the show and Thomas and the Magic Railroad.[1]


An image featuring Britt Allcroft and director David Mitton posing with the models and set during the filming of the test footage was uploaded by various crew members.[2] The two engines have unique faces made to match the gauge 1 versions. The platform of Cronk station can be seen in the background.

An image from the test footage would later surface online, featuring Thomas' unfinished 3.5" gauge model placed alongside his standard gauge 1 model.

Two sets of storyboards made by Bob Gauld-Galliers, as well as planning sheets for the special effects would also surface online. These storyboards depict Thomas travelling through the countryside to the station to meet Percy and drop off Mr. Conductor. The sets of storyboards are nearly identical except for the size of Mr. Conductor, with one portraying him as the size of a normal person compared to his surroundings and the other more like his miniature size as seen in Shining Time Station. These storyboards share similarities to the introduction of Thomas in Thomas and the Magic Railroad.

The 3.5" Thomas was used for shots in music videos starting in 1999, and then repurposed for the sixth season as a designated model for episodes featuring the pack, and later the spin-off Jack and the Sodor Construction Company. The 3.5" Percy would also appear in the spinoff. Both models had many alterations from their initial build, including new faces, lamps, and Percy's model being repainted with matte colors. The models would also appear rarely in the eighth through twelfth season of the show and occasionally further altered from the original design. The 3.5" models are now rotating between locations of various displays throughout Japan.

Like many other faces, a resin cast of the 3.5" Thomas face was sent to one or more toy manufacturers for merchandise. This cast was upscaled and appeared on the Thomas Rollercoaster by Anatex dated 1997. This is the same face as the one that appeared in the image with David Mitton and Britt Allcroft. Because the face can be viewed in more detail, it can be confirmed that the same face did not appear in the sixth season and implies some of the faces were reused during the filming of the sixth season.

Both Cronk station and the signal box would appear in the sixth season and the spinoff. A water tower, signal, and other scenery that appeared with the 3.5" models in the sixth season onwards may have also originated from the test footage.




"Test Sequence"

"Little Man"

"Big Man"

See Also

Thomas & Friends

Thomas the Tank Engine