The Sad Story of Henry (lost live BBC broadcast adaptation of "The Railway Series" books; 1953)

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The sad story of henry title card.png

Original U.K. title card from the show.

Status: Lost

Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends is a children’s show adapted from the Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son Christopher Awdry’s The Railway Series stories. While this is certainly the most famous adaption of Awdry’s stories, it was not the first, having been preceded by a live broadcast in 1953 by the BBC. Unfortunately the technical difficulties associated with it would prevent a full series being commissioned for some time to come.

Background[edit | edit source]

In 1953, the BBC approached The Railway Series editor Eric Marriott and inquired about the possibility of adapting at least two stories from The Railway Series to television. Marriott and Rev. Awdry approved the proposal, on condition only that the the adaptation be as faithful as possible. The broadcast was to be done using 00 Gauge Hornby Models, with sets based on the book's original illustrations to ensure authenticity. The script however was "freely adapted", in order to fit the ten-minute broadcast limit. It was broadcast live from Lime Grove Studios on Sunday, June 14th, 1953.

Live Broadcast[edit | edit source]

For this initial attempt, the BBC had chosen to adapt "The Sad Story of Henry", a suitably dramatic tale of the titular engine being bricked up in a tunnel after he refuses to leave it for fear of a rainstorm spoiling his new paint. The live adaptation was a complex production for the time, including the elaborate model train setup plus superimposed rain and other effects, overlaid by music and narration by Julia Lang. The models were reported to jerk around as they moved, but other than that, the broadcast went well - until the lead engine derailed, the train set operator having missed switching the points before the engine arrived at them. To the surprise of viewers, a human hand abruptly picked up the engine and put it back on the rails instead.

Aftermath/Preservation[edit | edit source]

The broadcast went on without further incident and was generally well-received, but the derailment and its unexpected resolution managed to make the front page of several newspapers. An angry Rev. Awdry is recorded therein as demanding guarantees that a similar blunder would not happen in the second broadcast (scheduled for June 28th); however seriously the BBC took this, the broadcast was in fact put on hold, and later cancelled. Although numerous attempts were made to revive the series, all were unsuccessful until the iconic current series began airing in 1991.

As the show was broadcast live and knowing the BBC's track record for preserving old content - let alone one with this kind of technical issue - it's no surprise that it is entirely lost. It is highly unlikely that anyone recorded the single broadcast; however, a Sodor Island Forums user named OJ said that he might have seen a clip of it while watching an episode of "It'll Be Alright on the Night" somewhere in the 1990s. Sadly, the clip was later found to be something completely unrelated.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

ClickClackTrack's video on the subject.
Scribbles to Screen's video mentioning "The Sad Story of Henry"'s 1953 adaptation (0:42-3:43).

See Also (BBC Wiped Programs Media)[edit | edit source]

See Also (Thomas Series)[edit | edit source]

Thomas & Friends[edit | edit source]

Thomas the Tank Engine[edit | edit source]

Other[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]