Thomas and the Magic Railroad (lost test footage of 3.5" character models for British children's TV series; 1995)
After the difficulties of working on a small scale were made apparent during Thomas the Tank Engine Engine and Friends's 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. Models of Thomas and Percy were built by David Eves, who had also built Stepney and the narrow gauge engines. These two models were 3.5" gauge, and built to twice the size of the standard engines used for filming of the show previously, gauge 1. It is unclear if this test also utilized green screens to add in Mr. Conductor from Shining Time Station.
Results[edit | edit source]
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 entire 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,
Remnants[edit | edit source]
In The Night Train sing-a-long, shots of the 3.5" Thomas' wheels are used. These shots highlight the different design of Thomas' wheels on this model, with different counterweights and rods to closer match the basis. However this may not be from the test footage as it was not uncommon for previous sing-a-longs to use specially shot footage, especially with this being in Night-time lighting. Alternate angles of this shot appeared in Come for the Ride and Five New Engines in the Shed sing-a-longs.
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. The two engines have unique faces made to match the gauge 1 versions. The platform of Cronk station can be seen in the background.
The 3.5" Thomas was 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, new lamps, and Percy's model being repainted to matte colors. The models would also appear rarely in the eight through twelve season of the show and occasionally further being 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 manufactures 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 not appear in the sixth season and implies some of faces were reused during the filming of the sixth season.
The Cronk station would appear in the sixth season, and the spinoff. A signal box, water tower, and various signals that appeared with the 3.5" models in the sixth season onwards may have also originated from the test footage.