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Extremely simple push-button operation. Includes circular train track. Rides up to 2 mph. Talks and makes train sounds. Especially durable. Can ride without the track.
The most expensive Thomas available.
Affordable. Made from sustainably sourced wood. Ultra-durable. Other characters like Victor and Percy available. Colorful paint job. Magnet connects to other trains.
Doesn’t talk or make train sounds.
Features 4 different track layouts to fit your space. Easily holds 100 train engines. Tall and multi-tracked playset. Includes 3 tank engines and a helicopter.
A fairly pricy playset.
15 inches long. Ultra-soft and squishy. Plush and velvety exterior. Machine washable. Great for all ages. Green Percy and red James versions also available.
This chunky plush takes up some real estate on the bed.
Includes 30 miniature tank engines of Thomas and his friends. A wide range of eye-catching colors and designs. Features 3 exclusive beach-themed designs.
These are much smaller than the wooden train toys.
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If you have a young friend who loves Thomas & Friends and would like to learn more about toys on the market that celebrate the little blue engine and his cadre of companions, you’ve come to the right place.
Thomas the Tank Engine originated in the early 1940s in the mind of Reverend Wilbert Awdry, who invented the engine persona at the bedside of his son Christopher. Christopher was ill with the measles at the time, and Awdry sought to comfort his son with some fun train stories. By 1945, Awdry’s first book about Thomas the Train was published. Fast-forward 70-plus years and that initial seed idea has germinated into a beloved franchise.
Kids today can still read Thomas & Friends books. They can also watch Thomas & Friends TV shows and movies. In addition, they can own Thomas & Friends merchandise, and if you want to score big points with a young train lover, Thomas toys are the way to go. But which toy would be best? We created this guide to help you figure that out.
If you plan to buy a Thomas toy, it helps to know a little bit about the character behind it. Thomas is a little blue side-tank engine with a kindhearted personality and lots of friends. He resides in a roundhouse called Tidmouth Sheds on the Island of Sodor, which was loosely based on Reverend Awdry’s experience on the Isle of Man.
Most of Thomas’s friends are other engines, although he interacts with humans at times. Most of the engines have their own number and color, as well as a face, which appears at the front of the car and resembles a human face.
Many kids who love Thomas & Friends have a favorite engine. Here’s a look at some of the common favorites:
Percy: Percy is a green saddle tank engine who wears the number 6. He is a jovial train and Thomas’s best friend. His job is to deliver the mail.
Gordon: Gordon is a fast and powerful “senior” train who wears the number 4. He is blue with an adult-like face. Some view him as a helpful and good-natured older brother figure.
Henry: Henry is a large, fast green train who wears the number 3. He has been described as a “thoroughbred” and a bit of a “worrier.”
James: James is a midsize engine that can pull passengers or freight. He has a high opinion of himself, which invariably gets him into trouble.
Emily: Emily is a dark green engine with gold trim. She does not have a number. She can be bossy at times, but she is a good friend to the other trains.
In addition to these main characters, numerous additional players take part in the story of Thomas. Here are just a few of the notables:
Harold the Helicopter: Harold is not a train at all: he’s a helicopter! Nicknamed “Whirlybird,” he appeals to kids whose interest in engines extends beyond the train tracks.
Marion: Marion is a steam shovel who loves to dig. She’s a talkative gal who is prone to sharing her knowledge about everything under the sun.
Toby: Toby is a square engine who exudes an “old-fashioned” look and persona.
Troublesome Trucks: These mischievous wagons get pulled around by the various engines on the Island of Sodor. As the name suggests, they like to cause trouble for everyone else.
Now that you know a little bit about the backstory and cast of characters who make up Thomas & Friends, it’s time to decide what type of toy you want to purchase.
Perhaps the most popular and coveted type of Thomas toy is the train track set. These sets come with a number of track pieces that can be configured in different ways along with extras, such as one or more motorized engines, one or more push-along engines, and scenery pieces (windmills, tunnels, bridges, and more).
A huge part of the fun of owning a Thomas train track set is the joy of configuring it and allowing engines to run their courses. The more engines a child owns, the more choices they have when making up scenes and stories. Bear in mind that batteries are required to run these engines, so if you plan to give one as a gift, a pair (or more) of batteries would be appreciated.
These engines are enduring toys made of solid wood. If your child has a wooden track, wooden engines will complement it nicely. These engines do not run on battery power, but they still connect front-to-back courtesy of magnets built in to either end.
For toddlers and preschoolers who may not be ready to tinker with delicate tracks and small engines, a larger interactive toy with music and lights may be the right choice. Storytime Thomas is an interactive toy standing approximately 8 inches tall with music, lights, and stories. Count with Me Thomas is similar in size and invites children to count as they deposit ten large, easy-to-hold coins into a slot. Pullback Puffers are hand-powered plastic trains that come in the form of Thomas, James, and Percy. Plastic smoke rises and falls above their expressive faces as the engines move.
Unlike some other toy franchises, “plushie” Thomas collectibles do not permeate the market. That said, you can purchase some “pillow buddy” versions of Thomas, James, and Percy that may be used in pretend play and would certainly look nice sitting on a Thomas bedspread.
For kids who love collectibles, there are more than 80 Thomas & Friends minis available. Minis do not run on track and are not interactive, but they are delightful to look at, and they capture the uniqueness of the numerous characters seen in Thomas & Friends media. You can collect a variety of minis without spending a fortune, and they look wonderful when displayed in a curio cabinet or on a child’s bookshelf.
Whereas most of the toys we have mentioned thus far are made by Fisher-Price (owned by Mattel), other Thomas-themed toys exist, though they are a bit harder to find. That said, it’s possible to find Thomas jigsaw puzzles, coloring and activity books, storybooks, play tents, bathtub toys, and outdoor riding toys.
Some Thomas & Friends trains — particularly the rare and discontinued ones — are highly collectible and worth a fair amount of money. However, you’re unlikely to get rich by collecting the mainstream Thomas toys sold today.
For under $20, you can find some excellent Thomas & Friends gifts that would definitely be appreciated by a Thomas lover. These include coloring and activity books, miniature figurines, and storybooks. Single engines made of solid wood tend to cost around $15, whereas battery-operated engines tend to cost closer to $10 or $12. Pullback Puffers and some interactive toys for toddlers and preschoolers cost under $20 as well.
For $20 to $40, you will find multipacks of engines, interactive toys geared toward toddlers and preschoolers, mini train collections, and plush pillows meant for decoration and play. You will also find some simple track sets with shorter track lengths and one or two bells and whistles,
Spend more than $40 and you’ll find elaborate track sets that offer exciting build possibilities, as well as some notable Sodor landmarks, such as Tidmouth Sheds and Knapford Station. You will also find a stand-alone replica of Tidmouth Sheds that can become a permanent part of your child’s setup.
A. Thomas & Friends engines and tracks have been around for a long time, and ownership of the rights has changed hands from TOMY to Fisher-Price to Mattel. Considering the fact that there are both plastic and wooden trains and tracks available, the compatibility issue can be downright confusing.
We advise potential buyers to read the product literature about compatibility before buying something new. However, Mattel has been very conscientious about keeping older items compatible with newer items. Often, this is achieved with the addition of small wood or plastic pieces called track adapters that slip between track sections to help them connect.
A. Some people never lose their love for Thomas and his friends. In fact, many adults have fond memories of playing with Thomas engines, reading Thomas books, and watching Thomas TV shows in their youth. That said, the toys available today generally appeal to kids from toddlerhood through the elementary school years.
A. Most TrackMasters require two AAA batteries to run. Storytime Thomas requires four AA batteries.
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