In 1984, The Ertl Company of Dyersville Iowa started producing a range of Diecast Thomas The Tank Engine models. The range was initally released in the UK only, but was later released in the USA to coincide with the tv show "Shining Time Station", which featured Thomas.
The first trains to come out were Thomas, Henry and James, which featured sticker faces and unpainted white bufferbeams. This would later change to red footplates and moulded plastic faces. The range would release around 3 to 4 new models a year. The range included the characters from both the Thomas tv series and Railway Series books. 2001 marked the final year of the range in the United States because of the switch to the Take Along Diecast Range by Learning Curve, but the series continued in the UK until 2004, when the Take Along series finally replaced the Ertls.
Models Released By YearEdit
1984 The Initial engines had sticker faces and white buffer beams. Thomas, Henry and James came out as a three-pack, and were also available seprately.
1985 During this year, the models would change to red footplates along with the previous models. Boxed sets would include 3 packs with Thomas, Annie & Clarabel, and Percy, Annie & Clarabel.
Annie & Clarabel
1988 A three-pack including Edward, Gordon and Bertie was available. Edward and Gordon would not be released seprately until 1989.
1989 The Ertl Series was released for the first time in the US in support of "Shining Time Station" and all models released in the UK up to this point would be released in the US. No new models were released this year.
1990 This was the first year to feature models with 3D moulded plastic faces rather than decal faces. All previous models would be updated to this style.
Sir Topham Hatt & Porter
- The Troublesome Trucks were initally colored brown , but this was eventually changed to grey in 1991.
1992 The range started to appear on "Shining Time Station" packaging in the USA, while the UK still kept the "Railway Series" style pakaging.
- Old Coaches
- The "Old Coaches" were available for the first time, and were exclusive in 3 packs with either James or Edward until 1993 when they were released Seprately.
1993 This year marked the introduction to the well known packaging featuring artwork by Owen Bell, which also acted as a collector card featuring a number and history of the character.
During the 20 years of the range, the packaging changed several times. These changes are noted below.
- Packaging featuring Railway Series Style Art: 1984-1993 (UK Only)
- Packaging featuring Character Art by Owen Bell: 1993-1999 (Released in the UK and US)
- Packaging featuring Shining Time Station Art: 1992-1996 (US Only)
- Packaging featuring Blue background and Original Thomas logo as seen on early Thomas products released in America: 1989-1991 (US Only)
- Packaging featuring Magic Railroad Movie Art: 2000 (US and UK)
- Packaging featuring 2000's Thomas Stockart: 2001 (US and UK)
- Packaging featuring 2000's Thomas Stockart and Collector's Cards: 2002-2004 (UK only)