Thomas and the Magic Railroad is a film based on the well-known Television series and its American spinoff. The film was produced by Gullane Entertainment and distributed by Destination Films. It released to theatres in July 2000. It was narrated by Alec Baldwin, who also played the part of Mr. Conductor.
The film begins with Mr. Conductor introducing Thomas and Sodor.
Gordon complains to Thomas, who is late. Thomas retorts that Gordon is being bossy and says that he has to find Mr. Conductor, who is looking after the North Western Railway while Sir Topham Hatt is taking a holiday. Gordon claims Mr. Conductor isn't needed, but changes his mind after Diesel 10 speeds by.
Thomas is later talking to James at Tidmouth Sheds when Diesel 10 shows up and voices his plan to destroy a lost engine and thus the remaining steam engines. James is confused, but Thomas is worried and goes to find Mr. Conductor.
After seeing Billy Twofeathers' map and noticing some strange lines on it, Patch heads off to Muffle Mountain to see Burnett Stone.
There's something on Muffle Mountain, a secret that Burnett only shared with his childhood friend and future wife Tasha: he promised he would drive an engine and take her with him. When Patch sees the engine, Burnett reveals the engine's past - her name is Lady, and she has been sealed inside Muffle Mountain since Diesel 10 nearly destroyed her long ago. Burnett has fixed her up, but still needs coal.
Diesel 10 tells his cronies Splatter and Dodge of his plan. The two bumbling diesels report that Mr. Conductor is coming to Sodor, so Diesel 10 decides to destroy him too.
Mr. Conductor prepares to leave Shining Time. Despite difficulty with his gold dust, he soon meets Thomas on Sodor. Thomas reports on Diesel 10; Mr. Conductor decides to use his gold dust to keep Diesel 10 in order.
Burnett looks at a painting of Lady and starts to have doubts in his belief of magic due to his failure to guard her. Meanwhile, far away, Burnett's granddaughter Lily prepares to visit him.
Thomas, James and Gordon begin arguing about who should have taken Mr. Conductor, unaware Splatter and Dodge are spying on them. Splatter and Dodge tease Thomas, until Harold flies by, spreading dust over all three.
At Knapford, Mr. Conductor reads the note Sir Topham Hatt left him. After trying on his top hat (and returning it after he notices the portrait of the Controller appears angry) he receives a phone call from Sir Topham Hatt and receives his instructions.
That night, Diesel 10 creeps up and demolishes the side of the Tidmouth Sheds with his powerful claw. Mr. Conductor reprimands Diesel 10, but then he discovers that he has run out of gold dust. Diesel 10, delighted, tries to convince Mr. Conductor of the lost engine's whereabouts, but Mr. Conductor frightens Diesel 10 away with a bag of sugar. Mr. Conductor voices his concern about his gold dust, but tells the engines to go back to sleep.
Mr. Conductor later has a nightmare of Shining Time in ruins, and realises that his universe is in danger and that he needs more gold dust.
The next morning, Mutt goes to Lily's hometown with Billy, as he knows that Lily can help Mr. Conductor, but only if she meets someone special at Shining Time first. To reach that end, he directs her onto the wrong train.
Mr. Conductor goes to the windmill in search of more gold dust, but gets lost. Meanwhile, the engines gather for a meeting. Bertie passes by and tells them to smile, but all have their individual concerns. Thomas heads off to look for Mr. Conductor.
Mr. Conductor tries a carrot and a stick of celery to make him think properly, and has the idea his beach-loving cousin Junior, who has used up most of his gold dust too. He tells Junior to go to Shining Time and get his emergency whistle, then go to Sodor, and warns him not to talk to anyone about the buffers. Before he can say anything else, the line goes dead.
Lily arrives at Shining Time and Mutt barks at her to get off the train. Lily finds the station empty and meets Junior. After a talk, Lily picks up the gold dust Junior leaves behind. At Sodor, Mr. Conductor is sleeping by a bush when he has another nightmare, and wakes up hearing Thomas calling his name. Mr. Conductor tries to reply, but Thomas cannot hear him.
Lily meets Stacy, who takes her to Burnett. That night, Burnett and Lily hear Lady's whistle coming from the mountains; Patch, who is outside with his horse, hears it too.
Thomas and Percy talk about Mr. Conductor and conclude that he travels to Sodor on a magic railroad. Diesel 10 overhears them and goes to the scrapyards to tell Splatter and Dodge his plan. Toby interrupts them by ringing his bell; Diesel 10, trying to catch him, causes the shed to crash down on him, Splatter and Dodge.
Thomas finds Henry with a bad cold and offers to get some Welsh coal to make him better, but while collecting them, fails to notice the sixth truck bouncing away into some magic buffers. Bertie passes and greets Thomas and his five trucks; Thomas is confused.
Thomas tells Percy about the missing truck, and they realize that the buffers where the truck disappeared are the buffers leading to the Magic Railroad. Thomas tells Percy to guard the buffers while he goes to find Mr. Conductor.
Meanwhile, Mr. Conductor is wandering aimlessly when Diesel 10 appears. Mr Conductor is captured by Diesel 10's claw and is dangled over the viaduct. Diesel 10 reveals he knows about the buffers, and threatens to drop Mr. Conductor if he doesn't reveal their whereabouts. Mr. Conductor cuts a tube to Diesel 10's claw, catapulting him to the windmill. There, he sees the words "Stoke up the magic in the mountain and the Lady will smile, then watch the swirls that spin so well".
Lily is introduced to Patch, who offers her a horse ride to Shining Time. There she meets Junior again, who takes her to Sodor via the magic buffers. They meet Thomas, who agrees to help, and together they find Mr. Conductor at the windmill. Mr. Conductor tells Junior about his clue to the gold dust, and Lily is introduced to Mr. Conductor. Junior then climbs onto the sail, and is flung onto Diesel 10.
That night, Percy finds Splatter and Dodge at the magic buffers and races to warn Thomas.
Mr. Conductor and Lily camp out with Thomas. After a conversation, they realize that Burnett may hold the key to the clue of the gold dust.
Burnett reveals to Patch that Lady is magic and they realise that the railroad is vanishing.
Thomas and Percy decide they must get Lily back to Muffle Mountain before Diesel 10 destroys the magic railroad, and Thomas and Lily set off. While journeying through the magic railroad, they discover the missing truck. Lily, realising the connection between the truck and the clue, asks Thomas to collect the truck. They soon arrive on Muffle Mountain. Lily leaves to find Burnett, but a gust of wind blows Thomas down the hill and back into the magic railroad through a mysterious portal at the bottom.
Lily finds Patch, who takes her to Burnett's workshop. Lily figures out only Welsh coal can make Lady steam, so she sends Patch to collect the coal from the truck.
Diesel 10, with Junior still on his back, races into the Smelters where he encounters James. Junior tries to whistle both of them out, only to discover that he, too, is out of gold dust. Diesel 10 tries to force the two into a melting pit, but Junior uses the last of his extra gold dust to teleport himself and James away. The two arrive near the buffers, where Mr. Conductor is there waiting. Mr. Conductor and Junior, both out of gold dust, refuse to give up hope.
By now Burnett Stone has finally got Lady to steam, and along with Lily, Patch and Mutt, they set off into the magic railroad. The magic railroad, receiving energy from Lady, comes back to life, while Lady's face appears. The team encounter Thomas before appearing on Sodor, where they reunite with the two conductors.
Diesel 10 starts to give chase, but Splatter and Dodge, fed up with Diesel 10's ways, abandon him. Thomas offers to help Lady, with Burnett driving Lady. Mr. Conductor warns them about the collapsing viaduct. Just as the engines run away, the conductors realize that Lady is part of the clue to the gold dust.
The chase finally approaches the viaduct. As Lady and Burnett pass, a gap appears on the viaduct. Thomas manages to jump through the gap, but Diesel 10 can't stop in time and falls off into a sludge barge (He looks on the bright side by saying it is a nice time of the year for a cruise).
Thomas, Lady and Burnett return, where they and the rest of the team work out on the answer to the riddle. Lily mixes water from the well with golden shavings from the magic railroad, and tosses them into the air, where they form into gold dust. The conductors, delighted, re-supply their whistles, while Thomas thanks Lady.
Patch and Mutt go to look around, while Junior gives Lily some gold dust. Junior tells Mr. Conductor that he wants to work now, so Mr. Conductor gives him his hat and sends him to a railroad with "palm trees and sunny spells". After Junior leaves, Sir Topham Hatt calls and says that he is on his way back, so Mr. Conductor sets off to welcome him. Lily offers her gold dust to Burnett, who sprinkles it on her bluebird toy and whispers that they will "always remember their Shining Time together".
With Lady and the Magic Railroad back to life, Shining Time is restored to its former glory. Thomas happily puffs into the sunset, and the end credits roll.
The movie was filmed at the Strasburg Rail Road in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, as well as in Ontario, Canada and on the Isle of Man. The Castletown railway station on the Isle of Man Railway formed part of Shining Time Station and the goods shed at Port St. Mary railway station became Burnett Stone's workshop. Running shots of the Rainbow Sun were filmed at the Strasburg Rail Road. The large passenger station where Lily boards the train is the Harrisburg Transportation Center. Strasburg Rail Road's (Ex. Norfolk & Western) 4-8-0 475 was repainted as the rainbow Sun.
Sodor was realised using models and chroma key. The models were animated using live action remote control, as on the television series. The model sequences were filmed in Toronto, Canada instead of Shepperton Studios, the home of the original TV show; however, several of the show's key staff were flown over to participate.
The Magic Railroad was created using models, CGI and water colour painting.
Problems and Changes
The perceived laziness in the plot was due to a major villain in the movie named P. T. Boomer being cut from the movie. His cut was due to test audiences complaining that he was too scary. Thus any traces left by Boomer in the movie were left unexplained. In some scenes Boomer can even be spotted. Despite being cut, Boomer strangely was left unedited out of one of the trailers, showing him fall off of Diesel 10 on the collapsing viaduct (which, in the original script was nicknamed "The Big Dipper"). The official Thomas and the Magic Railroad website also had images and information regarding the character before being cut.
Many news articles before the movies released announced that an Isle of Man Cab Driver/Fireman named John Bellis was selected to be the voice of Thomas. He was cut from the cast after test audiences complained of his Liverpudlian tone making Thomas sound too old. He was replaced by Edward Glenn afterwords.
One theatrical trailer depicted Diesel 10 with a thick gravelly upper class British accent. This was revealed to be provided by Australian voice actor, Keith Scott. He was replaced after test audiences feared his voice would be too scary. He was replaced by Neil Crone, who gave Diesel 10 a Russian accent, though this too was forced to be replaced after the audiences found it "offensive". So Crone recorded them in a somewhat New Jersey accent.
James and Percy were originally intended to be voiced by the British narrator, Michael Angelis. The test audiences as well found his voice unsuitable for them. Susan Roman and Linda Ballantyne replaced Angelis for James and Percy respectively.
Original scripts indicate that George and Cranky were intended to be in the film. George had a major role in the movie, doing most of Diesel 10's bidding. His model was never taken across for filming. Cranky had a small non-speaking role. He dropped his load of fruit over Dodge, Splatter, and Percy and dropped his load of oil all over Diesel 10. His model was indeed brought over but was cut during filming, indicated as his crane leg can be seen in Knapford yards as Diesel 10 leaves. It was mainly intended as set dressing.
The film premiered at Odeon Leicester Square. For the purpose, a steam locomotive, painted to resemble Thomas, was brought to the cinema by on July 9th, 2000. National press coverage was low, because many journalists were concentrating on the launch of the "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" book, for which a special train named "Hogwarts Express" was run on July 8th - 11th.
The film currently has a score of 19% on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus: "Kids these days demand cutting edge special effects or at least a clever plot with cute characters [sic]. This movie has neither, having lost in its Americanization what the British original did so right". However, it did receive positive reviews from Associated Press and Gannett newspapers. Roger Ebert gave the film one star out of four, with the consensus, "(the fact) That Thomas and the Magic Railroad made it into theaters at all is something of a mystery. This is a production with 'straight to video' written all over it. Kids who like the Thomas books might kinda like it. Especially younger kids. Real younger kids. Otherwise, no." While he admired the models and art direction, he criticized how the engines' mouths did not move when they spoke, the overly depressed performance of Peter Fonda, as well as the overall lack of consistency in the plot.
- Annie and Clarabel
- Henrietta (cameo)
- Cranky (cameo)
- Butch (cameo)
- Sir Topham Hatt (voice only; portrait cameo)
- Lady Hatt (mentioned; portrait cameo)
- George (cut from film)
- Diesel 10
- Splatter and Dodge
- Mr. Conductor
- Lily's Mother
- Stacy Jones
- Burnett Stone
- Billy Twofeathers
- Tasha (voiceover as a child; photo cameo)
- P.T. Boomer (cameo; full role cut from film)
- Edward Glen as Thomas
- Neil Crone as Gordon, Diesel 10, Splatter and The Tumbleweed
- Colm Feore as Toby
- Linda Ballantyne as Percy
- Kevin Frank as Henry, Dodge, Bertie and Harold
- Susan Roman as James
- Shelley-Elizabeth Skinner as Annie and Clarabel
- Britt Allcroft as Lady
- Laura Bower as young Tasha
- Jared Wall as young Burnett
- Alec Baldwin as Mr. Conductor/Narrator
- Cody McMains as Patch
- Russell Means as Billy Twofeathers
- Peter Fonda as Burnett Stone
- Didi Conn as Stacy Jones
- Mara Wilson as Lily Stone
- Michael E. Rodgers as Junior
- Lori Hallier as Lily's Mother
- Shelley-Elizabeth Skinner as a station customer
- Hugo Murray as goldfish boy
- Keith W. Strandberg as a passenger
Original Voice Cast
- John Bellis as Thomas
- Keith Scott as Diesel 10
- Michael Angelis as James and Percy
- Patrick Breen as Splatter and Dodge
- Island of Sodor
- Shining Time
- Muffle Mountain
- Burnett Stone's Workshop
- The Magic Railroad
- Tidmouth Sheds
- Sodor Ironworks
- The Coaling Plant
- Sir Topham Hatt's Office
- The Watermill
- The Big Dipper
- The Windmill
- Hawin Croka
- Diesel 10's Mountain
- The Magic Buffers
- Sodor Wishing Well
- Rainbow Ridge
- Really Useful Engine
- Shining Time
- Some Things Never Leave You
- I Know How the Moon Must Feel
- Summer Sunday
- The Locomotion
- Old MacDiesel
- Working on the Railway
- The Whistling Song (early draft: not in final cut)
- Night Train (not in final cut)
- Girl in Green (not in final cut)
- The Island Song (original script)
- Thomas' Anthem (original script)
- The film was broadcast on BBC1 in 2004 and again on December 29th, 2008.
- In the original script, Cranky was to have a larger role and George was to appear as one of Diesel 10's helpers.
- Edward was never in any script for the movie; his model wasn't finished in time.
- This was the first time the engines have separate voice actors.
- In Sir Topham Hatt's office there are photos of James, Thomas, and Henry on the wall from the television episodes Time for Trouble, Thomas, Percy and Old Slowcoach, and Tender Engines.
- People that worked on the original series also worked on this movie, namely, David Mitton (as model unit creative consultant), David Eves (as model SFX supervisor), Steve Asquith (as model supervisor), and Terence Permane(as director of photography for the models section).
- John Bellis, the original voice of Thomas, is credited as "transportation co-ordinator".
- In one of the trailers, P. T. Boomer can be seen falling off of Diesel 10 at the viaduct, a rod can be seen connected to Thomas' coupler, and Thomas and Diesel 10 have different voices.
- Phil Fehrle and Shelley-Elizabeth Skinner make cameos in this movie.
- This is the second time an engine sneezes. Whistles and Sneezes being the first.
- Throughout the movie, posters of Sir Topham Hatt saying "Sir Topham needs you" are seen.
- When Diesel 10 destroys the shed, a scrap Thomas model is seen.
- In the original script, Lily, 20 years later, was the narrator.
- Currently, this is the only Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends film to feature live actors.
- The film was shot in a 4:3 fullscreen frame, and was later matted into a 1.85:1 Widescreen image for theatrical release.
- Only one scene from the original cut was commercially released; a deleted scene featuring Junior called "Sundae Surprise".
- All of the engines and road vehicles have different whistle and horn sounds.
- In the original script, Diesel 10 was a new engine sent to help while Sir Topham Hatt was away.
- The back cover of the Japanese DVD shows a deleted scene of Thomas and Gordon at Knapford.
- The German DVD includes "The Making of Thomas and the Magic Railroad".
- At the end of the film, the credits show Bertie and Harold under the voice cast for the trains.