Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Hornby's Works Unit Van

Last week, I managed to get the new Hornby Thomas lime wagons and the works unit van.  So, for those who are thinking about buying it, I decided to give the model a once over to see if what you get is worth the money you pay for it.

First Thoughts
I first heard about the release of the Works Unit Van on Christmas Day last year.  Then again, you couldn't exactly miss it with so many people uploading the pictures to YouTube...  Anyway, I was quite excited by it, as it would've been the perfect accompanyment to the breakdown crane which, as it turns out, was being re-released for this year (so for those hoping for a new and improved Spencer can look at the crane and think "if they re-tooled that, they could also be re-tooling Spencer).  But the pictures told a different story.  It looked quite plain on the picture that Hornby released, but I had hope that, during the 12 months between the announcement and the release that something would've been changed to make it look better.

What You Get

Picture from eHattons

The model is boxed in Thomas and Friends packaging, which has been re-designed since 2008.  There is a CGI promo picture of Thomas on the right, the Thomas and Friends logo in the top left corner, and Hornby's logo next to it in the centre of the packaging.  Underneath is the strange addition of the term "Rolling Stock".  I say this because the Hornby Thomas train sets have had this sort of layout (minus the CGI Thomas promo until 2010) since Thomas and the Great Discovery in 2008.  Inside the yellow plaque is the name of the set rather than just "Train Set".  Which got me thinking: why didn't they put the name of the rolling stock on this plaque as well as on the yellow bar code label on the side?

That aside, the box opens with flaps at either end to reveal a plastic tray and many plastic inserts to keep the product safe.  It is very robust, and it will keep the model safe very well.

The Model

Photo from eHattons

This model really is very disappointing.  For a company that bought us great rolling stock like S. C. Ruffey, the circus vans and the green and red express coaches, they really have failed as far as this is concerned.  It's basically a re-paint of the old Sodor Mail and Cream Utility vans.  The colouring isn't right either, although it is crisply painted.  But the biggest problem with it, apart from the price which I'll get to later, is that it doesn't know what it is.  I think it would've been better if they'd have included the words "WORKS UNIT" on the sides like the television series alternative.

However, it does have some good qualities.  Unlike the two vans before it, the brown livery of the works unit van is applied on all four sides.  The Sodor Mail and Cream Utility vans have a black livery on the front and back.  Also, the detailing on the undercarriage and the bodywork is brilliant.

The recommended retail price (R.R.P. ) of this model is a staggering £15.25 (18.04, $23.79).  This left me absolutely flabbergasted.  When the Sodor Mail was released, I paid £7 for it - but I bought 2 so it was £14 for both), while I bought the cream utility van a week before I got the works unit van for £11.75 (from what I can remember).  But since it's rare I was expecting it to be more than it was when it was first released.  But to pay £15.25 for a brand new piece of rolling stock, which is also quite flawed in design, is absolutely farcical.  Luckily I shopped around and found it here for £12.25 - with free UK postage and packaging.  But even this is quite expensive for what it is.

Should you buy one?
In my opinion, not in a million years.  If I'd have known then what I know now I wouldn't have even thought about getting it.  It is a flawed model in design and colour, and is never worth the massive price tag that it's been given.  To be honest, there are three things I can suggest:
  1. If you REALLY want this model, wait until the new year and hope the price goes down
  2. Write to Bachmann US and request that they make a Works Unit van
  3. If all else fails, make your own.
MODEL: 4/10
PRICE: 1/10

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Alright, I didn't really want to do this, but this recent wave of butthurt users concerning SIF's actions over the Wikia Answers filth made me think enough is enough.  It's time for someone to actually speak out over this.  And who better than me?  Not to toot my own horn you must understand..!

In September 2005, I joined the world wide web.  It was all pretty new to me back then so I had no idea what YouTube or SIF were, and I didn't know that there were many (grown up) people that liked Thomas and Friends.  I joined YouTube in 2006 and have spent 5 years (on many different accounts :P) on there.  And a lot of issues on there are the amount of trolls on there and the impact that SIF has on the fanbase.  For three years, I was at loggerheads with Ryan for one reason: I was influenced by the YouTube Thomas fans.

When I realised that what I was doing was counterproductive and immature, I tried to reconcile with him, and he gladly obliged.  Once it was settled, I asked to join SIF, to which he accepted.  I was surprised at this.  A lot of heated things were said and he just put that all aside to allow me a spot on the biggest Thomas forum on the internet.  From that day onward, I have respected Ryan and SIF to the utmost.

Then, I see on YouTube people moaning and bitching that they got kicked out of SIF.  To them, I say this: you probably deserved it.  SIF is run like clockwork.  The owners do not ask for much, only that you treat each member of the forum the same way you wish to be treated, and swearing and namecalling is not tolerated.  We are talking about a children's show here people.  A CHILDREN'S show.  Grown ups should act like role model to kids, and that doesn't mean swearing on videos that are aimed at them, or swearing at other people!  I know I'm not the best advocate for this, as I've been known to swear like a sailor.  But I KNOW that it's wrong and I am doing my best to not do it anymore, and being on SIF is helping immensely.  The members aren't doing anything personally, but their rules remind me that there are other things that can be said rather than just constant swear words.

There's another thing that I like about SIF, and it's something I mentioned earlier: respect.  If people are treated with respect, they will get that respect in return.  The only reason Ryan responds to him the way he does is because they constantly run his name through the mud and, to be honest I'm sick of it.  If YOUR name was dragged through the mud in the same fashion as you lot do with Ryan's, I bet you'd act the same wat as he did.  And if you say otherwise you're just lying to yourselves.  From what I know, Ryan has a full time career.  To do that, and run a succesful fansite, an even more successful forum AND a blog, not to mention everything else he does, definately deserves respect.

Not only that though, I feel SAFE on SIF.  I don't have to worry about trolls and bullies like I do on Blogger, YouTube, DeviantART or the Thomas Wikia Answers, because I know that SIF is run properly and they will not tolerate bullying, threatening or disgusting behaviour.  And that gets a round of applause from me.  I love Thomas and Friends, and to have a safe haven to talk about something I love is something of a godsend.

As for what they said about that Answers page, I applaud them for that too.  The messages on there are absolutely disgusting and downright abhorant.  There is no place for filth like that, ESPECIALLY when children are concerned!  They didn't want to run the Answers page, they wanted to bring the problems that page has to the forefront of the administrators of that page.  And it worked, as the admin are acting on questions that promote bullying, or anything that doesn't concern Thomas and Friends.

Overall, if the entire internet, especially YouTube, was run as well as Sodor Island Forums is, the internet would be a much safer place to interact.  And those who have a problem with it have probably been able to get away with a lot of things in their lives because they've had no proper discipline.  You have to learn that life is not like modern day Thomas and Friends, every action has a consequence.  If you do something positive, you get something good in return.  If not, you get negative consequences.  SIF doesn't ruin anything for anyone.  They just have the intelligence to realise that a lot of Thomas and Friends sites need to be run better than they are doing!

Monday, 21 November 2011

UK DVD Prices

Some people are moaning that I am constantly complaining that the UK keeps getting these 4 episode per DVD release US imports.  Well I think it's high time I actually set the whole record straight and explained WHY I think these new DVDs are such rip-offs. 

This is not just an issue that I have.  A lot of parents, and grown up fans on SIF, are sick of paying so much money for these DVDs that are worth £2 if that.  Here is a review from Amazon (from 2010) about 2010 release "Thomas and the Runaway Kite"

"In this day and age, there is really no excuse for this kind of shoddiness. A flimsy four episodes. Not even an hour. When I was young, I had no problem sitting through over 2 hours of Thomas.
These new animated episodes lack the charm and vitality of the live action version, and its sad to see this once great institution reduced to this.
Only the other week, they released a DVD with 28 episodes on. 28!! But this - 4! A total rip-off, Hit entertainmnet should hang their head in shame."

That user rated the DVD 1 star and 26 people (out of 28) found it helpful.  And if you think that was the only one, you're wrong.  This review is for the 2010 release Splish Splash Splosh:

"Perhaps I should've read the small print or something but I actually feel like a a mug for buying this DVD. I ordered it so I could free up some space on my Sky Plus. However, I was pretty shocked to find only four episodes which followed a long advert for Drayton Manor Thomas Land that can't be fast forwarded. What a cheek!!! Please avoid if you don't want to be fleeced."

13 out of 13 found it helpful, and the WHOLE DVD is rated an average of 1.5 stars.  7 people rated it, 4 voted 1 star and 3 voted 2.  While yes, some of these DVDs have been given positive reviews, not one has said the DVDs are value for money, only saying that their children love Thomas and Friends.  That's it.  However the Series 9 release had this review in 2009:

" This DVD is very good value. My friends little boy who is 2 and a half loves to watch this. He is Catalan and can understand and speak very good English and really enjoys Thomas and friends."

That customer rated it 5 stars.  Here's another review, this time for Series 10:

"My 3&1/2 year-old son is a Thomas freak (as are many others out there!) and this Series 10 was an addition is his 20-odd DVD collection. The 28 episodes were a welcome length compared to some more shoddy ones (i.e. Splish Splash Splosh with 4 episodes)by HiT entertainment. Michael Angelis' commentary remains the same and is more welcome than Ringo Starr..."

That was another 5 star rating.  Finally, this was for Series 12:

"As ever, the complete series releases of Thomas are great value. Series 12 is a nice mixture of old-fashioned live action model trains, mixed with some computer animation (trains' faces, for example) and - most importantly - this is the last series where the regular narrator supplied all the voices. So grown-up fans of the 'old' Thomas will still have plenty to enjoy. Personally, I don't plan to buy any later Thomas on DVD, but with 12 series to fall back on, our family certainly has plenty to choose from."

This was a 4 star rating, as she thought there were two issues: one with picture quality when it's played on a TV (it's not a blu-ray, that's all I can say) and the the other is trawling through menus to get to favourite episodes.

Yes, a lot of reviews don't mention value for money, but there are a lot more positive reviews for the Complete Series DVDs than the recent 4 episode per DVD releases.  Why?  Here's the maths:

All Thomas and Friends DVDs are £8 (if you shop around) when they're newly released.  Complete Collection DVDs hold every episode of each series (Series 1-9 and 11 have 26, S10 has 28 and S12 and 13 have 20, as will, if they're made, Series 14 and 15).  The Series 1-9 and 11 DVDs cost 31p per episode.  Series 10 cost 29p per episode while Series 12 onwards (will) cost 40p per episode.  The 4 episode per DVD releases cost £2 per episode.  TWO POUNDS for a DVD that lasts just over 40 minutes and has poor quality episodes!  You can draw your own conclusions but the facts are the facts.

Overall Opinions
I feel like an absolute mug.  Every time I heard that a new DVD with new episodes was being released I got really excited over it.  Now?  I would never go anywhere near them!  I'd rather just buy 25 blank DVDs and record them on Channel 5.  The quality is as good as it is on home release DVDs at a fraction of the cost.  It's even worse in the US as their DVDs are all in fullscreen when the episodes are widescreen on TV.  HiT really should get their act together and release more DVDs that are actually value for money.  They owe it to their fans to produce good quality episodes and value for money merchandise.  If they're going to release episodes on DVD, they should at least include more so that we can feel we're geting much better value for money than we're getting now.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Too Much Thomas

Not really many people talk about this, probably because there are more important issues with Thomas and Friends at the moment :P.  But I was reading a post on SIF's blog concerning whether there should be a "Steam Team" anymore and one of the topics they talked about about is whether there was too much of Thomas on our screens.  And that got me thinking: why IS there so much Thomas?

Fans of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends have always been fond of classic episodes because, in every episode, there would be a different engine having a different adventure on different parts of the island.  In fact, many fan favourite episodes don't have Thomas as the star - or even in the episode/story at all.  Yet during the reboot of the show in 2004, more emphasis was put on the main 7 characters - plus Emily - while other characters were shunted into the sidings.  But most of the emphasis was put onto Thomas.  I've been doing the sums, and here's what I've found.  There have been 186 episodes since HIT's revamp, and only 7 of them haven't included Thomas in any way, shape or form.  While there are some negatives, there ARE, from HIT's point of view, some positives.

  • Sadly, the Thomas and Friends that we know now is not the same show that many people grew up with.  It's no longer a show about talking locomotives, it's not even the brain child of an Anglican clergy anymore.  It is a brand, a franchise if you will.  This means that, basically, success is determined by the amount of profit that is made rather than the popularity of the show (hence the change to CG animation, since the cost of the model series was so high).  By including Thomas in the majority of episodes, the brand will flourish and the toys and merchandise will fly off the shelves - as long as parents can afford it.
  • As Thomas is the star of the show, the more episodes he appears in, the more that kids are going to learn from an episode.  Unfortunately, this can also be a curse, especially with some of the "morals" that are being spewed out these days: always listen and talk to strangers (Misty Island Rescue), you're only successful if you're "normal" (MIR, Thomas and Scruff, James to the Rescue, Diesel's Special Delivery) and playing in workshops is OK (Day of the Diesels, Kevin the Steamie) to name a few.

  • Let's face it, the more Thomas appears, the more people get sick of the sight of him.  It's getting even worse in the CG series as most of his appearances are pointless.  But it's not really that bad (really :P).  While he's only missed 7 episodes since 2004 (and many more besides from Series 1-7), he HAS missed episodes.  Stars of other kids shows like Pingu, Fireman Sam, SpongeBob, even shows like the Simpsons haven't missed one episode since their debut episodes.
  • It means that, after a while, episodes ideas involving episodes starring Thomas are going to run dry and plots are going to be really similar - or even identical - to each other (e.g. Thomas and Skarloey's Big Day Out and Stop That Bus, Creaky Cranky and Stuck on You and The Lion of Sodor and Thomas and the Pigs).  But then again, even those episodes that Thomas doesn't star in are similar - or identical - due to the annoying three strikes formula.  Trust me, I've been thinking of stories to write about where Thomas is the star and I've only come up with one.  THAT'S how overused he is.
  • This, for me, is the biggest drawback, and it concerns the new characters.  In all but one (Whiff's) of the new characters' introductory episodes, Thomas has been the star, or majorly involved.  Because of this, their personalities hardly develop, they're pretty much the same as most existing characters.  Dennis was like Daisy used to be, Billy was like Gordon and even Stanley's a bit like Thomas.  Also, none HIT's characters have ever made an impact, and I think that's because of the Thomas emphasis.  The only character that had a REAL back story was Hiro.  Near enough every other new character just came out of nowhere.
Let me give you some examples of what I mean by that.  In Duck Takes Charge, Duck only appeared in half the episode, but he made such an impact in such little time that he became an instant favourite and you just knew that he's an engine not to be messed with, yet he can be one that you can really get on with.  In Escape (the story rather than the episode) you followed Oliver's journey from certain doom to preservation on Sodor.  You could even connect to Donald and Douglas as you wouldn't have wanted EITHER to leave in The Twin Engines and you felt their despair whenever they did anything wrong and you felt their joy at the end of the book.  Now though you can't feel that way about ANY characters as they have the same personality as everyone else.  And the root cause, for me, is Thomas' involvement.  Because of him, no one else has time to shine.

Overall Opinions
From HIT's perspective, having Thomas in every episode and on every package for merchandise (even Hornby) it is a good move as it boosts sales and profits.  For me?  It's called Thomas and FRIENDS for a reason.  The series is about Thomas AND ALL his friends rather than Thomas on his own with his seven henchmen and other lackeys that are introduced just for the merchandise.  By all means, include new characters, but more thought should go into them and Thomas should stay well away so that the newbies can have a time to shine.

To quote SIF's blog post, I want less of Thomas, more of his friends.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Mattel's Takeover of HIT

I must admit, I wasn't expecting to make a blog post on this until at least next year.  But the sudden news yesterday concerning the takeover allowed me to make it now.  Here is what I think of the whole situation.

Apax Partners, HIT Entertainment, announced in 2010 that they were in debt and the only way to get out of it was to sell Thomas and Friends and HIT Entertainment.  From the outset, Chorion, producers of The Mr Men Show and Peppa Pig, showed their interest, but soon after THEY fell in to financial problems and they may be the next company to be sold off.  Disney and Viacom were also linked with the bidding process.  While it was unpopular with the majority of fans (including myself), it was seen by many as the inevitable new home of HIT and Thomas for the simple fact that they could afford it easily.

Saban Brands, who had just bought Power Rangers from Disney after an unsuccessful tenure, were also incolved with the bidding, and they were a popular choice for owners like Chorion.  But after an 18-month long struggle, Mattel were announced as the surprising owners of HIT, Thomas and their other brands.

To be honest, I'm on the fence.  The only thing I can be sure of is that, with Mattel being one of the world's biggest toy makers - not to mention the fact they own Fisher Price - the revenue from merchandise will be exceptional.  But the TV Series, I have my concerns about.  Knowing Mattel the way I think I do, the only reason they make a Barbie DVD is when they're releasing more Barbie dolls.  And I have this fear that Thomas and Friends will go furthur down that track...  However, if they allow more creative freedom for the writers and the animators, they may be on with a winner.

Another concern I have is the future for Hornby and Bachmann.  Since, as I said, Mattel are known as one of the world's biggest toy makers, they would want to make their own merchandise, mainly expand on the Trackmaster and Take-n-Play ranges, as well as work with the Wooden Railway system.  But what about the HO/OO system?  Will Mattel extend the deals with the two?  Or will those two ranges hit the buffers when the contract ends?  I'm not sure, but I have my doubts.

I'm very disheartened that Thomas has left Britain, but with so many foreign companies bidding for HIT, it was pretty much an inevitabality that the show would leave British shores.  But my major disappointment is that EVERYTHING (I'm not just on about the takeover now) revolves around money, NO ONE cares about the legacy and history of brands, first with Cadbury's buy out by Kraft and now Mattel buying HIT.  It's sad that a lot of things that were created on this little island of Great Britain and Ireland have been sold internationally.  But then, some may argue that the world loves British exports.

Anyway, I'm rambling on a bit :P.  Bottom line is that I have my doubts, but if it is treated with the dignity it deserves, and this promise of better writing is delivered, then Thomas and Friends, and their fans, can look forward to an extremely bright future.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Hornby vs Bachmann (3/3)

It's been one of the biggest merchandising talking points that I've ever seen.  Which brand makes the better models: Hornby or Bachmann?  This blog post will analyse the pros and cons (from my point of view) of each brand and it will, definatively, conclude which brand I would buy.

Hornby have made a lot of models that Bachmann haven't and vice versa.  Hornby have made Duck, Oliver, Toad, Stepney, Flying Scotsman, Bear, Dart, a breakdown crane and, soon, Murdoch.  While Bachmann have made Salty, Mavis, Henrietta, Cranky, Terence, Harold and, of course, Donald and Douglas.  While I think Bachmann have steadily made better models year on year, Hornby are near enough left in the dust, as they don't make as many models as they used to (this year being their biggest for about 6 years while Bachmann have made many models FOR 6 years straight).  However, there is something lacking from both ranges: generic coaches.  Sure there's the express coaches, but as we've seen in the TV series there are old green and cream coaches from Series 1 or the red coaches seen from Series 2 onwards.  Fans don't really say it, because they have other ideas, but the sheer amount of wagons and vans created from BOTH ranges compared to their coaches is rather unfortunate.

Bachmann are better value for money.  In some instances you can get 2 Bachmann engines for the same price as one Hornby engine.  An example I have personally is that I bought Bachmann Donald and Douglas for £80 (on eBay), whereas Murdoch will be retailing at £92.  The sheer price difference is incredible (and not in a good way).  Sure, you could TRY and shop around for a cheaper price for Murdoch, but the cheapest I found is in the £70 mark.  You could probably get Bachmann Spencer and one of his coaches for about that!  Yes, the Hornby models are finely detailed, but if they just lowered the price a bit they'd be more enticing.  Trust me, people would want to buy more of something that's cheap than one thing that's expensive.  So drop the price, watch the models fly off the shelves and watch as the profits skyrocket.

Bachmann make their models from scratch, so they can be built with precision and be made to look exactly like they should in the TV Series.  Hornby use pre-existing models from their vast catalogue of models to try and make the engines look the way they should in reality (only Percy's body is scratch built).  That's fine for Thomas, Henry, Duck, Spencer and Murdoch as they are perfect representations of their prototypes.  But for engines like Emily, Edward and Dart, they should have planned them better, even made completely new models if they had to.  Emily's face looks downright ugly and Edward just looks... wrong, despite the correct livery and wheel configuration.  If Hornby don't think outside the box and try making characters from scratch, Bachmann will just pull even further ahead and that would be sad, especially for company that has such an illustrious history like Hornby.  Then again, with the amount of models they've discontinued this year, it seems like it could be the beginning of the end for them anyway.

So the brand I would turn to first would be Bachmann.  Ever since they burst onto the American market in 2002, their models have improved year on year, while Hornby's range has sadly been dying a slow death.  But what the Bachmann range shows more than anything else it's that the voice of the people CAN be heard.  We asked for Edward, and we got him.  We asked for Donald and Douglas, and they were soon made.  Maybe if we ask for Duck and Oliver, they'll be made too...?  The main reason I would buy Bachmann is the most important one for me: value for money.  I guarantee you that if a Bachmann salesman showed a Thomas model (for this example, Edward) to a random guy in the street and said "Here's Edward, your kids will love it and he's all yours for £40), would he say no if he had the cash?

I just want to say for the record that I adore Hornby and near enough every model looks great.  But for me the models are just too overpriced for what they are, especially when compared to Bachmann.

Hornby vs Bachmann (2/3)

It's been one of the biggest merchandising talking points that I've ever seen.  Which brand makes the better models: Hornby or Bachmann?  This blog post will analyse the pros and cons (from my point of view) of each brand and it will, definatively, conclude which brand I would buy.

Bachmann Industries have been making HO scale models since 1970, but only started making Thomas and Friends models in 2002, one of - I'm guessing - HIT Entertainment's first acts in charge of the brand.  Their first three models were, naturally, the show's biggest characters: Thomas, Percy and James.  Unlike the Hornby models, the Bachmann versions were handbuilt to the specifications of the TV series.  Also, each engine was given a nifty moving eye mechanism, to bring more life into their faces.  Sadly, they weren't really up to scratch.  Thomas was the best looking of the three, only let down by the face, which looked like one he had in a magazine (as did Percy's and James', although his looked a bit like his usual face).  Another problem with Thomas was the gap that is usually seen between his tanks and his splashers was filled in.  The Hornby model didn't have this problem.  In fact, the ERTL toy didn't have that problem and it is A LOT smaller.  Also, neither of the first three models had a coupling on the front.  With James, that wasn't much of an issue, with Thomas and Percy, who are designed to go backwards and forwards with no trouble, it was a bit confusing for me.

Percy was very detailed, especially the valve gear.  That is a thing of beauty.  It's just a shame that the stepladder leading to his cab is on the outside of his valance rather than under it.  But the biggest problem was that the bunker was far too big - mostly due to the coal.  What was worse was the bunker itself was grey rather than black.  But the worst one was James.  While I admit that the shapes are all there, the colours are not.  The wheels and axle boxes are grey rather than black and the part under the smoke box is red, rather than black. To buy a model that needs a lot of work to get it looking right is ridiculous, bordering on criminal.  The main disappointment though is the cabs of the tender engines.  There is absolutely no detail in them, and it's a shame.  Hornby extracted a lot of detail from their cabs so there was nothing stopping Bachmann doing the same.

Annie, Clarabel and the Troublesome Trucks were released this year too.  These look a lot better than Hornby's versions, but the issue I have with Clarabel is she's styled as a composite coach, like Annie, when she should have a little compartment for the guard.  The grey running plate is a bit disappointing as well, but not unexpected cosidering Percy and James.  Bertie, Harold, Cranky and Sir Topham Hatt were also made this year, as were sets including Thomas (with Annie and Clarabel) and Percy (with the Troublesome Trucks).

In 2005, the range was enlarged by Gordon and Henry, as well as a shedload of rolling stock including Red Express Coaches, tankers, Scruffey, red, blue and bright brown trucks as well as a brake van.  From Gordon and Henry onwards, all engines were fitted with front couplings as well as the rear ones, but the lack of cab detail was still evident.  The faces also matched the TV characters a lot more, but they were no longer fitted with the lamps that Thomas, Percy and James were given.  I didn't have a big problem with Gordon, he's a great model.  Sadly, Henry's tender was too short, which made it look longer than it actually was.  I would have loved to have bought the Hornby alternative, but its high price tag put me off.

The tankers were better designed than the Hornby ones too as they are the perfect size and shape, but the Hornby ones had much more visible detail.  The brake van looked good, but it seemed like the grey was too bright.  But the worst one was Scruffey.  Yes, the face was spot on, but there is no orange lining to be seen at all.  The Hornby one is a lot better.  Another set was introduced, featuring James, a blue truck, fuel tanker and a brake van

In 2006, Toby and Spencer were added to the group.  Toby looks a lot like his TV counterpart and is a better design overall compared to Hornby's.  He isn't very fast, nor is he very strong, but then he's neither of these things in the TV Series as well.  The only disappointment was that the cowcatchers were seemed to be fitted around the coupling, whereas with the Hornby version, the coupling was cleverly moulded into the cowcatcher and there was no hole to be seen.  Spencer's design is rather disappointing.  He looks rather tall and square, which makes the tender look too tall at the cab end.  Whether this be down to lack of attention to detail, or the motor and eye mechanism, it is Bachmann's poorest looking model since James.  Sadly, this is the only one available as Hornby's equivalent has been discontinued.

Emily's Coaches were also released, which was strange as there was no Emily at the time.  Green Express Coaches were added to the line for Gordon, and the inevitable set with them and the Express Engine was released too, but discontinued soon after.

In 2007, the Bachmann range welcomed its first female engine: Emily.  She was, in my opinion, the best Bachmann model at the time.  Strangely though, one of her front bogies was used, as well as the drive wheel, to power her.  But then it may've been because it would be too complex to wire up just one pair of wheels.  She was joined by a cattle truck, a well wagon, a pedestrian bridge, water tower, salt wagon, signal gantry, an RF Container wagon, a 6 ton wagon, a station, coal wagon (with load), coaling station and signal gantry.  More tankers were released with more detailing than the first few and, yes, Emily and her coaches were included in a set.

In 2008, Bachmann released two models that fans had been longing for: Henrietta and a better looking Edward.  In fact, I think that Edward is still my all time favourite HO/OO loco I have (even though I had to buy two as the dome fell off the first).  Spencer's Coach (an express coach with the red livery) was introduced for Spencer and a mail van was released for Percy.  I love the mail van, that's probably my favourite piece of rolling stock.  A conductor was made this year, and so was Mavis, Bachmann's first diesel.  Fans were a bit shocked with the first picture they saw as she was grey, the same colou grey as James' wheels and Percy's bunker.  Happily, this was fixed when the final picture (and model) was released.  But the couplings left a gaping hole in the cowcatchers, like Toby.  Two new sets were also released: Thomas "Holiday Special" set which included Thomas with Christmas hat and snowplough, (Emily's) coach with Christmas decoration, (red) truck with Christmas tree and a candy cane tanker and also Thomas' "Fun with Freight" set which included Thomas, S. C. Ruffey, red open wagon, cream tanker, cattle van and a conductor

2009 saw the release of Bachmannn's second diesel, Salty.  He looks really good, but he looks too clean as, in the TV Series, he has a weathered look about him.  I also thought the wheels were quite small and, like Mavis and Toby, a gaping hole was seen in the bufferbeam where the coupling was.  But overall, he looks really accurate.  Bachmann also released Terence the Tractor with a detachable snowplough (or plow in America), a flatbed full of paint drums (ala Calling All Engines!), a ventilated van and a signalbox.

2010 was a quiet year, with only Tidmouth Sheds (with an add-on pack so more berths could be added), Farmer McColl, a third Troublesome Truck (a green cattle truck with a face and Salty's Dockside Delivery set (featuring Salty, 6 Ton wagon, Raspberry Syrup tanker, Salt Wagon and a custom conductor) were released.  Sadly though, the 6 ton wagon, the RF Container Wagon and the Red Express Coaches were discontinued this year.  Well, I say "sadly" I've always preferred Hornby's express coaches and always will.

This year has probably been the biggest year for Bachmann's Thomas range, with FIVE engines being released, more than any other year.  Bill and Ben early in the year, Donald and Douglas last month and Diesel about two weeks ago.  I've managed to get Bill, Donald and Douglas and I plan to get Diesel and Ben next week.  Bill and the Scottish Twins look absolutely exquisite, epecially Bill's valve gear.  I shall review them once I get the other two.  Also released were Knapford Station and the Lighthouse.  The lighthouse looks good, but Knapford is disappointing, as it only allows one track per platform rather than two in the TV Series.  There also aren't any buildings to go with it.

Compared to Hornby, they're cheap and much better in the "value for money" stakes.  And these days, with the recession, you want value for money when you buy anything, especially luxuries like model trains.

They're based on their TV Series counterparts, so they are easily recognisable to children compared to Hornby's

They CAN run on Hornby track using Hornby transformers (controllers), so for those who are mad on Hornby but fancy a change, you can safely choose Bachmann and know that you won't need to buy new track.

The moving eyes, a big win for me.  They bring the face to life more (those who enjoy the model series will get what I mean).

They are only really available in America and Canada.  Brits that want to buy them can only do so online.  As I said before, why don't HIT allow both companies to sell their models to everyone and let people make their own choices?

The range has been around for 9 years now and Thomas, Percy and James still look the same.  Considering the high standard models they're producing nowadays, I think they should go back to the drawing board with those three (and possibly Spencer) to improve them.

That's the two brands fully scoped when it comes to what the two brands have produced.  Next time, you shall see my final verdict!

Hornby vs Bachmann (1/3)

It's been one of the biggest merchandising talking points that I've ever seen.  Which brand makes the better models: Hornby or Bachmann?  This blog post will analyse the pros and cons (from my point of view) of each brand and it will, definatively, conclude which brand I would buy.

When it comes to brand partnership with Thomas and Friends, Hornby has made models for the franchise for 26 years while Bachmann Industries will be celebrating their 10th year modelling Thomas and Friends next year.  But does the age factor really make any difference?  To me, not really.  What makes the difference is which brand has made the biggest impact in their lifespan, and you'll see which has made the biggest impact for me if you read on.

Hornby Model Railways first struck a deal making Thomas the Tank Engine models in 1985, with the range beginning with, who else, Thomas and Percy.  From the Thomas model, it was clearly evident that - when you look at the shape and styling of Thomas - they were tooling their models to the specifications of the engines' prototypes, rather than the TV Series styling which was, at the time, still finding its feet.  That being said, Percy's model could still be a very convincing TV Series style model.  Annie and Clarabel were also made to accompany Thomas.  In my opinion, they really should've tried to make their own versions rather than base them on their generic 4 wheel coach design.  It made them look very squashed, no matter if you compared them to their TV OR Railway Series counterparts.  There was also some rolling stock introduced, including an open wagon, a closed van (sadly they have been discontinued.  I bought 5 in a lot on eBay and they are fantastic.  I would love it if Hornby bought them back), a TV Series style milk tanker (which looks a bit squashed in my opinion, but it has all the detail there) and a brown brake van.  Sets including Thomas, Percy and the two engines together were released as well.

In 1986, Duck (more than likely introduced to coincide with his TV Series introduction, which is made more noticeable - to me - since the green livery is styled on the TV Series green rather than the GWR green used in the Railway Series) and Gordon were created.  Some green and cream TV Series style express coaches were created for the Express engine as was a cattle truck, which was retired and bought back in the 2000's.  To coincide with Duck and Gordon's introduction, they were released in sets as well.  Gordon including his coaches and Duck's including a cattle wagon, open wagon, milk tanker, closed van and a brake van.

The next year, only two models were released: Devious Diesel and the Breakdown Crane.  It was quite ironic that Hornby's first diesel to be modelled was the first to ever be seen in the Railway Series and Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.  More sets were released too, with Diesel being included in one, with a cattle wagon, open wagon, milk tanker, closed van and a brake van.  Also, they released a clockwork set including Thomas and Bertie.

James was created in 1989.  He used an LMS 3F tender engine with an added bogie at the front.  To go with him, red and white TV Seres style express coaches were created.  It's a bit strange that they were called JAMES' coaches when, in Series 2, Henry, Edward and Duck usually pulled them.  Only in Series 3 was James seen with them (please say if that's not the case).  A set including James was also released, including him and his coaches, which was re-released in 2005.  Also released was a tar wagon, which had the same con as the milk tanker (it looked squashed).  These three were the last major OO electric releases for 11 years.  Sadly, during this time, Duck, Gordon, Diesel, the breakdown crane, the closed van, the cattle truck, the tar wagon and James' coaches were retired.

Happily, however, these were re-commissioned in 2000 (except for the closed van, catlle truck, the crane and Diesel), while Toby, Bill and Ben, 'Arry and Bert and The Diesel were all added to the range, as were two Troublesome Trucks and Scruffey.  From this point on, in my opinion, the models went downhill.  Toby was far too tall, the Troublesome Trucks were far too big and The Diesel was the wrong class - a Class 37 rather than a Class 40.  'Arry and Bert looked alright, but strangely their faces were based on Splatter and Dodge.  It would've been nice to see a Hornby Splatter and Dodge, considering TATMR came out that year.  And Bill and Ben were far too big and wide, and the back of the cab had no detail on it at all.  The only good models were Scruffey and the Ironworks twins, despite their faces.  Also introduced were Radio Controlled Thomas, Thomas and Percy and RC Toby sets.  Thomas' set was unique in that it was given a lamp.

In 2001, Hornby released a fuel tanker, a Sodor Scrap Co. truck, a Country Station, a water tower and signal box pack and a radio control sound system.  They also re-introduced Diesel and made, in my opinion, the best looking engine since they made Duck, that being Henry.  He is one model that I've recently really wanted, but sadly he's been discontinued.  Hopefully Hornby will reconsider, as he is one of their best, hands down.  In fact, a lot of models released this year were great, a lot better than most of those released in 2000.

The next time we'd see any new models from Hornby would be 2005, Thomas' 60th anniversary and Hornby's 20th anniversary making Thomas & Friends models.  And they came back with a bang, releasing the most stock they had ever done.  They released Stepney, Oliver, Circus wagons (including vans, cattle wagon and flatbeds), a grey brake van, Maithwaite, Water Tower, Signal Box, Engine Shed, Tunnel, Goods Crane, Cream Tanker, Raspberry Syrup Tanker, Ice Cream Van, Toad, Old Slow Coach and, more surprisingly, Bear and the Flying Scotsman.  Considering these two were featured in the Railway Series (although Scotsman's tender was modelled for TV), it was a pleasant surprise that HIT commissioned them.  I have both and they are fantastic.  I also have Stepney, Oliver, Toad and the Brake Van, and I love them all, they are astonishingly detailed, with Bear and Oliver having traction tyres and Bear given sprung buffers.  More sets were introduced too, with the old Thomas and James sets re-introduced, Percy and the Circus set (sadly, no brake van) and Thomas and Bill set.  The Percy set was the first set I was given since I renewed my interest in model railways, and it's a great one.  The breakdown crane and cattle truck were re-released this year as well

The next year, only one engine was released, and it was one that many people had wanted: Edward.  Sadly, it didn't capture the blue engine in the way that many fans recognise him as, even compared to his Railway Series look.  It was one of the worst looking models that Hornby had made.  The rolling stock saved face for them, as the red and blue truck, the oil tanker and red and grey vans were fantastic; the oil tanker keeping the trend of Thomas tankers being quite squashed.  The utility van looks great too, and I do want one, sadly they are hard to find now...  The mail truck is very disappointing.  It only has 4 wheels and looks too much like the utility van to me.  It's a shame, as Hornby have made trucks that look like the TV Series mail van, so they could've used that as a basis.

There was only one release in 2007: Emily.  And I wish they had picked a better basis for her.  The general details that she possesses (steam valve, the wheel configuration, the livery) are there, but like Edward everything else is just wrong.  Especially the face.  The facial features are there, but it's too big.  In the TV Series, its size is just big enough to fit on a smokebox door.  It, like Edward, was the worst model Hornby have made.

Thankfully, in 2008, Hornby redeemed themselves - big style - when they made, quite possibly, their best model in Spencer.  The ONLY slight problem is the wheel colour, but everything else looked absolutely beautiful.  Also released this year was a special set to coincide with the release of the Great Discovery, featuring a weathered Thomas, Annie, Clarabel and two trucks with brick and timber loads.  Thomas also featured a brand new tired expression and they also removed histraction tyres (at least on my model).  Also released, by UK model retailler Modelzone, was a limited edition (500) Thomas model with the tired expression.  They also made special buildings that were seen at Great Waterton, including the station itself.  Sadly, all of 2008's models have been retired, including Spencer...

There were no new models in 2009, just a re-release of two old sets: the generic Thomas set and the Thomas Passenger and Goods set (which I have).

This year, Hornby have so far released Percy and the Night Mail Set, which includes a brand new version of the mail van.  It looks fantastic, like a proper British Rail mail van.  If Hornby decide to release that seperately then I would be very happy.  They have also released Dart.  This was a surprise to some, as no CGI characters had been considered for HO/OO scale markets, with Take-n-Play, Wooden and Trackmaster always being their first - and often, only - ports of call.  While I like the idea, and admire the effort, it has the same issue as Edward and Emily: the basics are there, but the BASIS isn't.  This is clearly evident as Dart's wheels and coupling rods are on show for the world to see.  Considering they've made Class 08 characters (Diesel, 'Arry and Bert) already, I don't think there was any excuse for them to make Paxton, Sidney or even both.

Still to come are lots of buildings (sheds, water tower, station), a new breakdown crane, a works unit coach (in the style of the cream utility van) and a red and grey lime wagon (reminiscent to the red and grey vans).  And they're also releasing Murdoch, a model that - since it was announced - I've really wanted.  It looks great, and I'll go out on a limb and say that it'll be Hornby's best model, if not THE best model of  the two ranges.

Despite the company not saying it, to fans Hornby create the models as close to their real life bases.  This is evident when you look at Thomas, Henry, Duck, Oliver, Bear, Spencer and Murdoch.  So if you like to imagine that the engines are real, most Hornby models can plant the idea in your head.

Even with the models that don't look like their prototypes (Edward and Emily) there is some excellent detailing in most of the models, especially the cabs of the tender engines.

They are the major model makers for Great Britain, so UK fans can buy them with no trouble, unless they're sold out.

The models are a lot stronger and faster compared to most of their Bachmann counterparts.

As of this year, pretty much half of the range has been discontinued, uncluding Spencer, Duck, Stepney and Henry, as well as the old breakdown crane, old buildings and old sets.  So a lot of the range is very hard to come by.

The engines cost an absolute fortune, if you go by the recommended retail price.  This may explain why the exsquisite model of Spencer, or the model of main character Henry were discontinued.  In this day and age, especially with the recession, most people just cannot afford them.

American fans can barely buy them at all, since their main supplier is Bachmann.  It's a shame, really, and I think that HIT should allow the two brands to do what they do in Australia: sell Hornby OO and Bachmann HO worldwide, so fans - and their parents - can have more of a choice.

Some of the models (main ones: Emily and Edward) just don't capture the look of the character they're trying to represent.  And if a child can't match the merchandise to the character, then it has pretty much failed in its purpose.

Well, that's the Hornby part over.  Next time, Bachmann will be under the microscope, with my final verdict in Part 3

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Day of the Diesels "leak"

A few days ago, US cable network PBS Sprout aired Day of the Diesels.  Later, a YouTube user called UnknownThomasFan1 uploaded the special onto the video sharing website.  While a lot of users (including myself if I'm honest) were very happy to see it, a few people were not sharing the same sentiments and informed HIT Entertainment about the leak and it was duly removed earlier today.

While I am glad this whole issue has come to an end, I am not happy that it's shown how grouchy some Thomas fans are.  I agree that leaks are very unfortunate, but this has NOTHING to do with DVD release dates or DVD sales.  If it was, HIT wouldn't release it on TV or cinema in the first place!  It's something called "advertising" and it has worked for them for the past 3 films, all of which breaking HIT's DVD sales records.  And I believe that this year would be no different, DESPITE THE "LEAK"!  Those who got uppity about it should take a chill pill.  The same was said about the new Railway Series book.  It was posted on YouTube multiple times (once by me) and its sales have still been solid!

An for those saying it would have ruined it for others need a reality check.  Just because it's been uploaded online DOESN'T MEAN PEOPLE SHOULD WATCH IT!  People have the CHOICE to watch it, and if watching it ruins the film for them, then they only have themselves to blame for not having any self control!

I HAVE watched it.  I think it's superb and a review will be posted when the DVD and blu-ray are released in the UK.  But the thing is it HASN'T ruined ANYTHING for me.  If anything, it's made me more excited for the British version.

And to those who were involved with informing HIT about it, chillax, OK?  Yes, it's copyrighted material and yes, the film would ruin it for some, but
  1. if HIT are so bothered, they should find out about the upload themselves
  2. LOADS of copyrighted material's uploaded on YouTube
  3. People should have the CHOICE to watch it rather than having it taken away
  5. (and most importantly) STOP BACKSEAT MODERATING FOR HIT!!  You don't work for them, so stop acting as though you do!
Thank you...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

HIT Bashers

They are the bain of the Thomas fanbase,  spreading their negativity around 24/7 about HIT Entertainment.  Yes, I'm talking about HIT bashers.  They may seem to be a nightmare, but shockingly they aren't.  They DO bring up SOME good points.

Over the years, the television series HAS changed a heck of a lot, with the introduction of CGI and the new writing style which, frankly, is getting on EVERYONE'S nerves.  Seriously, if you've seen one CGI episode, you've pretty much seen them all.  That's how bad the formulaeic plots have become.  And while these people do have a right to air their grievances, they're doing so in the wrong way.

They are constantly calling them sHIT Entertainment, and someone has called them HITler.  How they can have the nerve to say that when they've had NO CONTACT with HIT's staff is very disappointing.  They are just making themselves look very pathetic and very immature.  There ARE ways to say there are issues with the series, but attacking the company verbally like that won't solve anything.  Besides, HIT Entertainment commision ALL the merchandise, including:
  • Hornby
  • Bachmann
  • Take-n-Play
  • Trackmaster
  • Books
  • DVDs
  • Games
And, yes, they commissioned Bachmann Donald, Douglas and Diesel.  So before HIT bashers start with the anti-HIT propaganda, think on...

As for the stories not being based on Railway Series stories (except maybe Tickled Pink), you can't blame THAT on HIT either.  Britt Allcroft was the person who bought the television rights from the Awdrys.  That means that because of what she did, HIT aren't legally required to base their episodes on Railway Series stories, even if we want them to.

The BIGGEST qualm people have is with the CGI change.  Yes, it wasn't the most popular decision, but the simple fact is this: we are no longer living in a world that revolves around what's popular.  We are living in a world based on money, and that's the whole world, not just HIT.  Sadly, Thomas and Friends is no longer a television series based on a seies of books for a young, sick child.  It is a brand, and its main purpose is to make money (hence the new characters, despite their pointlessness).  If the brand doesn't make money, it will be cancelled

So a message to HIT bashers, if you want to send a CLEAR message that you don't like the series, here's a simple solution: don't watch and don't buy their merchandise.  If you don't, HIT will realise that there is a problem and they would want to do anything to sort it out.  That, or just simply email a HIT Entertainment representative airing your issues.  Trust me, they won't shout at you if you have GENUINE concerns, but as I say, just going around calling the company every name under the sun isn't helping anyone, so please stop it.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Railway Series No. 42: Thomas and His Friends

A few days ago, I received Book 42: 'Thomas and His Friends' from Amazon UK (well, I received two, but the other's now been given away).  I have read it and now I shall review it.  So for those thinking about gettig it, this may make you want to get it even more, or it might put you off :P.  Just a quick note before I begin:

First Opinions
This new book was announced by Sodor Island Forums last year, and when I heard about it I was extremely excited.  The television series was going downhill plotwise and a new Railway Series book was definately something to be cheerful over.  However when the title was revealed, I was downhearted.  I remember thinking "HIT's obsession with the 'Thomas' name being on EVERYTHING really is going over the top".  But I was determined not to judge the book by its title.  And, as you will see, I'm glad I didn't.

Thomas and the Swan

Pip and Emma have been bought by the Fat Controller to take the high speed express train to London.  Meanwhile, Thomas, his driver and fireman rescue an injured swan.

I have read a lot of comments on YouTube that constantly get annoyed about the constant plots revolving around animals and children.  I don't thnk including animals is the problem.  I think that they need to make things railway smart and make sure the animals are properly taken care of.  And that is what this story does REALLY well.  The animal is clearly seen injured, and it's clearly seen struggling as it's not used to human contact.  But in the end it's healed and flies off quite happily.  A heart warming tale in my opinion.  And it all takes place when Thomas does his NORMAL JOBS, no "special specials" to be seen anywhere.

I also like how Pip and Emma are now a part of the Sudrian fleet of engines.  It shows that, although Sodor mostly uses steam power still, the Fat Controller can bring in more up-to-date engines.  And it also attacks one of Thomas' biggest issues with the 'nanny state': sexism.  Thomas has been attacked by "experts" (losers :P) for being "sexist" as most of the engines are 'male' and the coaches are 'female'.  But not only have Pip and Emma proved otherwise, but they've ALSO been given the most important job: the high speed express to London.  If THAT doesn't stick it to the 'nanny state' I don't know what will :P.

Buffer Bashing

Donald crashes into some buffers.  Three days later, Douglas crashes into the rebuilt buffers.

Yes, the plot isn't as enthralling as many of the others.  But let's face it, it IS nice to see Donald and Douglas again.  I know fans are moaning that the Scottish Twins have been absent from the TV Series for 3 years.  They have been absent from the Railway Series for SIXTEEN years, the last book they were featured in was Thomas and the Fat Controller's Engines which, coincidentally, celebrated another anniversary :P.  So before you complain about the Scottish Twins' absence from the TV Series, consider yourselves lucky they were being featured in the first place.

Going back to the plot.  I know it's not the best, but you CAN imagine something like that happening in reality.  You wouldn't, however, imagine engines going across a shaky bridge that an engine would fall off in reality.  You wouldn't imagine that an engine move off BY THEMSELF while workmen are trying to fix a broken whistle.  And you wouldn't imagine having two engines to take one truck, epecially if there's a balloon tied to it  It may be one of the worst RWS stories, but it's a hell of a lot better than something you'd see on Thomas and Friends.  And you also have to remember: the Railway Series has been going for 66 years.  Christopher will run out of plots eventually, so just enjoy the stories that are written now while they last.

Gordon's Fire Service

While taking his last passenger train of the day, Gordon helps to put out a fire

Kudos to Christopher Awdry.  This story puts the shambles that was "Fiery Flynn" to shame.  Then again, real firefighters put that episode to shame :P.  Again, this is an adventure that takes place while an engine's doing their normal jobs.  Take note, HIT, you don't need "special specials" to make a great story.  And I like how Gordon's character has matured over the years in the Railway Series.  No longer is he a pompous engine who is so obsessed with taking the express.  Now he's just grateful to have jobs to do and very happy to help others.

It's also really cool that Gordon got a medal for being a REAL hero.  Not like in Series 12's 'Saved You!' when the fireman got a medal for rescuing a cat from a tree...  SERIOUSLY?!  Firemen often rescue cats from trees and they don't get anything.  Besides, it's not exactly heroic if the cat climbs into the tree on its own accord...  Anyway, it was a great plot and a nice expansion of Gordon's personality.


A bust celebrating the Thin Clergyman is revealed, but not before a landslide near Henry's Tunnel

 Let's face it, thiis was the main story of the entire book, made especially for the centenery of Christopher's father, the Rev. W. Awdry.  It was a fantastic story, one that the Reverend himself would be extremely proud of.  I did however, find it a bit weird that the word "dead" was put in the story.  But I also like that because Christopher's not pussy-footing around.  He knows that Wilbert sadly died, and I think kids should be taught that Thomas' creator died as well.  Death shouldn't be treated as a taboo subject, it's an inevitability.  People are born, live and die.  The three constants of the universe.

Moving on, it's cool that it was said the "engines duties would be altered so they could make it to the ceremony", unlike HIT's series where engines go around holding parties everywhere without sparing a though as to who'd do their normal jobs.  And it's also very nice how, when Henry's Tunnel's blocked off, Sodor is cut off from England via railway.  That's one of the things I hate about the Vicarstown Dieselworks, it just seems as though Sodor ends when the engines get there, when as we know, from reading the Railway Series, the tracks go past Vicarstown, over a viaduct and to Barrow-in-Furness and beyond.

Finally, I like how the prince said he enjoyed the books when his father read them to him as a child.  I know it isn't real, but it just shows that the Railway Series has universal popularity.  From childhood to the teenage years all the way to adulthood, these stories have captivated a nation, and a whole fanbase.

Final Thoughts
The title of this book may be a bit misleading, as Thomas is only majorly featured in one story, but that's more of a complaint that should be taken up with HIT Entertainment and Egmont since, as I say, they're obsessed with Thomas being in the title of every new book.  Which is a huge disappointent since the Railway Series first featured Edward, Gordon and Henry, with Thomas nowhere in sight.

But, title aside, the book is absolutely fantastic and a breath of fresh air for any Thomas fan, especially after the disaster that was Series 15.  Clive Spong's illustrations were stupendous as always.  He really is one of the best, if not THE best, Railway Series illustrator there's ever been.

The Railway Series always gives Thomas fans joy, as we know that even if the TV series is absolutely farcical, the RWS can always provide us with fantastic stories, railway knowledge and some REAL entertainment.  And the pictures etc. can really make kids and adults use their imaginations to bring the adventures to life, rather than everything being presented on screen with Thomas, regardless of whether Nitrogen's CGI is an awe-inspiring sight.

I would actually go out on a whim and say if Railway Series stories were adapted for TV with the CGI, the series would as good as it was during Series 1 and 2.  And since the new book has been really hard to get a hold of over the past 2 weeks because it's sold out more often than not, it seems like this timeless gem called the Railway Series will be popular until the end of time, even if (God forbid) this was the end of it all.

Title - 2/10
Thomas and the Swan - 8/10
Buffer Bashing - 6/10
Gordon's Fire Service - 9/10
Centenery - 10/10
Illustrations - 10/10

Buy YOUR copy of the Railway Series No. 42 below: