In the early 1980's before The Railway Series books of Thomas & Friends were receiving the green light to be adapted into a televised form, a low-budget pilot episode was made and was pitched to several networks In April 3, 1983, the pilot was based off the story called Down The Mine from the eighth book from The Railway Series, Gordon the Blue Engine. Visually the pilot is largely consistent with the final series, using similar camera angles and featuring the same locations as the final episode.
The pilot was used strictly for screening purposes, however, a shot from the twenty-fifth episode of the first season, Down The Mine, was re-used from the pilot episode. Thomas sits on a hand built plastic chassis, with plunger pickups providing power to his motor and smoke unit. Minor details such as lining and lamp irons are missing. This chassis caused much trouble during shooting, and so the decision was made to use modified off-the-shelf Marklin chassis for the final series. Both Thomas and Gordon were modified to accommodate their Marklin chassis later on. The pilot models are the Series 1< models.
Photos of Gordon's pilot model, by engine builders Martin Gill and David Payne can be found in an interview with Christopher Noulton by Sodor Island Fansite.
- Crewmember Spotlight on: Christopher Noulton. Retrieved 29 Dec '13.