ERTL

To coincide with the show's debut in 1989, ERTL introduced North American consumers to their existing range of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends die-cast metal characters. The selection was identical to the UK releases, but the North American packaging prominently displayed the Shining Time Station logo.

ERTL die-cast Thomas with Annie & Clarabel (Cat.# 1000)

The ERTL Shining Time Station line selling for $5 US and up was an instant success, with retail stores struggling to keep their shelves stocked. Parents were impressed with the high-quality, finely detailed and painted sturdy 1/16 scale die-cast metal replicas of the Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends characters that North American children had quickly come to love.

 

As well as offering individual characters, ERTL later released boxed gift-sets of the characters.

ERTL James (Cat.# 1192)

ERTL 6-Pack Gift Set (1996)

By 1993, ERTL released themed playsets for their normal 1/16 diecast character range. ERTL took and improved portability one step further by also releasing a line of miniature scale character playsets under the Shining Time Station banner. The miniature playsets were designed as 4 corner blocks which allowed users to expand and interchange components with other playsets in the range. 

ERTL Railyard Carry-Along Playset (4062)

ERTL Miniature Playset

ERTL Wellsworth Carry Along playset (4061) - photo courtesy D. Dobrydney

Additional examples of the ERTL Miniature Adventure Playset line.

photo courtesy D. Dobrydney

Another innovation introduced to the ERTL line of Thomas characters sold under the Shining Time Station banner was the release of larger-scale die-cast models equipped with a "Pullback Motor". A coiled spring propelled the engine forward when it was rolled backwards and released. The Percy model below (left) measured @7" long by 3" tall.

ERTL Percy with Pullback Motor

photo courtesy R. Fenrich

ERTL Pull Back & Go

In 1993 ERTL equipped several of their normal-scale die-cast range models with the same mechanism promoted as "Pull Back & Go". Note that all the pullback models had greatly improved faces compared to their regular ERTL die-cast counterparts.

ERTL Pull Back & Go Thomas the Tank Engine

Cat.# 4481 (1993)

photo courtesy R. Imparato

ERTL released this one-off Wind-Up Walking Figure of Sir Topham Hatt in 1991 with collector card #25 on the cover's back. The toy is approximately 4. 3/8” high and 2 1/4” wide.

 

Cat.# 722-7HFO (1991)

Long before Thomas Take-Along arrived in the scene, ERTL introduced the Gold Rail series in 1993. The characters were fitted with magnetic couplings that swivelled outward to connect to other similarly equipped characters and rolling stock in the series.

The Gold Rail character models are sometimes confused with their Bandai TEC counterparts from Japan. A few comparative examples of the ERTL Gold Rail and Bandai TEC models are pictured below. See if you can spot the differences!

Bandai Thomas (left) and ERTL Gold Rail Thomas Ffarquhar Playset (right)

photo courtesy D. Dobrydney

Bandai TEC Thomas (left) and ERTL Gold Rail Thomas (right)

photo courtesy R. Imparato

The only major difference between the brands was that the Bandai engines had side rods which were lacking on the Gold Rail versions.

 

Pictured left: Bandai TEC Thomas (L) and ERTL Gold Rail Thomas (R).

Photo courtesy R. Imparato

ERTL Gold Rail Harold (left) and Bandai version

photo courtesy D. Dobrydney

The Shining Time Station logo was prominently displayed on all the Gold Rail line packaging. The logo found on the ERTL Gold Rail playset boxes was even larger.

The entire line of the ERTL Gold Rail products are featured in the slideshow below...

Annie (# 4700)

photo courtesy R. Imparato

Pictured in the slideshow below are the Playsets included in the ERTL Gold Rail series

Lower Suddery Playset (# 4715)

Lower Suddery Playset packaging - front

The ERTL Gold Rail series also included economical "Value Paks" of 2 to 3 characters. In addition to the one pictured below (#4721), Thomas with Annie and Clarabel, Bill and Ben, James and Edward, and Bertie and Harold. Although Henry (# 4713) was listed on the packaging's back plate (below right), the model was never produced.

Value Pak (# 4721): Percy, Foolish Freight Car, Troublesome Truck

Front and rear package views of ERTL Gold Rail Value Pak (# 4721) 

Percy, Troublesome Truck, Foolish Freight Car

Value Pak (# 47??): James, Edward