Life as an anthropomorphised train sounds hellish enough, even if we didn’t realise it as kids, but it seems Thomas’ world was darker than we ever imagined.
Although you have thoughts, feeling and an apparently fierce devotion to your fellow locomotive friends, there is no freedom and there is no escape.
However, if you show any smidgen of personality by defying the Fat Controller’s tyranny, you may well find yourself longing for your restricted life where at least you can enjoy the simple pleasures of fresh air, hard work and companionship.
Articles editor at Dorkly, Tristan Cooper, has recently tweeted about a long buried travesty on the Island of Sodor, which is as tragic as it is terrifying:
There’s a Thomas the Tank episode where a stubborn train is punished by being entombed alive forever and it’s worse than any horror movie.
There's a Thomas the Tank episode where a stubborn train is punished by being entombed alive forever and it's worse than any horror movie pic.twitter.com/Bn1Y0PTItL
— Tristan Cooper (@TristanACooper) September 28, 2017
Like many of us, mildly-grumpy train Henry hates going out in the rain when he’s feeling particularly fresh and good-looking. When it starts chucking it down, he plans a train’s version of a duvet-day; snuggling up in his tunnel.
He is understandably fearful of the effects of the harsh weather on his shiny paint, on the basis ‘the rain will ruin my lovely green paint and red stripes’.
Then the Fat Controller rocks up and the innocent children’s story quickly descends into a Black Mirror episode.
You can watch a particularly harrowing part of the episode The Sad Story of Henry below:
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The Fat Controller orders the passengers to pull Henry from the tunnel. However, the top hatted menace shows blatant hypocrisy as he refuses to help, lamely explaining: ‘my doctor has forbidden me to pull’. A likely story…
After Henry refuses to be ripped from the tunnel, the passengers are then ordered to get behind him and push.
I can only imagine the angry tweets to National Rail they were concocting as they slipped and heaved in the mud, all under the orders of an obese megalomaniac.
Eventually, the Fat Controller exacts a devastating punishment on his giant metal employee:
We shall take away your rails, and leave you here for always and always and always.
In a depraved twist of irony straight out of Saw, Henry will be allowed to stay in his tunnel… forever.
There is then a horrific sequence where railway workers cheerfully brick Henry into the tunnel to rust in darkness.
In a nasty touch, there is still a gap at the top where Henry can peek out mournfully at the other trains living their everyday train lives.
Narrator Ringo Starr concludes the story by smugly remarking, ‘I think he deserved his punishment, don’t you?’
No, Ringo, I don’t!
This is probably the worst sort of punishment.
Jia Tolentino from The New Yorker has noted this isn’t the first time Thomas & Friends has shown a nasty, authoritarian streak.
The series was originally dreamed up by Reverend Wilbert Awdry, who Tolentino argues ‘hated change, venerated order and craved the administration of punishment’:
Henry wasn’t the only train to receive a death sentence. In one episode, a manager tells a showoff engine named Smudger that he’s going to ‘make him useful at last’, and then turns Smudger into a generator, never to move again.
Please can somebody write a more revolutionary episode where Henry smashes free of his brick prison and forms a much needed Tank Engine Union to combat the Fat (and sadistic) Controller.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.