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Thomas the Tank Engine is an anthropomorphised fictional steam locomotive in The Railway Series books by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son, Christopher, published from 1945. He became the most popular and famous character in the series, and is the titular protagonist in the accompanying television spin-off series Thomas & Friends.

Thomas is a steam engine and has a number 1 painted on his side. All of the locomotives in The Railway Series were based on prototypical engines; Thomas has origins in a cast metal 0-6-0 Tank locomotive made by Stewart Reidpath (Essar, or S-R) in the late 40s. This locomotive was not based on the LBSCR London, Brighton and South Coast Railway E2 as once believed and portrayed by Hornby, but appears to be based on an LMS Fowler 0-6-0T (Jinty). Thomas first appeared in 1946 in the 2nd book in the series, Thomas the Tank Engine, and was the focus of the 4 short stories contained within. Thomas's best friends are Percy and Toby.

In 1979, British writer/producer Britt Allcroft came across the books, and arranged a deal to bring the stories to life as the TV series Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends (later simplified to Thomas & Friends). The programme became an award-winning hit around the world, with a vast range of spinoff commercial products.