Full-size Thomas the Tank Engine hits Japan

AFP-JIJI

A full-size Thomas the Tank Engine will steam through Japanese tea fields this summer in the first service of its kind in East Asia, according to a railway official.

The Oigawa Railway in Shizuoka Prefecture has converted a steam locomotive into the anthropomorphized British creation.

The train service, which will run for three months starting in July, has proved popular with Thomas buffs and all tickets have already been sold, the small railway said.

Known in Japan as Kikansha Thomas (Steam Train Thomas), the blue engine was created in the early 20th century by a British clergyman and became the star of a series of children’s books.

It transitioned to television in the 1980s, where it was originally narrated by former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.

Thomas, whose adventures frequently revolve around a moral message, such as the importance of honesty or friendship, remains a fixture on Japanese TV and has spawned a huge merchandise lineup.

Replica Thomas engines have previously appeared in several other countries around the globe, from the United States to the Netherlands.