When you think back to your childhood, there are probably a few children's TV, film and book characters that come to mind. And whatever your age, Thomas the Tank Engine is likely to be on that list. This year, the world of Thomas and Friends (originally created as a story book series, by the Rev. W. Awdry for his son, Christopher) celebrates its 75th anniversary, and to mark the occasion, self-confessed fan Prince Harry has filmed the introduction to a special new episode.
The intro was recorded earlier this year, in January, just before the Duke and Duchess of Sussex moved to LA with baby Archie. Sitting fireside, in a cosy looking armchair, Harry reads from a book titled Thomas and the Royal Engine – the latest tale, in which we'll see animations of the Queen and Prince Charles as a child.
In a statement Prince Harry said: “Thomas the Tank Engine has been a comforting, familiar face to so many families over the last 75 years – entertaining, educating and inspiring children on important issues through exciting stories and characters.
“I certainly have fond memories of growing up with Thomas and Friends, and being transported to new places through his adventures," Harry continued. "I am very proud to have been asked to take part in this special episode. I wish Thomas and Friends a very happy anniversary.”
Prince Harry is, as he confesses, a long-time fan – he even carried a Thomas the Tank Engine bag on his first day at school in 1987.
While on another occasion, a couple of years later, Harry was seen out and about with Princess Diana, wearing a Thomas & Friends T-shirt.
In the 22-minute special episode, Sir Topham Hatt (aka The Fat Controller) has been invited to London by the Queen to receive an award for service to the railway. However, it doesn’t all go to plan and on his way to London, Sir Thomas gets lost, running into a very regal looking train named the Duchess of Loughborough (voiced by Rosamund Pike).
Is the animated train based on a real version? Well, yes. There is in fact a rarely used Royal Train, mainly brought out for longer journeys and special engagements.
Thomas and the Royal Engine will air on Channel 5 Milkshake! on Saturday, May 2, at 9:05 a.m.