[Not] For Technophobes

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October 24, 2010

Thomas the Tank Engine

Filed under: Uncategorized — E. A. @ 1:14 pm

Thomas, a steam engine from the trains of Sodor, is based on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) E2 Class. These were a class of 0-6-0T steam locomotives designed by Lawson Billinton in 1913, intended for shunting and short distance freight trains. Thomas was created by Rev. W and Christopher Awdry in 1946.

LB&SCR E2 Class

I think that Thomas’ creation was a psychological response to the astounding advances in technology that occurred during World War II. Instead of tanks and bombers, society was presented with a happy and friendly steam engine. What harm can coal and water do to the people of Europe? This non-threatening image of technology served as a solace to a country directly affected by war.

Thomas can also be seen as a figure of the technological assimilation of children after WWII. These children would now be raised in a world full of destructive technological elements and it is understandable that parents and the greater part of society would want them to grow up accustomed to the idea of this shifting and developing world.

Being a blue, red and white train, Thomas can be associated with the Allied forces of WWII, mainly France, Great Britain and the U.S.A. He is a train we can trust. He is a symbol of technology as a good element in society. He is a helpful train, so of course children would grow up with the belief that technology is here to help us live and we need and should want it in our lives. Though he is a train that predominately smiles and laughs, he rarely frowns and I believe he has cried once in his steam engine existence. Growing up on Thomas I was more willing to ride on the subway and buses. I viewed them as non-threatening modes of transportation. I knew nothing of the second Industrial Revolution. Technology was simply a part of my existence.

So what is the affect of Thomas the Tank Engine? It is not so much what his character has done for children of the mid-late twentieth century but, rather, what his creation says about the adults of that same time. Books, toys and programs designed for children also have aspects that are directed towards adults, so that they may feel secure in allowing their children to be exposed to them. A docile tank engine was fun for children but it was predominately comforting for the adult. Thomas was built for short distance travel, so he would never go too far from home. Never in real harm and always finding someone who could help him or needed his help, parents now choose to believe that their children would be safe in a constantly developing world.

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