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Shining Time Station

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The show that allowed Thomas the Tank Engine to debut in America.

Shining Time Station is a 1989 children’s television series that aired on PBS from January 29, 1989 until June 11, 1993. (1995 specials from February 28, 1995 until November 20, 1995) The show was created by Britt Allcroft and Rick Siggelkow. Seventy episodes aired in total.


A small man dressed in a train conductor’s suit named Mr. Conductor (Ringo Starr in Season 1 and later by George Carlin in Seasons 2 and 3) would tell stories about Thomas the Tank Engine to young kids.

Why It's Shining

  1. This show first introduced American audiences to Thomas the Tank Engine in January of 1989.
  2. After the original series ended in 1993, the show continued running on PBS in reruns from the mid to late 1990s. There was even a 1996 spin off series called Mr. Conductor’s Thomas Tales, which focused solely on Mr. Conductor.
  3. Ringo Starr did a good job as the early version of Mr. Conductor and George Carlin did a good job as Mr. Conductor as well. George even stated in an interview that he did that show in order to show a different side of himself and do something he hadn’t done before.
  4. Aside from entertaining American viewers, the show taught many lessons including trust, honesty, kindness among many others.
  5. Unforgettable characters, especially Mr. Conductor and Schemer.
  6. Even though it's long-gone after the series ended, and with a not so well received movie called Thomas and the Magic RailroadThomas & Friends is still going strong both in the US and the UK… until the reboot and the BWBA era.
  7. George Carlin's re-narrations for the first two seasons of Thomas were really good.
  8. So many enjoyable episodes.
  9. Brought Thomas' third season to air in the US early before season three aired in the UK despite being only available on VHS in 1991 of the same year until 1992.
  10. Catchy and cheery theme song.
  11. This show is perfectly recommended for people outside North America that never saw what Shining Time Station is.
  12. Brian O'Connor, who played Schemer, came up with a lot of his own material. Schemer's signature cowlick and terrible suits were also his idea (the suits belonged to his father).

Bad Qualities

  1. "Thomas and Percy's Christmas Adventure" was changed into a Thanksgiving-related episode for Shining Time's Thanksgiving special; Thanksgiving is a US holiday, the change inadvertently put the audio out of sync towards the end of the episode, and the decorations are still obviously Christmas.
  2. For Season 3, 19 out of it's 25 episodes have only one Thomas story each while the other 6 have two each.
  3. With George Carlin taking over from season 2 onwards, there would be episodes featuring his narrations of stories that had previously aired in season 1, and while that would be okay just to hear his narration (or if you missed it the first time), a rehash of an older story just makes the episode less special.
  4. The series has been largely ignored by the current owners (HiT Entertainment, and later Mattel) of the Thomas franchise.


  • Ringo Starr left the series in 1990 after production of the first season and its Christmas special had finished to focus more on his music career, and George Carlin took over for him from the second season on, as well as the US versions of Thomas' third and forth seasons, with Michael Angelis taking over for the UK versions of Thomas. Carlin left the series after the fourth seasons of both Thomas and Shining Time Station were finished to focus more on his stand-up and film careers, Alec Baldwin would replace him for Thomas' season 5 and "Thomas and the Magic Railroad".
  • Ringo Starr re-narrated all but one episode of Thomas' first season (the exception being the episode "Whistles and Sneezes"), and a little over half of the second season for US releases and Shining Time Station (see Thomas & Friends). Carlin later re-narrated those two seasons in their entirety, though not all of his re-narrations would be featured. The episodes "Daisy", "Percy's Predicament", and "Thomas and the Missing Christmas Tree" were never shown on Shining Time Station, only being featured in Thomas video releases.
    • Interestingly, the video release of Shining Time Station's Christmas special, "Tis a Gift", features Ringo Starr's narration of "Thomas and the Missing Christmas Tree", however, he did not formally re-narrate the episode for the release. In the episode, all the lines mentioning "the Fat Controller" were simply omitted rather than changed to mention "Sir Topham Hatt" as would usually be done.
  • UK titles of the episodes from "Shining Time Station" are seen only in the end credits during the first season.
  • Season four of Thomas the Tank Engine was the last and final season to be apart of the spin off series before continuing it's stories without being adapted from Railway Series books, and being on Shining Time Station for American audiences.
  • George stated in an interview that when he worked on Shining Time Station, he would tell children when they came up to see if he was Mr. Conductor, because he was tall, "I'm not on the Island of Sodor today, I'm working here, but I am Mr. Conductor".


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