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Thomas Industries Trains

History

Thomas Industries C16 class 0-4-0 switcher circa 1949 Thomas Industries was founded in the post WWII 1940's by Jim Thomas in Wenonah, NJ to create a line of 'O' gauge scale and tinplate trains. Jim Thomas was one of the founding partners, along with John Tyler, of Mantua Metal Manufacturing, a maker of electric motors, toys and electric trains that got its start in model train making during the 1930's. The original plans for Thomas Industries included manufacturing of 'O' gauge kits. The first product was a C16 class 0-4-0 steam locomotive based on the Baltimore & Ohio prototype from the 1900's. This smaller locomotive helped train enthusiasts that lived in cramped houses overcome the challenges of layout space that plagued many 'O' gauge operators of the time period.

Thomas Industries 'O' gauge #101 Trolley Thomas followed the 0-4-0 with a 2-8-0 consolidation. These locomotives demonstrated a high level of design and engineering, employing sheet metal boilers, die-cast zinc alloy boiler fronts and cabs, sprung drivers, cast-brass cylinders and main frames, turned brass smokestacks, brass headlights and bells, and Pittman electric motors. These models were respected for their looks and performance by hobbyists.

By the 1950's, Thomas had changed its direction to modeling 19th century trains. Thomas Industries succeeded in producing an 1860's era General type steam locomotive and set almost a decade before Lionel did. They released the TP-3000 4-4-0 engines and the freight/passenger cars Thomas Industries 'O' gauge 4-4-0 Shawnee Express TP-3000 loco & tender from the Pioneer set in tinplate to go with these locos in ready to run sets. The locos were generic in appearance, but included red painted cow-catchers, detailed sand domes, a square shaped headlamp, simulated whistle and bell in brass. It was a 15½ inch scale model. The locomotive boasted a worm drive Pittman motor. Offered were models with a cabbage stack (wood burner) and a straight stack (they called it the Branchline) coal burner. There was a passenger set, called the Shawnee Express, and a freight set called the Shawnee Fast Freight. The Shawnee Express set was priced at $29.95. The locomotive and tender looked very protoypical teamed up with a consist of Thomas’s 'O' gauge rolling stock such as the 7½ inch TP-1006 tinplate flatcar or the scale wood-sided TP-1007 Wabash and Frisco gondolas. The loco by itself was priced at less than $6.00.

Their passenger cars and freight cars predated Lionel's offerings representing this time period by several years. Some say Lionel got religon because of what Thomas made and sold. No whistle or smoke was offered but these trains sold well and were noticeably less expensive than Lionel's offerings. It is unknown whether Thomas intended to compete directly with Lionel, as at the time, Lionel was concentrating on making contemporary models of motive power prototypes. Thomas fitted their trains with knuckle couplers to make them compatible with Lionel products. Jack Ferris of AMT liked the knuckle couplers so much that he put them on his AMT cars also.

Thomas Industries Pioneer Set 'O' gauge #1869 Coach Thomas Industries Pioneer Set 'O' gauge Combine Thomas Industries 'O' gauge Pulpwood car

Thomas advertised their old time trains as a model that could "become the pride of your Lionel layout". The passenger cars that came with the General set were referred to as Pioneer cars. They were constructed of sheet steel and priced at $5.50 each. The Pioneer line offered a TP-1002 coach, a TP-1005 combine, and a TP-1004 baggage car. Each came in three color combinations: yellow body, red trucks and roof, green body, red trucks and roof, or red body, green trucks and roof. The coach and the combine featured removable roofs for adding detail to the interior. The Thomas old-time coach was originally produced at the Wenonah, NJ. factory with the word 'Pioneer' on the side. By the middle of 1951 the year '1869' was added to either side of the word Pioneer. Coaches also exist without any letters or numerals on the sides. Later production runs had simulated wood battans. There are 26 known variations of the Pioneer coach, 13 variations of the combine car, and 12 variations of the baggage car. Freight cars made were a Pulpwood car, Sleel Flat car, Gondola, old time 4-Wheel Caboose, Crane car, and single-dome, triple dome, and 6 dome Tank cars.

Thomas Industries Pioneer Set 'O' gauge with 1869 US Mail Boxcar, Coach and Combine

In 1951 Thomas acquired Scale-Craft and Company's line of 'O' gauge cars and moved to a new facility in Shawnee, OK. The acquisition encompassed the Scale-Craft dies and equipment to manufacture nine freight car kits. This included a 40' 6 inch box car, a 40 ton stock car, a 50 ton twin hopper, a 70 ton gondola, a milk tank car, a Passenger Express Refrigerator car, and maintenance work car. These freight car kits were available from 1951 to 1960. The 1952 catalog of Thomas Industries Trains was 12 pages and contained black and white photos of the trains being offered. In the mid-1950's Thomas also released HO gauge tank car kits and lead figures.

Thomas Industries 'O' gauge Ambrose Wine Six Dome Tank car Thomas Industries 'O' gauge stake bed flat car and crane car Thomas Industries 'O' gauge Frisco gondola

Thomas also made a Passenger Waiting Platform, Goose-neck Lampost, Boulevard Lampost, and Switch Throw accessories. Thomas continued to produce trains until 1959 when Jim Thomas died suddenly of a heart attack. Other firms, including Thomas Industries Model Trains of Plano, TX in 1962, continued production, until the dies and blueprints were destroyed in a fire in 1964.

Thomas Industries 'O' gauge Loco Tender 1869 Combine and 2 1869 coaches

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