Founded in the 1950's by Jim Thomas in Wenonah, NJ to create a line of
'O' gauge scale and tinplate trains. Thomas was one of the founding partners, along with John Tyler, of
Mantua Metal Manufacturing, a maker of electric motors, toys and electric trains.
Thomas Industries succeeded in producing an 1860's era General type steam locomotive and set before
Lionel did. They had several 4-4-0 engines and the freight/passenger cars
in tinplate to go with these locos. The locos were generic in appearance. Offered were models with
the cabbage stack (wood burner) and the straight stack (they called it the Branchline) coal burner.
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.
The passenger cars that came with the General set were referred to as Pioneer cars.
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.
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.
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 were destroyed in a fire in 1964.