The show is about a tank engine, Thomas, and his friends who live on the Island of Sodor. Together, the engines work on the railways under the supervision of Sir Topham Hatt, the "Fat Controller."

Thomas The Tank Engine actually dates back to 1945, when the Reverend Wilbert Vere Awdry created The Railway Series to amuse his son Christopher, who was suffering from measles. His wife Margaret encouraged him to publish the stories and he did so, going on to add another book each year (except 1947 and 1971) until 1972. Wilbert's son Christopher later continued The Railway Series up to 40 books. In 2007, Christopher Awdry has published the 41st book, Thomas and Victoria.

In 1984 Britt Allcroft decided to turn the stories into a TV series with Ringo Starr as the narrator. He was replaced by Michael Angelis in 1991, who still narrated until 2007, when James Bond star, Pierce Brosnan was hired narrator for all English speaking regions.
The American narrators who replaced Ringo in the U.S. series were George Carlin (1991-98), Alec Baldwin (1998-2003) and Michael Brandon (2004-2007), and Pierce Brosnan (2007-)

When the series was shown on PBS in the US, it was part of a show called Shining Time Station. 2 of the narrators, George Carlin and Ringo Starr,Mr. Conductor was played by Ringo Starr, and then Mr. Conductor's cousin was George Carlin in the series. Since the show ran from 1989 to 1993, only the first four seasons of Thomas and Friends were part of that series. The show come back as Thomas & Friends: Making Tracks to Great Desenations in 2005, and still airs to this day.