MP criticises Thomas The Tank Engine

Thomas The Tank Engine picture for competition
Thomas The Tank Engine picture for competition

Thomas the Tank Engine has been criticised for sending the wrong message to children by featuring a lack of female characters.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh said she used Thomas to make a serious point about the difficulties women face becoming train drivers.

She said fewer than five per cent of train drivers are women, and a similar proportion were from the black community and ethnic minorities.

In an interview with a national newspaper, she said the only female characters in the original Thomas books were portrayed as a nuisance and even a danger to the functioning of the railway.

Ms Creagh said: “I was making a serious point about the lack of women working in transport. It struck me that it’s a very male dominated structure.

“The most classic children’s literature about trains is Thomas the Tank Engine.

“I know it was written in the 1940s when there were no women train drivers.

“I’m well aware of the historical time period when it was written. I know there are now two or three female characters.

“Hopefully this will get people thinking about the issue.”

Ms Creagh said facilities and training in the transport industry needed to be adapted to help more women into the profession.

Train drivers’ union Aslef is also campaigning to encourage more women into the industry, where only 4.2 per cent of workers – some 1,000 train drivers – are female.

Ms Creagh added: “Ninety-five per cent of train drivers are men. There are various groups out there trying to get more women into transport.”

Thomas the Tank Engine was created in 1946 by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry.

The TV show has been running since 1984 and is currently broadcast by Channel 5.

In the original books the only female characters were coaches Annie and Clarabel, Isabel the auto coach, elderly woman Mrs Kyndley, and female engine Daisy.