SOME WHIMSICAL RAILROAD READING. Thomas the Tank Engine is popular with the younger set. (The "Day Out with Thomas" events at the Illinois Railway Museum lead to stroller traffic jams all over the station. But I am not carping. If one or two percent of those kids become model railroaders or train buffs the hobby will continue.)
Adults tend to ask somewhat more practical questions, as the operating practices of the animated Island of Sodor railway are, well, idiosyncratic. Tom at Marginal Utility addresses the economics, and Lance Mannion engages in some drama criticism, including, as is likely where trains are concerned, some manifestations of E-T-T-S.
The rolling stock in the Thomas series has its origins on British metals. The last time I looked at a display of the cast-metal toys, I noticed some new reality-based steamers. Arthur might be based on a Fowler Large Tank or the Ivatt Medium Tank, for which the wheel arrangement is correct. Murdoch looks like a War Department 2-8-0, or perhaps a 9F with some artistic license where the driving wheels are concerned. The context (and silver paint) for Spencer suggests he's a Gresley A4 (although he then should have the same bogie as Gordon) although his wheel arrangement is correct for a streamlined V2. (Somebody help me out, didn't Gresley also streamline some 2-8-2s?)