The Victorian Goldfields Railway has fallen foul of copyright law, showing once again that copying can get you into trouble regardless of whether you do so for commercial gain.
For five years the VGR had operated a Friends of Thomas the Tank Engine attraction, based on the popular children’s characters and run between Maldon and Castlemaine during the school holidays. Their trains had Thomas-style faces and they even had their own “Fat Controller” in top hat and tails.
VGR is a non-profit operation staffed by around 80 volunteers, whose only motivation is to provide holiday fun for children. However, that was never going to pass muster with entertainment conglomerate HIT International, which owns the Thomas and Friends brand along with those of other popular children’s characters such as Bob the Builder and Barney and Friends.
Though the VGR operation had been tolerated until now, HIT has begun developing Thomas theme parks in the UK and US and is clearly not prepared to allow an unauthorized version.