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FRIENDS of Thomas the Tank Engine have puffed their last puff and the Fat Controller has waved his last green flag on the Victorian goldfields.
The popular tourist railway has been ordered by the multinational owners of the Thomas the Tank Engine copyright to stop using the name.
They must also remove the Thomas-style faces from the front of their locos.
Victorian Goldfields Railway has even been bullied by the British-based guardians of Thomas into dropping the yellow waistcoat, top hat and tails worn by their own version of the Fat Controller.
"They won't even let us be Friends of Thomas - but the children all knew they weren't the real Thomas the Tank Engines, so they're disappointed," VGR official Garry Aitchison said.
The non-profit VGR has been running school holiday Friends of Thomas trips between Maldon and Castlemaine for five years.
It did so with full approval of the Thomas franchise, even naming the trains Jacob and Jeremy for the J-class locos and Kevin for the K-class.
Until yesterday's holiday trip, they had also put faces on the front of the locos, and another face on the a diesel rail motor - a DRM they naturally called Daphne.
Mr Aitchison said he felt sad for the children when he removed Jacob's face this week.
"The new copyright owners have changed the rules worldwide, and the trains now have to be exact replicas of Thomas," he said.
"We've even had disappointed grandmas who can't see we were doing anyone any harm by being Friends of Thomas."
But Mr Aitchison said the Goldfields Railway would maintain its head of steam.
The volunteer enthusiasts are not about to give up now.
"We've got about 400 members and 80 or so volunteers, including some highly skilled people, who are just train lovers and keep the locos going," Mr Aitchison said.
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