Quite recently, a video (link here www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q36yaX… ) was released stating that a group of fans had acquired some of the actual Thomas production models and now intend to use them for fan projects. Just to be clear, I have nothing against these people, and have great respect for them for undertaking something this big, whether they succeed or not. These kinds of great risks are what gave us the Star Tugs Trust, the Television Series, and even the original Railway Series' publication. But I have what I can only call skepticism about this concept, and I will explain my skepticism at length.
My first concern is that the old models are being used for a new production. It is my belief that the old models should be appreciated for their historical value, not used again in an attempt to relive the past exactly. I say "exactly" because I do not look down upon reliving the past loosely. Steam engine enthusiasts are reliving the past constantly. That is what heritage railways are for, and I am very glad such havens for active steam exist. But this is not an exact recreation of the past. The engines are appreciated, not reused for their original purpose. No good railway lover would dare force Stepney to shunt for hours on end under enormous strain, or press Scotsman's speeds with long goods or passenger trains around the clock. These engines are not being used for the heavy jobs they once did, they are now only appreciated, and have lighter workloads. This is how I feel it should be with all remaining models. It is fine to display them, and even run them if possible, but it is not right to put them through the stresses of filming. This leads into my next point.
As fans, we have seen very little of this, but I have good reason to believe that, if filming is done regularly and the requirements of stories are met, the models will be damaged. We have heard stories; Zip's model from TUGS was pulled off the workbench and had to be completely rebuilt. During the filming of Thomas and the Magic Railroad, James was accidently backed into the bottomless smelting pit and shattered on the studio floor, having to be quickly rebuilt. Many models, including those shipped for Thomas and the Magic Railroad and those disused in storage at Shepperton, were destroyed simply from improper packaging or storage. As the fans have seen the models being run at the Hara Model Railway Museum in Japan, they have keenly pointed out the several small damages the models have suffered; mainly the loss of buffers and other small details. After considering this for a while, I realized that what we are seeing is not reckless driving of models; it is normal wear. The models have likely always had these problems; they just weren't in the public eye to be seen when they had them. Buffers likely broke off all the time, and were fixed quickly by the crewmembers. This is normal for television series models, they are fragile but easily mended by those who know how.
These models are not in the same hands any more. Furthermore, they are likely some of the last. We will never have any more made by that crew. These models are extremely historically significant, and should be treated as such. If they are used for filming, imagine what may happen. When damages inevitably happen, they will need to be fixed, and will no longer be in right-off-the-set condition. The models are not suddenly more fragile because they are a few years older, that notion is ridiculous. I mean that they should be treated with more care, because we, as fans, do not have the same authority to fix them that the crewmembers did. These models are extraordinary because they are exactly what you see in the later episodes, and if they change from that state, they lose more and more of their historical value.
I do like the idea of a Thomas model series reboot. This group of people seems very enthusiastic about their endeavor, and seems to have good intentions, but using these models again feels wrong. I would suggest building replicas of the models. The team can do whatever they wish to the replicas, and the community won't be devastated if one drops to the floor. On top of it seeming slightly disrespectful to the models' history to take them from the show to a fan production, it is also an unnecessary risk to put them back in the circumstances of filming. I have no doubt that replicas could be made, with time, and if this project becomes successful enough, I truly hope that the team slowly makes the switch from these extremely valuable original models to their own, custom built replicas which do not require as much care. I wish this team luck, and while I cannot condone the use of any TV series model from a show in a fan production, I would be unrealistic and unfair in saying that they could not attempt this, and only hope that the models are well cared for and, eventually, once again retire from the positions of props and regain the positions of historical artifacts.