Thomas and Friends is a well known franchise that encompasses a television show for children and a line of wooden train tracks and accessories that follow the show's characters. Basic sets and layouts are sold, along with additional add on sets, buildings and extra track pieces. This makes layout variations nearly limitless, if you have the time, imagination and cash to buy it all.
Figure 8 Expansion
The basic figure 8 set is a standard beginner layout that has two semicircles that crisscross in the center. There is typically an arched bridge or tunnel at the crisscross for one train to pass above while another goes below. The figure 8 expansion packs extend the figure 8 layouts to much larger sectioned tracks, crossing over each other in various areas. There are several expansion packs, from one that just makes the two circles into larger areas, to those that are developed into four large distinct sections joining together in various places.
Themed Sets and Bridges
Pre-packaged sets with specific themes, such as the 60th anniversary set or the fire rescue set, are layouts with specific buildings and track pieces. They are adaptable to create alternate layouts with the stand alone sets or work in combination with other sets. Bridge sets have components for suspension, covered and arched bridges with tracks running under or through them. Themed layouts include things like the fire station set, a shipyard dock and a set involving Sodor -- the area where Thomas and his friends live -- that includes a bridge and a water tower.
Busy As Can Be
The Busy As Can Be set is a layout that incorporates several different buildings and bridges in the fictional city of Sodor. It is a set that is often seen as the demonstration set layout in retail stores, as the track is very busy and fills the entire top of the play table. It requires the castle bridge, engine wash, quarry mine tunnel, power station, useful engine shed, covered bridge and clock tower. It also requires a large number of track pieces (see "Resources").
Putting It All Together
Creating a multi-level track system incorporating everything you can get your hands on is the ultimate layout idea. Even the bigger retail sets often don't go to this extreme, but layout plans do exist for this type of multi-table set up. A layout called the "Ultimate Island of Sodor" uses a plan that covers the play table surface, then extends down to the floor with a slope track to join up with another entire lower level. Give this layout a try if you think you have the time and need a challenge.