Shining Time Station is an award winning American television series co-created by Britt Allcroft and Rick Siggelkow. The series was produced by The Britt Allcroft Company and Quality Family Entertainment in New York For New York City PBS Station WNET, and was shot first in New York and then in Toronto. The series aired on PBS from January 1989 to June 1993, but aired re-runs until 1997. It aired on Fox Family from 1998 to 1999. It also aired on Nick Jr.
Once Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends had become a critical and commercial success in the UK, Allcroft and her production company teamed up with PBS Station WNET in New York to produce and distribute the sitcom-esque Shining Time Station. Every episode of the show would include a couple episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. The series starred Ringo Starr, George Carlin, Didi Conn, Brian O'Connor and Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. Ringo Starr, who had already been providing the voice of the story-teller for the British series, agreed to extend the role to include the on-screen character Mr. Conductor in Shining Time Station. He later left the show and was replaced by George Carlin.
The series received much critical acclaim. In a review for Entertainment Weekly, Ken Tucker states that, compared to the faster paced Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, "Shining Time Station wants to slow things down; it's an old- fashioned show that creates a gentle, lulling atmosphere to convince children that life is fun and that trains are the way to travel.
Shining Time Station is a train station that resides on the Indian Valley Railroad. The station is managed by Stacy Jones, the station master whose grandmother, Gracie Jones (who gave the station its name), ran the station when she was Stacy's age. The station's workshop is run by railroad engineer and mechanic Harry Cupper. In the second season, Harry is transferred to a new station in Fort Farley and is replaced by Billy Twofeathers.
A local named Horace Schemer (simply called Schemer by his friends) runs the station's arcade and is always finding new ways to make more money or to protect his arcade. He serves as the series' comic relief. Schemer thinks that strange goings-on in the station happen because the station is haunted. His catch phrases include "Genius time" (for when he has an idea), "Schemer's system of success" (for when he wants to impress his friends) and "This place is haunted". Starting in the second season, Schemer would sometimes be aided in his schemes by his nephew, Schemee.
Harry's granddaughter, Tanya, and Stacy's nephew, Matt, also visit the station occasionally. In the second season, three new children visit the station: Harry's second granddaughter, Kara; Stacy's second nephew, Dan; and a new girl named Becky.
Other visitors to the station include various townspeople, such as socialite and gossip Midge Smoot, farmer Ginny Johnson, general store proprietor Barton Winslow, bus driver Felix Perez, the town's mayor Osgood Bob Flopdinger (referred to as the mayor of East Shemp in his initial appearance), and J.B. King, Esq., the superintendent of the Indian Valley Railroad.
There is a jukebox inside the arcade that houses a band that perform for the nickels that are dropped inside. The band consists of Didi the drummer, cowboy twin brothers Tex and Rex who together play between them one guitar larger than them, Grace who plays bass guitar, and Tito the leader who plays the piano and collects the nickels they accumulate.
Mr. Conductor is a tiny man who lives in a signal house inside the station's mural and tells the stories of "Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends" to the kids. He can teleport in a cloud of his magic gold dust. In the second season, it is learned that he went to the North Pole at the end of the Christmas special and his cousin, also named Mr. Conductor (or Mr. C for short), moved into the signal house and took on the role that his cousin played in the first season.