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The Railway Series is a series of books about the railways of the fictional Island of Sodor. The books were created by the Reverend W. Awdry, who wrote the first stories in 1943. He wrote twenty-six books from 1945 to 1972. A further sixteen books were written by Christopher Awdry, his son. The final book was published in 2011.

The series would form the basis for Thomas & Friends, with many of the books and stories being adapted into full episodes.

History

Origins

In 1942, Wilbert Awdry's son Christopher had measles and was confined to his bed. To prevent their son getting bored, Wilbert and his wife Margaret Awdry told him stories and nursery rhymes. Most of them eventually lost their entertainment value, but one that continually appealed to the sick boy was the rhyme "Down by the Station". Wilbert drew a picture of several engines standing in a row based on the rhyme, and for fun gave them faces with various expressions. One sad-looking engine appealed to Christopher, as it shared his mood, and he began asking questions about it, such as what his name was. Wilbert replied with the first to come to his head: Edward. Through a series of questions and answers, the story of Edward's Day Out was created. Eventually, Christopher began asking for more stories, and Awdry obliged him with "Edward and Gordon" and "The Sad Story of Henry," the latter being inspired by another rhyme he was fond of. Christopher would constantly ask for the stories to be retold, even after he recovered, and to ensure consistency between tellings Wilbert wrote them down on the back of old church circulars.

Margaret Awdry also liked the stories, and suggested that her husband get them published, as she felt they were better than most other children's books on sale. Awdry was reluctant, but Margaret persisted and mentioned the stories in a letter to Wilbert's mother, Lucy, who replied that she knew the author Michael Barsley and asked that the stories be sent to her so she could forward them to him. At Margaret's insistence, Wilbert did so. Barsley's attempts to find a publisher were unsuccessful, so he showed the stories to his agent, Edith Ray Gregorson, who liked them and agreed to pursue the matter further. Her attempts to find a publisher were initially no more successful, as most were suffering paper shortages due to the Second World War, but in September 1943 Edmund Ward agreed to publish them, though refused to commit to a publication date, to Wilbert's annoyance. In October, Ward wrote to say that the stories would be published as one book entitled "The Three Railway Engines", but that he required rough sketches for his illustrator to base his pictures on and a fourth story to finish off the book. While Wilbert was annoyed at the requests, since Ward had already rejected his drawings, he agreed and wrote "Edward, Gordon and Henry", based on a suggestion by Ward. While it was hoped this would speed up publication, it wasn't until 12 May 1945 that the book was released. The book was an immediate commercial success, quickly selling its initial print of 22,500 copies, and going through two more by year's end. Wilbert, while happy to see his book in print, was disappointed in the illustrations by William Middleton.

Continuation

Conclusion

Books

Rev. W. Awdry

Cover Title Published No. #
TheThreeRailwayEnginesCoverThe Three Railway Engines12th May 1945#01
Edward is let out of his shed, Gordon runs into trouble with some trucks, and Henry is shut up in a tunnel for being vain.
ThomastheTankEngineCoverThomas the Tank Engine18th October 1946#02
A station pilot named Thomas longs to leave his yard to go out and see the world and has several adventures.
JamestheRedEngineCoverJames the Red Engine1948#03
James, the new engine on the Fat Controller's Railway, gets into trouble and tries to make up for his mistakes.
TankEngineThomasAgainTank Engine Thomas Again1949#04
Thomas has many adventures on his new branch line, and meets two new friends named Terence and Bertie.
TroublesomeEnginesCoverTroublesome EnginesSeptember 1950#05
When Gordon, Henry and James begin to behave badly and go on strike, a new tank engine named Percy is brought to help out.
HenrytheGreenEngineCoverHenry the Green Engine1951#06
Henry proves his worth to the Fat Controller, in spite of his illness, and is finally cured.
TobytheTramEngineCoverToby the Tram Engine1952#07
A steam tram named Toby comes to Sodor with his faithful coach, Henrietta, to help the Fat Controller after his old tramway closes down.
GordontheBigEngineCoverGordon the Big Engine1953#08
Gordon is in disgrace after landing in trouble with the Fat Controller, but manages to pull his act together in time for a royal visit.
EdwardtheBlueEngineCoverEdward the Blue Engine1954#09
Edward is getting old, but proves he has plenty of life left in him.
FourLittleEnginesCoverFour Little Engines1955#10
While Rheneas is away at the works, The Skarloey Railway engines work together to keep their line running. Two new engines also arrive to help out.
PercytheSmallEngineCoverPercy the Small Engine1956#11
Percy is fed-up of being ordered about and gets a chance to shine when he is reallocated to Thomas' Branch Line.
EightFamousEnginesCoverThe Eight Famous Engines1957#12
Already famous for their adventures on Sodor, the Fat Controller's engines take a trip to England.
DuckandtheDieselEngineCoverDuck and the Diesel Engine1958#13
Duck becomes suspicious when a devious diesel comes to Sodor and blames him for causing trouble.
TheLittleOldEngineCoverThe Little Old Engine1959#14
Skarloey returns to Sodor and finds out that things have changed on his little railway.
TheTwinEnginesCoverThe Twin Engines1960#15
Donald and Douglas, two well-meaning Scottish goods engines, create confusion for the Fat Controller when he only expects one engine.
BranchLineEnginesCoverBranch Line Engines1961#16
Thomas has an accident and a lazy diesel railcar named Daisy comes to Sodor to fill in for him, but only causes more trouble.
GallantOldEngineCoverGallant Old Engine1962#17
The Skarloey Railway prepares for Rheneas' return.
StepneytheBluebellEngineCoverStepney the "Bluebell" Engine1963#18
Stepney, an engine from the Bluebell Railway, pays a visit to the Island of Sodor and its engines.
MountainEnginesCoverMountain Engines1964#19
Culdee returns to the Mountain Railway, and Lord Harry makes up for a silly mistake.
VeryOldEngines2ndeditionCoverVery Old Engines1965#20
Skarloey and Rheneas recall their early days and celebrate their 100th anniversary.
MainLineEnginesCoverMain Line Engines1966#21
Bill and Ben play a trick on a new diesel, Gordon and James get into silly mishaps, and Edward pulls through to bring his passengers home.
SmallRailwayEnginesCoverSmall Railway Engines1967#22
Three miniature gauge engines - Rex, Bert and Mike - come to Sodor to work on a new railway.
EnterprisingEnginesCoverEnterprising Engines4th October 1968#23
A special visitor comes to Sodor, two diesels are put on trial, and Douglas rescues a steam engine from the cutter's torch.
OlivertheWesternEngineCoverOliver the Western Engine15th November 1969#24
Oliver, the new Great Western engine on the Little Western, gets into trouble when his overconfidence gets the better of him.
DuketheLostEngineCoverDuke the Lost Engine15th October 1970#25
Peter Sam and Sir Handel recall their old days on the Mid Sodor Railway, and a search begins to find Duke.
TramwayEnginesCoverTramway Engines15th October 1972#26
Thomas and Percy get in a quarrel and a new diesel shunter named Mavis causes trouble for Toby.
These volumes were later compiled into Thomas the Tank Engine: The Complete Collection.

The Complete Collection compilations were released by various publishers in different years and countries, all containing the same 26 volumes.

Christopher Awdry

Cover Title Published No. #
ReallyUsefulEnginesCoverReally Useful Engines12th September 1983#27
Life on the Fat Controller's Railway is far from dull.
JamesandtheDieselEnginesCoverJames and the Diesel Engines17th September 1984#28
James is still convinced that diesels are not very useful, but slowly learns to put his prejudices behind him.
GreatLittleEnginesCoverGreat Little Engines28th October 1985#29
Sir Handel visits the Talyllyn Railway.
MoreAboutThomastheTankEngineCoverMore About Thomas the Tank Engine22nd September 1986#30
Thomas and Percy fall out after an accident, but manage to make up for it.
GordontheHigh-SpeedEngineCoverGordon the High-Speed Engine7th September 1987#31
Gordon tries to prove that he can be just as fast as the new high-speed diesels, and Pip and Emma visit the railway for the first time.
Toby,TrucksandTroubleCoverToby, Trucks and Trouble19th September 1988#32
Percy and Toby run the branch line and Mavis has an accident with a lorry.
ThomasandtheTwinsCoverThomas and the Twins11th September 1989#33
Thomas must work on Edward's Branch Line for the time being, and meets Bill and Ben while he is there.
JocktheNewEngineCoverJock the New Engine6th August 1990#34
A boastful new engine called Jock starts work on the Arlesdale Railway.
ThomasandtheGreatRailwayShowCoverThomas and the Great Railway Show12th August 1991#35
Thomas travels to the Mainland to attend a grand railway exhibition at the National Railway Museum.
ThomasComesHomeCoverThomas Comes Home15th June 1992#36
Percy, Toby and Daisy must manage the branch line while Thomas is away in England.
HenryandtheExpressCoverHenry and the Express8th April 1993#37
Henry is feeling ill again and must go to the Works for an overhaul.
WilberttheForestEngineCoverWilbert the Forest Engine8th August 1994#38
Wilbert is called in from the Dean Forest Railway to help the Ffarquhar Branch Line engines and Donald and Douglas.
ThomasandtheFatControllersEnginesCoverThomas and the Fat Controller's Engines1st August 1995#39
The engines prepare for the fiftieth anniversary of The Railway Series.
NewLittleEngineCoverNew Little Engine8th August 1996#40
A new engine is built for the Skarloey Railway.
ThomasandVictoriaCoverThomas and Victoria3rd September 2007#41
The Fat Controller has an old coach named Victoria renovated to help Toby on the branch line.
ThomasandHisFriendsThomas and his Friends6th July 2011#42
The Thin Clergyman's centenary is celebrated and Pip and Emma become permanent members of the North Western Railway.
Volumes 27-41 were compiled into Thomas the Tank Engine: The New Collection
  • Another Railway Series book titled Barry the Rescue Engine was also being written by Christopher Awdry, but was cancelled.

Other Books

Cover Title Writer Published
ThomasChristmasPartybookThomas's Christmas PartyRev. W. Awdry29th October 1984
Thomas wants to hold a special Christmas party for Mrs. Kyndley. Unfortunately, Mrs. Kyndley's house is snowed in.
ThomasComestoBreakfast(book)Thomas Comes to BreakfastRev. W. Awdry2nd September 1985
Thomas thinks that he can manage without his driver, until he makes an unexpected visit to the stationmaster's house one morning.
ThomasandtheMissingChristmasTree(story)Thomas and the Missing Christmas TreeChristopher Awdry20th October 1986
Thomas is sent to collect a Christmas tree, but when he ends up getting lost along the way home, Donald and Douglas set off to rescue him in time for the Christmas celebrations.
ThomasandtheEvilDieselThomas and the Evil DieselChristopher Awdry5th October 1987
Diesel returns to Sodor to help out on Thomas' branch line and manages to redeem himself after causing trouble.
ThomasandGordonOfftheRailsThomas and Gordon Off the RailsRev. W. Awdry3rd September 1990
Gordon decides to jam the turntable to prove a point, but his attempt makes him slide into a ditch. Thomas goes to a lead mine to collect some trucks but foolishly passes a danger board and falls down a mine.
ThomasandtheHurricaneCoverThomas and the HurricaneChristopher Awdry16th March 1992
Thomas and his friends deal with the aftermath of a hurricane.

Annuals

From 1979-1980, the annuals were written by the Rev. W. Awdry, and from 1985-1996 by Christopher Awdry. In some cases, these stories expanded upon earlier Railway Series books, in others they were entirely new, and some later rewritten and used as Railway Series stories.

Pop-Up Books

Several Pop-Up books were released based on various Railway Series stories from previous books.

  1. The Flying Kipper and Henry the Green Engine (W. Awdry, 1983)
  2. Bertie the Bus and Thomas the Tank Engine (W. Awdry, 1983)
  3. Thomas the Tank Engine and the Tractor (W. Awdry, 1984)
  4. Henry the Green Engine and the Elephant (W. Awdry, 1984)
  5. Henry the Green Engine Gets Out (W. Awdry, 1984)
  6. James the Red Engine and the Troublesome Trucks (W. Awdry, 1984)
  7. Thomas the Tank Engine Goes Fishing (W. Awdry, 1986)
  8. Percy the Small Engine Takes the Plunge (W. Awdry, 1986)
  9. James the Red Engine and the Signal (C. Awdry, 1994)
  10. Percy the Small Engine and the Scarf (W. Awdry, 1995)
  11. Thomas the Tank Engine Catches a Thief (C. Awdry, 1995)
  12. Thomas the Tank Engine and the Scrambled Eggs (C. Awdry, 1995)

Mini/Board/Sticker books

There have been several Railway Series-related books published which were written by the Awdrys. These books were illustrated by Ken Stott, Tony Wells and Edgar Hodges.

  1. James and the Balloons
  2. Percy and the Kite
  3. Thomas and the Birthday Party
  4. Henry and the Ghost Train
  5. Henry Goes to the Hospital
  6. Thomas and the Pony Show
  7. Thomas and the Dinosaur
  8. Thomas and the Tiger
  9. Thomas Goes to School
  10. Thomas and the Station Cat
  11. James and the Fat Controller
  12. Thomas and the Prize Pig
  13. Tracking Thomas the Tank Engine and his Friends
  14. Thomas and the Lost Cat
  15. Percy the Seaside Train
  16. Thomas and the Giant
  17. Thomas and the Bad Dog
  18. Henry Pulls the Express
  19. Learn With Thomas
  20. A False Start for Duck
  21. Percy and the Postman
  22. Edward and the Bear
  23. Thomas the Tank Engine's European Word Book
  24. Down the Line with Thomas
  25. Tell the Time with Thomas
  26. Thomas Goes to Town
  27. Percy to the Rescue
  28. Thomas's ABC
  29. Thomas's Counting Book
  30. Thomas's Book of Colours
  31. Up and Down with Percy
  32. Famous Engines
  33. Bumper Colouring Book

Companion volumes

These books mainly feature the Island of Sodor, dealing with its history, geography and industry in far greater depth than could ever be discussed in the Railway Series stories themselves. However, The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, is a biography of Rev. W. Awdry and companion to the series.

  1. Twelve Happy Engines (W. Awdry, 1970)
  2. The Railway Series: Surprise Packet (W. Awdry, 1972)
  3. Railway Map of the Island of Sodor (W. Awdry, 1976)
  4. The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways (W. Awdry and G. Awdry, 1987)
  5. The Thomas the Tank Engine Man (B. Sibley, 1995)
  6. Sodor: Reading Between the Lines (C. Awdry, 2005)

Bad Days for Thomas

A series of books written to highlight rail safety. They were written partially due to Christopher Awdry's frustration at not being able to include a proper rail safety story in Thomas and the Great Railway Show.

  1. Bad Days for Thomas and his Friends
  2. More Bad Days for Thomas and his Friends

Trivia

  • Nearly all of The Railway Series stories were based upon real-life events. As a life-long railway enthusiast, Wilbert Awdry was keen that his stories should be as realistic as possible. The engine characters were almost all based upon real classes of locomotives, and some of the railways themselves were directly based upon real lines in the British Isles.
  • During the 1970s, Andrew Lloyd Webber planned a musical adaptation of The Railway Series, but Awdry refused to give him the control he wanted. Lloyd Webber would later go on to compose Starlight Express and formed the "Really Useful Group", a name inspired by the phrase "Really Useful Engine".
  • In 1973, Poplar Publishing released the Japanese translation of Wilbert Awdry's 26 books. The series was translated by Saburō Kuwabara and Shuyū Shimizu. Motō Kuroiwa supervised railway technical terms. Wilbert Awdry sent a message to Japanese children. Christopher's books, however, have yet to be translated into Japanese.
  • According to The Thomas the Tank Engine Man Wilbert Awdry had no intention of carrying on the series of children’s books after ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’, but after hearing news of letters being sent in saying how much people enjoyed his books, he was convinced to continue the series.

In Other Languages

Language Title
Chinese 托马斯和朋友原著绘本
Japanese 汽車のえほん
Korean 토마스 원작 시리즈

References

The Railway Series