Little did Reverend Wilbert Awdry know, this popular verse would be the foundation for what was to become the very famous useful engine - Thomas the Tank Engine.
Thomas and his very useful engine friends were first brought to life by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry in 1945. While
Wilbert sought to entertain his son Christopher, who was recovering
in isolation from the measles, the little engine verse seemed to be the child's
favorite. Christopher, who was two years old at the time, delighted in singing
the chorus, which he and his father repeated over and over again. Wilbert decided to illustrate
the sing-songy verse for his son by drawing a picture of some engines, just as
they are described in the rhyme - standing all in a row. He drew little faces on
the engines, giving each one a distinguished look; one smiling, one stern, one
cross, one sad...
The sad-faced engine immediately
caught Christopher's attention and during the following conversation, the first
engine came to be;
'Why is he sad,
'Because he's old and hasn't been out for a long time.'
his name, Daddy?'
That's right -
Edward! Edward was the first character Wilbert invented
and thus, the first Railway story was born entitled, 'Edward's Day Out'. Before
long, Gordon and Henry were brought to life and each one of the engines were
given their own distinct, human-like personalities.
Reverend Awdry had no intention of
having his stories published, as he created them for the sole purpose of
entertaining and sharing with his son, Christopher, who loved to have them told
over and over again - well after the measles had departed. Mrs. Awdry,
however, had something else in mind. She believed her husband's stories were
quite good and told him to do something about them! With her coaxing,
encouragement and connections, she found a small publisher who was interested in
Wilberts amusing engines. One
thing lead to another and before long, The 1st The Railway Series was published
in 1945 and titled, "The Three Railway Engines". The first book, and all
subsequent Railway Series Books, contained 4 stories, including 'Edward's Day
Out', 'Edward and Gordon', 'The Sad Story of Henry', and 'Edward, Gordon and
It wasn't until the second series
that the most famous little engine, Thomas the Tank Engine, was introduced. Of
all the characters Wilbert created, none was to be more well-received than
Thomas. Although cheeky and mischievous, Thomas had a happy-go-lucky personality
which appealed to children and their parents alike. Thomas was actually a
homemade Tank Engine, put together for Christopher, with broomstick and dowel
pieces before he was a character in the books. Wilbert painted a
bright, yellow number '1' on Thomas' side and before long, all the engines were
given numbers; Edward #2, Henry #3, Gordon #4, James #5, Percy #6 and so on.
Thomas the Tank Engine soon
appeared in all Rev. Awdry's books from then on. The 2nd Railway Series
continued in 1946 titled, "Thomas the Tank Engine" which contained
4 stories including 'Thomas and Gordon', 'Thomas' Trains', 'Thomas and the
Trucks' and 'Thomas and the Breakdown Train'. More books followed at yearly
intervals and by 1972, Wilbert, after writing and publishing 26 Thomas the
Tank Engine books, retired with "Tramway Engines".
In the early
1980s, Christopher continued in his father's footsteps. He began creating
Railway stories for his own young son, Richard, and published his first story in
1983. Christopher's first book, “Really Useful Engines” was published in1983.
From 1983 to 1996, Christopher wrote fourteen books, one a year. In all, between
Wilbert and Christopher, 40 Railway Series books were published.
In the mid 1980s the Thomas name
was made into a television show for children and the moral messages that had
delighted children for years in print were now available in a televised form.
Children who could not yet read the Thomas the Tank Engine stories could now
watch as the train engines came to life and participated in myriad adventures
Thomas the Tank Engine is one of the top children's
favorite characters of all time. The timeless charm of the Awdrys' works have
sold 25million units in the US and world wide book sales are approaching 80
Check out the complete list of series by Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son, Christopher Awdry.