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The Railway Series (now better known as The Thomas the Tank Engine series) is a set of story books about a fictional railway system located on the fictional Island of Sodor and the engines that lived on it. There are currently 41 books in the series, the first being published in 1945. Twenty-six were written by Rev. W. Awdry up to 1972. From 1983 to 1996 a further fourteen were written by his son, Christopher Awdry.

Nearly all of The Railway Series stories were based upon real-life events. As a lifelong railway enthusiast, Rev. W. Awdry was keen that his stories should be as realistic as possible. The engine characters were almost all based upon real classes of locomotive, and some of the railways themselves were directly based upon real lines in the British Isles.

There have been several television series made out of them.

Audio adaptations of The Railway Series have been recorded at various times under the title The Railway Stories. There is also a musical inspired by the Railway Series, Starlight Express.

The books

The books are written for small children. Every book has trains in, with each train being able to talk and think like a human. Each train is given its own unique character. The books are very famous for their illustrations, with some people claiming that the illustrations give the books their unique charm, and not the actual stories themselves.


Twenty-six books were written by Rev. W. Awdry up to 1972. From 1983 to 1996 a further fourteen were written by his son, Christopher Awdry.


  • William Middleton: Illustrated the first ever book, but Rev. W. Awdry did not like his illustrations, so he was dumped.
  • Reginald Payne: Illustrated Thomas the Tank Engine, but was not available for the next book, even though Rev. W. Awdry wanted him back.
  • C. Reginald Dalby: Dalby illustrated the next eight books in the series. The Three Railway Engines was reprinted with Dalby's artwork replacing William Middleton's and he also touched up the artwork for the second book. His work on the series proved popular with readers, but not so with the author, who repeatedly clashed with him over issues of accuracy and consistency. Dalby resigned from the series in 1956, following an argument over the portrayal of Percy the Small Engine in the book of the same name. Despite the tempestuous relationship with Awdry, he is probably the best remembered of the series' artists.
  • John T. Kenney: His style was less colourful but more realistic than Dalby's. As a result of his commitment to realism and technical accuracy, he enjoyed a far more comfortable working relationship with Awdry, which lasted until Gallant Old Engine (1962), when his eyesight began to fail him. He was not as nearly as popular as C. Reginald Dalby with fans however.
  • Gunvor Edwards & Peter Edwards: The artist initially chosen to replace him was the Swedish-born artist Gunvor Edwards. She began illustrating Stepney the "Bluebell" Engine, but felt unsuited to the work. She was assisted for that volume by her husband Peter, who effectively took over from then on. Both artists retained credit for the work, and the "Edwards era" lasted until Wilbert Awdry's last volume, Tramway Engines. The style used in these volumes was still essentially realistic, but had something of an impressionist feel.
  • Clive Spong: Illustrated all of Christopher Awdry's books.

Reader's Reviews


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Books in the series

Books written by the Rev. W. Awdry

  • The Three Railway Engines - Edward, Henry and Gordon have several adventures.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine - A station pilot tries to gain respect.
  • James the Red Engine - James gets into trouble and tries to make up for his errors.
  • Tank Engine Thomas Again - Life on Thomas' branch line is far from dull.
  • Troublesome Engines - The big engines go on strike.
  • Henry the Green Engine - Henry overcomes illness to prove his might.
  • Toby the Tram Engine - Toby is saved by the Fat Controller after his tramway closes.
  • Gordon the Big Engine - Gordon pulls his act together in time for a royal visit.
  • Edward the Blue Engine - Edward is getting old, but proves he has plenty of life in him yet.
  • Four Little Engines - The story of the Skarloey Railway engines working together to keep their line running.
  • Percy the Small Engine - Percy is fed up of being ordered about and gets a chance to shine when Thomas needs help.
  • The Eight Famous Engines - After becoming famous for their adventures the engines take a trip to England, but Thomas almost puts a damper on the trip.
  • Duck and the Diesel Engine - A malicious diesel creates confusion and blames Duck.
  • The Little Old Engine - Skarloey returns to find that things have changed on his little railway.
  • The Twin Engines - Two well-meaning Scottish goods engines create confusion in the yard.
  • Branch Line Engines - Thomas has an accident and a lazy diesel-railcar named Daisy arrives.
  • Gallant Old Engine - The Skarloey Railway engines prepare for Rheneas' return.
  • Stepney the "Bluebell" Engine - Stepney of the Bluebell Railway pays a visit to Sodor.
  • Mountain Engines - Lord Harry makes up for a silly accident.
  • Very Old Engines - Skarloey and Rheneas recall their early days.
  • Main Line Engines - Gordon and James get into silly mishaps while Edward surprises everyone.
  • Small Railway Engines - Three new engines arrive on Sodor to work a narrow gauge goods line.
  • Enterprising Engines - Diesel power may be triumphing on the mainland, but it's quite the contrary on Sodor.
  • Oliver the Western Engine - A boisterous Great Western engine gets into trouble.
  • Duke the Lost Engine - When Peter Sam and Sir Handel recall their old days a search begins for an old engine.
  • Tramway Engines - Percy and Thomas have adventures while Mavis causes a fuss.
    • Thomas the Tank Engine: The Complete Collection - A complete collection of all the books above.

Books written by Christopher Awdry

  • Really Useful Engines - The engines may not have appeared in books for years, but that doesn't mean life on Sodor is dull.
  • James and the Diesel Engines - James learns a lesson in acceptance.
  • Great Little Engines - Sir Handel isn't necessarily the life and soul of the Skarloey Railway, as Peter Sam and Duncan prove.
  • More About Thomas the Tank Engine - Thomas and Percy fall out after an accident.
  • Gordon the High-Speed Engine - Gordon tries to prove he can go fast.
  • Toby, Trucks and Trouble - A series of events leave Percy and Toby running the branch line.
  • Thomas and the Twins - Thomas meets Bill and Ben on Edward's branch line.
  • Jock the New Engine - A boastful new engine starts work on the Small Railway.
  • Thomas and the Great Railway Show - Thomas travels to the mainland for a grand railway exhibition.
  • Thomas Comes Home - The tale of Percy, Toby and Daisy's adventures while Thomas is in England.
  • Henry and the Express - Henry is ill again and needs repairs.
  • Wilbert the Forest Engine - Donald and Douglas desperately need help, but so do the branch line engines.
  • Thomas and the Fat Controller's Engines - The engines prepare for the fiftieth anniversary of the Railway Series.
  • New Little Engine - A new engine is built for the Skarloey Railway.
  • Thomas and Victoria - The Fat Controller renovates an old coach called Victoria for Toby.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine: The New Collection - A complete collection of all the books written by both Christopher Awdry and Rev. W. Awdry
  • Thomas and His Friends (Scheduled to be published in 2011.)

Parental Guidance

  • Reading Age: 5+
  • Read Aloud Age: 4+

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