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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

Books written by Christopher Awdry

Parental Guidance

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

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