Thomas the Tank Engine

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Thomas the Tank Engine

Thomas the Tank Engine began life as a character in stories told by Reverend Wilbert Awdry (1911–1997) for his son, Christopher Awdry (1940–), who had measles. In May 1945, Awdry's first illustrated book, The Three Railway Engines, was published. In 1946, Thomas the Tank Engine appeared. Based on the adventures of Thomas, a small steam-powered locomotive on a British branch line, Awdry's stories sold well around the world. By 2001, Thomas the Tank Engine had become part of an international media franchise. Spin-offs from the books included a television (see entry under 1940s—TV and Radio in volume 3) series first broadcast in England from 1984 to 1998 and then on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS; see entry under 1960s—TV and Radio in volume 4) in the United States beginning in the 1990s, a feature film, replica toys, and games.

Thomas's adventures range from dealing with argumentative rail cars to racing against a road-going bus. However foolish he may be, cheeky Thomas always manages to win over Gordon and Henry, two snobbish mainline locomotives, and the company manager, Sir Topham Hatt. Awdry stopped writing books for the Railway Series in 1972. Christopher Awdry has continued his father's work since 1983.

—Chris Routledge

For More Information

Awdry Family Website. (accessed April 2, 2002).

Gunn, Ian. The Origins of Thomas the Tank Engine. (accessed April 2, 2002).

Thomas & Friends. (accessed April 2, 2002).