The Revd WV Awdry & Christopher Awdry

Thomas the Tank Engine books

Thomas the Tank Engine books

Like so many children’s stories, Thomas’ adventures began with tales told to amuse a poorly child. But the Revd. Awdry soon found that he had to write the stories down; it would never do to get it wrong and give Thomas eight wheels, not six! Drawing on memories of listening to trains struggling up to Box Tunnel (Wiltshire), Awdry gave them voices (“I can’t do it… I will do it”) and “bankers” to help them up.

Chug up to Cumbria’s Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway for the journey between mountains, sheep-dotted pastures and the silvery sea. Oh joy, it’s the route of The Small Railway (there’s even a quarry and turntable)! Nearby Barrow-in-Furness is connected to the Isle of Walney, whose Vickerstown (where Gordon overshoots the turntable) provided the name for Vicarstown on the fictional Island of Sodor. Most of the stories were based on real incidents; Down the Mine recounts the tale of the rails under Thomas giving way and his rescue by Gordon the Big Engine.

Thomas the Tank Engine books

Peterborough’s Nene Valley Railway is just one of many places where you can see Thomas working. Ride the line across bridges, flood meadows (remember Percy?) and past a huge signal box. Thomas used to work at the neighbouring sugar factory but now pulls passenger trains and does duties round the yard, just like in the books. And in East Sussex, The Bluebell Railway is where you’ll find many of the engines in the stories of Stepney, The Bluebell Engine.

 

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