Thomas the Tank Engine is fifty years old. The stories were first created by an Anglican clergyman, the Reverend Wilbert Awdry, as a way of entertaining his young son Christopher as he recovered, in isolation, from scarlet fever. Christopher demanded that he be told the stories again and again and, in the way of small children, corrected his father whenever inconsistencies crept into the retold stories.
In self defense, the Rev. Awdry wrote the first stories down on available scraps of paper. To add to the story telling, the Rev. Awdry drew simple pictures of steam locomotives on the paper along with the stories. A head on view being the easiest to draw, he drew a row of locomotives standing in an engine shed with a human face and expression on each locomotive's smokebox door.
Mrs Awdry believed that these children's stories had some merit and so pestered her husband to "do something about them". Through a distant cousin a small publisher, Edmund Ward, was found who was interested in these railway stories. The connection was made so suddenly that the Rev. Awdry had to send the stories as they were written on scraps of paper as the original manuscript.
In 1945 the first of the Railway Series of books "The Three Railway Engines" appeared. This was a book, small enough for children's hands, containing three stories, "Edward's Day Out" being the first. The book was laid out with the text on the left hand page and a full page illustration of an incident in the story on the right.
After twenty six books, the Rev. Awdry laid down his pen, only to have it taken up by his son Christopher, who is now continuing to write stories for his son. Ten more books of the Railway Series have now appeared so far under Christopher's name. Perhaps, in his turn, the Rev. Awdry's grandson will continue the tradition! During the 1960's the Rev. Awdry built a model of Thomas's branch line and exhibited it at various model railway shows throughout England.
It wasn't until 1984 that a whole new generation of children were introduced to Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends when the first of the T.V. series of that name was made. Gauge 1 models based on Marklin mechanisms were used in the making of the T.V. shows in a studio not far from Clapham Junction, Britain's busiest railway station. In response to the rekindled interest in Thomas, a British Model Railway Manufacturer, Hornby Railways, introduced a number of OO gauge models of the locomotives in the Railway Series.