Railway Series Related Books

Railway Series Related Books

Other books written by The Rev. Awdry and his son Christopher relating to the Railway Series characters and stories...

TV Series / Railway Series Tie-Ins

Thomas's Christmas Party

Thomas' Christmas Party

In 1984, when the television series aired for the first time, Britt Allcroft & David Mitton wished to include a ‘Christmas episode’.  The only story set around Christmas in the Railway Series was Mrs Kyndley’s Christmas, (which is alluded to in this episode), however, Mitton & Allcroft wished to produce their own festive adventure for the TV Series.  However, as per the contractual obligations set down by Kaye & Ward, the story had to appear in print form first, and the Rev. Awdry stepped out of retirement to adapt their work for a one-off special.

Summary

Thomas & Toby want to say ‘thank you’ to Mrs Kyndley for her help the previous winter, when she saved Thomas from a landslide.  The two engines have the idea of throwing a special Christmas party for her, and the Fat Controller kindly agrees to let the festivities take place at the new Tidmouth Roundhouse on the day after Christmas. 

 

However, the weather takes a turn for the worse, and the Branch Line becomes snowed up meaning Mrs Kyndley may miss the party.  The Fat Controller decides to send out Thomas, Toby and Percy on a rescue mission to help free her from her snowed-up isolation and bring her down to Tidmouth safely.  With a valiant effort and a bit of help from Terence the Tractor, the three engines manage to free Mrs Kyndley and bring her to Tidmouth.

 

But when they arrive, the yard is dark.  Thomas thinks that the Fat Controller has cancelled the party after all – when all of a sudden, the lights burst on, engines whistle excitedly, the shed doors open and the party gets into motion.  Mrs Kyndley is given a special free pass for travel on the railway, as a token of thanks for saving Thomas the year before, and is invited to stay with the Sir Topham and Lady Hatt until the weather clears.  The engines all thank Thomas, Percy and Toby for their efforts, and one by one, they drift off quietly to sleep.

Thomas Comes To Breakfast

Thomas Comes To Breakfast

The Rev. Awdry teamed up with Clive Spong again in 1985 to adapt one of his best arcs in the Railway Series – Branch Line Engines to a condensed version, ahead of the TV Series adaptation in 1986.

Summary

Thomas becomes conceited when the Driver jokes that he could almost manage running the Branch Line without him.  Thomas becomes convinced he doesn’t need his crew anymore, and boasts to Percy and Toby that he could manage without them easily.  The next morning, when the cleaner arrives to clean the engines, he begins trying Thomas’s controls, but nothing happens.  Thomas doesn’t realise, and is still convinced he could manage without his Driver – so decides to sneak out of the shed and scare Percy and Toby.

 

Whilst Thomas begins to move quite easily, stopping becomes another matter entirely.  He puffs through the yard, over the end of the siding and straight into the Station Master’s house!  Thomas is left there in disgrace and pulled back to the rails later by Donald and Douglas.  The Fat Controller scolds Thomas severely and informs him that a Diesel Rail-Car will be coming to do his work whilst he is at the Works being mended.  Thomas is dismayed when he sees her arrive, and Percy and Toby are wary of her.

 

However, all four engines soon learn lessons about how to work together on the Branch Line, and by the time Thomas returns to work, all four are good friends and ready for anything.

Thomas & The Missing Christmas Tree

Thomas & The Missing Christmas Tree

In 1986, Christopher Awdry took up the role of writing the Christmas Story for the TV Series, and developed a longer version of the story set down initially by David Mitton & Britt Allcroft for a spin-off / tie-in book.  The book followed the TV Series continuity for that year, with characters such as Oliver and Bear carefully omitted and Donald and Douglas featuring in their TV Series livery as opposed to the Caledonian livery they wear in the Railway Series books.

Summary

It’s Christmas, and Thomas is the envy of the other engines.  He has been given the important job of collecting the Christmas tree for the Big Station.  But on the day he’s supposed to collect the tree from the Works Station, he’s very late in returning to Tidmouth.  Gordon, Henry, Donald and Douglas joke and spar over what might have happened, casting up previous incidents each engine has faced – until the Fat Controller arrives with the grim news that there has been a heavy snowfall beyond Edward’s Station and Thomas might be stranded.

 

Cold but confident, Donald and Douglas brave the drifts and plough on to find Thomas and bring him home again.  It takes a big effort from both engines, but when they are ready for giving up, they hear a voice in the snowy wilderness... it’s Thomas, buried deep in snow and calling for help.  With additional help from Edward and James, they bring Thomas and the missing Christmas tree back to Tidmouth.

 

And as a reward for all their hard work in rescuing Thomas and getting the tree to the station safely, the engines are invited to join the Fat Controller and his guests for the carol party and greet Father Christmas, who arrives with Harold the Helicopter.  After the celebrations are done, Thomas and Percy return to the shed, and Thomas tells his friend that it was no fun being stuck in the snow, but it was certainly worth it for the party!

Thomas & The Evil Diesel

Thomas & The Evil Diesel

Despite his bad character, Diesel became an iconic figure in the TV Series and went on to become a recurring character in later seasons as a watered down ‘pantomime’ villain.  Whilst his father had been urged to keep Diesel as a permanent character within the Railway Series by Eric Marriott, his editor, he didn’t feel it was a wise move.  Christopher Awdry brought Diesel back to the Island of Sodor in this ‘out of official canon’ story, which has been adapted numerous times since in various TV Series tie-in books for toddlers, most recently figuring as Diesel’s entry in the Thomas Story Library colleciton.

Thomas & The Evil Diesel

Percy is unwell, and needs a trip to the Works.  The Fat Controller organises a replacement in his place, but is dismayed when he finds the only engine that the Other Railway can supply is Diesel.  Duck watches him arrive and make his way to the Branch Line, where Thomas and Toby warn him against trying his tricks...

 

The trucks decide to test Diesel’s patience and begin mimicking him.  Diesel finally loses his temper and forces the trucks down a siding and through the buffers, smashing some of them to pieces over the road.  The Fat Controller scolds Diesel severely and tells him he’ll be sent back on the Other Railway in disgrace as a consequence of his actions.  Thomas and Toby are glad to hear it.

 

Meanwhile, poor Daisy is experiencing some trouble.  Her oil is leaking all over the rails and she has to give up her passengers to Bertie.  Thomas makes a good effort climbing the hill that Daisy just came down, but with a full train and slippery rails, there’s not much he can do.  He begins to slide back down the line and into the runaway siding.  Clarabel’s back wheels come off the rails and Thomas cannot move the train again – they’re stuck!

 

Meanwhile, Diesel is shunting his last load before going home in disgrace when he’s called by the Station Master to help Thomas.  Diesel begrudges the idea, but knows he won’t get home otherwise.  With a good effort, Thomas and Diesel ease Clarabel back onto the rails and bring the train up the line safely.

 

Diesel is hailed a hero, and when it’s time for him to go home, Clarabel convinces the Fat Controller to forgive him.  Now, everyone hopes that Diesel will come back and visit again.

Thomas & Gordon Off The Rails

Thomas & Gordon Off The Rails

In 1990, Rev Awdry completed a final rehash of one of his earlier works, this time combining Off the Rails with Down The Mine. This was the first of two books to be illustrated by Stephen Lings, who emulated the style of Clive Spong for the sake of continuity, but did not have the same flare for technical accuracy as the original artist.

Summary

Gordon is told he’ll have to pull a special train of trucks, and doesn’t want to do it.  His fire is deliberately sluggish, and Edward has to push him to the turntable to make sure he’s ready in time.  All the while, Gordon is still grumbling and protesting.  In a bid to get out of pulling the train, he tries to jam the turntable to stop it from turning.  But instead, he ends up going too far and slides off the table completely, right into a muddy ditch.

 

The Fat Controller is furious and orders that Edward takes charge of the train instead, whilst Gordon is left to think about what he’s done.  Meanwhile, he’s teased by school children, and has the indignity of watching tadpoles swim around his wheels.  Eventually, James and Henry come to haul him free from the ditch later that evening.  Gordon then crawls home to the shed a sadder and wiser engine – and as punishment for his behaviour, he’s ordered to pull trucks instead of the Express.

 

Thomas enjoys teasing Gordon about his folly, much to the shock and dislike of Annie and Clarabel. Once his passenger service is done, Thomas goes off to a mine to shunt trucks.  There, he has an ambition – to run past the Danger Board, which forbids engines to pass.  Thomas doesn’t realise that this is a safety precaution – he simply wants to ‘undermine’ the rules.  He knocks his Driver off the footplate and sidles into the siding, coming a cropper when the ground opens up underneath him.

 

The Fat Controller has seen everything, and begins sizing up how to co-ordinate the rescue.  The ground wouldn’t take a crane, but Gordon could pull him free.  Thomas isn’t sure – he wouldn’t like to meet Gordon that soon!  Gordon laughs loudly at Thomas’s misfortune, but soon takes charge of the situation and with much puffing and wheel-slip, he hauls Thomas back to the rails and to safety once more.

 

Both engines are now in disgrace, and both understand the other’s predicament.  Gordon suggests they form an ‘alliance’ where they both help one another in future, and Thomas duly agrees.  And together, the allies puff home – ready to face their punishments together.

Thomas & The Hurricane

Thomas & The Hurricane

Thomas & The Hurricane was the last Railway Series tie-in produced in this format.  Stephen Lings again fills in for Clive Spong, whilst Christopher Awdry adapts an Annual Story ‘Thomas & The Cricketers’ into a longer, more developed storyline with the same principle events taking place.

Summary

Through the night, Thomas, Percy and Toby listen to a ferocious gale force wind blowing outside their shed, and are reluctant to venture out into the elements the following morning.  But despite the weather, Thomas has to go on and meet James at the Junction.  James doesn’t mind the wind at all and boasts about how well he’s managed.  But he’s glee is short lived when a signal crashes down in the gale.

 

Thomas and James are moved down the platform – and just in time as the platform canopy is lifted off and hits the ground, shattering.  Without signals, the engines need to rely on flags to move off from the station – all of a sudden, James isn’t so keen on time keeping – he’s just happy to go!

 

On the way back, the guard’s emergency brake comes on hard – and they soon find out why.  A tree is laying right across the line, blocking their path.  Thomas is surprised, but relieved.  He wonders how the Guard would have known about it.  Luckily for them, the footballers who had been playing in a field nearby had been waving their red jerseys to the Guard – that’s what alerted him to the danger.

 

Thomas returns to the station and his passengers have to transfer over to Bertie, whilst he stays the night.  Thankfully Terence, Toby and Percy work throughout the day to get the line clear and bring Thomas home again.

 

As a special thank you, a week later, when the wind has died down, the Fat Controller holds a special party at the station by the river to thank the footballers.  They are lauded as heroes and given a special framed certificate to remind them of the day that they saved the train.

Non-Fiction Companion Books

The Island of Sodor

The Island Of Sodor

Throughout the years he had been writing the Railway Series, the Rev. Awdry and his brother, George, had also been developing the Sodor universe.  Awdry had given numerous lectures on his island and his railways over the years, and the meticulous detail he had gone into was enough to convince his audience that these places were real.  The Island of Sodor was published in 1987, to be a guide to the Railway Series universe, providing a template of what Sodor was, is and eventually will be.  Kaye & Ward did a limited print run, and it has become in recent years, with the rise of the Thomas fandom on the internet, the Holy Grail of Thomas paraphernalia, with copies on E-bay often fetching figures of over 100 for a copy.  However, to the serious collector, it is well worth pursuing a copy.

Overview & Summary

The Island of Sodor is split into four major component parts.  The first part, The Beginning, explains how the Rev. Awdry and his brother, George, began to search for a convenient location to set the stories.  And how Sodor was only ever found with thanks to the Bishop of Sodor & Man, with the Rev. Awdry taking great pleasure in restoring the ‘lost’ part of his diocese to him.  They go on to explain how they developed the island’s geography, history and industry accordingly, to the point where it was very ‘real’ and even convinced an audience member at one of the Rev’s lectures that his chronicles of Sodor could put him in a dangerous libel position.

 

Places On Sodor takes us on a journey across the Island, explaining the development of the various railway companies that gave rise to the existing North Western Railway and its branch lines.  Notable towns, villages and places of historical interest are given an extensive write-up throughout the book, as well as detailed histories of the various narrow gauge railways and their associated industries.

 

People & History looks at various fictional people of present day Sodor, and real historical figures of the past who played an important part in the development of the Island’s politics, ancient wars and other notable events.

 

Locomotives looks at the notable engines that have featured in the Railway Series, and gives a deeper explanation for how they came to be part of the Fat Controller’s railway, which is an element that Awdry never really touched on throughout his time writing the Railway Series books, particularly for the earlier characters such as Thomas, Edward, Henry, Gordon and James.

 

The book also has a list of the Railway Series volumes published until 1987 and maps of the Island of Sodor, including the first one of Thomas’s Branch Line, done by Awdry to aid the development of the race in Thomas & Bertie.

Sodor: Reading Between The Lines

Sodor: Reading Between The Lines

After his imposed sabbatical from writing The Railway Series, Christopher Awdry entered a career in self-publication through his new company, Sodor Enterprises.  In 2005, at a point when his contributions to the Railway Series were almost completely out of print during the 60th Anniversary of The Three Railway Engines, he wrote Sodor: Reading Between The Lines, which acts as a complimentary follow-up to The Island Of Sodor.  As well as providing an overview of all 40 books (with the exception of The Twin Engines – a printing error), the book answers frequently asked questions and provides more recent exposition on the characters both human and machine.

Overview & Summary

Sodor: Reading Between The Lines follows a similar line to The Island Of Sodor.  Christopher Awdry proceeds to bring us back up to date with events that have taken place on the Island of Sodor, how his stories contributed to the development of the Island the continuing timeline for the universe. 

 

Similar to The Island Of Sodor, we are given a fuller stocklist for the railways of Sodor in the first major chapter, The Island and its Railways, with some omissions that his father and uncle put in the preceding book.  Christopher does not go into the same level of detail that his father did about the Island’s industry, geography and history, although does touch upon it lightly within the character profiles he gives.

 

Characters In The Stories gives more relevant and interesting read, allowing fans of the books to find out how the lives of the people featured in the books have changed or developed throughout the course of the stories, and what has happened to them whilst the focus has been pulled away from the Railway Series.

 

Christopher goes on to answer questions he’s dealt most regularly when meeting members of the public in ‘Your Frequently Asked Questions Answered’.  Christopher gives insight into why (at the time) the Railway Series could not be obtained in its entirety, his father’s other character – Belinda The Beetle, and why the Rev. Awdry put faces on the engines in his stories.

 

The real life inspirations behind the stories are discussed in The Stories, their Origins and Location section.  This was one area that the Rev. Awdry did not delve into throughout The Island Of Sodor, and provides a definitive ‘Who, Why, What, Where and When’ for the entire Railway Series library, shedding light on where each story originated from and why.  One glaring omission from the book was Book 15 – The Twin Engines which was missed entirely.

 

Finally, in Thomas – A Crown Worth Fighting For, Christopher addresses personal issues with the Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends TV series, and the way the Railway Series is treated by the current publishers, Egmont Books, who seem to shunt it to the sidings.

Associated Biographies

The Thomas The Tank Engine Man

The Thomas The Tank Engine Man

Around the time of the 50th Anniversary of The Three Railway Engines in 1995, the publishers of the Railway Series (rights holders of the time) held a massive campaign to celebrate the milestone.  This included new books, a TV documentary on the Rev. Awdry’s work, and the publication of the Rev. Awdry’s biography written by Brian Sibley.  The Thomas The Tank Engine Man provides a fascinating insight into how the Railway Series books came to be, as well as giving an accurate account of the life and times of the Rev. Awdry and those associated with him and his success.  A limited print run was done, and sadly it also remains a rare, and often expensive item which can be purchased occasionally on E-bay and Amazon.

Overview & Summary

The Thomas The Tank Engine Man biography looks at the various aspects of how Awdry’s mind changed the world and created a phenomenon.  Looking at his various relationships, friendships and professional quarrels, it showcases how the Railway Series books developed as Awdry’s own life and world changed around him.

 

The book chronicles his voluntary involvement with the Talyllyn Railway preservation society, and how the Skarloey Railway came to be as a publicity boost, upon the suggestion of Tom Rolt. 

 

As well as this, it gives insight into other areas associated with the Railway Series, which today are overlooked by the major rights holders, such as the narratives done by Willie Rushton and Johnny Morris, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s intentions to bring the Railway Series to the screen, and the rise of the TV series, and tensions between the Allcroft Company and Awdry as they deviated further and further away from his work.