Thomas The Tank Engine

 By: Darren McCloskey
The creator of the famous and adored Thomas the Tank Engine books, Rev Wilbert Awdry was born on the 15th June 1911 and would have been celebrating his 100th birthday this year. He was extremely passionate about steam engines and often volunteered at rail lines. This obsession started from the early stages of his childhood when his father built him a model railway in their back garden. A hundred years on his stories are still creating affection for steam engines amongst millions of children worldwide.

To celebrate the centenary of Rev Awdry's birth, Royal Mail has introduced Thomas the tank Engine Royal Mail stamps, these special set of stamps are available from 15th June and are a great collector's item. The stamp collection includes a pack written and delightfully illustrated by Christopher Awdry which also contains the Special Mint Stamps and Miniature Sheet featuring original illustrations from the Thomas the Tank Engine books.

It is amazing to think that the much loved character Thomas the Tank Engine came about from a bedtime story Rev Awdry told his son Christopher to amuse him whilst he was in bed with the measles in 1943. The improvised stories about the steam engines started with the adventures of Edward, Gordon and Henry. Rev Awdry told these stories over and over again and drew pictures of the little steam engines, until Christopher wished for more consistency with the details. This then led to Rev Awdry finally jotting the stories down on scraps of paper.

It was his wife, Margaret whose perseverance led him to the publishers with his stories and it was then in 1945 when Edmund Ward published his first book, The Three Railway Engines. It wasn't until the Christmas that year, when Rev Awdry made Christopher of a wooden toy engine, which they named Thomas the train and it was then Thomas the Tank Engine was born. Thomas became the star of the books and it was full steam ahead with a book published every year with a total of 26 volumes of The Railway Series by 1972. The stories are adored by millions worldwide and even today the original railway books are still enjoyed by fans of all ages.

Every Thomas fan will love the Stamp Book Royal Mail is offering which features two First Class Stamps from the Miniature Sheet and four First Class Machin Definitives. This original illustration by C Reginald Dalby is from the Thomas and Bertie the bus story, whereby Thomas challenges Bertie to a race. Here he is shown speeding ahead of Bertie at a level crossing.

Not many people are aware that the stories which Rev Awdry wrote are very much realistic to how real railways run and most of the storylines are based around real railway incidents. The tales and adventures of Thomas and his friends present lessons about discovery, friendship and community spirit. The books were then made into the television programme, Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends which first broadcasted on ITV in 1984 and in just a few months 8.4 million people were watching the series which became an instant hit. But it didn't stop there Thomas and friends have now been broadcasted in 150 countries worldwide.

Christopher Awdry has carried on his father's creation and continues the Railway series. So far he has written 15 books, 14 of them created between 1983 and 1996 and an additional book in 2007. Another book is on the way and is due to release on 4th July in good timing with the celebrations.
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