John Theodore Eardley Kenney (May 16th,1911-December 1972), better known as John T. Kenney, was the illustrator of the Railway Series books from The Eight Famous Engines to Gallant Old Engine, after which he developed eye trouble and resigned.
Kenney trained to be an artist at Leicester College of Art, and then took up a job at a firm called J. E. Slater, where he later met his future wife, Peggy. In World War II, Kenney served in the 121st Light AA Regiment, during which time he made many sketches of the D-Day landings and the sweep of the Allies across Europe.
As well as being a commercial artist, Kenney illustrated two self-written books - "The Grey Pony" in 1954 and "The Shetland Pony" the next year. Unfortunately, sickness meant he had to resign and take a job in freelance art. Edmund Ward commissioned him to illustrate a series called "Hunter Hawk, Skyway Detective" and "The Eight Famous Engines". He also illustrated several titles for Ladybird Books, including "The Story of Nelson", "Florence Nightingale", and "King Alfred the Great" and most notably "Tootles The Taxi" which is coincidentally about anthropomorphic vehicles, just like Thomas! The book focused on short rhymes for every character in the book,these characters include: "Tootles The Taxi", "Stumbles the steamroller", "Co-co the caravan", and much more. In 1968, 6 years after retiring from illustrating The Railway Series he lost sight in one eye. His health began to fail in the early 70s and died in December of 1972, the same year an exhibition of his paintings was held in Chicago, USA.
He has recently been honoured as one of twelve of Leicestershire's most famous people and buildings for a Green Plaque Award.