The Railway Series was the series of children's books off of which Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends is based.
The first books were written by the Reverend W. Awdry as a way to cheer up his son Christopher, who was ill with measles. The original series had twenty-six books, since expanded to forty-two by Christopher. After a large hiatus, a new book was published in 2007 and again in 2011.
In 2012, the first four books were released in digital format on iTunes in the UK. Audio adaptations of the Railway Series have been recorded at various times under the title The Railway Stories.
The origins of the Railway Series can be traced back to Wilbert Awdry's childhood, listening to nearby steam engines struggle up the steep grade on the Great Western Railway. He noticed they made sounds that made it seem as if they were having conversations. To Awdry, it was as if each engine had its own personality.
In 1943, during the height of the Second World War, Awdry's young son Christopher was ill with the measles. To entertain his bed-ridden child, Wilbert told stories of talking engines named Edward, Gordon, and Henry. Christopher demanded consistency among each retelling of the stories, so Wilbert wrote them down. It was not until Awdry was heavily persuaded by his family that he sent in his stories to be published, and in 1945, The Three Railway Engines was published.
Between 1948 and 1972, Awdry wrote a new title every year. The series went through six different illustrators, William Middleton, Reginald Payne, C. Reginald Dalby, John T. Kenney, and Gunvor and Peter Edwards. Awdry received letters from railwaymen who would read the stories to their children or grandchildren. They praised his realism. Almost all of the stories in the Railway Series were based on a real event that happened to some engine, somewhere, at some time.
Although Awdry "retired" in 1972, annuals were published. In 1983, Christopher Awdry, who had written articles for railway magazines, decided to carry on the torch. After being inspired by a story told by an engineman on the Nene Valley Railway, he penned Really Useful Engines. Eager to put out new material to coincide with the upcoming television adaptation, publishers Kaye and Ward accepted the new book. Christopher consistently put out new Railway Series titles until the late 1990s, and Clive Spong was assigned as the current illustrator.
During the early 2000s Christopher was not asked to write any new titles despite the popularity of the TV series. It was not until 2007 that he was finally able to get a new title published. Four years later, to honour what would be his fathers one-hundredth birthday, he published Thomas and his Friends. This was the first book in the entire series to have "The End" written after the books conclusion. At the 2014 Tale of the Brave premiere in Leicester Square, London, Alf Fortnam, widower of the late Hilary Fortnam, said Christopher Awdry was finished with the series.
Books written by the Reverend W. Awdry
- The Three Railway Engines - Edward, Henry, and Gordon have several adventures.
- Thomas the Tank Engine - A station pilot tries to gain respect.
- James the Red Engine - James gets into trouble and tries to make up for his errors.
- Tank Engine Thomas Again - Life on Thomas' Branch Line is far from dull.
- Troublesome Engines - When the big engines go on strike, Percy is brought in to help.
- Henry the Green Engine - Henry overcomes illness to prove his might.
- Toby the Tram Engine - Toby is saved by the Fat Controller after his tramway closes.
- Gordon the Big Engine - Gordon pulls his act together in time for a royal visit.
- Edward the Blue Engine - Edward is getting old, but proves he has plenty of life in him yet.
- Four Little Engines - The story of the Skarloey Railway engines working together to keep their line running.
- Percy the Small Engine - Percy is fed up of being ordered about and gets a chance to shine when Thomas needs help.
- The Eight Famous Engines - Already famous for their adventures the engines take a trip to England, but Thomas almost puts a damper on the trip.
- Duck and the Diesel Engine - A malicious diesel creates confusion and blames Duck.
- The Little Old Engine - Skarloey returns to find that things have changed on his little railway.
- The Twin Engines - Two well-meaning Scottish goods engines create confusion in the yard.
- Branch Line Engines - Thomas has an accident and a lazy diesel-railcar named Daisy arrives.
- Gallant Old Engine - The Skarloey Railway engines prepare for Rheneas' return.
- Stepney the "Bluebell" Engine - Stepney of the Bluebell Railway pays a visit to Sodor.
- Mountain Engines - We meet the Culdee Fell Railway engines, and Lord Harry makes up for a silly accident.
- Very Old Engines - Skarloey and Rheneas recall their early days and celebrate their 100th birthday.
- Main Line Engines - Gordon and James get into silly mishaps while Edward surprises everyone.
- Small Railway Engines - Three new engines arrive on Sodor to work a narrow gauge goods line.
- Enterprising Engines - Diesel power may be triumphing on the mainland, but it is quite the contrary on Sodor.
- Oliver the Western Engine - A boisterous Great Western engine gets into trouble.
- Duke the Lost Engine - Peter Sam and Sir Handel recall their old days as a search begins for an old engine.
- Tramway Engines - Percy and Thomas have adventures while Mavis causes trouble.
These volumes were later compiled into Thomas the Tank Engine: The Complete Collection.
Books written by Christopher Awdry
- Really Useful Engines - The engines may not have appeared in books for years, but that does not mean life on Sodor is dull.
- James and the Diesel Engines - James learns a lesson in acceptance of diesels.
- Great Little Engines - Sir Handel is not necessarily the life and soul of the Skarloey Railway, as Peter Sam and Duncan prove.
- More About Thomas the Tank Engine - Thomas and Percy fall out after an accident.
- Gordon the High-Speed Engine - Gordon tries to prove he can go fast, and we meet Pip and Emma.
- Toby, Trucks and Trouble - A series of events leave Percy and Toby running the branchline.
- Thomas and the Twins - Thomas meets Bill and Ben on Edward's Branch Line.
- Jock the New Engine - A boastful new engine called Jock starts work on the Arlesdale Railway.
- Thomas and the Great Railway Show - Thomas travels to the mainland for a grand railway exhibition.
- Thomas Comes Home - The tale of Percy, Toby and Daisy's adventures while Thomas is in England.
- Henry and the Express - Henry is ill again and needs repairs.
- Wilbert the Forest Engine - Donald and Douglas desperately need help, but so do the branchline engines. Wilbert is called in.
- Thomas and the Fat Controller's Engines - The engines prepare for the fiftieth anniversary of the Railway Series.
- New Little Engine - A new engine is built for the Skarloey Railway.
- Thomas and Victoria - The Fat Controller renovates an old coach called Victoria for Toby.
- Thomas and his Friends - The Reverend W. Awdry's centenary is celebrated and Pip and Emma become permanent members of the Fat Controller's railway.
All except the last volume were later compiled into Thomas the Tank Engine: The New Collection.
From 1979-1980 the annuals were written by Rev. W. Awdry, and from 1985-1996 by Christopher Awdry. In some cases, these stories expanded upon earlier Railway Series books, in others they were entirely new, and some later rewritten and used as Railway Series stories.
- Barry the Rescue Engine (C. Awdry, cancelled)
- Thomas's Christmas Party (W. Awdry, 1984)
- Thomas Comes to Breakfast (W. Awdry, 1985)
- Thomas and the Missing Christmas Tree (C. Awdry, 1986)
- Thomas and the Evil Diesel (C. Awdry, 1987)
- Thomas and Gordon Off the Rails (W. Awdry, 1990)
- Thomas and the Hurricane (C. Awdry, 1992)
Several Pop-Up books were released based on various Railway Series stories from previous books.
- The Flying Kipper and Henry the Green Engine (W. Awdry, 1983)
- Bertie the Bus and Thomas the Tank Engine (W. Awdry, 1983)
- Thomas the Tank Engine and the Tractor (W. Awdry, 1984)
- Henry the Green Engine and the Elephant (W. Awdry, 1984)
- Henry the Green Engine Gets Out (W. Awdry, 1984)
- James the Red Engine and the Troublesome Trucks (W. Awdry, 1984)
- Thomas the Tank Engine Goes Fishing (W. Awdry, 1986)
- Percy the Small Engine Takes the Plunge (W. Awdry, 1986)
- James the Red Engine and the Signal (C. Awdry, 1994)
- Percy the Small Engine and the Scarf (W. Awdry, 1995)
- Thomas the Tank Engine Catches a Thief (C. Awdry, 1995)
- Thomas the Tank Engine and the Scrambled Eggs (C. Awdry, 1995)
These books mainly feature the Island of Sodor, dealing with its history, geography and industry in far greater depth than could ever be discussed in the Railway Series stories themselves. However, The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, is a biography of Rev. W. Awdry and companion to the series.
- The Railway Series: Surprise Packet (W. Awdry, 1972)
- The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways (W. Awdry and G. Awdry, 1987)
- The Thomas the Tank Engine Man (B. Sibley, 1995)
- Sodor: Reading Between the Lines (C. Awdry, 2005)
Bad Days for Thomas
A series of books written to highlight rail safety. They were written partially due to Christopher Awdry's frustration at not being able to include a proper rail safety story in Thomas and the Great Railway Show.
Mr. Perkins' Storytime
- The Flying Kipper - (Santa's Little Engine DVD; US/UK/AUS)
- Trucks! - (The Thomas Way DVD; UK only/Spills and Thrills DVD; US only)
- Thomas and Gordon - (Spills and Thrills DVD; UK/Wild Water Rescue and Other Engine Adventures DVD; US)
- Pop Goes the Diesel - (Trouble on the Tracks DVD; UK/US/AUS)
- Thomas and the Breakdown Train - (Tale of the Brave DVD; UK/AUS only/Engines to the Rescue DVD; US only)
- A Scarf for Percy - (The Christmas Engines DVD; US/UK)
- Thomas Goes Fishing - (Signals Crossed DVD; US/UK)
- Edward and Gordon - (Dinos and Discoveries DVD; UK/US/AUS)
- Toby's Tightrope - (Trouble on the Tracks DVD; UK/AUS only/Whale of a Tale and Other Sodor Adventures DVD; US only)
- Gordon Goes Foreign - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
- Thomas' Train - (Railway Mischief DVD; UK only/Tales on the Rails DVD; US only)
- Henry and the Elephant - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
- Thomas Comes to Breakfast - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
- Thomas in Trouble - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
- Ghost Train - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
- Thomas and Bertie - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
- Percy and Harold - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
- Thomas, Terence and the Snow - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
- Sir Topham Hatt's Engines - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
- Trouble in the Shed - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
- Nearly all of The Railway Series stories were based upon real-life events. As a lifelong railway enthusiast, Wilbert Awdry was keen that his stories should be as realistic as possible. The engine characters were almost all based upon real classes of locomotives, and some of the railways themselves were directly based upon real lines in the British Isles.
- Andrew Lloyd Webber wanted to produce a musical based on the Railway Series, but the Reverend W. Awdry refused to give Lloyd Webber the control he wanted. Lloyd Webber would go on to compose "Starlight Express", and create "The Really Useful Group", a name inspired by the catchphrase "Really Useful Engines".
- The Railway Series has also mentioned more than twenty real engines.
- In 1973, Kaye and Ward released the Japanese translation of Awdry's 26 books. The series was translated by Kuwabara Saburou and Shimizu Shuyu. Genyuu Kuroiwa supervised the technical terms of the railway. Christopher's books, however, have yet to be translated into Japanese.