Last week The Railway Series written by Rev Wilbert Awdry turned 70. A global success loved by millions across the world, this children's classic show no signs of stopping.
On December 25 1942 a two-year-old named Christopher received a model locomotive for Christmas. Handmade by his father, the Rev Wilbert Awdry, the blue-painted train, inscribed with a gold number 1 and the letters NW. While ill with the measles, his father had been inventing stories about steam engines to keep him amused and with that the Railway Series was born.
Two and a half years later, the opening instalment in a collection of children’s books called the Railway Series made its first appearance on British high streets. It was a runaway success!
"The Three Railway Engines" depicted stories of three engines named Edward, Henry and Gordon on the North Western Railway on the Island of Sodor, with engines getting stuck on hills and hiding in tunnels to get out of the rain.
The reverend continued to write 25 more books to the collection and retired in 1972, 27 years after his first book. In 1984 Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends was broadcast on tv across the UK. Based on the original characters and stories of Rev Awdry, the stories were retold in 1/32 scale with the aid of gauge 1 models and narrated by beetles musician Ringo Star. Thomas and Friends continues to be produce to this day (all be it in CGI).
With more than 1600 different Thomas products in the uk alone and global sales reaching over 600 million and predicted to almost double this year, even after 70 years it is without a shadow of a doubt that Thomas will continue to be a hit success for many years.
I for one am very thankful to the reverend and his creation, as it has helped produce a whole new generation of railway enthusiasts and will hopefully continue to do so for generations to come.