Thomas the Tank Engine

Days with Thomas the Tank Engine

There’s a Day Out with Thomas this weekend (May 7-8) and next weekend (May 13-15) at Heritage Park Historical Village in Calgary. That got me thinking about the origins of Thomas the Tank Engine and where the lovable character is today.

Like almost every parent my husband and I read Thomas the Tank Engine books to our son. We started with the original stories, The Railway Series, written by Church of England clergyman Reverend Wilbert Awdry, set on the fictional Island of Sodor. Not only did Awdry get a calling from God, but also from the toots and hoots of the trains that ran past his house as a child. This shy and retiring man grew up to be a great train enthusiast and it was his imagination that took him from there, transforming him into a famous children’s writer.

Awdry was affectionately called “The Puff cheap nfl jerseys Puff Parson”. Apparently he wasn’t fond of the nickname. He once said; “There was no doubt that steam engines all had definite personalities. Little imagination was needed to hear, in the puffings and pantings, the conversation they were having with each other.” Sigh … a wonderful thought. If only it were true.

The origins of The Railway Series came about when his son, Christopher, was bedridden with measles. Awdry tried to entertain him Festivals with stories about a little engine who was sad because he’d not been out for a long time. That engine’s name was Edward and the story was called Edward’s Day Out. The first in The Railway Series, it was published with Book three other stories under the title The Three Railway Engines. The complete series is filled with heart-warming, engaging, though sometimes tragic, stories that are simply told but still interesting for young readers and adults. He based many of the stories on true events.

Christopher carried on writing the series after his father’s death in 1997.

I promise, I won’t turn this into a history lesson.

Awdry’s books are preachy, no doubt intended to be a lesson to children on how to behave. Some of his stories are a tad harsh, to say the least. In The Sad Story of Henry poor Henry is bricked up in a tunnel for being too vain and not doing what he was told. Another, Godred, is dismantled and used for spare parts because he was pompous and arrogant in the book Mountain Engines. Evidently you wouldn’t dare get on the good reverend’s bad side.

It was plucky little cheap mlb jerseys engine Thomas who won the hearts of children and adults alike. He became the most famous engine of the series. Today you can find all manner of books, films, TV shows and toys about Thomas and, sadly, they are far from what Awdry had initially intended for his wholesale mlb jerseys little hero. I must confess, though, it was a stroke of genius to have Ringo Starr narrate the first two seasons of the TV series. His friendly Scouse lilt gives the stories a charming warmth. I can hear the theme music in my head while I type this.

Most of the new stories, now written by many different authors, are dull and lack imagination or magic. There’s silly stories about Thomas finding long-lost treasure conveniently buried next to the train line and getting lost in an unused mine, somehow floating down a river to safety. What? He’s metal. And quite heavy.

Sodor’s bridges are now a travesty of structural engineering. It’s appalling the number of bridges that collapse. Seriously, I’d fear for my life on a daily basis if I lived there.

Mysteriously the train drivers have disappeared. The trains now run on their own. The relationship between Sexbilder train and driver was one of the elements that Magdalena made the stories dynamic and educational. The drivers often leapt from the trains when in danger and were the guardians, teaching and caring for the engines – praising them when good, chastising them when naughty.

Thomas is a money-maker. ??? That’s what he’s become. And it makes me sad.

My son, who is now ten, is no longer interested in The Railway Series. In fact, if we even mention Thomas now he shouts “stop talking about it!” and buries his head in his hands. My six-year-old daughter never showed any interest in it. My husband and I have kept the entire original series, though – all 42 books. For our grandchildren, we say. Yah, that’s it. For the grandchildren.

For more information about the Day Out Writing with Thomas at Heritage Park visit https://www.heritagepark.ca/plan-your-visit/event-calendar/day-out-with-thomas.html