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Alexander Reginald Payne was an artist best known for being the original illustrator of Thomas the Tank Engine and the second artist for The Railway Series.


Reginald Payne was born in New Malden, Surrey in 1909 to Alexander Payne and Ada Roberts. In 1911, he had a sister named Millicent, who became a lettering artist while Reginald Payne went into commercial illustrating. One of his first known works was a set of children's transportation books for Waddy Production in 1934. By 1935, Payne had started contributing to the Boy's Own Paper magazines, often collaborating with Howard Coble. The two would have their own book published titled Famous Aircraft in 1937. Payne was living with his sister in Guildford just before the Second World War, joining the Admiralty during the global conflict. He kept working for B.O.P. as a naval correspondent, illustrating cover art and writing articles. After the War had concluded, Payne moved to Reigate in 1945, likely to live closer to the Boy's Own Paper publishers.

In November 1945, Payne was paid £94 10s. by Edmund Ward to illustrate Thomas the Tank Engine, in place of William Middleton, who had proved largely inadequate to the task in the eyes of the author Reverend W. Awdry.

Payne was provided sketches by Awdry as a guide for the illustrations, and he slavishly followed them in order to complete the quota. Like the mistakes of Middleton before him, he had set another character's appearance for the duration - Thomas. Originally based on a model Awdry had crafted for his son Christopher, the artist instead made Thomas into an E2 0-6-0 tank engine, as Payne was a southern man, and thus based Thomas off a southern engine. Although initially annoyed, Awdry was content after finding out the design was based off a real locomotive, and he allowed it to stay in the series.

Payne finished the illustrations in April 1946, which were more bold and eye-catching than the previous book. He was very much responsible for creating the most famous illustrations of the entire series, as well as his hand in creating an iconic character. Despite this, he was not credited for it - much like William Middleton before him - and continues to be uncredited in subsequent editions of Thomas the Tank Engine. Nevertheless, Awdry was satisfied with the standard of work set by Payne, despite slight inaccuracies in point work and track, which he hoped would be improved for new editions of the book.

Unfortunately, Payne would suffer a nervous breakdown due to his time in the Admiralty. He died in 1947, at the age of 38, being buried at the Church of St Mary the Virgin in South Benfleet, Essex a week later. According to William Heinemann, his breakdown and possibly death was caused by influenza.[1]

Payne was due to be asked back for James the Red Engine, but upon discovering he was no longer available, his duties as illustrator of The Railway Series would be given to C. Reginald Dalby. In 1950, Dalby was paid £60 to make "improvements" to the illustrations of Thomas the Tank Engine for later editions of the book.


  • Both he and C. Reginald Dalby preferred to go by their middle name Reginald rather than their first names.

See Also


  1. Western Daily Press, 24th April 1995

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