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The Railway Series is a series of books about the railways of the Island of Sodor. The books were created by the Rev. W. Awdry, who wrote the first stories in 1942. He wrote twenty-six books from 1945 to 1972. A further sixteen books were written by his son Christopher Awdry. The final book in the series, Thomas and his Friends, was published in 2011.

The series formed the basis for Thomas & Friends, with many of its books and stories being adapted for television; the books themselves also exist in the series’ universe.



When Wilbert Awdry was a child, he was always interested in railways, much like his father. He liked to watch trains on the Great Western Railway. To him, the noise of the locomotives' exhaust almost sounded like dialogue - for example, the larger engine having trouble climbing the hills would appear to be saying, "I can't do it, I can't do it" and the smaller engine helping them would sound like it was saying, "I will do it! I will do it! I will do it!".[1]

In 1942, Wilbert's son Christopher had measles and was confined to bed. To prevent their son getting bored, Wilbert and his wife Margaret Awdry told him stories and nursery rhymes. Most of them eventually lost their entertainment value, but one that continually appealed to Christopher was the rhyme "Down by the Station". Wilbert subsequently drew a picture of several engines standing in a row based on the rhyme and for fun gave them faces with various expressions. One sad-looking engine appealed to Christopher, as it shared his mood and he asked what his name was. Wilbert replied with the first to come to his head: Edward. Through a series of questions and answers, the story of Edward's Day Out was created. Eventually, Christopher began asking for more stories and Awdry obliged him with "Edward and Gordon" and "The Sad Story of Henry", the latter being inspired by another rhyme he was fond of. Christopher would constantly ask for the stories to be retold, even after he recovered and to ensure consistency between tellings, Wilbert wrote them down on the back of old church circulars.

Margaret Awdry also liked the stories and told her husband to get them published, as she felt they were better than most children's books in circulation. Awdry was reluctant, but Margaret persisted and mentioned the stories in a letter to Wilbert's mother, Lucy, who replied that she knew the author Michael Barsley and asked that the stories be sent to her so she could forward them to him. At Margaret's insistence, Wilbert did so. Barsley's attempts to find a publisher were unsuccessful, so he showed the stories to his agent, Edith Ray Gregorson, who liked them and agreed to pursue the matter further. Her attempts to find a publisher were initially no more successful, as most were suffering paper shortages due to the Second World War, but in September 1943, Edmund Ward agreed to publish them, though refused to commit to a publication date, to Wilbert's annoyance. In October, Ward wrote to say that the stories would be published as one book entitled The Three Railway Engines, but that he required rough sketches for his illustrator to base his pictures on and a fourth story to finish off the book. While Awdry was annoyed at the requests, since Ward had already rejected his drawings, he agreed and wrote "Edward, Gordon and Henry". While it was hoped this would speed up publication, the book was not published until 12 May, 1945. The book was an immediate commercial success, quickly selling out its initial print run of 22,500 copies and going through two more by the end of the year. Awdry, while happy to see his book in print, was disappointed in the illustrations by William Middleton.


Previously in 1942, after the stories were written, Wilbert made Christopher a wooden model of Edward. However, Christopher apparently wanted a model of Gordon; but this could not be done. Instead, Awdry made a model of a tank engine from odds and ends, painted it blue and gave it to Christopher as a Christmas present. Christopher christened the model engine Thomas. After the publication of The Three Railway Engines in 1945, Christopher would then request stories about Thomas and these stories would be published as Awdry's second and most famous book, Thomas the Tank Engine in 1946.

After Thomas the Tank Engine, Awdry was finished with writing any more books. However, due to popular demand, Awdry pressed onward. By the time Awdry stopped writing in 1972, The Railway Series numbered twenty-six books.


Christopher subsequently added sixteen more books to the series, including the later two posthumous releases. The last book Thomas and his Friends was published in 2011 to commemorate Wilbert's century, particularity in the last story Centenary.


The Railway Series was published by Edmund Ward from The Three Railway Engines in 1945 to Main Line Engines in 1966. Edmund Ward merged with Nicholas Kaye to become Kaye & Ward in 1952, but it was Small Railway Engines in 1967 that began using the new imprint. Kaye & Ward was acquired by William Heinemann in 1984, but the imprint was used up to Toby, Trucks and Trouble in 1988. Heinemann was acquired by Reed Children's Books in 1987, but an edition was published in 1989 by Guild Publishing, "by arrangement with William Heinemann Ltd.", and the Heinemann imprint itself was used from Thomas and the Twins in 1989 to New Little Engine in 1996.

On 25 April, 1998, Reed International sold their children's books division to Egmont UK and the copyright of The Railway Series to The Britt Allcroft Company for £13.5 million.[2][3] As a result, Christopher Awdry was unable to publish The Railway Series without the permission of the copyright holder, and the series were suspended.[3] In the same year, in spite of Christopher's opposition[3], Egmont published new format versions of fourteen books from The Railway Series, which were discontinued and scrapped due to negative feedback. It was reverted to the original state in 2004.

Christopher still wanted to write stories for children, so he founded Sodor Enterprises in 2001 with his wife, Diana Awdry. He offered the publisher the reprints of The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways, and he offered to buy the copyright of this book, but these were denied.[4] As a result, he wrote a new information book and published it in May 2005 as Sodor: Reading Between the Lines to celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Railway Series.

Then, Thomas and Victoria, which was intended to be published in 1997, was published by Egmont in 2007. In 2011, Thomas and his Friends was published, and the series reached its conclusion with this being the final book.


Since the publication of the last volume, while it was still being overshadowed by its TV show counterpart, the Railway Series' legacy continued to grow to this day with digital media titles of the first four books on Apple's Books app for a limited time, as well as being read aloud by Mr. Perkins (played by the late Ben Forster) and Mr. Evans (played by Mark Moraghan) respectively on DVD, YouTube and digital platforms. In addition, Sony Creative Products Inc. released a set of commemorative DVDs featuring some original book stories and their respective television adaptation for Japanese viewers.

The current republication of Thomas the Tank Engine: The Complete Collection was released to bookstores in 2023, and some latest audiobook digital releases narrated by Bruce Alexander available from Amazon Audible, Google Play and Apple Books. Furthermore since August 2021, the Talyllyn Railway celebrated the works and live of the Reverend Awdry with their successful annual Awdry Extravaganza weekend events.


Rev. W. Awdry

Cover Title Published No. #
ThreeRailwayEngines2015cover The Three Railway Engines 12th May 1945 #01
Edward is let out of his shed, Gordon runs into trouble with some trucks and Henry is shut up in a tunnel for being vain.
ThomastheTankEngine2015Cover Thomas the Tank Engine 14th September 1946 #02
A station pilot named Thomas longs to leave his yard to go out and see the world and has several adventures.
JamestheRedEngine2015Cover James the Red Engine 14th September 1948 #03
James, the new engine on the Fat Controller's Railway, gets into trouble and tries to make up for his mistakes.
TankEngineThomasAgain2015Cover Tank Engine Thomas Again 31st December 1949 #04
Thomas has many adventures on his new branch line and meets two new friends named Terence and Bertie.
TroublesomeEngines2015Cover Troublesome Engines 15th January 1950 #05
When Gordon, Henry and James begin to behave badly and go on strike, a new tank engine named Percy is brought to help out.
HenrytheGreenEngine2015Cover Henry the Green Engine 10th July 1951 #06
Henry proves his worth to the Fat Controller, in spite of his illness and is finally cured.
TobytheTramEngine2015Cover Toby the Tram Engine 26th July 1952 #07
A steam tram named Toby comes to Sodor with his faithful coach, Henrietta, to help the Fat Controller after his old tramway closes down.
GordontheBigEngine2015Cover Gordon the Big Engine 19th June 1953 #08
Gordon is in disgrace after landing in trouble with the Fat Controller, but manages to pull his act together in time for a royal visit.
EdwardtheBlueEngine2015Cover Edward the Blue Engine 23rd November 1954 #09
Edward is getting old, but proves he has plenty of life left in him.
FourLittleEngines2015Cover Four Little Engines 22nd November 1955 #10
While Rheneas is away at the works, the Skarloey Railway engines work together to keep their line running. Two new engines also arrive to help out.
PercytheSmallEngine2015Cover Percy the Small Engine 1st January 1956 #11
Percy is fed-up of being ordered about and gets a chance to shine when he is reallocated to Thomas' Branch Line.
TheEightFamousEngines2015Cover The Eight Famous Engines 15th September 1957 #12
Already famous for their adventures on Sodor, the Fat Controller's engines take a trip to England.
DuckandtheDieselEngine2015Cover Duck and the Diesel Engine 23rd June 1958 #13
Duck becomes suspicious when a devious diesel comes to Sodor and blames him for causing trouble.
TheLittleOldEngine2015Cover The Little Old Engine 1st January 1959 #14
Skarloey returns to Sodor and finds out that things have changed on his little railway.
TheTwinEngines2015Cover The Twin Engines 15th September 1960 #15
Donald and Douglas, two well-meaning Scottish goods engines, create confusion for the Fat Controller when he only expects one engine.
BranchLineEngines2015Cover Branch Line Engines 15th September 1961 #16
Thomas has an accident and a lazy diesel railcar named Daisy comes to Sodor to fill in for him, but only causes more trouble and Percy gets into a predicament.
GallantOldEngine2015Cover Gallant Old Engine 1st January 1962 #17
The Skarloey Railway prepares for Rheneas' return.
StepneytheBluebellEngine2015Cover Stepney the "Bluebell" Engine 15th August 1963 #18
Stepney, an engine from the Bluebell Railway, pays a visit to the Island of Sodor and its engines.
MountainEngines2015Cover Mountain Engines 15th August 1964 #19
Culdee returns to the mountain railway and Lord Harry makes up for a silly mistake.
VeryOldEngines2015Cover Very Old Engines 15th June 1965 #20
Skarloey and Rheneas recall their early days and celebrate their 100th birthdays.
MainLineEngines2015Cover Main Line Engines 15th November 1966 #21
Bill and Ben play a trick on a new diesel, Gordon and James get into silly mishaps, and Edward pulls through to bring his passengers home.
SmallRailwayEngines2015Cover Small Railway Engines 1st August 1967 #22
Three miniature gauge engines - Rex, Bert and Mike - come to Sodor to work on a new railway.
EnterprisingEngines2015Cover Enterprising Engines 4th October 1968 #23
A special visitor comes to Sodor, two diesels are put on trial, and Douglas rescues a steam engine from the cutter's torch.
OlivertheWesternEngine2015Cover Oliver the Western Engine 15th November 1969 #24
Oliver, the new Great Western engine on the Little Western, gets into trouble when his overconfidence gets the better of him.
DuketheLostEngine2015Cover Duke the Lost Engine 15th October 1970 #25
Peter Sam and Sir Handel recall their old days on the Mid Sodor Railway, and a search begins to find Duke.
TramwayEngines2015Cover Tramway Engines 15th October 1972 #26
Thomas and Percy get in a quarrel, and a new diesel shunter named Mavis causes trouble for Toby.

These volumes were later compiled into Thomas the Tank Engine: The Complete Collection. The Complete Collection compilations were released by various publishers in different years and countries, all containing the same 26 volumes.

The Reverend W. Awdry planned to call his twenty-seventh volume Really Useful Engines, but he never got to use it following his retirement. Christopher Awdry's first publication used this title for the official twenty-seventh volume of the series.

Christopher Awdry

Cover Title Published No. #
ReallyUsefulEnginesCover Really Useful Engines 12th September 1983 #27
Thomas helps to stop a thief, Percy helps Tom Tipper, Duck helps Henry with the Flying Kipper, and all three engines help with the Express.
JamesandtheDieselEnginesCover James and the Diesel Engines 17th September 1984 #28
James is still convinced that diesels are not very useful, but he slowly learns to put his prejudices behind him.
GreatLittleEnginesCover Great Little Engines 28th October 1985 #29
Sir Handel visits the Talyllyn Railway.
MoreAboutThomastheTankEngineCover More About Thomas the Tank Engine 22nd September 1986 #30
Thomas and Percy fall out after an accident, but they manage to make up for it.
GordontheHigh-SpeedEngineCover Gordon the High-Speed Engine 7th September 1987 #31
Gordon tries to prove that he can be just as fast as the new high-speed diesels, and Pip and Emma visit the railway for the first time.
Toby,TrucksandTroubleCover Toby, Trucks and Trouble 19th September 1988 #32
Percy and Toby run the branch line, and Mavis has an accident with a lorry.
ThomasandtheTwinsCover Thomas and the Twins 11th September 1989 #33
Thomas must work on Edward's Branch Line for the time being and meets Bill and Ben while he is there.
JocktheNewEngineCover Jock the New Engine 6th August 1990 #34
A boastful new engine called Jock starts work on the Arlesdale Railway.
ThomasandtheGreatRailwayShowCover Thomas and the Great Railway Show 12th August 1991 #35
Thomas travels to the Mainland to attend a grand railway exhibition at the National Railway Museum.
ThomasComesHomeCover Thomas Comes Home 15th June 1992 #36
Percy, Toby and Daisy must manage the branch line while Thomas is away in England.
HenryandtheExpressCover Henry and the Express 8th April 1993 #37
Henry is feeling ill again and must go to the Works for an overhaul.
WilberttheForestEngineCover Wilbert the Forest Engine 8th August 1994 #38
Wilbert is called in from the Dean Forest Railway to help the Ffarquhar Branch Line engines, Donald and Douglas.
ThomasandtheFatControllersEnginesCover Thomas and the Fat Controller's Engines 1st August 1995 #39
The engines prepare for the fiftieth anniversary of The Railway Series.
NewLittleEngineCover New Little Engine 8th August 1996 #40
A new engine is built for the Skarloey Railway.
ThomasandVictoriaCover Thomas and Victoria 3rd September 2007 #41
The Fat Controller has an old coach named Victoria renovated to help Toby on the branch line.
ThomasandHisFriendsCover Thomas and his Friends 6th July 2011 #42
The Thin Clergyman's centenary is celebrated, and Pip and Emma become permanent members of the North Western Railway.

Volumes 27-41 were compiled into Thomas the Tank Engine: The New Collection.

  • Another book of The Railway Series titled Barry the Rescue Engine was to be written by Christopher Awdry in the 1980s, but it was cancelled.
  • Christopher Awdry had other material, which he hoped would be published. He read new stories about the narrow gauge engines at the Talyllyn Railway's Duncan Days events; however, these stories were never published.

Other Books

Cover Title Writer Published
Thomas'sChristmasParty(book)1984Cover Thomas's Christmas Party Rev. W. Awdry 29th October 1984
Thomas wants to hold a special Christmas party for Mrs. Kyndley. Unfortunately, Mrs. Kyndley's house is snowed in.
ThomasComestoBreakfast(book)1985Cover Thomas Comes to Breakfast Rev. W. Awdry 2nd September 1985
Thomas thinks that he can manage without his driver, until he makes an unexpected visit to the stationmaster's house one morning.
ThomasandtheMissingChristmasTree(story) Thomas and the Missing Christmas Tree Christopher Awdry 20th October 1986
Thomas is sent to collect a Christmas tree, but when he ends up getting lost along the way home, Donald and Douglas set off to rescue him in time for the Christmas celebrations.
ThomasandtheEvilDiesel1987Cover Thomas and the Evil Diesel Christopher Awdry 5th October 1987
Diesel returns to Sodor to help out on Thomas' branch line and manages to redeem himself after causing trouble.
ThomasandGordonOfftheRails Thomas and Gordon Off the Rails Rev. W. Awdry 3rd September 1990
Gordon decides to jam the turntable to prove a point, but his attempt makes him slide into a ditch. Thomas goes to a lead mine to collect some trucks, but he foolishly passes a danger board and falls down a mine.
ThomasandtheHurricaneCover Thomas and the Hurricane Christopher Awdry 16th March 1992
Thomas and his friends deal with the aftermath of a hurricane.


Main article: Annuals

From 1979 to 1980, annuals were written by the Rev. W. Awdry and from 1985 to 1996 by Christopher Awdry. In some cases, these stories expanded upon earlier books of The Railway Series. In others, they were entirely new and some stories were later rewritten and used as stories of The Railway Series.

Pop-Up Books

Several Pop-Up books were released based on various stories of The Railway Series, all from previous books.

  1. The Flying Kipper and Henry the Green Engine (W. Awdry, 1983)
  2. Bertie the Bus and Thomas the Tank Engine (W. Awdry, 1983)
  3. Thomas the Tank Engine and the Tractor (W. Awdry, 1984)
  4. Henry the Green Engine and the Elephant (W. Awdry, 1984)
  5. Henry the Green Engine Gets Out (W. Awdry, 1984)
  6. James the Red Engine and the Troublesome Trucks (W. Awdry, 1984)
  7. Thomas the Tank Engine Goes Fishing (W. Awdry, 1986)
  8. Percy the Small Engine Takes the Plunge (W. Awdry, 1986)
  9. James the Red Engine and the Signal (C. Awdry, 1994)
  10. Percy the Small Engine and the Scarf (W. Awdry, 1995)
  11. Thomas the Tank Engine Catches a Thief (C. Awdry, 1995)
  12. Thomas the Tank Engine and the Scrambled Eggs (C. Awdry, 1995)

Mini/Board/Sticker books

There have been several books published related to The Railway Series, which were written by the Awdrys. These books were illustrated by Ken Stott, Tony Wells and Edgar Hodges.

  1. Thomas Goes to Town
  2. Percy to the Rescue
  3. Thomas and the Lost Cat
  4. Percy and the Postman
  5. Henry Pulls the Express
  6. James and the Rescue Train
  7. Percy the Seaside Train
  8. Thomas and the Baby
  9. James Pulls the Circus Train
  10. James and the Balloons
  11. Thomas and the Birthday Party
  12. Thomas and the Bad Dog
  13. Henry and the Tunnel
  14. Edward Plays Football
  15. Thomas and the Tiger
  16. Thomas and the Dinosaur
  17. Percy and the Kite
  18. Henry Goes to the Hospital
  19. Thomas and the Pony Show
  20. Henry and the Ghost Train
  21. Duck and the Parrot
  22. Thomas and the Prize Pig
  23. Percy the Night Train
  24. James and The Fat Controller
  25. Edward and the Bear
  26. Thomas and the Giant
  27. Thomas and the Station Cat
  28. Thomas Goes to School
  29. Tracking Thomas the Tank Engine and his Friends
  30. Learn With Thomas (book)
  31. Thomas the Tank Engine's European Word Book
  32. Down the Line with Thomas
  33. Tell the Time with Thomas
  34. All About Thomas
  35. Thomas's ABC
  36. Thomas's Counting Book
  37. Thomas's Book of Colours
  38. Up and Down with Percy
  39. Famous Engines
  40. Bumper Colouring Book

Companion Volumes

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 the Rev. W. Awdry and is considered a companion to the series.

  1. Railway Map of the Island of Sodor (W. Awdry, 1958; 1971; 1983)
  2. Twelve Happy Engines (W. Awdry, 1970)
  3. The Railway Series: Surprise Packet (W. Awdry, 1972)
  4. The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways (W. Awdry and G. Awdry, 1987)
  5. The Thomas the Tank Engine Man (B. Sibley, 1995; 2015)
  6. Sodor: Reading Between the Lines (C. Awdry, 2005)
  7. Thomas the Tank Engine (Est. 1945): Style Guide (2007)

Bad Days for Thomas

Main Article: 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.

Storytime Segments

In this series of segments, Mr. Perkins and later Mr. Evans read The Railway Series stories. Each story is rewritten by Andrew Brenner and reillustrated by Loraine Marshall.

  1. The Flying Kipper - (Santa's Little Engine DVD; UK/IRL/AUS/US)
  2. Trucks! - (The Thomas Way DVD; UK/IRL only/Whale of a Tale and Other Sodor Adventures DVD; UK/IRL only/Spills and Thrills DVD; US only)
  3. Thomas and Gordon - (Spills and Thrills DVD; UK/IRL/Wild Water Rescue and Other Engine Adventures DVD; US)
  4. Pop Goes the Diesel - (Trouble on the Tracks DVD; UK/IRL/AUS/US)
  5. Thomas and the Breakdown Train - (Tale of the Brave DVD; UK/AUS only/Engines to the Rescue DVD; US only)
  6. A Scarf for Percy - (The Christmas Engines DVD; UK/IRL/AUS/US)
  7. Thomas Goes Fishing - (Signals Crossed DVD; UK/IRL/US)
  8. Edward and Gordon - (Dinos and Discoveries DVD; UK/IRL/AUS/US)
  9. Toby's Tightrope - (Trouble on the Tracks DVD; UK/IRL/AUS only/Whale of a Tale and Other Sodor Adventures DVD; US only)
  10. Gordon Goes Foreign - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  11. Thomas' Train - (Railway Mischief DVD; UK/IRL/AUS only/Tales on the Rails DVD; US only}}
  12. Henry and the Elephant - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  13. Thomas Comes to Breakfast - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  14. Thomas in Trouble - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  15. Ghost Train - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  16. Thomas and Bertie - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  17. Percy and Harold - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  18. Thomas, Terence and the Snow - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  19. Sir Topham Hatt's Engines - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  20. Trouble in the Shed - (Thomas' YouTube World Tour)
  21. Thomas and the Guard - (Storytime with Mr. Evans)


In addition to writing the books, the Rev W. Awdry also wrote a series of unpublished lectures which went into further detail on the history and lore of various aspects of the Island of Sodor within the universe of The Railway Series. Many of these lectures featured information which is not recorded in any of the books.


  • Nearly all of The Railway Series stories were based upon real-life events. As a life-long 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.
  • The Railway Series have sold approximately 201 million copies worldwide.
  • Awdry drew from railway literature for some of his stories, such as C. Hamilton Ellis' The Trains We Loved and L. T. C. Rolt's Railway Adventure.
  • According to The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, Awdry had no intention of writing more Railway Series books after 'Thomas the Tank Engine', but after hearing about letters sent saying from fans of the books, he was convinced to continue writing the series.
  • C. Reginald Dalby drew the advertisement for Railway Series books in the illustrations.
  • The dust jacket for the books published in 1965[5] - 1967[6] contained an advertisement for "Percy the Small Engine, brought to life by Meccano".
  • Prior to Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends being produced by Britt Allcroft in 1984, there were two attempts to adapt the Railway Series books to the television, both of which were cancelled.
  • The first large-scale celebration of an anniversary of the Railway Series was the Thomas the Tank Engine 45th Birthday at the National Railway Museum in 1990.
  • The books written by Wilbert Awdry were the most widely available, and are the only ones that remain in print. Christopher's books were commonly rare to find and expensive to purchase.
  • There were often translation errors in the Korean version.
  • The Jung Ang Educational Foundation Inc. South Korean version transcribed “Thomas” as "토머스” (tomeoseu). However, Adongmoonhak's South Korean version got the transcription correct, as "토마스" (tomaseu).
  • In the Korean versions of the books, they translated the "Small" word as "작은"(Jak-eun) and the "Little" word as "꼬마"(kkoma) for distinction in South Korea.
  • When correctly translated the German name for the Railway Series (Wilbert Awdrys sprechende Eisenbahnen) translates to Wilbert Awdry's Speaking Railway Trains.
  • 1947 and 1971 were the only years to not have a book published during Wilbert Awdry's time with the series.

In Other Languages

Language Title
Chinese Mandarin 托马斯和朋友原著绘本
German Wilbert Awdrys sprechende Eisenbahnen
Japanese 汽車のえほん
Korean 기관차 친구들
토마스 원작 시리즈
토마스와 친구들 클래식 시리즈
토마스와 친구들 원작 동화 세트
기관차 시리즈
칙칙폭폭 그림책
철도 시리즈
Norwegian Togbok published by Grøndahl
Swiss-German Die lustigen Dampflok-Bücher
Welsh Cyfres Tomos y Tanc



Wilbert around 1973, a photo often used for Japanese RWS books

From 1965 to 1967, Shuyū Shimizu lived in England with his family as a lecturer and international student at the Japanese Studies of Oriental Institute at the University of Oxford. One day he found The Railway Series books at an Oxford bookstore, purchased it for his son and they loved it. For seven years from April 1972, Shimizu taught English at Keio Yochisha at the request of his acquaintance Saburō Kuwabara. During this time they decided to translate The Railway Series. The Japanese translation rights were granted by Kaye & Ward through Charles E. Tuttle Co., a literary agent company. The Rev. W. Awdry was delighted to publish in Japan and sent a message to Japanese readers. This message was published in the foreword message of The Three Railway Engines and the front flaps of 26 books. The series was translated as "汽車のえほん" (meaning "Steam locomotive picture books"). A few Japanese Railway Series books are to be found in the Rev. W. Awdry's study at Tywyn, Wales.

On 10th November 1973, Poplar Publishing published the first three books and by November 1974, the first fifteen books were published. The remaining eleven books were published between August 1980 and February 1981. The Japanese version of The Railway Series was translated by Kuwabara Saburou and Shimizu Shuyu. The railway technical terms of these books were supervised by Motō Kuroiwa, the owner of the Keisei Electric Railway. These original versions were discontinued around 2001.

From March 2005 to January 2006, the first fifteen books were published to commemorate the 60th anniversary of The Railway Series. There have been "updates" such as expanding the size of the book, having the same character name as the television series and correcting old-fashioned phrases. After the first fifteen publications, the remaining eleven books were scheduled to be published, but they were cancelled. On 10th December 2010, the 26 books were published as new mini versions to commemorate the 65th anniversary of The Railway Series. On 20th July 2013, Thomas the Tank Engine: The Complete Collection was published to commemorate the 40th anniversary of The Railway Series in Japan. On 3rd December 2020, the 26 books were published as new versions to commemorate the 75th anniversary of The Railway Series. On 28 November 2023, Really Useful Engines was published to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Railway Series in Japan. The book was translated by Mizuhito Kanehara. This was the first book written by Christopher Awdry to be published in Japanese.

When Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends began broadcasting in Japan on 4th October 1990, the Railway Series became even more popular. In 1992, 2005-06, 2013-15 and 2020-21, exhibitions of original artwork of The Railway Series, many sketches by Wilbert Awdry and the original television series models were held in Japan.


In Germany, only the first two books were ever translated and published one book called "Wilbert Awdry's Sprechende Eisenbahnen: Thomas die Tenderlok und andere Eisenbahngeschichten", meaning "Wilbert Awdry's talking railways: Thomas the tank engine and other railway stories". It should be noted that the spelling "Wilbert Awdry's Sprechende Eisenbahnen" is incorrect as the apostrophe after a name is not used in German grammar. Furthermore, the word "Sprechende" (talking) should not be spelled with a capital s, as for every adjective in German grammar.

The book was published in 1981 by the Otto Maier Verlag Ravensburg and it was translated by Josef Guggenmos. It has long been discontinued.

Most of the stories' titles were translated rather literal with The Sad Story of Henry being a noticable exception as it was called "Von Henry, dem es schlecht erging" (Of Henry, who fared badly).

Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends was not translated until 1996 and used completely different dialogues, phrases and titles.


The Globi Verlag AG translated at least the first four books into Swiss-German in 1987.

The series was known as "Die lustigen Dampflok-Bücher" which roughly translates to "The funny steam engine books". The Three Railway Engines was translated as "Drei Dampfloks werden Freunde" (Three steam engines become friends), Thomas the Tank Engine was translated as "Thomas die Dampflok" (Thomas the steam engine), James the Red Engine became "James mit dem roten Kleid" (James with the red dress) and Tank Engine Thomas Again was "Neues von Thomas der Dampflok" (New stuff from Thomas the steam engine).

The back of "Drei Dampfloks werden Freunde" incorrectly states that the first book was published in 1943 and Edward's name uses the German-speaking spelling "Eduard".


Welsh was the first - and for many years only - translation of The Railway Series books. In 1950, Welsh minister Sir Ben Bowen Thomas suggested that Edmund Ward publish the engines' adventures in the Welsh language. As a result, J.T. Jones, a former winner of two National Eisteddfod literary awards, was paid seven guineas to translate the first four titles - Y Tri Injian Tren, Thomas yr Injian Danc, James yr Injian Coch and Thomas Injian-Danc Eto - each of which were produced in a print-run of 5,000 volumes.


External Links

The Railway Series