Thomas the Tank Engine Wikia
Main Page

“Once upon a time there was a little engine called Edward.”
―The first line in The Railway Series

The Three Railway Engines is the first book of The Railway Series.

Foreword (1998 Edition)

Dear Friends,
When The Three Railway Engines was first published in May 1945, a foreword to it was probably not considered. Within six months, however, it became clear that the book wasn't going to be the slight affair that had perhaps been expected. Twenty-five books were to follow, all with forewords, in a sequence that became known as The Railway Series; and yet, despite numerous reprintings, the little book that started the wheels turning remained without a preface.

Now, for this new edition, more than fifty years later, a foreward is thought appropriate. I feel very privileged, not only to have been asked to write it but to have the chance to dedicate the stories to the memory of my father, their creator.

Christopher Awdry
The Author's Son


Edward’s Day Out

The big engines are teasing Edward that he will not be allowed out because he is too weak, but when the driver sees him upset he offers to take him out. Edward goes to get some coaches, and, after a few moments of panic waiting for the guard, they start off and Edward has an enjoyable day.

Edward and Gordon

Gordon is bragging about pulling the express, but while Edward is shunting Gordon comes past with a long goods train. Gordon deliberately stalls at a hill and Edward comes as a "banker". At the top of the hill, Gordon races ahead, and Edward gets puffed out but is pleased with the prospect of a new coat of paint.

The Sad Story of Henry

One rainy day, Henry stops in a tunnel and refuses to move. His crew, the passengers, another engine and even the Fat Director try to get him to move, but to no avail. Eventually, they have him bricked up, and they bore a new tunnel.

Edward, Gordon & Henry

Gordon is pulling the Express when he bursts his safety valve outside Henry's Tunnel. Edward tries to pull the train, but cannot. The Fat Director lets Henry out of the tunnel so that he and Edward can pull the train. They later help Gordon home, and Henry is rewarded with a new blue coat.


Edward's Day Out

Edward and Gordon

The Sad Story of Henry

Edward, Gordon and Henry

  • Edward
  • Gordon
  • Henry
  • Sir Topham Hatt I


Edward's Day Out

Edward and Gordon

The Sad Story of Henry

Edward, Gordon and Henry

  • Henry's Tunnel
  • Vicarstown Sheds
  • Tidmouth (mentioned)


  • Awdry never planned to publish the book, but he changed his mind after his wife Margaret told him it was worth publishing.
  • The first three stories were first told and written in 1942, but as the UK was in the midst of World War II and paper was scarce and rationed, they could not be published until 1945.
  • The Rev. W. Awdry did not intend for the first three stories to be based on the same railway, but his publishers pressured him to write a fourth story to increase the length of the book, suggesting that Edward, Gordon, and Henry be brought together for a happy ending.
  • In the Middleton illustration, the Red Engine is in between Gordon and 98462. In the Dalby illustration, the Red Engine switched positions with 98462. Dalby also drew two different versions of the Red Engine.
  • This is the only book to feature 98462, 87546, the green engine and the two red engines, who were never seen or heard of in later books.
  • This book was first illustrated by William Middleton but was later re-illustrated by C. Reginald Dalby from the eighth edition onwards in October 1949.
    • The reason why Dalby re-illustrated this book was because Awdry was not satisfied with Middleton's illustrations due to the poor standards and many errors. This also explains why this was the only time Middleton was an illustrator in the Railway Series.
  • The Japanese version includes a foreword message by Wilbert Awdry, written for Japanese readers in 1973.
  • The 1998 Egmont edition included a foreword message by Christopher Awdry.
  • An illustration from The Sad Story of Henry was released as a Royal Mail stamp in 2011 to mark the Reverend W. Awdry's centenary.
  • The book was released digitally for Apple products on 11 May 2012.
  • A 70th Anniversary print was released on 16 April 2015.
  • A personalised version of the book was released by Signature Publishing.
  • The fourth illustration of Edward's Day Out features a coach without a front coupling. Awdry explained that one of the big engines was pulling the coaches so roughly that the coupling fell off. When Edward arrived to collect the coaches, they had not fitted a new coupling and hook. This took some time, so the guard went off home to his "elevenses". This also explains why Edward was waiting for his guard.
  • Edward and Gordon are based on the common instances of trains stalling on the Lickey Incline near the Awdry family's home in King's Norton.
  • The BBC disastrously adapted The Sad Story of Henry for television on 14 June 1953 using 00 gauge models. Some points had not been set so Henry derailed. Since, in accordance with BBC standards, the program was broadcast live, the viewers (including The Railway Series editor Eric Marriott) were surprised to see a large hand pick up the train and place it back on the rails.
  • Dalby drew the engine that tried to push Henry out of the tunnel in The Sad Story of Henry as James, but children mailed Awdry letters asking why James was red before he was black in the following book, so Awdry decided to make the Red Engine a different character altogether.[2]
  • The events of this book take place in 1923 bar The Sad Story of Henry, which takes place in 1922.
  • A painting book based on Dalby's illustrations was published in 1950.
  • When first released the book sold 22,500 copies, with two other batches of 17,000, and another of 16,000 followings.
  • The book's first production run cost Edmund Ward £1,569 (around £64,370 in 2019).
  • The book was first published on George Carlin's eighth birthday.
  • This book was published in 1945, the same year Michael Brandon, the US narrator for Series 7-16, was born.
  • A mirrored version of the sixth illustration of Edward and Gordon is included on the wall of the 2022 Knapford Station Wooden Railway set.


  • In the first illustration of Edward's Day Out Gordon, 98462 and 87546 have yellow stripes instead of red ones.
  • Between the first and second illustrations of Edward's Day Out, 98462 gains outside cylinders.
  • In the second illustration of Edward's Day Out, Gordon's boiler is shorter than it should be.
  • In the second and third illustrations of Edward's Day Out, a post appears between 98462 and Gordon.
  • In the third illustration of Edward's Day Out, Gordon is missing his tender.
  • In the fourth illustration of Edward's Day Out, Edward collects three coaches, but in the next illustration, he has five coaches with him.
  • In Edward's Day Out, the shed has six berths, but in the first illustration of Edward and Gordon, the shed has seven berths.
  • In the second illustration of The Sad Story of Henry, Edward is seen travelling through the other bore in the tunnel. However, in the fourth illustration, Edward is seen again coming in the same direction.
  • It is stated that a second bore was dug after Henry was shut up, but in all the illustrations prior there were two bores shown.
  • In the first illustration of Edward, Gordon and Henry, Edward was incorrectly depicted as a 4-4-2. This was later fixed by Dalby.
  • In the second illustration of Edward, Gordon and Henry, Gordon's buffers are black instead of white and his headlamp/code is a "pick up goods" one instead of "Express".
  • In the fourth illustration of Edward, Gordon and Henry, Gordon and Edward's handrails are missing.
  • In the final illustration of Edward, Gordon and Henry, Gordon has circular buffers.
  • Throughout the book, Henry loses and gains trailing wheels. His correct wheel arrangement is 4-6-2.
  • Gordon's steampipes continuously disappear and re-appear.
  • Gordon is portrayed as already having LMS running gear, square buffers, and a six-wheel Fowler tender.
  • In all illustrations of the Middleton editions of the book, the running boards of the engines and tenders are connected.

In Other Languages

Language Title
Chinese Mandarin 小火车登场啦!
German Thomas die Tenderlok und andere Eisenbahngeschichten (1981)
Japanese 三だいの機関車 (1973-2004)
3だいの機関車 (2005)
Korean 세 기관차 (1996)
세 기관차 이야기 (2005)
Norwegian De Tre Lokomotivene
Swiss-German Drei Dampfloks werden Freunde (1987)
Welsh Y Tri Injian Tren


Wooden Railway

Name Released Discontinued Highlights Image
60th Anniversary Henry 2005 2005
  • The variant resembles Henry with his new shape; however, chronologically, Henry still sported his old shape at the time of the story.
  • Henry's face is unique and different from all his other variants.
  • It includes a story card of "Edward, Gordon and Henry".


  1. RWS: The Thomas the Tank Engine Man p.119-120
  2. citation needed