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For other uses, see Thomas (disambiguation).
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“Having told stories about engines, we had to have models of them too. During the war years materials were hard to get, but I managed to make, out of odds and ends of wood, a push-along model of Edward with coaches and trucks to match. I never got far as making Henry or Gordon, but I did make a tank-engine which we called Thomas. Once we made Thomas, I had no peace until there were stories about him too!”
― The Rev. W. Awdry on Thomas' creation, 1961

Thomas the Tank Engine is the second book in The Railway Series.


Thomas was originally created by Wilbert Awdry as a wooden toy for his son Christopher as a Christmas gift in 1942. However, after The Three Railway Engines was published in 1945, it was decided that a second book about Thomas would be made.

Awdry was unhappy with William Middleton's illustrations for The Three Railway Engines, which led to Edmund Ward paying another artist named Reginald Payne £94 10s to illustrate the book in November 1945. Payne was provided sketches by Awdry as a guide for the illustrations, and he slavishly followed them in order to complete the quota. Instead of illustrating Thomas as the engine Awdry intended, Payne illustrated Thomas as an E2 0-6-0 tank engine, as Payne lived in Southern England, 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.

The book was published on 14th September 1946 in the United Kingdom.


Dear Christopher,
Here is your friend Thomas the Tank Engine. He wanted to come out of his station yard and see the world. These stories tell you how he did it.
I hope you will like them because you helped me to make them.
Your Loving Daddy


Thomas and Gordon

Thomas is a little blue tank engine who acts as the station pilot and takes pleasure in surprising Gordon. Gordon, furious, wonders how to pay Thomas out. Next day, Thomas is late and forgets to get uncoupled after shunting Gordon's coaches. Gordon takes Thomas on a wild high-speed journey across Sodor. Thomas later resolves to never tease Gordon again.

Thomas' Train

Henry is ill and Thomas is the only one available to take his train. Thomas (impatient) leaves too early and only stops when a signalman points out he is missing his coaches. Thomas goes back and is able to take the train that time, but is teased by the others for a long time afterwards.

Thomas and the Trucks

Thomas wants to see the world, but no one takes notice until Edward offers him to pull his train the next day. Thomas is excited but careless and the trucks push him down Gordon's Hill. Thomas manages to stop in time and the Fat Director tells him to start shunting trucks at Wellsworth.

Thomas and the Breakdown Train

Thomas is shunting when some trucks push a new engine named James across the Island and into a field. Thomas comes to his rescue with the Breakdown Train and is rewarded with two coaches and his own branch line.


Full Book

Characters Introduced

Thomas and Gordon

Thomas' Train

  • Thomas
  • Orange-Brown Non-Corridor Coaches
  • Sir Topham Hatt I
  • Henry (does not speak)
  • Edward (cameo)

Thomas and the Trucks

Thomas and the Breakdown Train

  • Thomas
  • Gordon
  • James
  • Troublesome Trucks
  • Sir Topham Hatt I
  • Edward (does not speak)
  • Annie (not named; does not speak)
  • Orange-Brown Non-Corridor Coaches (cameos)
  • Henry (mentioned)
  • Clarabel (indirectly mentioned)


Thomas and Gordon

Thomas' Train

  • Vicarstown
    • Vicarstown Sheds

Thomas and the Trucks

Thomas and the Breakdown Train


  • This book marks the debut of Thomas, who quickly became the most popular character of the series to the point where the whole franchise is now centered around him. It also marks the debut of James, who would later get a proper introduction in the next book, as well as Annie, Clarabel and the Troublesome Trucks.
  • This is the first book to feature a character's name in the title. It is also the first book to revolve around said character.
  • The book was released digitally for Apple products on 11th May 2012.
  • The story Thomas and Gordon was featured in a 2010 magazine promoting the 65th Anniversary Edition.
  • This book was first illustrated by Reginald Payne. The illustrations were later modified by C. Reginald Dalby in 1950. One noticeable change was the fifth illustration of Thomas and Gordon, where Thomas pulls the coaches in backwards; when originally painted he was pulling them in forwards. This was the only book where Payne was the Illustrate for The Railway Series. He was meant to return for the next book, but he suffered a nervous breakdown and was unable to continue for The Railway Series.
  • The 2015 edition of the book credits the illustrator as C. Reginald Dalby.
  • New illustrations done by Loraine Marshall were made for Mr. Perkins segments. James and Henry were recoloured red and green respectively and James was given the number 5, making them more consistent with their television series appearances. Stories include:
  • A 70th Anniversary print (along with the special anniversary edition) were released on 16th April 2015.
  • A personalized version of the book was released by Signature Publishing.
Thomas the Tank Engine the Very First Stories 2015
  • In 2015, Random House Books released a new edition of this book in the United States under the title Thomas the Tank Engine: The Very First Stories (the cover text read Thomas, the Original No. 1 Engine). The text was Americanised, so the third story in the book is titled "Thomas and the Freight Cars", and the Fat Director is referred to as Sir Topham Hatt throughout.
  • The foreword of the book was used on UK and US broadcasts of the show on Nick Jr. and PBS from 2004 to 2012 and the special, The Adventure Begins.
  • The phrase "Really Useful Engine" was said for the first time in the series by the Fat Director in Thomas and the Trucks.
  • In the second illustration of Thomas and the Trucks, a blue 0-6-0 tender engine is seen heading towards Vicarstown Station. It is unclear whether this is simply an illustration error or intended to be a minor background character.
  • Thomas and Gordon is based on a real event that occurred with an express train and the pilot leaving Liverpool Street station in London.
  • Thomas' Train is based on a real event that occurred mostly in the GER "Jazz" service and at other places and other times.
  • Thomas and the Breakdown Train was based on a story told to Wilbert Awdry by a guard working on the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.
  • This is the first book of The Railway Series to be directly adapted into the CGI Series, in the form of The Adventure Begins.
    • Subsequently, it is the only instalment in The Railway Series to be directly adapted into the television series twice, since the first, fifth, sixth and seventh episodes of the first series were also adapted from this book.
    • This is also the only book until Small Railway Engines to be adapted for the CGI Series.
  • The events of this book took place in 1924/5.
  • The book was imprinted for a reading test by Keeler.
  • The original illustrations of Thomas had distinction features much like an E2 Class, such as the smokebox saddle, low running board and the lack of a side window on the cab.
  • The Jung Ang Educational Foundation Inc. South Korean version incorrectly transcribed "Thomas" as "토머스” (Tomeoseu). However, Adongmoonhak's South Korean version corrected the transcription as "토마스" (Tomaseu).
  • According to The Thomas the Tank Engine Man several cuts to the book were made when Edmund Ward decided to shorten the book by two pages.


  • In the last illustration of Thomas and Gordon, Gordon's steam pipes are black.
  • Throughout the book, Henry has steam pipes, this contradicts future depictions of his old shape where he does not have steam pipes.
  • In the fifth illustration of Thomas' Train, he is missing the red lining on the rear of his bunker.
  • Thomas and the Trucks:
    • In the first illustration, Edward's face is tilted and is a much darker shade of grey.
    • As Thomas backs down on the trucks in the second illustration, a grumpy van is visible in front as he backs down on the trucks. However, for the remainder of the story, a coal truck is in front.
    • In later editions, Thomas is missing his "1" in the third illustration.
    • The text says Thomas passed several stations and bridges before entering Henry's Tunnel. In later maps of Sodor, however, there are no bridges or stations between Vicarstown and Henry's Tunnel.
    • In the fifth illustration, the third and fourth trucks appear to have fused together.
  • When James goes under the bridge, his tender is a plain cube shape.
  • In the last illustration of Thomas and the Breakdown Train, Gordon gains two boiler bands, his steam pipes are black and he is missing a window.
  • Thomas tows James back to the yard by coupling up to his cab directly, rather than from the front or waiting to reattach the tender.

In Other Languages

Language Title
Chinese Mandarin 小淘气托马斯
German Thomas die Tenderlok und andere Eisenbahngeschichten (1981)
Japanese 機関車トーマス
Korean 탱크 기관차, 토머스 (1996)/탱크 기관차, 토마스 (2005)
Norwegian Lokomotivet Thomas
Swiss-German Thomas die Dampflok (1987)
Welsh Thomas ya Injian Danc


View content

Wooden Railway

Name Released Discontinued Highlights Image
"60 Years" Edition James 2005 (Cancelled)
Introducing James 2015 2017


Name Released Discontinued Highlights Image
Green Thomas and Black James First Story Set 2016
  • Toys "R" Us (Japan) Original

Capsule Plarail

Name Released Discontinued Highlights Image
Railway Series Thomas 2015 2015
Black James 2015 2016

Wedgwood China

Name Released Discontinued Highlights Image
Cup Unknown Unknown
Mug 1984 Unknown