Saturday 27 November 2010

Thomas the Tank Engine: 65th Anniversary Edition

Thomas the Tank Engine: 65th Anniversary Edition by the Rev. W. Awdry (Egmont)
HB RRP $34.95
ISBN 9781405252683
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This beautiful, cloth bound edition of Thomas the Tank Engine was put out a few months ago to celebrate the 65th Anniversary of the first publication of The Railway Series. It is a collector’s dream. It comes in a hard slip-case with a sea green background on which all the train characters, sheds, signs and other railway paraphernalia are represented.

The book itself is oblong in shape and has a rich red cloth binding with gold train tracks running parallel to the spine on front and back covers. The end pages are identical in colour and design to the slip case. There are photographs of Wilbert Awdry in the book in his later years.

Its first entry Making Tracks to Great Destinations, talk about the inception of the Railway Series, and how and why the first book, The Three Railway Engines, was  written and then published in 1945.

When Wilbert Awdry’s son Christopher was very ill, he made up stories of engines to keep him entertained through a long illness. Christopher kept correcting his father’s inconsistencies each time the stories were repeated so that Wilbert was forced to write them down. Pictures of these manuscripts with the corrections are shown in this chapter. His wife encouraged him to publish the stories because they were so entertaining. The dream was to publish ‘small books for small hands’.

Finding the appropriate illustrator wasn’t easy. Awdry drew pictures that the illustrator had to adhere to. The third and final illustrator chosen was C. Reginald Dalby, a commercial artist. He was able to re-draw Awdry’s sketches satisfactorily.

The Thomas character was introduced as a wooden toy and was given the number 1. Each new train that was introduced followed numerically in line. A volume was issued annually until 1972 when the last book in the Railways Series, Tramway Engines, was published.

There are also three stories included in the book which are accompanied by coloured framed plates of the engines. In the first one, Thomas and Gordon, a lot of the secondary characters are showcased. We meet the drivers, guards, stationmaster, Fat Controller, signal men, the shunter, and people on the platform. Thomas’s Train and Thomas and the Trucks follow.

This is an ideal keepsake for readers of all ages who adore the personification of Thomas and his friends and appreciate the lessons each story teaches.

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