Railway Series Book Reviews - C Awdry

Christopher Awdry's Railway Series Books

The second generation of the Railway Series writers, producing books 27 to 40, here we review Christopher's Books...

Really Useful Engines

First new book of the Railway Series for a decade following Tramway Engines, written by the son of the original author for his own son Richard.  Christopher was encouraged to seek publication from his father following his approval of the stories, focusing on Thomas, Duck and Percy as he brings the Railway series back to life, and Christopher makes his style of story writing his own.
Written By R Healy


In the first story Thomas finds himself in hot pursuit of a robber who has stolen silver ware from the Station Master’s house the night before, as well as his car.  They find the thief in the stolen car going along a road close to the line, and give chase to the villain, knowing they won't catch him however, they make canny use of quick thinking and get a signalman to telephone the police.  Thomas is hailed a hero for his brave actions by the Fat Controller as the goods are soon recovered and the thief is apprehended by the Police!



Percy's friend, Tom Tipper the Postman, has lost the use of his van and had it replaced by a pedal bike, which he finds difficult and awkward to deliver the post with.  But one day when he’s called away, some unruly boys decide to use it without Tom's permission, and leave it on the rails.  Percy crushes the bike under his wheels as he moves off, as his Driver didn't know about the bike ahead of them, and leaves Tom with nothing to carry the mail with.  However, as a result of the accident, the Postmaster gives Tom a new van instead of a bike as a replacement, and Percy feels better about the situation, feeling in some way, he helped!



When Henry is back pulling the Flying Kipper, Duck is been given the job of pushing him up the hill at Gordon’s Hill.  All seems to go smoothly until Henry’s van loses a tail lamp and Duck loses sight of the train in the darkness, and when Henry slows down, disaster strikes as Duck hits the train, causing damage to his front end.



Thomas boasts to Gordon that tank engines are always full of energy compared with the big engines, after Gordon returns home after pulling the Express feeling exhausted.  But when Thomas, Percy and Duck are called upon to do a Triple-Header with the Express when both Gordon and Henry are unavailable, the three engines begin to prove Thomas wrong when the three engines find the heavy train hard to pull, even collectively.  By the end of the journey, Thomas, Duck and Percy are living proof that his comment was very wrong indeed, as Gordon can see for himself, and duly lets Thomas quietly know!



James And The Diesel Engines

The book Christopher Awdry claims was the most difficult for him to write, sympathising with the trouble his father went through writing James the Red Engine!  A turning point for James as a character, as he goes through a transistion and realises that Diesels aren't such bad characters after all, in spite of his own previous perceptions and misgivings.
Written By R Healy


An arrogant visiting Diesel is put in his place by an unfortunate accident in the yard, following rather rude comments made about the engines in Old Stuck Up.  He soon learns his lesson after crashing through the wall of the engine shed when trying to be cleaned and refuelled, but only happening to slip on the oily rails left by Boco and Bear previously!



James is full of himself and moaning about Diesel engines, claiming they wouldn’t know which way they were going owing to their two cabs in Crossed Lines.  He’s soon made to rethink his words when he’s forced to make a trip in thick fog across the yard with a few flat trucks.  When an engine’s whistle dumbfounds a signalman, James is sent sliding across two lines and crashing into a signal!



A discussion on colour in the shed sparks a heated debate between Henry and James, and the following day leaves Henry in the unfortunate position of having to have his fire thrown out to avoid overheating, following the uncoupling of his tender from his main body.  Following, he was less inclined to make rude comments on the colour of Fire Engines!



During the Deep Freeze, the grips of winter get the better of James when he has to fill his water supply and ends up getting more than he bargained for as it overspills onto his tender.  This in turn causes his injector to fail and leads to him having to be rescued by a Diesel from the Works.  Unsure of the new comer at first, James and he are soon chatting away like old friends, and by the end, James’ view on Diesel engines has changed for the better.


Great Little Engines

This was one of two books written about the Skarloey Railway by Christopher, charting how they coped without Sir Handel, who was off in Wales visiting the Talyllyn Railway at the same time as the book was being written, as well as finding out about a few of his adventures in Wales, and what happened before it with the Guard!
Written By R Healy


Sir Handel is chosen to go to Wales and assist on the Talyllyn Railway, and is very impatient to go.  He is unfortunately held up by Duke’s repairs, but following Gordon’s backing him up by calling him indispensable, feels pride being restored once more, so much so that he becomes impatient and leaves the Guard behind at the top station on a busy day!  The Guard warns him to be more careful in future and reminds him that Patience is a Virtue!



As Sir Handel leaves for Wales, the gangers have to cut branches from the bushes by the side of the line.  Only being able to take a few loads at a time sees problems later on as wind the night before blows branches onto Peter Sam’s line.  Thinking he can clear them himself in order to save time, he tries to push them aside, but they only wreak havoc and get caught in his valve gear.  What was supposed to be a time saving measure causes the passengers to miss their train and Peter Sam to feel sore for several days!



Duncan is called upon to help some Scouts who are helping to fix the line in the midst of some hot weather.  There’s nothing for them to drink, and they’re in need of something to quench their thirst.  Duncan remembers that the shop near the lake may have bottles of pop when the Refreshment Lady is found to have none.  The boys are thankful when Duncan returns with some fresh pop for them.



Sir Handel returns from Wales and lets all the other engines know about his adventures on the Talyllyn Railway.  He tells them about the Prince and Princess that visited the Railway, and how he ended up with an eye patch when he ran into a fallen tree that was hung across his line as he rounded the bend into Nant Gwernol!  But in spite of having a good time away, he felt it good to be back at home again.


More About Thomas The Tank Engine

The thirtieth addition to the Railway Series returns to the Ffarquhar branch once again, and sees Christopher Awdry tackling the rocky relationship of Thomas and Percy. The friendship of the famous comic duo is strained when a pair of ironic accidents lead to mistrust and misunderstanding. After Thomas has some separate adventures of his own with Bertie and Harold, the pair are brought back together in harmony when an emergency arises. The book was published in 1986, and was supposedly written specially for Britt Allcroft to adapt into the second television series of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends’, which premiered in the same year.
Written By J Smith
Thomas the Tank Engine feels more splendid then ever as his blue paint sparkles in the sunshine. He boasts to Percy and Toby that blue is truly the only worthy colour for an engine, but he becomes infuriated when he does not receive the response he was hoping for. The next morning, he is resting on a siding when Percy arrives with a truck of coal for the coal merchant at Ffarquhar. Thomas warns Percy to be careful of the faulty buffers at the end of the siding, but just as Percy is passing him, the truck’s side bursts open and sends coal dust flying all over of Thomas. His blue coat of paint is ruined. Percy cannot help laughing, which makes Thomas think the hiccup was caused on purpose. To make matters worse, Thomas is so dirty that he has to miss his next train. The misunderstanding sparks bitter conflict between the two engines, which escalates as the days pass – Thomas thinks that Percy caused the accident on purpose, and Percy is furious at Thomas for thinking so. Next day, Percy backs down onto the same siding for a drink. But the faulty buffers break under pressure and Percy finds himself wheel-deep in the coalbunker behind. Thomas sees everything from the platform and steams away laughing at the irony of it all – leaving Percy seething in fury.

A few days later, Thomas is sent to the Works for repairs and Duck is drafted in to take care of his duties. He becomes good friends with Toby, Bertie and Terence, and Percy is glad for someone different to talk to. Annie and Clarabel are particularly impressed with Duck’s performance, and when Thomas returns, they tell him how well Duck managed. But Thomas is so glad to be home that he forgets to be jealous. He is, however, still cross with Percy, who cleverly stays clear of him. Thomas’ crew soon learn that the Works had left Thomas’ handbrake stiff, making it seem as if the brakes were ‘on’ when they weren’t. The crew learn to take extra care – but one day, a relief man is called to stand in for Thomas’ fireman. The relief man forgets about Thomas’ brakes, and quite unexpectedly ,whilst waiting for Henry, Thomas starts off on his own. An inspector, flying with Harold, chases Thomas along the branch as he steams helplessly along the line, unable to stop himself. They finally get ahead of him and come to a station up the line. Annie and Clarabel hold back as hard as they can, slowing Thomas to a safe enough pace for the inspector to scramble into the cab as theu pass the platform. He applies the brakes properly and both Thomas and the inspector are glad that the misadventure has come to an end.

The viaduct on the main line is in need of strengthening, and repairs are scheduled to take a long time. The Fat Controller does not wish to close the railway, and so main line trains have to take extra care when crossing the viaduct. This often makes them late for Thomas at the junction, and the little blue engine soon looses patience. Henry explains that if they hurried the viaduct could collapse, but Thomas is more intent on providing swift service for his passengers. At the top station, Bertie is timed to arrive just after Thomas, meaning that his passengers can go straight from the bus to their train. But they are forced to wait due to the delays. Bertie jokes that the pair will need to have another race if Thomas is late again. One day, Thomas is held up by James and cannot catch up time. But as he approaches the tunnel on the way to Ffarquhar, he spots a flash of red on the road that runs alongside the railway. It turns out to be none other then Bertie, who has broken down. Thomas happily agrees to take Bertie’s passengers, and the journey is completed safely. Both friends realise that being late isn’t such a bad thing after all.
Percy has had enough of the quarrel and wishes to make peace with Thomas. But on the way home a hanging branch scrapes his smoke box. Thomas laughs at him, which makes Percy re-new opposition in an instant. Instead of offering peace, he decides to ignore Thomas completely. The following evening, Percy asks Toby what a ‘drip’ is, having heard a boy on the platform us it to describe his friend. Toby thinks that it is when rain leaks into an engines roof, but Thomas cuts in (tired of being ignored) and explains that a ‘drip’ is a derogatory term for a coward, a fool or a spoilsport. Percy wonders if Thomas is a ‘drip’ for preventing him from saying sorry. The next day, Henry causes a delay and Thomas is in such a hurry to get to the station in time that one of his side-rods swings up and punctures his left-hand water-tank. With water pouring from his under-frame, he can go no further. The stationmaster at Ffarquhar informs Percy’s crew of the accident. Percy is reluctant to go – but when reminded of Annie, Clarabel and the passengers, who soon sets off to the rescue (for fear that they will become drips too!). Thomas is ashamed of himself and realises that his tank made him a bigger ‘drip’ anything. The two engines make up their quarrel and re-establish their strong friendship as Percy pulls Thomas home again.


Gordon the High Speed Engine

In Christopher’s 5th volume, Gordon tries to become a high speed engine like those running on the Other Railway. But whilst trying, several incidents occur, and he ends up getting into trouble. But eventually, when the High-Speed Train breaks down, Gordon’s wish comes true. Interestingly, due to the success of Christopher Awdry’s books, he was able to retire from his job at the Inland Revenue after writing this book and write full time.
Written By D Howells


When Gordon hears that diesels on the Mainland can go at 125mph, he boasts that he could go just as fast as them. The next morning, he hopes to prove himself right when he takes the express. But the previous night, there had been a frost, and now sleet had settled on the rails, making them very slippery. Gordon starts quickly, and his wheels slip on the icy rails. This sudden movement makes the water in his boiler surge forward, making it impossible for Gordon’s driver to shut off steam. Gordon’s wheels spin furiously, but neither he nor his train move at all. Fifteen minutes later, after a lot of noise, Gordon uses up all his steam, allowing the driver to close the regulator, and Gordon’s wheels finally stop moving. But that night, he is teased for being a high speed engine without moving his train!



Some low grade coal clogs up Gordon’s tubes, making him feel ‘stuffed up.’ Fortunately, it doesn’t affect him when he pulls the express the next morning. But when he reaches Edward’s station, making a good run for the hill, the smoke cloud from his fire leaves a black smokescreen settling over the station, sending a shower of soot all over a party of wedding guests. Although it wasn’t his fault, he still gets in trouble at Vicarstown. Gordon tries his best to be careful on the return trip, but when steaming through Edwards Station, a cloud of something flies from the express, and lands on the Fat Controllers new top-hat. The Fat Controller mistakenly accuses Gordon of sending the ashes on his top-hat, but Gordon is sure it wasn’t him. He is told that the Fat Controller will speak to him when he gets home from the Mainland.



The Fat Controller is due home, but Gordon isn’t too eager to see him. When pulling the express that day, a late passenger makes him miss his path at the Junction. The journey goes smoothly from then, until Gordon starts climbing his hill. Halfway up, he feels a blast of cold air in his middle; his fire bars had collapsed, and he’d lost some of his fire. Gordon rapidly loses steam, but the fireman puts a large lump of coal across the hole, making Gordon feel better. Gordon puffs his hardest up the hill, hoping not to stick again. At last, he finds himself at the top, and the passengers congratulate him on a job well done. BoCo helps Gordon finish the journey, and at the Works Station, the Fat Controller is waiting. He thanks Gordon, but quickly runs off to catch his next train, leaving Gordon in suspense once more.



Gordon arrives at Barrow one day to find that some Railtour People going along the coast to Carlisle are stranded because their train has failed. He is surprised when he is asked to take the train in the engines place. The Fat Controller allows Gordon to take the train, and a High Speed Train is substituted for the return trip for Gordon’s express. The two powercars, Pip and Emma, are happy to do so.

Later, James, who is pulling a stopping train, is told that the High Speed train has failed, and he has to pull it home. James does do, and the passengers get home safely. The next day, Gordon arrives home, and the Fat Controller apologizes for falsely accusing Gordon of ruining his top hat; it had in fact been a steward emptying an ashtray from a carriage window. The Fat Controller also asks Gordon if he could take Pip and Emma’s passenger’s home. Gordon is very proud; at last, he really is a High-Speed Engine.




Toby, Trucks and Trouble

For the first time in the history of the Railway Series, Christopher Awdry broke from tradition by not including the word ‘engine’ (or ‘engines’) in the title. In the book, Mavis has an accident with a lorry, and Toby was called to help out at the quarry. This meant more work for Percy, but he didn’t mind; he even proves himself useful, by accident.
Written By D Howells


When Toby is busy or there are too many trucks for him, Mavis brings the stone trucks to Ffarquhar. For most of the journey, the line runs alongside a road. At the place where the policeman argued with Thomas, the road crosses the line, and cars and lorries often go too fast around the corner. One day, Mavis is late starting, and the trucks surge against her as she goes down the line. As Mavis approaches the level crossing, she sees a lorry heading towards the crossing. The lorry driver, who is new to the Island, doesn’t see Mavis, and swerves sharply around the corner. When he sees her, it’s too late. He brakes hard, but he can’t stop, and his lorry hits Mavis’s cow-catcher, and skids into a ditch. No one is badly hurt, but Mavis has to go to the Works for her front mended. Toby has to help out at the quarry during her absence, leaving more work for Percy in the Yard.



Percy talks to Toby about Knapford Harbour. This makes Toby reminiscent of the days when he worked at a harbour. It also makes him remember a time when he got to go to the seaside.

One morning, his driver and fireman had come to work excitedly, telling Toby that he was to be an extra attraction at a festival at a nearby seaside village. Toby was repainted and given a new bell, and his brass work was polished so much he was unrecognizable. Toby’s journey to the village was quite enjoyable, and he even helped a dirty, weak engine pull a train to the village. But the next morning, as Toby was enjoying the sights of the seaside, bad news came; Toby had to go home. Although the organizers said there was nowhere for Toby to stand, the truth was that Toby was too smart for the branch line.



One day, Percy is called away from shunting in the Yard to deal with an emergency at the Harbour. Bulstrode, a stone barge, is grumbling that the trucks aren’t in the right place, although really, he’s the one in the wrong place, and isn’t due to leave until the next day. The trucks are glad when Percy arrive, and ask him to move them into the proper siding. Percy pulls he trucks up the sloping harbour until they are clear of the points, but as he stops, one of the trucks brakes comes on, and when Percy pushes, a coupling breaks, and four trucks, loaded with stone, rattle down the slope. Within a moment, Bulstrode has four loaded stone trucks buried in his hull. Fortunately, the tide is out, so he doesn’t sink, but the trucks are pleased that he had gotten his load faster than he expected this time. Bulstrodes remains are taken to a beach for children to play on, where they still reside today.



Terence did shunting in the Yard during Percy’s short absence. He claims he is adaptable – can go anywhere and do anything. He tells Percy and Toby to scrap their rails and run on roads, like steam engines used to.

Mavis is still being repaired, and Toby is still taking her place at the quarry. The Quarry Manager arranges for Toby to take loaded trucks from the quarry to Ffarquhar at lunchtime rather than later in the day, because of his smaller water tank. One cold morning he sets ‘light engine’ out to the quarry. But the ground had swelled during the night, and at the level crossing, the frost had swollen earth in the ruts beside the rails. Toby wheels are lifted straight off the track, and due to the curving line to the quarry, he goes straight on along the road. He isn’t going fast, so his driver manages to brake carefully. Toby hasn’t gone too far, but all of his wheels are on the road. Toby feels miserable, but with careful reversing along the ruts his wheels had made, Toby is soon back on the rails. A few days later, the Fat Controller tells Toby that although steam engines once ran on roads, he is much better suited to the rails.



Thomas and The Twins

The first Railway Series reappearance of Bill and Ben since their 1966 debut and Trevor, featuring Thomas being sent down to Edward's Branch Line whilst his own is under repair.  Inspired by a trip to Cornwall and seeing Judy and Alfred - the prototypes for Bill and Ben - Christopher set about writing this book.
Written By D Howells
Thomas is informed by the Fat Controller that he will need to be moved to Edward's Branch whilst repairs are being carried out on a bridge on the line.  When he arrives there, Thomas is less than impressed when he meets the twins, who are quick to comment on the presence of yet another blue engine in their yard!
A while later, Thomas has an accident whilst coming down the line and collides with a lorry carrying Dairy Products, covering him in broken eggs and yolk.  Bill and Ben are quick to tease when they see Thomas back at the sheds, and subsequently hear a scraping noise - Thomas gritting his teeth!
Railway Enthusiasts are coming to the Railway, and Bill and Ben are to be put on display in the yard so they can be photographed and be made a fuss of.  They spend the afternoon being photographed happily, until a shunter comes up and asks one of them to move a ship for him before the tide goes out.  Ben goes, and Bill is preoccupied by a man with an Instamatic Camera, who is trying to take his picture, and taking his time about it!
When the man finally gets the shot he wants, Bill is called away and the picture is completely spoiled by Bill's cloud of steam as he hurried away.
Trevor's boiler is in need of mending, but the Vicar can't afford to fix it.  Whilst he is under the weather, the Vicar arranges some lighter work for Trevor to do and sends him to help saw a tree belonging to a farmer who lives close to the Railway.
As he passes the field where Trevor's working, Edward feels the line beneath him begin to wobble a little, and consequently on his way home, loses part of his train!  Trevor quickly alerts Edward to the problem, and saves the day!
As a reward for his actions, the Fat Controller obliges Trevor with a trip to the works to have his boiler mended again.
There's chance of flooding at a part of the line called "The Drain" as bad weather sets in.  Ben falls victim to the raging storm and has his fire put out as he tries to pass through the flooded drain.
Thomas is at the station when the fireman arrives to tell them of what's happened down at "The Drain".  He goes ahead with a steel cable to pull Ben out of the water and back onto the dry rails again and Ben is especially grateful for Thomas's help.  When Bill is finally able to make it back again four days later, he and Ben both agree that after his heroic actions, it would be very ungrateful of them to tease Thomas again!


Jock the New Engine
Jock was originally introduced in the 1987 Awdry tie-in book - The Island of Sodor - prior to being brought to life properly by Christopher in this new book about the Small Railway.  This was the second book to have the Small Engines as the main focus, and introduces Frank The Diesel as well.
Written By R Healy
The book opens with the news that the book written about the engines by the Thin Clergyman is about to be published.  There's excitement all round, but disappointment from Frank the Diesel, who discovers that he won't be featuring.
He's cross the next morning, and is difficult with his Driver when he tries to start Frank up.  He does though and starts with a jolt, and ends up smashing into the back of the shed!
However, Frank proves his usefulness again when he rescues Rex's train after he suffers a broken steam pipe, and allows Rex time to be mended.  But despite the Small Controller praising Frank's actions, he knows that the Small Railway needs another engine!
When Bert feels unwell, Mike and Rex are quite unsympathetic as to his plight and tell him he needs "Determination and Sticking Power".  The fitter promises Bert new pipes over the winter, and lets him in on the rumour about the new engine!  But despite being given a good clean out, Bert soon feels poorly again.
One afternoon, when Bert is due to take his train home again, he loses his tender coupling.  All seems hopeless until the Driver has an idea about "sticking", and decides to use glue to mend the train.
As silly as the plan seems, it works and Bert gets the train home with little difficulty.  Rex and Mike come home to the shed in the evening looking exhausted.  Bert laughs at them and accuses them of having no "Sticking Power" and then tells them about his adventure with the glue!
Bert is suspicious of something happening in the workshops when he spies a boiler and wheels one afternoon when the doors are open.  The three engines are excited and full of questions when the Drivers come the next morning, and the rumour is confirmed that there is to be a new engine.
A few weeks later, the engine is brought out for tests and is as yet un-named.  The undercoat colour that he is still carrying, reminds Douglas of engines he knew back in the Highlands of Scotland that were nicknamed "Jocks", and suggests the name to the Small engine and Controller.  Both duly accept, and from there on, the name became official!
Jock proves a star attraction to the railway and becomes rather cocky.  He becomes cockier still when he is used because of his superior strength to pull a large lorry trailer into the yard, much to the dismay of the others when he boasts about it in the evening!
When Mike is forced to double-head with Jock the following day, he decides to play a trick and cut Jock's big-headedness down.  He gradually cuts off steam after "The Green" and leaves Jock to carry the train on his own.
But Jock realises what's happening and tries to entice Mike into pulling the train himself, by tricking him into going fast.  But Mike doesn't even get the chance when his injector fails and Jock has to pull the train and Mike home again!
At the end of the day, Mike is mended and they both have learned a lesson in teamwork and co-operation.  And looking around him, Jock was glad he was one of the team!


Thomas & The Great Railway Show

In this book, Thomas is given the great honour of representing Sodor on a trip to the National Railway Museum in York.  One of the golden rules of the Railway Series is broken in this book, as the characters on the Mainland are personified and take on faces like their Sudrian counterparts.  Real life engines that appear in the book include Green Arrow, Iron Duke, Mallard, Duches of Hamilton and a faceless Stephenson's Rocket!
Written By R Healy
Gordon, Henry and James are exceedingly jealous because Thomas is being granted permission to visit the National Railway Museum!  However, in spite of their jealousy, Thomas is quite excited about representing Sodor on his journey and counts down the days until he can go.
On the journey to York, Thomas is allowed to operate on his own steam as he heads down there.  After spending the night in Carnforth, he heads on toward York again, but on the way, disaster strikes as a crossing gate is hanging across the line!  Thomas batters into it and has his front end badly damaged, and cutting his journey short!
After a dismal day in the rain, Thomas is told he will be travelling to York by road instead, where his front end will be mended in the National Railway Museum's workshops.  Thomas is left dreaming of the taunting Henry, James and Gordon would give him if they found out about the shame of him being taken by a lorry!
However, when the lorry arrives to take him away the following morning, Thomas is indifferent to being taken by a Lorry, and enjoys being taken along with a nice view of the countryside.  Soon, they come to a built up area, and the Lorry driver is unsure of the way, so he goes to ask for directions, at which point a Parking Attendant gives the Lorry a ticket!
Thomas is repaired and put on display within the National Museum after meeting Green Arrow in the workshops.  He meets many of the muesum's other engines as he explores around the area, including Boxhill (A Terrier engine like Stepney) and Broad Gauge engine - Iron Duke, who Thomas meets at the Demonstration Line where he is meant to be giving rides.
When Thomas sees the crowds that have gathered, he is anxious about what could happen on the line when he's operating on the Demonstration line, in case of children running out in front of him and being hurt.
Unfortunately, the next day as Thomas's confidence is building, a bag is thrown onto the line and Thomas bursts it with a bang as he hits it, and damages his brakes.  A child is frightened by the noise and Thomas is reprimanded by an angry mother.  But the Driver takes consolation in the fact that the people could have learned a lesson from this, "Engines can't stop at once."
The impending Railtour sparks argument between the engines as to who will pull it.  Mallard suggests himself as the seaside place helped pay for his repairs, but in the end, the job is given to Green Arrow.  There is a great demand for the Railtour and talk of extra trains, which wouldn't be possible, and the only feasible option would be to add extra coaches.  Thomas asks to help with the extra load and the man in charge agrees.
On the return journey Thomas spies something strange ahead, the track has been damaged by water and is unsafe to cross.  Thomas and Green Arrow take an empty train back to York, and Thomas is hailed a hero for his actions by the Fat Controller when he comes to visit him, and the National Railway Museum honour him as an honourary member of the National Collection!


Thomas Comes Home

Thomas may have gone away to visit the National Railway Museum, but life on the Branch Line was far from dull without him. Daisy gets stuck in a snowdrift, Percy narrowly avoids a dip in a stream, and Toby pulls a long train of trucks. However, all of the engines manage to keep things moving until Thomas comes back.

Written By D Howells


Daisy runs the fast train that connects with Gordon’s express in Thomas’s absence, which makes her conceited. One day, a blizzard hits Sodor. Daisy doesn’t mind; she thinks the snow is pretty. When Gordon finally arrives, Daisy sets off, but when she reaches the valley, the snow falls so heavily that neither he nor her driver can see. Eventually, they have to go back to the last station, but as Daisy heads back, she soon comes to a stop, as the snow blocks her air-intake. As fast as the driver clears the snow, the quicker it gets clogged up again. Soon, Harold arrives to collect the passengers, but Daisy is snowed in for a whole week. By the time Toby rescues her, she has a very different opinion of snow.



As the snow melts, the water rises in a stream on the branch line. A bridge crosses over the rising stream, and Percy worries that the bridge might collapse. But one day, Toby tells him that the water in the stream has lowered. Later, Henry jokingly suggests Thomas may be kept as York as a museum-piece, making Annie and Clarabel upset. Percy spends so long comforting them that he is delayed with his next train. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to stop at the station near the stream, but as Percy crosses the bridge over the stream, he feels it sink slightly under his weight, and hears a creaking sound. Percy goes as fast as he dares, and he and the coaches make it off the bridge just before it collapses into the stream. The Fat Controller closes the line whilst the bridge is repaired, and nowadays, Percy always takes care over the bridge where he almost went swimming.



Whilst Percy pulled Annie and Clarabel, Toby took Percy’s stone trucks to the harbour, and brings loaded trucks back. But due to Toby’s small water tank, he always has to refill at Elsbridge, the station by the river where Thomas went fishing. One day, Mavis is late delivering the trucks to the Yard, and when Toby arrives at the harbour, he finds that there are forty-eight trucks to go back. Rather than leaving some and making two trips the next day, Toby volunteers to take them all at once, forgetting about his small water tank. His crew agrees, but when they reach Elsbridge, Toby has very little water left. Worse still, the water column at Elsbridge has broken. His driver has an idea; he uncouples from the train and stops at the bridge. Toby is horrified when he sees his driver holding a bucket, but fortunately, he is only joking. Toby goes to Ffarquhar to fill up with water, then goes back to collect the trucks and finish his long journey.



George the steamroller is mending the road near the level crossing. He gets the Branch Line engines worried when he says that he could easily build a road on their tracks, but they soon forget all about it when they hear that Thomas is due home the next week. On the big day, Daisy pulls the special train with many important people on board. But at the level crossing, the men helping mend the road had left some traffic cones, and some were inside the crossing gates. The wind blows a cone straight under Daisy, and damages her brakes, jamming them hard on. Eventually, a fitter and three other workmen arrive and work fast to fix Daisy. When they finish, she sets off quickly, and finds that she’s not late at all; in fact, she’s right on time. Within a moment of her arrival, Thomas pulls into the station, and is given a rousing welcome home.



Henry & The Express

In this book, we see Henry the Green Engine returning to focus again, with associated tag - "The Flying Kipper" making an appearance in one of the stories, albiet behind a different engine, who Henry has to briefly share a common colour with in the final story!
Written By R Healy
Henry is boasting after he manages well with the Express, and Douglas is quick to put him in his place.  Henry is unperturbed, but Donald supports his twin, and reminds Henry - "A puff goes before a fail."
A bad consignment of coal leaves the engines hot and bothered.  It burns badly, leaving clouds of thick, black smoke and significantly more ash, leaving the engines with awful indigestion.
Despite Henry's Driver and Fireman's best efforts to clean out the ash from his smokebox the night before, he still has trouble carrying out his duties, making it to Edward's Station and no further.  Douglas takes over his train, and the Fireman notices that the smokebox door is bent, so he can't breathe properly through his fire.  The solution the crew come up with is to use papier mache to mend the hole and get them back to the shed safely, but Henry is still the subject of fun from Donald and Douglas who can't help but make breathless puffing noises all night!
The Fat Controller announces to Henry that he is in need of an overhaul at the Works.  In order to get there, Henry is required to double-head the Express along with James, who is quite offended at the prospect of having to double-head the train!
On the way to the Works, there is something wrong with Henry's wheels, and it causes bother as they head through a station when a brick flies past Henry's cab and hits James.  An inspection is carried out by the crew, and all appears to be OK with the exception of a carriage window being broken.  They find that one of the steel rims around Henry's wheel has broken and come off, and that's what caused the damage.  James laughs and comments that instead of an overhaul, Henry needs retiring instead!
Whilst Henry is absent, the other engines have to take "The Flying Kipper" in his place for him.  When James's turn rolls around, he's less than pleased about the situation.
Whilst waiting at the platform to be loaded, a forklift loses it's load and spills crates of fish in front of James, covering the rails.  This causes a great deal of trouble for James as he tries to leave.  The slippery ooze from the fish has left the rails in a precarious state and James finds it difficult to start the train with nothing for his wheels to grip.
Eventually, men with hoses wet down the rails and clear away the slippy mess so James can start, albiet a lot later than he expected!
Whilst at the works, Henry is given an undercoat of red paint before he is due to be repainted into his usual green with red stripes.  But before he can even be restored to his former glory, there is announcement by his Driver that they're needed at the Big Station to deal with an emergency, they're needed to pull the Express in light of a Diesel failing.
Ashamed to be seen in his present form, Henry is apprehensive, but Henry has little choice in the matter.
The journey is beset with problems as Henry has to remove a coach at Edward's Station due to a fault, a job that Donald should have dealt with had he not been away.  And without Donald, there would be a chance Henry could struggle on the hill too, but with a great deal of determination, Henry makes it up the hill on his own with the heavy train.
The Fat Controller congratulated Henry for a job well done and sends him back to the Works for to have his green paint with red stripes.


Wilbert The Forest Engine

Once again, The Railway Series draws inspiration from the real world, this time in the form of a real life locomotive, Wilbert, named after the author's father, and from a class of school children, who provided the author with the first story - Percy's Poriddge!  This book was also due to be the build up to the originally intended Book 39, which was overturned by the Publishers, but more on that next!
Written By R Healy
When Donald and Douglas need help, the Fat Controller turns to a friend of his in Gloucestershire who can help.  The friend took him to see Wilbert, a saddle tank engine who works on the Dean Forest Railway.  The Fat Controller intends to use Wilbert to conduct tests and then buy a similar engine to help out on his railway.
Percy is disappointed however when he finds out that Wilbert will be helping Duck instead of coming to Thomas's Branch Line.  But the week before he arrives, bad weather sets in and it rains terribly.  On one particular day, Percy is setting out from the station when several bags of oatmeal topple over and land on the track.  Percy runs into them and is covered in porridge.
As a result, Percy needs to be taken to the Works, and Wilbert is put to work on Thomas's branch line in his place after all!
Wilbert tells Toby and Thomas about the Dean Forest Railway.  Since his first job is due to be in the Lead Mine, Thomas warns Wilbert to be wary of the DANGER sign.  But Wilbert tells Thomas he knows what he's doing, and that he's had experience of an engine who ran past a Danger sign too!
Wilbert tells them the story of Sixteen, an engine who's job was to move trucks to the same place every day, a job the engine got sick and tired of.  That and his curiosity was bothering him, he wanted to know what lay beyond the Danger sign.  He seized his chance on a wet day when the rails were slippery and the trucks could pull him forward.
Sixteen blames the incident on the trucks, and he ends up on an unsafe embankment.  When the Driver is ordered to the office by a Foreman, and the Fireman is told to move Sixteen back, disaster strikes.  The rails beneath Sixteen sagged and he topples over, landing on his side and leaking steam everywhere!
After that, according to Wilbert, he was rescued and sent to the back of the shed in disgrace, but got better than he deserved and got a very lucky second chance by a preservation group in the Midlands who restored him again.
Wilbert is sent to take Percy's milk train from the Dairy, so far he has proved to work well with trucks after he takes the stone trucks to the Harbour.  After doing a delivery, Wilbert ends up chatting to James as he goes about his work at the Junction, and hence they forget to fill up with water when they're at the station, so instead, they decide to take on water at the Dairy.
However, the Fireman puts in the wrong hose and begins filling the tank with milk instead of water!  Thomas brings him back to the shed, and Wilbert's tank is cleared out and he's washed.  Thomas jokes - "Percy got the porridge, you got the milk!"
Percy returns from the Works, and Wilbert is told he will be going to work on Duck's Branch Line instead.  Duck and Oliver give him a kind welcome, and Duck allows him to head his next train to get a view of the route.
The following day, when Wilbert is taking some ballast trucks, the truck loses it's coupling-gear and it's unable to be moved.  Wilbert's Driver spots a coil of wire close to the line and Wilbert suggests the possibility of pulling a truck with the wire.  Wilbert does so with ease and then moves the truck to the end of the train, and moves it on to the Big Station.
At the end of the visit, the Fat Controller realises an engine like Wilbert is just what he needs for his railway, and wishes Wilbert a warm goodbye as he sets off for home again!


Thomas and The Fat Controller's Engines

The fiftieth anniversary book for the Railway Series was due to be "Barry the Rescue Engine", which would have been a proper follow-up to "Wilbert the Forest Engine", with the Fat Controller obtaining the new loco he hoped for.  Instead, the Publishers pushed for another "Thomas" book, which Christopher delivered to them.  There was great objection over the title from the author and his family - which implies that Thomas isn't one of the Fat Controller's Engines.  It was used as a marketing tool to sell more books, which is ironic because this was one of the most difficult Railway Series books to obtain during the period when it was out of print!
Written By R Healy
The engines are arguing in the shed over what a "Jubilee" is.  Henry argues it's an engine he met at Crewe, Gordon says it's a special train that leaves from London, and Percy confuses it with a Scout Jamboree!  But the Fat Controller tells them all that it's a celebration of 50 years of the Railway Series books.  He also tells the engines that Pip and Emma will be taking the Special train from London to bring the visitors.
On his journey later that day, Gordon runs into a flock of birds that are flying close to the line.  Gordon feels a bump and his brakes come on suddenly.  The crew suspect a leak in the pipe, but there is none, but the Fireman discovers the bird has knocked a seal out of Gordon's brake pipe!  The other engines declare that it's nothing to crow about!
Edward is made late at the junction by James and tries to hurry to make up for lost time.  As he heads out along the line, he feels something jolt beneath him as he approaches a station, the crew check him and find everything in order, but Edward still complains about his front feeling wobbly.
Then, it happens!  A round metal object bounces out from under them and lands in the field!  Edward's Driver stops the train and tells Edward that one of his bogie wheels have come off.  The Fat Controller is quite relieved that Edward didn't end up in the Cabbage patch himself, and Boco helps him to the works the following day.  The Fat Controller promises to have Edward mended in time for the Jubilee Celebrations, and reminds him to tell his Driver that the next time he wishes to cut cabbages, there are easier ways of doing so!
Due to Rabbits digging holes under the line, the Fat Controller has imposed a speed limit of 10MPH on the stretch of line before the Airfield, so that the ground can be strengthened and to prevent accidents.
The day before work is due to start, Thomas is taking his branch line train down the unsafe stretch of line, when he feels the rails quiver beneath him.  The left hand rail tilts and Thomas lands with a crunch in the ballast!
Percy helps Annie and Clarabel home, and then comes back for Thomas with some workmen.  Thomas is jacked up and some rails are then slipped beneath him, Percy then pulls Thomas back onto the firm rails again.  Afterward, he's coupled to Thomas and pulls him home to the shed again. 
Henry is being gloomy and negative about the Anniversary celebrations, believing there'll be nothing for the visitors to see when they arrive.  Donald, Daisy, Duck and James all disagree with him and try to put a positive spin on the situation, but Henry still feels unconvinced.
Edward's wheel and Thomas' Branch Line have both been repaired, and Edward is told that he will be running ahead of the "Special Train" to make sure the line is clear, but his very vague on the details.
On the day however, there are problems when an old spider's web causes trouble with the signals as it blows across two electrical contacts.  This means that the engines have to be flagged through instead.
Henry and Gordon are still being negative when Edward pulls in, but their mood soon changes when a Royal Personage steps out from Pip and Emma's train.  The Royal visitor declares that he's honoured to be visiting the Island and delcares to the Fat Controller that, "The Queen was right, your Railway and your engines are a credit to you!"


New Little Engine

What was believed to be for some time, the final book in the Railway Series, and the last to be published before the death of the Reverend Awdry.  The book follows the adventures of the Skarloey Engines, and introduces us to their new Number 7 - Ivo Hugh.  It also lets us know what happened to Peter Sam when he was spared to go and help out on the Talyllyn Railway in Wales.  There was plans for a 41st book in 1998, but new publishers Egmont and their new formatting of the classic books scuppered these plans completely.  However, the series was not dead, just sleeping... and there is now hope that one day Ivo Hugh's personality will be developed properly!
Written By R Healy
Rusty is given the slow job of putting weedkiller on the line, a job which he very much dislikes.  At holiday weekend, a huge turnout of passengers arrive and Rheneas is scheduled to take their train for them.
Rheneas has problems with the train when he has to pass some hedgecutters carefully, and henceforth cannot get a good run at a steep part of the line.  To make matters worse, Rheneas can't get a good grip of the rails either because of Rusty's weedkiller, which Rheneas denounces as being "Speedkiller".  Rheneas' crew lay sand on the line to keep Rheneas's wheels from slipping further and he carries on to the top station with bravery and determination.

Sir Handel is jealous of Peter Sam being sent to Wales, and when Peter Sam is allowed time to rest following his return, this makes Sir Handel even more furious.  When he thinks he sees Peter Sam grinning at him near the sheds, Sir Handel hits a rough rail-joint and deliberately knocks his firebars out of place and his fire falls out.
Peter Sam pushes Sir Handel into the shed again and takes his next train for him.  But while Sir Handel thinks he's been clever, as the days pass and no-one comes to mend him, he feels more and more foolish, and more and more alone as he sits and waits. 
But when the Thin Controller comes to see him and see how bad he feels, Sir Handel meekly explains the situation.  The Thin Controller grants Sir Handel the chance to be mended again, provided he behaves himself.  Sir Handel is given a new set of firebars later that day, but no-one told him that they were only delivered that morning!
Peter Sam tells Kathy and Lizzie, two daughters of volunteers from the Talyllyn Railway, all about his time there, and remarks about the cleanliness of the engines who work there, and remembers the time when he took ill and needed a lot of cleaning!
Peter Sam explains that they use something special in the water on the Talyllyn to make it nice, but on this particular day, Peter Sam found the water to taste awful.  Then, when Peter Sam's driver lets water into the boiler, he begins to suffer boiler ache, and finally as he leaves the station, a column of filthy white water sprays out of his funnel. 
Peter Sam was put onto the spare line for the visitors to see him, and later finds out that someone put too much special stuff in the water tower, hence the fact it was bad.  Then he explains that the fireman puts a special pill in the tank when he has a drink!
The new engine is finally ready, but, no-one knows what he's going to be called, and the Thin Controller is remaining tight-lipped about the name.  Even Mr Hugh, the Chief Engineer didn't know what the name was going to be, and that it will be painted on at the last minute.
Skarloey is chosen to pull the train on the ceremony day and to take the Thin Controller and the special guests to the Bottom Station.  As he is setting out on the return journey from Mr Hugh's house, he notices something dashing across the line in front of him.  The Fireman jumps down and discovers a Mother pig and her seven piglets lying in the long grass beside the line.  The Thin Controller, Mr Hugh and the guests join in the pig chase until they're all caught, and Skarloey can carry on.
Skarloey arrives in later than expected for the naming ceremony and Mr Hugh is asked to do the grand unveiling.  When he does, he gets a very welcome surprise when he discovers that the engine is being named in his honour as "Ivo Hugh".


Thomas and Victoria

After a hiatus of 11 years, the Railway Series books returned to a full print run with Christopher's books being sold once again alongside his father's.  However, what made it all the more special was the addition of a brand new book to the collection, with a brand new addition to Thomas's branch line, but with the same old favourites as before.
Written By R Healy
Poor Henrietta is fuller than ever when taking men up to the Quarry, and one morning when Bertie can't help her out, she's fuller still.  An emergency stop soon puts things in perspective for the Quarry Manager, and after a visit from the Police, he requests additional transportation from the Fat Controller.  But he's unable to assist... that is until Thomas meets a rundown old coach called Victoria at the station by the river.  While his driver is skeptical about Victoria's poor condition, Thomas tells the Fat Controller, who orders her immediate restoration. 
Victoria is sent to the works to be restored, and it's there she meets Edward, who is also undergoing repair.  The two used to work on the Furness Railway, and Victoria begins recounting a story about what happened during her working days with her engine called Albert, and the other coach, Helena.  One winter, Albert became rather cocky about how well he could manage working in snow.  His brashness soon came to an abrupt end when he ended up buried from funnel to footplate in thick white snow after making a noisy exit from a station.  Needless to say, Albert was never one to boast about snow again!
In the height of summer, Daisy begins noticing grass snakes at the side of the line.  Percy feels rather unnerved when he hears about them, but Daisy just mocks him for it.  However, she soon gets her comeuppance when a box of live eels breaks open in front of her, giving her such a start that she blows a fuse and can't take her next passenger train.  Toby and Percy think it a great joke that night in the shed, and Toby makes a quip about a place he used to work close to called Ely - Daisy isn't amused!
Victoria is finally ready and taken to the junction by Edward.  Thomas then takes her up the line to meet Toby and Henrietta, but on the way, an Inspector warns them about trouble that Terence the Tractor is having.  A boulder falls into Terence's path, causing him to swerve and upset his trailer and load of stones on an embankment close to the line.  Thanks to the quick actions and precautions taken, Thomas is able to pass through safely.  Victoria is soon at the Top Station to become part of "Toby's Vintage Train", and help Henrietta ferry the workmen to and from the Quarry.


Thomas and his Friends

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of his father’s birth, Christopher Awdry penned the 42nd volume in the Railway Series – tying up loose ends which he had ‘promised’ in Sodor: Reading Between The Lines in 2005.  Thomas & His Friends is a mixed volume featuring stories from across the railway, but with the undercurrent storyline of having Pip & Emma coming to the railway permanently to run an Express service to London – it concludes with The Rev Awdry’s bust unveiled at Tidmouth Station by a Prince.

Written By R Healy


The Fat Controller proudly announces that Pip and Emma will be joining the railway, and running a special Express service from the Big Station all the way to London.  There’s another surprise waiting for Thomas on the bridge crossing the river – a large white object is blocking his path, and his Driver and Fireman have to move it.  At first they assume it’s only a load of paper, but are given the shock of their lives when it begins flapping it’s wings and hissing at them – it’s actually been an injured swan all along!  Thomas’s crew take it to a nearby vet, and when fully recovered, Thomas takes the swan to the river to set it free again.



It’s winter, and Donald and Douglas are hauling trucks of ballast from the Little Western for James to deliver on the Main Line.  However, after one of these trips – when running around, Donald ends up sliding along icy rails and hitting the buffers at the end of a siding.  Although they know he’s not the one at fault, Donald is still teased by the other engines.  On the day the repair work is ending, Douglas delivers the last load of trucks to James – and moves down the siding where the workmen are finishing the new buffers.  Douglas is impressed at their workmanship, but as he prepares to stop, nothing happens.  With a smash of wood, he bursts through the new buffers and upsets a pot of red paint all over himself.  The furious Foreman scolds Douglas and swipes paint right across his nose – which the Fat Controller leaves on as a reminder for him to be more careful in sidings in future!



Gordon and Henry are discussing the services to London with Pip and Emma.  Gordon is dismayed at the lack of water towers on the Other Railway, but both are curious about the new modern electric engines that run there.  On his last journey of the day, Gordon is stopped after leaving the Electric branch line by a man beside the line – a hay bale is on fire down on the roadside.  Gordon urges the crew to let him help – and he does so by using his own water to douse the flames before the Fire Brigade arrive.  Everyone is proud of Gordon, and for his heroism, he’s given the Queen’s Fire Service Medal.  Gordon takes a special pride in knowing that although Electric Engines are fast and silent – steam engines like him still have their uses too!



The Fat Controller announces that the Railway is going to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Thin Clergyman by unveiling a bust of him in the Big Station.   However, his plans for the big event are put in jeopardy – when a landslide blocks Henry’s tunnel and severs Sodor’s links with the Mainland.  All trains now have to terminate at the Works Station, and nothing can come in or out of Sodor from the Mainland end.  Percy is confused though – he thinks the Thin Clergyman is broken, until Thomas explains what the Fat Controller meant about a ‘bust’, and what one actually is.  Eventually, the tunnel is cleared, and Pip and Emma proudly bring the very important visitors to unveil the bust at the Big Station.  The Prince, who unveils the bust addresses the engines, speaks highly of the Thin Clergyman’s stories, and their railway.   He reminds everyone that “There will never be anything like it anywhere.”