AWDRY, Rev. W.

(1911 - 1997)
 “There was no doubt in my mind that steam engines all had definite personalities”

Wilbert Vere Awdry, better known as the Reverend W. Awdry, was brought up for most of his early life next to a railway line, and the sights and sounds of the steam engines as they rushed along undoubtedly ignited his enthusiasm for trains.  In 1943 his young son fell ill, and to keep him amused, Awdry created a story about three little railway engines.  “‘It all began … when Christopher caught measles...’.  Like so many of the best books written for children the first book in the Railway Series …  began, not with any idea of publication, but as a story to please one particular child.”   (Brian Sibley – The Railway Man)

Christopher enjoyed the story so much that Awdry decided to look for a publisher.  It was a few years and a number of rejections later that it came to the notice of Edmund Ward, a small printer from Leicester who agreed to publish The Three Railway Engines ‘in good class style at a later date’.   The lithographic artist William Middleton was commissioned to provide the colour illustrations from Awdry’s sketches.  “Unfortunately Middleton - who was inexperienced as an illustrator - had little sense of scale and not much idea of how to draw people.  As for the engines, each had a flat disc (looking suspiciously as if it had been traced round a coin), stuck on the front of the smoke-box, on which faces had then been clumsily drawn.”  Middleton was commissioned for no more of the books, and in 1949 the images for the book were redrawn by Reginald Dalby.  Needless to say the book was a success, and Awdry went on to to create one of the best loved children’s series, and by the time he finished writing them in 1972 there were 26 titles in the canon.

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 Rev. W. AWDRY

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