This week’s model of the week needs little introduction. It is no other than Thomas the Tank Engine from the Isle of Sodor. Thomas was my first ever model train and remains an important member of the locoyard fleet. He is also the star of Locoyard’s Movember competition that will be running later this year.
Thomas the Tank Engine’s history is an interesting one. He was created in 1946 by Reverend Wilbert Awdry and first appeared in the second book from the original “The Railway Series”, books written for his son Christopher; who would later go on to continue writing the stories featuring this blue tank engine.
Thomas is described as having “six small wheels, a short stumpy boiler, and a short stumpy dome” in the book. But he isn’t designated as a particular type in the book. However, when the book was published, Awdry used illustrator Reginald Payne and gave him a picture of an LBSCR E2 class as a reference point. Thomas the Tank engine therefore is widely recognised as an E2 class tank locomotive. This small class consisted of ten locomotive’s and only the final batch of five had the extended water tank’s of Thomas. This would give Thomas a build date of 1915-16.
The E2 class were built for shunting and despite an attempt to use them on passenger services, shunting was the only role suitable for them due to their short range (they had a very small bunker). They survived until the early 1960’s, ending their lives working in Southampton docks. Thomas of course, was given his own branch line for proving to be a “really useful engine”, so it seems that one E2 class member was found suitable for passenger trains after all!
Although he didn’t even appear in the first book; Thomas the Tank Engine proved to be the most popular locomotive on Awdry’s “North Western Railway” and “The Railway Series” books became the “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends” TV series in 1984 – an adaption of the books by Britt Allcroft.
Thomas the Tank Engine still remains an ambassador of British steam locomotives for the younger generations. Thanks for reading folks 🙂