Toby, Trucks and Trouble
Reviewed by The Vicar
My Railway Series journey began in Christmas in 2006, when I received books 1-26 written by the Reverend W. Awdry. Here, I finally got a taste of Thomas in his original form. As I grew older, the second half of the series written by Christopher Awdry grew rarer, and became increasingly out of reach for me, until I was finally able to grab a hold of some of his books beginning in 2012. As time went on, I was reading them as fast as I was collecting them. I ended my collection with the title in question, and thus, became the final Railway Series book I read.
The stories themselves are among what I believe to be Christopher’s best in the series. Personally, I think Christopher’s best books span from books 31-37. These books were after Chris had written a few to get his feet wet as a writer, and he was lacking some creative control in the later books. A personal bias of mine is a love for the stories on the Ffarquhar branch line, and, while both this book and Thomas Comes Home from my given range focus on the this part of the island, Thomas Comes Home is best appreciated as a pair with Thomas and the Great Railway Show. For that reason, I can confidently say that Toby, Trucks, and Trouble is my favourite stand-alone volume written by Christopher Awdry.
There is also a myriad of story types in the volume: simplistic, reminiscent, and ironic. The volume begins with “Mavis and the Lorry”. This story has a tone familiar to the early works of both the Reverend’s stories and Christopher’s stories: a simple cause and effect relationship spotlighting a character who has not seen much time in the Railway Series. “Toby’s Seaside Holiday” is a bittersweet story from Toby’s glory days. It makes us smile as Toby romantically works at the harbour in the days of yesteryear, while also tugs at the heart’s strings as Toby hasn’t seen his brother in years; this is something that the Scottish Twins, the China Clay Twins, and Gordon have been able to do in one form or another. The TV series cleverly adds elements of this story to “Bulstrode”, making for the final TV series episode to be adapted from the Railway Series for over 20 years. This third story maintains the theme of karma used often but not overwhelming throughout the course of the entire Railway Series. “Toby Takes the Road” is where the book concludes. We get to see some friendly banter between Toby and Terence about the latter’s versatility. Ironically, Toby becomes versatile himself when he ends up on the road due to the change in weather conditions! A playful and unique story to end the volume is important in any book.
Without a doubt, Toby, Trucks, and Trouble stands out on my shelf as a favourite. Collecting such an integral part of the Thomas the Tank Engine universe was initially difficult with the lack of books published, and sometimes it is still surreal to see all 42 books lined up on my shelf. Above all else, this book was the final chapter for me on my goal of collecting and reading every single Railway Series book, and therefore symbolizes that journey. Oh yeah – it is topped off with some excellent content, too!