The Rev. W. Awdry
The 'Puff Puff Parson'
Faced with the difficult task of entertaining a sick three-year-old, The Reverend Wilbert Awdry opted to create his own stories for his son, Christopher. Little did he realise while sitting recanting the three stories to his son, that he would spark a phenomenon that would span generations.
Initially, Awdry never intended to create a series of books, but following the success of the first two – The Three Railway Engines (1945) and Thomas The Tank Engine (1946) – he was requested to write further additions by publishers Kaye and Ward over a 28 year period, creating a series of 26 books by 1972.
In addition to his children’s books, the Rev Awdry also wrote a few books on Railway History and was known to contribute articles. Raised on steam locomotives and railways, Wilbert recanted his earliest recollections to lying in bed at night listening to engines in the nearby station at Box in Wiltshire, attributing their powerful rhythms to a form of conversation, which he would use in his own writings in later life.
Wilbert suffered from prolonged illness in his later years, and died in March 1997. However, prior to his passing, he was awarded an OBE by the Queen for his services to children’s literature, and entered the Top 20 in The Railway Magazine’s Great Railway Personalities of the Millennium in 2000 (earning 13th place within the Top 50).