(& The Furness Area)

Wilbert Awdry was born in 1911, the son of the Rev Vere Awdry, and brought up in a small town near Romsey, Hampshire. He lived near the Great Western Railway's main line where he developed a deep love of trains. His father built a model railway layout for him in the vicarage garden, and they often went on walks around the parish together, where they met and talked with the local railwaymen.

In due course, Wilbert followed in his father's footsteps and became a vicar. In 1943 his son Christopher became ill with measles. The Rev Wilbert Awdry invented stories about a train called Edward to amuse him. In 1945 he published his first book, "The Three Railway Engines", about Edward, Gordon and Henry. His second book was "Thomas the Tank Engine", published in 1946.

Many of The Railway Series books were based on real events, such as the Furness Railway engine that fell down a deep hole at Lindal-in-Furness in 1892. The Railway Series No 8, "Gordon the Big Engine", includes a story called "Down the Mine". In the story, Thomas the Tank Engine is shunting trucks when a loud rumbling noise is heard. As the driver and fireman jump clear, a hole opens up in the ballast and the rails give way underneath Thomas. Thomas gets stuck in the hole, which is caused by an abandoned mine collapsing under the railway. Fortunately Gordon the Big Engine is nearby, and he hauls Thomas to safety. The connection between "Down the Mine" and the incident in Lindal was kindly confirmed by Christopher Awdry in June 2004.

After publication of the first books, the Rev Wilbert Awdry  was asked by readers to explain where the stories took place. Whilst on holiday on the Isle of Man, he discovered that the local bishop had the title "Bishop of Sodor and Man". Sodor actually relates to the Southern Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. The Rev Wilbert Awdry and his brother George liked the name, and invented the fictional Isle of Sodor, which they located between the Isle of Man and Walney Island. They made maps and invented a history of its people and railway engines. The 1958 map shows the island as originally planned, some five times the size of the Isle of Man. Later the Isle of Sodor was modified to incorporate Walney Island, shown in the revised map of 1972. Vickerstown on Walney is incorporated into Sodor and renamed Vicarstown.

The Rev Wilbert Awdry continued writing The Railway Series books until 1972 when he wrote book no 26, "Tramway Engines". His son Christopher  wrote a further 14 books between 1983 and 1996. For copyright reasons, no more books in the series could be published after 1996. The Rev Wilbert Awdry was awarded an OBE in 1996, and died peacefully in 1997 at the age of 85.

Map of 1958

Map of 1972


Reproduced with the kind permission of: Lindal & Marton Community Website

Also see: Awdry Family website.











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