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The Railway Series which began in the 1940s was a series of books written by the Rev W Awdry. The books formed the basis for the Thomas the Tank Engine TV series. The Rev Awdry wrote 26 books, pretty much one a year. Later, additions were written by the Reverend's son, Christopher.

The books contain examples of :

  • Achilles in His Tent: The Sad Story of Henry. Gordon James and Henry try to invoke it in Troublesome Engines but it backfires on them.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Thomas becomes a bit stuck-up after he gets his branchline.
  • A Day in the Limelight: All of the main engines got a book to themselves at some point.
  • All There in the Manual: The books The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways, Sodor: Reading Between the Lines and The Thomas the Tank Engine Man explain between them pretty much everything about the series.
  • Art Evolution: Mostly due to differing illustrators.
  • Author Avatar: The Thin Clergyman in the original book series was Awdry, with another railway buff friend, The Rev Teddy Boston, as the Fat Clergyman.
  • Barset Shire: The whole fictional setting of the Island of Sodor (which is supposed to be just west of the Cumbrian and Lancastrian coast and to the east of the Isle of Man).
  • Breakout Character: Thomas was a popular character after Book 2, but was only the focus of a few books before the TV series.
  • Cast Herd: the standard gauge and branch lines, Skarloey engines, the Culdee Fell engines, the Small railway engines etc.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: A few background characters in the earlier books.
  • Cool Train
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Oliver in "Toad Stands By."
  • Darker and Edgier: Book 13 Duck and the Diesel Engine began to introduce the concept of Diesels and their takeover of steam, symbolizing that all was not well on Sodor. Further books such as The Twin Engines and Stepney the Bluebell Engine continued this story by introducing scrapping. Enterprising Engines considered the darkest of all the stories, brought to light the end of Steam elsewhere but on Sodor. Following books however, got back to the happy adventures.
  • Defector From Decadence: The nice diesels are often this, but the most notable example is Bear (née D7101) in Enterprising Engines.
  • Determinator: A popular plot thread. Skarloey in Old Faithful, Rheneas in Gallant Old Engine, Edward in Edward's Exploit, Bertie in Bertie's Chase, Percy in Percy's Promise...
    • Used by the steam engines in arguments with diesels: they may not be efficient or modern, but they get the job done.
  • Development Hell: Barry the Rescue Engine, first pitched by Christopher Awdry in the '90s, has yet to see the light of day.
  • Dress Code: The Skarloey engines are red. The Culdee Fell engines are purple. The standard gauge engines used to have blue as their dress code, but this was dropped shortly into the series.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: In later editions of The Three Railway Engines, the engine who tries to push Henry out of the tunnel bares a striking likeness to James.
  • Emergency Transformation: Henry in The Flying Kipper.
  • Enemy Mine: The trucks cooperate with Percy when it means shutting up Bulstrode the barge.
  • Executive Meddling: The success of Thomas and Friends led requests from the publishers for more "Thomas" volumes. Christopher occasionally worked around this by including Thomas in the title but only featuring him in one of the four stories.
    • In a more positive example, writing "Edward, Gordon, and Henry" (the story that establishes said engines as all being on the same railway and gets Henry out of the tunnel) was the condition the publishers set before the Reverend for getting the original book, "The Three Railway Engines" published.
  • Fantastic Racism: The steam and diesel engines began resembling this, but it died down after some friendly diesels joined the railway. Taken to its extreme in James and the Diesel Engines, in which James is the only engine to still hold a grudge.
  • Fantasy World Map: The Reverend and his brother spent a good ten years mapping out the Island of Sodor.
  • Five-Man Band: The engines on Thomas' branch line.
  • Franchise Zombie: The Reverend wanted to end the series with Book 12 The Eight Famous Engines but the publishers wanted the series to continue. He stopped officially after Book 26 for fear of this.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Gordon, also Duncan after his Character Development. Christopher Awdry wrote one stand-alone story where he brings Diesel back as one of these.
  • Lazy Artist: C. Reginald Dalby. He could have easily gone down to the station near his house to see real engines to base his illustrations on, he could have looked at photographs, but he didn't. He couldn't be bothered to be keep engines' proportions consistent (Resulting in Percy eventually looking like, as Awdry put it, "A green caterpillar with red stripes") or even keep track of how many wheels he drew Henry with. This was the reason for Henry's rebuild - Awdry had to have him rebuilt as a specific real class of locomotive so that he could send Dalby reference photos.
  • Legacy Character: The Fat Controller
  • Long Runner: Book 1 was published in 1945, Book 42 was published in 2011.
  • Malicious Slander: Diesel uses this to try and get rid of Duck. Gordon, Henry, and James are fooled, but not the Fat Controller, and Diesel ends up exposed and sent packing when he tries to slander Henry.
  • Never My Fault: The Engines being blamed for Human error.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Skarloey Railway locomotives sometimes visit the Talyllyn Railway, a move designed to write in the fact that Talyllyn locomotives are sometimes decorated to look like their Skarloey counterparts
  • Recurring Extra: The Works Diesel, a BR Class 47 who has appeared, unnamed, since Book 28, but is described by the other engines as friendly.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The stories were mostly based on real life railway events.
  • Sequel Hook: The Fat Controller says in Wilbert the Forest Engine that if Wilbert performs well, he knows where to find another engine like him.
  • Shout-Out: The Non-Standard-Gauge railways on Sodor are based on real life ones. The Skarloey railway is based on the Tallylln railway, the small railway is based on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway and the Culdee Fell is based on the Snowdon mountain railway.
  • Shown Their Work: Both the Reverend and his son are devoted Trainspotters, and it shows.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Thomas.
  • Steam Never Dies: Not on Sodor, at any rate. Due to the degree of operating independance given to the North Western Railway under British Rail the mass-dieselization order did not apply, and since the railway is still turning a decent profit after Privatisation the Fat Controller sees no reason to change things - especially given the years of hard work the engines have all put in.
  • Take That: In one story, Thomas refers to Percy as a "green caterpillar with red stripes". This was the exact wording that the Reverend used when he reacted poorly to earlier illustrations of Percy.
  • Twin Switch: Bill and Ben in The Diseasel, Donald and Douglas in The Missing Coach.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Donald and Douglas provide an E-rated version of this one.