GB Thomas the Tank Engine: A new head of steam

The popular children’s book and television character Thomas the Tank Engine features on a set of stamps issued to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of his creator, the Reverend W Awdry.

The issue, on 14 June, includes six long-format stamps showing images from the television series Thomas & Friends, and a miniature sheet of four reproducing original illustrations from the books.

Wilbert Awdry (1911-97) had a passion for railways which had been instilled in him by his father. When his own son, Christopher, fell ill with measles, he brightened up his quarantine period by telling him stories about a group of little steam engines.
The stories were first published in 1945 as The Three Railway Engines, and Thomas and his friends from the North Western Railway on the Island of Sodor went on to become a publishing phenomenon. Awdry had written 26 volumes of The Railway Series by the time he retired in 1972.

In 1983, Christopher took over the family business by writing the stories, and a year later they were adapted for television for the first time.

The stamps were designed by the Elmwood agency and printed in litho by Cartor. The book illustrations used for the miniature sheet were by C Reginald Dalby and John T Kenney.


COMMEMORATIVE WORTH    Thomas is a great British institution, but is there just a whiff of cashing-in here?

All the stamps are based on old artwork, although there are good reasons why

Children and nostalgics might love this set. Will anyone else get excited?

1st class Thomas
Thomas the Tank Engine is a 0-6-0 tank locomotive, based on the LB&SCR E2 Class. He is painted blue with red lining and is No1 in the North Western Railway fleet. Built in 1913, Thomas has his own branch line, which he operates with his two coaches, Annie and Clarabel.

66p James
James the Red Engine is a mixed-traffic 2-6-0 tender engine. He is painted red with gold stripes and dome and is No5 in the fleet. Built in 1915, he is vain and hot-headed, and loves showing off.

68p Percy
Percy the Small Engine is a saddle-tank engine of indeterminate origin. Painted green with red stripes, he is No6 in the fleet. Cheeky, with a sense of adventure, he doesn’t let anyone push him around, which sometimes gets him into trouble.

76p Daisy
Daisy the Diesel Engine is a diesel railcar, painted green with yellow lining (similar to the livery of British Railways diesels in the 1960s), built in 1956 specially for use on the Ffarquhar branch of the NWR. Her number is D1.

£1.00 Toby
Toby the Tram Engine is a 0-6-0 steam tram engine who works on the same branch line as Thomas. Built in 1903 and painted brown and blue, he is No7 in the fleet. A wise, experienced engine, he knows all there is to know about running a branch line.

£1.10 Gordon
Gordon the Big Engine is a Pacific 4-6-2 tender engine, No4 in the fleet and painted blue with red stripes. Built in 1922, he is the biggest engine on the railway, and pulls the express. He is boastful and proud, but good at heart.

Miniature sheet
1st class Thomas & Bertie
From the story ‘Thomas & Bertie’, in Tank Engine Thomas Again, Thomas challenges Bertie the Bus to a race, and is shown speeding past him at a level crossing.

68p James
From the story ‘Dirty Objects’, in Toby the Tram Engine, James ends up covered in tar when he crashes into the yard after failing to pin down his brakes at the top of a hill.

76p Percy
From the story ‘Percy Takes The Plunge’, in The Eight Famous Engines, Percy gets a ticking off when he ends up in the sea after ignoring a sign.

£1.00 Henry
From ‘The Sad Story of Henry’, in The Three Railway Engines, Henry gets walled up in a tunnel as a punishment for not wanting to get his new paint wet.

In the presentation pack, Christopher Awdry reminisces about his father and how Thomas became a worldwide success. A retail stamp book will include two of the miniature sheet 1st class stamps in self-adhesive format, and along with the usual stamp cards and first day cover there is also a medal cover.


Set of 6 stamps    £3.67
Miniature sheet    £2.90
Presentation pack    £8.10
Stamp cards    £4.95
First day envelope    £0.30
First day cover (stamps)    £6.07
First day cover (mini sheet)    £3.96
First day cover (medal)    £14.95
Retail stamp book    £2.76
TOTAL    £47.66