101 Things Birmingham Gave The World. No. 46: Thomas the Tank Engine

Scariest little tank engine ever

Railway enthusiasts get a bad press. If it’s not the anoraks, glasses, and spots it’s the destruction of the Tory countryside in order to build train lines. Or it’s—in the words of Daniel Kitson—that they “aren’t paedophiles [they] just like the look”. The clergy  get a bit of that too. For all their good works, you might keep your nippers away from Catholic ones.

Luckily this particular tale of Brummie greatness features an Anglican cleric and ‘railway enthusiast’ who did something brilliant for kids: Wilbert Vere Awdry, better known as the Reverend W. Awdry who invented Thomas the Tank Engine.

In 1940 he became curate of  St. Nicholas’ Church, Kings Norton, Birmingham  and it was there in 1943 that he invented the characters that would make him famous—to amuse his son Christopher during a bout of measles.

The rest is Beatle-flecked history, which in some way exists in a combined Birmingham:based fictional universe. Sodor, Mordor—you can just see the orcs and stuff starting their epic journeys here can’t you:



King’s Norton station CC By: Benkid77

Author: Jon Bounds

Jon was voted the ‘14th Most Influential Person in the West Midlands’ in 2008. Subsequently he has not been placed. He’s been a football referee, venetian blind maker, cellar man, and a losing Labour council candidate: “No, no chance. A complete no-hoper” said a spoilt ballot. Jon wrote and directed the first ever piece of drama performed on Twitter when he persuaded a cast including MPs and journalists to give over their timelines to perform Twitpanto. But all that is behind him.