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Thomas the Tank Engine: Dystopian Nightmare

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By The A-Train from Sodor University, April 1, 2022

Books have a meaning behind their story. Imagining a world different from our own, literature often creates a world that is better than our own, or perhaps one that is worse. While these may be primarily fantasies, often deeper meaning hides behind them. Whether promoting a message, commenting on society, advocating for a solution, or cautioning of a danger, the message behind a story is what gives it depth and meaning beyond simple entertainment value. These messages are presented in many different ways. Sometimes, explicit messages are directly stated in the story for readers to find. Sometimes, the message is presented indirectly, requiring more thought and examination by the reader. Sometimes, the message is so hidden that the reader may not even know that it is being presented. This gets even more complicated in books designed for a younger audience. Children love stories even more than adults, and easily pick up on some messages, but what lurks out of their direct grasp can be the more interesting to study. Thomas the Tank Engine is one such book beloved by children everywhere. Initially, the complete collection of stories about Thomas, The Railway Series, seem like happy tales about personified engines in an almost utopic countryside. However, under closer examination, themes of class, punishment for wrongdoing, and even socialism emerge. While not completely negative, the world of Thomas the Tank Engine is a dystopia that emphasizes conformity above all else.

While often meant just for fun, most children’s books have a deeper meaning; those that do not rarely stand the test of time.  The presentation of these messages varies in ease of recognition and comprehensiveness with the story. Some books have explicitly stated morals associated with them, such as Aesop’s fables. Others don’t explicitly state the moral, but have a direct message that is easy to see. Some stories obscure the meaning. This is done to make the meaning less obvious to children, and perhaps to make them think and work to recognize the meaning. Often it is done to appeal to the adults reading with their children, while not obstructing the story. Many classic children’s books contain these hidden themes. Dr. Seuss, getting his start as a political satirical illustrator, often includes messages in his classic children’s stories. Tales such as Yurtle the Turtle and The Butter Battle Book have noticeable political commentary that children may not notice without the assistance of their parents, but can relate to even at their level. Once you look for it, you can spot meaning in books that you wouldn’t expect. One can go too far in this direction by misinterpreting or contriving meaning that wasn’t even purposely meant.  For example,  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie could be interpreted as anti-welfare; all of the assistance that the mouse receives is not fruitful. This may or not be the intended message, or even a useful point of inquiry. However, in the end, if a message clearly comes out of the tale, it has entered one’s thought, whether the author intended it or not, and can influence ideas and behavior, especially in children.

Thomas the Tank Engine is one of the most beloved children’s characters of the twentieth century. Originally conceived in 1943 and published in 1945, The Railway Series leapt into the hearts and minds of children everywhere. Behind these tales was the Rev. Wilbert Awdry. Born in  1911, he was raised during World War 1, and a tumultuous time of great shifts in English life. Rev. Awdry found himself in the middle of this. A convinced pacifist,[1] he lost his parish position in 1939[2] due to his refusal to participate in the war effort.[3] While at his new parish, he began raising his son and sharing his lifelong love of trains with him. Spending countless hours watching and reading about trains,  Awdry had adored steam locomotives since childhood. Thus it was natural to begin telling his tales based on trains to his son, and The Railway Series was born.  Awdry gave his personified trains “approachable, human scale and purged [them] of their threatening and alien potential by anthropomorphism.”[4], in a similar vein to many of the other train stories of the time: “The series showed promise, and grew to include 26 books of stories about well known characters such as Thomas the Tank Engine. Published continually until 1972, the books reflected the state of the world in those years. The aftermath of World War II, the beginnings of a post industrialist society, and new political developments and systems had changed the landscape of British life both figuratively and literally. Shifts away from the countryside to urban life, the advance of technology and its effects, new social trends, and new political landscape in Europe, namely, the rise of socialism, were all challenging the way people viewed their life and livelihood. These events influenced Awdry’s writing, and if you look, you can find commentary on these themes buried in his classic tales.

The world of Thomas the Tank Engine initially seems like a peaceful, idyllic countryside fitting of a book for children. The fictional location of the Island of Sodor, in between the real Isle of Man and mainland England, lends itself well as a familiar backdrop for stories about the amusing escapades of colorful personified engines. Friendly, expressive faces on anthropomorphic machines bursting with personality are the main protagonists. There are smooth beaches, rivers, streams, fields, rolling hills, arched bridges, and lots of greenery. Small towns dot the landscape, with quaint houses, churches, and shops. The weather is usually a bright blue sky with puffy white clouds, and even inclement weather is rarely a problem: pretty white snow, short rain showers, and wind are the worst you’ll experience on Sodor. Many conflicts on Sodor are small, and true antagonists are few and far between. Often ranging from hurt feelings to simple misunderstandings, most conflicts are fully resolved by the end of each story. Sodor is place where cheerful machines with faces go about their daily lives with contentment.

Take for example Edward’s Day Out. The first story of the first book of the series, it is a good example of the familiar tone of the series. The main issue is that Edward doesn’t get to go out and pull trains because he is old and small. However, the driver does bring Edward out, and “he did have a happy day,… all the children ran to wave as he went past and he met old friends at all of the stations.”[5] Because of his hard work, he gets to go out again the next day. The biggest moment of suspense is when the guard is late while getting a sandwich, time that is quickly made up and doesn’t harm anyone in the slightest.  This initial episode sets much of the tone for the series, with the classic pattern of a conflict emerging and then being resolved by the end of the story.

This world of Thomas the Tank Engine seems to be almost a utopia. This reading is further supported by the fact that the series does promote virtue in many of its stories. A common theme of the stories is a clear moral lesson designed to appeal to children. Characteristics such as humility and not making fun of others at their expense are common themes of the stories. In the story Dirty Objects, from Toby the Tram Engine, the seventh book, James learns his lesson about vanity and rudeness. He is rude to Toby about his plain, brown, shabby appearance, while calling himself “a splendid engine,… ready for anything. You never see my paint dirty.”[6] However, he soon has to eat his words when he ends up covered in tar, and needs to be rescued by Toby. This pattern of an engine making some error, and then learning from his mistake repeats throughout the series.

Perhaps the biggest value promoted throughout the series is the value of hard work. The simple manual labor of pulling their various cargoes takes up most of the trains’ day, and the engines are motivated to do good work, and try their hardest to contribute to the functioningof society on Sodor. Bustling trains hurry to meet schedules and complete daily tasks and deadlines; punctuality is applauded. The engines follow Sir Topham Hatt, the Fat Controller, director of the railroad, and are eager to please him through their work. Hatt’s highest praise is declaring a character to be “Very Useful Engine, a phrase constantly repeated throughout the book. Many engines even boast about their speed, punctuality, and capacity. While they are usually soon humbled, this shows that the engines themselves care about their contribution to the work of society. Many of the conflicts on Sodor stem from engines not being as industrious as they should, either shirking work, or distracting themselves with other unproductive activities. When an engine causes trouble, Sir Topham Hatt then relays to an engine that “you have caused confusion and delay.” The Island of Sodor seems to embody many virtues of a greater society. Taken as a whole, the world of Thomas the Tank Engine is a world like our own, but with fantasy layered on top. A recently passed time, and a close by place kindle the nostalgia of adult readers, and the fantasy of colorful, personified trains captures the imagination of children. An idyllic setting, simple virtues, and the value of fruitful labor: these appear to readers young and old. Indeed, the world of Thomas the Tank Engine seems to be a utopia.

However, there are aspects of Sodor that don’t fit with traditional utopias. While many stories do avoid major conflict, there are many accidents that happen to the trains on Sodor. Depicting everything from derailments to crashes to falling down mines, many stories turn to these harmful events happening to the main characters. While the Engines are almost always repaired by the end of the story, there is a consistent pattern of physical harm to the characters as a main plot device. These accidents often stem from negligent behavior. Time after time, an engine misbehaves in some way, and pays the price for his action. In “Down the Mine,” the second story from the eighth book, Thomas teases Gordon for having an accident and falling in a ditch, an episode from an earlier story. However, Thomas soon has his own troubles when he neglects a danger sign warning of unstable ground. Thomas purposely disobeys the sign, and ends up falling down a mine shaft. Gordon comes to rescue him. Thomas pays the price for disobeying the sign, and receives reciprocally exactly what he teased Gordon about. There seems to be almost some sort of overarching karma on Sodor, by which the characters receive what they give, and answer to the direct consequences of their actions. This isn’t necessarily problematic, and clearly demonstrates the moral of the story in an example children can understand. However, this takes away somewhat from the virtue positive, utopic nature of the society, and subtly shifts it towards being a place where vice is punished: a slightly more dystopic view.

Indeed, sometimes characters are directly punished for their actions. In “The Sad Story of Henry,” the third story of the first book, Henry finds this out firsthand. Henry hides in a tunnel to avoid spoiling his paint, instead of pulling the train as he was supposed to. The passengers and Sir Topham Hatt try to convince Henry to come out, then to push him out, but to no avail. When he can’t get Henry out, the Fat Controller simply orders him to be bricked up in the tunnel permanently. Eventually, Henry’s fire goes out, rendering him not only trapped in the cold tunnel, but unable to speak, and “soot and dirt from the tunnel roof had spoilt his lovely green paint.”[7] The story ends with Henry trapped. This seems to be in the same vein as The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe, in that the main character gets entombed as punishment, deserved or not. In the case of Henry, he is freed in the next story, but the theme is definitely similar, and while appropriate for an adult horror tale, it is questionable for inclusion in a book for children. This almost seems like the kind of episode that would be found in a dystopia, not a utopia.

When you look at it closely, more dystopian themes emerge. The fact that accidents are a primary theme doesn’t necessarily conflict with a utopian interpretation, but they are often portrayed in a way to make them seem deserved. Some things that would be otherwise considered accidents take on a more sinister note when they are in proximity with wrongdoing. Sometimes the retribution fits the crime, but sometimes, characters are seemingly punished excessively for simple mistakes.  In addition, not all incidents stem from misbehavior, with some truly seeming to be random accidents.  This lends ambiguity to the theme of punishment for wrongdoing, with justice not being consistently applied. Some events in the story are truly violent, though this is almost entirely mitigated by the fact the victims are machines, not human. The fact that the main characters are not human, or even animals, enables most of these scenarios to pass first glance as acceptable. The threat of a machine being scrapped or stripped for parts works in a children’s book, even when the machine is personified, whereas the threat of disembowelment of a human would be clearly inappropriate. In this way, the personification of machines is used as a device to enable the portrayal of consequences of a greater variety and severity without causing distress among readers.

Using personified machines also allows the characters to be treated differently. There are clear differences between the ways in which the different classes of machines are treated. Engines are portrayed as superior to trucks and buses, and also as a higher class then passenger coaches, and freight cars. The differences manifest themselves as differences in intelligence, independence, and scruples, and even cleanliness. Even within the classes, there are differences: passenger coaches are often timid and lack agency, but at least they don’t succumb to mob mentality, easily incited to group mischief like many of the freight trucks, which are even referred to as “troublesome trucks.” Even diesel engines are divided from steam engines, and portrayed as lazy, sneaky, and sometimes even sinister. This is further complicated by the gender of the characters. Almost all of the characters are male, with only the passenger coaches and a few of the diesel engines being female. This could be acceptable in a story targeted towards boys, but the coaches are depicted as timid and naive, both figuratively and literally led by the engines, while the female diesels add laziness to their naivete. This consistent characterization of females relative to the varied males would be frowned upon if the characters were human, at least in today’s society.[8]

A clear hierarchy among machines emerges, with steam engines at the top. This class system based on identity, not accomplishment, is something that is not often seen in utopia. If this same system was applied to humans, it would be considered discriminatory, and most likely inappropriate today. At the very top of the hierarchy, or even above it altogether, are the human characters. In a departure from the machines, the humans are depicted in a very monochrome light; there is almost a complete lack of diversity among the human characters in the books. Though admittedly, the humans aren’t featured as prominently as machine characters, they all seem to be stereotypical white Englishmen from the time period. This contrasts heavily with the engines, who are all different colors, with no two being exactly alike in size or shape. This could be partially to emphasize the engines over the humans as the main characters of the story, but besides Sir Topham Hatt, very few human characters have much personality. Oddly enough, however, it is the humans that run and control the island. Having control over the engines’ duties, their ownership, and even the routes they take on the tracks gives them an immense amount of power over the engines and other vehicles. In fact, humans have so much control over the engines that the question of agency comes up. It seems that the driver of each engine is really in control, with engines not being able to move or even stop of their own accord. Even where the engine goes is determined by the switch man. In Old Iron, the last story of Edward the Blue Engine, James starts off when some children meddle with his controls. However, “presently, he missed his Driver’s hand on the regulator… and then he realized there was no one in his cab… ‘What shall I do?’ he wailed, ‘I can’t stop!’”[9] Eventually James was saved, but not before he realized that he was not fully in control of all his actions. This calls into question any moral agency the trains seem to have, but primarily sends the message that the higher up humans control the trains that work for them.

The head and owner of the railroad is Sir Topham Hatt, styled “the Fat Controller.” Indeed, he controls many aspects of the island’s life, despite him owning only the railroads. In fact, his authority is much more often referred to than any governmental power. That a private business man exerts so much influence is a subtle reflection of the fear of socialism at the time in Britain. To further this, Sir Topham Hatt’s railroad, called North West Railroad, is favorably compared to the nationalized railroad (the “Other Railway”) on mainland Britain. Rumors and fears about this railway abound among the engines, who think that “[the Other Railway’s] controllers are cruel. They don’t like engines anymore,”[10] as Percy quips. Awdry denies this theory in the introduction of the book, but examples of the engines’ mistrust for the Other Railway reflect similar concerns of society at the time. Other anti-socialist imagery exists, most notable of which is Bulgy the bus. Red with yellow stripes, he can be seen as a type for the Bolsheviks. In Bulgy, the last story in Oliver the Western Engine, he shouts “Enjoyment’s all you engines live for, taking petrol from the tanks of us workers. Come the Revolution,… railways will be ripped up…Free the roads from Railway Tyranny!”[11] These statements clearly echo the Bolshevik sentiments from the time.[12] Bulgy is another character to be severely punished, being turned into a hen house. On Sodor, an engine almost seems to be a stand in for an employee of Hatt. There are even depictions of labor disputes in book #5, Troublesome Engines, argues Martin Clutterback, an astute observer of these themes. “The engines decide they have legitimate grievances and decide to strike. In response, the Fat Controller organizes a strike-breaking force of Edward, Thomas and the specially acquired Percy.”[13] The Fat Controller triumphs in this case. The elevation of hard work takes on a utilitarian meaning in this light: the engines serve the humans for their livelihood. The praise of being “A Very Useful Engine” is emphasized strongly, as previously mentioned. The words are always capitalized, as if to bring special attention to them. When combined with the messages promoting staying in line, or on track as it were, it almost seems to be promoting qualities that make a good employee. It seems to glorify keeping your head down to your work at your assigned task. It romanticizes conformism.

Many aspects in the Railway Series have significance, both to the real world, and to the story. One of the main aspects is the artwork that illustrates the tales. The illustrations take the form of small panels depicting the events and setting of the story, and they reflect the mood of the story. The original artist, C. Reginald Dalby, set the style for the artwork in the series, and influenced the resulting tone. His bold, bright colors, sharp lines, and lively lighting gave the books their beautiful countryside feel that stands out in the early books. However, Awdry did not like the illustrations, and thought they were not realistic or accurate enough.14 Eventually, Dalby was replaced with John T. Kenney, whose art Awdry much preferred.14 Kenney’s art was much more realistic, and had more accurate scale and detail. Without reducing the storybook-like scenery, Kenney brought the realism that Awdry desired in his series. Kenney drew the trains to scale, and the humans as real people doing everyday tasks. When he retired due to age, Kenney was replaced by Peter Edwards. Edwards brought a shift to the artistic style, leaning more towards an impressionist style and more dramatic landscapes and lighting. With these shifts came a darkening of the imagery. Where previously the pictures had been almost exclusively bright and cheerful, these new illustrations brought depth and breadth to the style.

The subject matter also began to lean towards a darker tone, or at least became less exclusively cheerful. Less friendly images began appearing, including one particularly dark image in Bluebells of England from the 18th book.[14] It depicts trains in a scrapyard, clearly about to be cut apart by a worker holding a torch, complete with one engine in the background already hollowed out, without a face. (Figure 1)

Figure 1: Engines in a scrapyard from “Bluebells of England”

These were the first stories that showed some engines that didn’t have the typical faces. All of these shifts reflected a more realistic, and then more serious tone.  For example, in Devil’s Back, from the 19th book, the mood is less cheerful than the average story from the early years. The story starts with the uppity “No. 6” in disgrace, who takes a solemn air and works for repentance. He crosses the Devil’s Back mountain in a storm, and does redeem himself, but not before some dark, impressionist scenes are depicted in the artwork.[15] (figure 2)

Figure 2: No. 6 crosses “Devil’s Back” in this impressionist image

 While for the most part, the series is consistent, throughout the series there is a definite increase in the realism and connection with reality. This is partly because of the influence of the artists, but it is primarily because of Awdry’s increasing desire and ability to connect his stories to reality, and his increased depth as a writer. The Skarloey Railway, adjacent to Thomas’ railway, is modeled after the real Talylynn railway in Wales,16 and some later stories, such as Super Rescue were even taken from real events17. For the most part, the series is consistent, but throughout the series there is a definite increase in the realism and connection with reality, furthering the commentary that these connections enabled.

The Railway Series has much more meaning than initially meets the eye. Themes of class, utilitarianism, a noticeable aversion to socialism, and punishment for misbehavior make interesting counters to the peaceful landscapes and lighthearted stories with simple morals typical of children’s literature that appear on the surface. The conformity continually praised adds an actionable message that could be questionable for inclusion in a children’s tale. One big question that emerges from this is whether Awdry knew that the stories he was writing had such meaning and significance. Did he intentionally develop these themes?  Knowing Awdry’s background, it seems plausible that he did intend most of these themes to be included. His quest to bring realism to his stories, and connect them with reality as much as possible, seems to partially motivate this. In any case, these themes fit with his personal views, and reflect aspects of society at the time they were written. Awdry wanted to create “a moral world where engines who get bumptious and think the can control themselves end up in ditches,” [16] as a commenter is quoted in his biography.

The next question arises. What did Awdry hope to accomplish by his writing? Did he intend to influence society, or did he simply want to write about trains in a setting that reflected his beliefs? While some of the commentary is too clear to be accidental, Awdry’s love for trains was the first big motivational factor. A self proclaimed life long train lover, he wanted to share this love with the world. However, he wanted to spread his beliefs too. Partially wanting to make motivational stories that relate to children, and partially wanting to make light commentary about the present day society to the adults reading with their children, he added meaning as he saw fit. He also wanted to spread his Christian ideas. When talking about including his philosophy in the stories, he states “This world… is God’s world.  He makes the rules. We have free choice, we can obey him or disobey Him.”[17] However, he goes on to say “we cannot choose to disobey Him and live happily our way. If we disobey, we bring trouble on ourselves and other people.”[18] The Rev. Awdry motivates his conformity from his Christian faith. That being said, the stories are a clear advocate for conformity, and this may influence children. Whether this is an issue is a difficult question to answer. Comparison to other similar books offers more insight into these issues.

Many other train books grace the shelves of youngsters. Some of the most popular ones, written in a similar time period, included The Little Engine That Could, Tootle, and The Little Red Caboose. The Little Engine that Could was conceived of in the early 1900’s and first published in the United States in 1920,  two decades before Awdry conceived of Thomas the Tank Engine. In it, we primarily see a message of perseverance. Constantly repeating the chorus of “I think I can, I think I can…” the little blue engine makes it up and over the hill, literally and metaphorically. This seems to relate more to the simple morals of the railway series rather than the social commentary, but it does relate to the utilitarian, conformist nature of the message, too. It primarily preaches effort, but also emphasizes results. It vilifies the engines who don’t do their part to help society, though they do stay within their set duties. The Little Engine that Could focuses more on perseverance and helping others rather than on the overarching conformist message of Awdry. Tootle and The Little Red Caboose were published in 1945 and 1953, respectively, also in the U.S.,  and both more closely reflect these conformist ideas. They share an overarching theme of staying on track, both literally and figuratively. In Tootle, the protagonist (a personified train with a face, similar to Thomas the Tank Engine) learns that the most important rule is “staying on the rails no matter what.” Over the course of the story, Tootle is tempted and leaves the track, but the townspeople set him right and he learns to be a functioning member of society by staying on the track. In The Little Red Caboose,”a similar message is promoted, namely, stay with your lot in life. The caboose is unhappy being in his place at the back of the train, but learns that he is important after he saves the train from rolling backward down the track. He learns to be content with his job, and enjoy the responsibility he’s given. These two tales point out that there is something about trains that lends itself particularly well to conformity. Trains stay on the rails, their fixed given path. Each train car stays in the order it is attached, and has a specific, set purpose. These messages come through in children’s books, and probably lead to the popularity of trains as characters in stories with morals.

Authors use devices such as these to get their message to children. Using personified animals and machines as examples captures the imaginations of children, while allowing the children to easily relate indirectly to their points. This allows some leeway in storytelling by allowing situations that wouldn’t work with human characters, while still keeping them relatable to the readers. Thomas the Tank Engine and the other engines have very strong facial expressions that make it clear what they are feeling, without other interpreting body language. This adds to the appeal for young children, who are developing their abilities to recognize and respond to such cues. Indeed, there is evidence that children with Autism identify especially strongly with Thomas the Tank Engine for this reason, among others: “The ‘friendly’ faces whose expressions are exaggerated and are set for some time… can be understood.”[19] Autistic children often have difficulty relating to emotions with many human characters. There also appears to be a strong attraction in these individuals to the order in the arrangement of train cars and the track. Sorting train cars by color and following them along a fixed path speaks to the needs of these children. Children are more impressionable than most adults, and this makes them very vulnerable to messages they come across. They are influenced by stories whether they realize it or not. In this way, authors can have a significant effect on children. Since childhood does affect adulthood, there is the potential to widely spread an adult message through children’s books. This could cause problems. Authors could spread their ideas across society by sneaking them into children’s literature. Authors do aim to spread their ideas and influence their readers, but it is usually not a sinister motive.

The messages praised by Thomas the Tank Engine and other train stories combine to form something somewhat more dystopic then utopic. This may seem to make these stories inappropriate for children. Is conformity an important message for children? More importantly, does promoting conformity make society conform to a higher ideal? After all, both utopia and dystopia require some level of conformity. However, utopia can quickly descend into dystopia. Conformity, even to an ideal, such as within Christianity, needs to be balanced. A more full understanding of Christian values shows that one should strive to an ideal because it is right and will make you happy and free, rather than the more limited view that you need to follow God’s commandments out of fear of punishment. However, on the whole, conformity is not a bad message to preach to children, in moderation. The authors are trying to influence children to behave, respect authority, and fit into society, which is a helpful message, and needs to be taught before concepts such as free will and true happiness can be introduced. In Thomas the tank Engine, despite the overarching push for conformity, the engines maintain their spirit and individual personalities, diversity, and even colors. The authors are not trying to turn society into dystopia, or have children mindlessly follow orders. This approach can be successful as long as it is balanced. Conformity needs to be balanced by creativity, staying on track has to be balanced with expanding the boundaries. Parents need to introduce their children to all of these themes, and teach their children that examining the ideas in books, even dystopian ones, is a track worth following.

Bibliography

Awdry, W. Thomas the Tank Engine: the Complete Collection; a Complete Edition of All 26 Books from the Famous Railway Series. 1999 ed. New York: Random House, 1997.

Campbell, Joseph, and Roberta Seelinger Trites. “The Order and the Other: Power and Subjectivity in Young Adult Science Fiction and Dystopian Literature for Adolescents”. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2010. http://search.proquest.com/docview/756732611/.

“Children with Autism and Thomas the Tank Engine.” The National Autistic Society, February 2002. http://www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/our-publications/reports/our-policy-and-research-reports/children-with-autism-and-thomas-the-tank-engine.aspx.

Crampton, Gertrude, and Tibor Gergely. Tootle. New York: Golden Books, 1945.

MacCann, Donnarae, and Woodland, Gloria. Cultural Conformity in Books for Children: Further Readings in Racism. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1977

Áine Therese McGillicuddy, and Marian Therese Keyes, eds. Politics and Ideology in Childrens Literature. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2014.

Numeroff, Laura Joffe., and Felicia Bond. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.

Clutterback, Martin. Gender, Race, and Class in the writings of the Rev. W. Awdry. Sodor Island Fansite, Retrieved May 7th, 2020. https://www.sodor-island.com/copy-of-rs-studies

Potter, Marian, and Tibor Gergely. The Little Red Caboose. New York: Golden Books, 1953.

Ray, Michael. “Dystopian Children’s Literature: A Darker Spin on an Established Genre.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., December 18, 2012. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Dystopian-Childrens-Literature-A-Darker-Spin-on-an-Established-Genre-1899995.

Seuss. The Butter Battle Book. New York: Random House, 1984.

Seuss. Yertle the Turtle, and Other Stories. New York: Random House, 1958.

Sibley, Brian. The Thomas the Tank Engine Man; The Life of Reverend W Awdry. Lion Books, 1995.

Silverstein, Richard. Thomas the Tank Engine, Beloved Children’s Hero Battles Bolshevik Menace! February 11, 2005. https://www.richardsilverstein.com/2005/02/11/thomas-the-tank/

Tolentino, Jia. “The Repressive, Authoritarian Soul of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.’” The New Yorker, September 28, 2017. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/rabbit-holes/the-repressive-authoritarian-soul-of-thomas-the-tank-engine-and-friends.

Watty Piper, Francese Mateu, and Walter Retan. The Little Engine That Could. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1986.

Weimer, Rita. “Teacher-Guided Exploration of the Hidden Messages in Children’s Literature.” Educational Considerations 15, no. 1 (January 1, 1988). http://newprairiepress.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1610&context=edconsiderations.


[1]     Sibley, Brian. The Thomas the Tank Engine Man: the Life of Rev. W Awdry, 96

[2]     Sibley. Thomas the Tank Engine Man, 98

[3]     Sibley. Thomas the Tank Engine Man, 97

[4]     Sibley. Thomas the Tank Engine Man, 105

[5] Awdry, W. Thomas the Tank Engine: the Complete Collection; a Complete Edition of All 26 Books from the Famous Railway Series. 12

[6]     Ibid, 114

[7]  Awdry, Thomas the Tank Engine, 149

[8]     Clutterback, Martin. Gender, Race, and Class in the writings of the Rev. W. Awdry.

[9]       Awdry, Thomas the Tank Engine, 149

[10]     Awdry, Thomas the Tank Engine, 278

[11]   Awdry, Thomas the Tank Engine,  373

[12]   Clutterback, Martin. Gender, Race, and Class in the writings of the Rev. W. Awdry.

[13]   Clutterback, Martin. Gender, Race, and Class in the writings of the Rev. W. Awdry.

[14]   Ibid, 278

[15] Awdry, Thomas the Tank Engine, 303

[16]   Sibley. Thomas the Tank Engine Man

[17]   Ibid, 353

[18]   Ibid, 354

[19]   Children with Autism and Thomas the Tank Engine, The National Autistic Society, 2

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