The Railway Stories

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The Railway Stories are a series of audio adaptations of The Railway Series books by the Rev. W Awdry and his son Christopher.

Nearly all of the 42 books in the series have been recorded by one of five different narrators: Johnny Morris, William Rushton, Ted Robbins, Michael Angelis, and even the Rev. W. Awdry himself.

Rev. W. Awdry recordings[edit]

The very first known audio adaptation was a 7" (33⅓rpm) EP narrated by the Rev. W. Awdry himself (see photo), with "background effects taken from real engines".

This record, released in 1957 by Chiltern Records of Princes Risborough, contained two stories – Edward's Day Out and Edward and Gordon – from the first book in the Railway Series: The Three Railway Engines.

Examples of this recording are extremely rare.

Johnny Morris recordings (Delysé)[edit]

The first widely available recordings were narrated by Johnny Morris and released in the early 1960s by the Delysé Recording Company. Each 7" (45rpm) vinyl record contained two stories, taken from the first eleven books of The Railway Series. The recordings were released in mono.

The front of the record sleeve showed an original illustration from the story in the original book. While on the back, there was a list of the other recordings in "The Railway Engine Series" [sic], together with an introduction from the Rev. W. Awdry:[1]

My father was a railway enthusiast and brought me up accordingly. Our home at Box, Wiltshire, was near the Great Western main line and listening to heavy freights clawing up the grade it was not hard to imagine train engine and banker talking to each other, and for me, steam engines developed personality.

So when my son caught measles at the age of three I told him these stories to amuse him. They were not written down at first, I made them up as I went along. But I had to tell them so often, carefully using the same words, that both he and I soon knew them by heart.
It was only later, at my wife's suggestion, that I wrote them down, so that other children besides our own might have pleasure from them too.      — Rev. W. Awdry

The label on the record was also quite distinctive, showing a smiling red engine on a blue/white background. The label was carefully designed so that the record player spindle fitted through the engine's 'nose'! No attempt had been made to make the engine look like one of those from the stories.

Record Details[edit]

Stories from Book 1 - The Three Railway Engines:[2]

  • DEL101 (196x) - 1. Edward's Day Out, 2. Edward and Gordon
  • DEL102 (196x) - 1. The Sad Story of Henry, 2. Edward, Gordon and Henry

Stories from Book 2 - Thomas the Tank Engine:[2]

  • DEL103 (1961) - 1. Thomas and Gordon, 2. Thomas's Train
  • DEL104 (196x) - 1. Thomas and the Trucks, 2. Thomas and the Breakdown Train

Stories from Book 3 - James the Red Engine:[2]

  • DEL114 (196x) - 1. James and the Top Hat, 2. James and the Bootlace
  • DEL115 (196x) - 1. Troublesome Trucks, 2. James and the Express

Stories from Book 4 - Tank Engine Thomas Again:[2]

  • DEL137 (1964) - 1. Thomas and the Guard, 2. Thomas Goes Fishing
  • DEL138 (196x) - 1. Thomas, Terence and the Snow, 2. Thomas and Bertie

Stories from Book 5 - Troublesome Engines:[2]

  • DEL142 (196x) - 1. Henry and the Elephant, 2. Tenders and Turntables
  • DEL143 (196x) - 1. Trouble in the Shed, 2. Percy Runs Away

Stories from Book 6 - Henry the Green Engine:[2]

  • DEL150 (196x) - 1. Coal, 2. The Flying Kipper
  • DEL151 (1966) - 1. Gordon's Whistle, 2. Henry's Sneeze

Stories from Book 7 - Toby the Tram Engine:[2]

  • DEL152 (196x) - 1. Toby and the Stout Gentleman, 2. Thomas in Trouble
  • DEL153 (196x) - 1. Dirty Objects, 2. Mrs Kindley's Christmas

Stories from Book 8 - Gordon the Big Engine:[2]

  • DEL154 (196x) - 1. Off the Rails, 2. Leaves
  • DEL155 (1966) - 1. Down the Mine, 2. Paint Pots and Queens

Stories from Book 9 - Edward the Blue Engine:

  • DEL212 (196x) - 1. Cows!, 2. Berties' Chase
  • DEL213 (196x) - 1. Saved from Scrap, 2. Old Iron

Stories from Book 10 - Four Little Engines:

  • DEL214 (196x) - 1. Skarloey Remembers, 2. Sir Handel
  • DEL215 (196x) - 1. Peter, Sam and the Refreshment Lady, 2. Old Faithful

Stories from Book 11 - Percy the Small Engine:

  • DEL216 (196x) - 1. Percy and the Signal, 2. Duck Takes Charge
  • DEL217 (196x) - 1. Percy and Harold, 2. Percy's Promise


Decca and Argo recordings[edit]

In the 1970s the stories were released on 12" (33⅓rpm) vinyl albums by Decca Records as part of their "World of Children's Stories" series. Each record contained the stories from two complete books, one book on each side. The sleeve notes included the same quote from Rev. W. Awdry (see Delysé recordings, above). The sleeve illustrations were taken directly from the artwork of the original books.

The first eight books were again narrated by Johnny Morris. The original Delysé recordings were re-used.

Decca was also the owner of the Argo label, renowned for its audiobooks and other non-music recordings. It was therefore a natural progression to extend the series on this label. New recordings were made for six further books from The Railway Series, starting with Edward the Blue Engine. These stories were narrated by Willie Rushton and the gaps between the tracks included atmospheric (if not always accurate) steam or diesel sound effects.

The albums were later released on audio cassette under the same labels. Recordings were produced by Peter Johnson ('Peter John Productions'); with Kaye & Ward Ltd and Third Man Music being identified as owners of the works.

Subsequently, Willie Rushton also recorded the remaining books (up to no. 26 Tramway Engines) on the Argo label. These recordings were never released on vinyl, only on audio cassette.

List of recordings[edit]

Individual books[edit]

The Johnny Morris albums were identified as 'Volume 1' to 'Volume 4'; while the Willie Rushton recordings omitted any 'Volume' identity on the front cover. For clarity, the recording details below have been identified by volume numbers, regardless of whether these were shown on the sleeve.

Volume 1: DECCA MONO LP - PA 270 (1972), Cassette - KCPA 270 (19??)

Side 1 (from Book 1: The Three Railway Engines)

  1. Edward's Day Out
  2. Edward and Gordon
  3. The Sad Story of Henry
  4. Edward, Gordon and Henry

Side 2 (from Book 2: Thomas the Tank Engine)

  1. Thomas and Gordon
  2. Thomas's Train
  3. Thomas and the Trucks
  4. Thomas and the Breakdown Train

Volume 2: DECCA MONO LP - PA 271 (1972), Cassette - KCPA 271 (19??)

Side 1 (from Book 3: James the Red Engine)

  1. James and the Top Hat
  2. James and the Bootlace
  3. Troublesome Trucks
  4. James and the Express

Side 2 (from Book 4: Tank Engine Thomas Again)

  1. Thomas and the Guard
  2. Thomas Goes Fishing
  3. Thomas, Terence and the Snow
  4. Thomas and Bertie

Volume 3: DECCA MONO LP - PA 272 (1972), Cassette - KCPA 272 (19??)

Side 1 (from Book 5: Troublesome Engines)

  1. Henry and the Elephant
  2. Tenders and Turntables
  3. Trouble in the Shed
  4. Percy Runs Away

Side 2 (from Book 6: Henry the Green Engine)

  1. Coal
  2. The Flying Kipper
  3. Gordon’s Whistle
  4. Henry’s Sneeze

(The book Henry the Green Engine was unique in the series by having five stories rather than four.
For the recording, it was the fourth story "Percy and the Trousers" which was omitted.)

Volume 4: DECCA MONO LP - PA 273 (1972), Cassette - KCPA 273 (19??)

Side 1 (from Book 7: Toby the Tram Engine)

  1. Toby and the Stout Gentleman
  2. Thomas in Trouble
  3. Dirty Objects
  4. Mrs Kindley's Christmas

Side 2 (from Book 8: Gordon the Big Engine)

  1. Off the Rails
  2. Leaves
  3. Down the Mine
  4. Paint Pots and Queens

Volume 5: ARGO STEREO LP - SPA 559 (19??), Cassette - KCSP 559 (1979)

Side 1 (from Book 9: Edward the Blue Engine)

  1. Cows
  2. Bertie's Chase
  3. Saved from Scrap
  4. Old Iron

Side 2 (from Book 10: Four Little Engines)

  1. Skarloey Remembers
  2. Sir Handel
  3. Peter Sam & The Refreshment Lady
  4. Old Faithful

Volume 6: ARGO STEREO LP - SPA 560 (19??), Cassette - KCSP 560 (1979)

Side 1 (from Book 11: Percy the Small Engine)

  1. Percy and the Signal
  2. Duck Takes Charge
  3. Percy and Harold
  4. Percy’s Promise

Side 2 (from Book 12: The Eight Famous Engines)

  1. Percy Takes the Plunge
  2. Gordon Goes Foreign
  3. Double Header
  4. The Fat Controller’s Engines

Volume 7: ARGO STEREO LP - SPA 561 (1972), Cassette - KCSP 561 (1979)

Side 1 (from Book 13: Duck and the Diesel Engine)

  1. Domeless Engines
  2. Pop Goes The Diesel
  3. Dirty Work
  4. A Close Shave

Side 2 (from Book 14: The Little Old Engine)

  1. Trucks
  2. Home At Last
  3. Rock 'n' Roll
  4. Little Old Twins

The case insert for the cassette version lists the story titles as being on 'Side 1' and 'Side 2', but the labels on the cassette itself are marked '5' and '6'. By comparison, the label on cassette KCSP 559 identifies the sides conventionally ('1' and '2').

Compilations[edit]

In addition to the individual releases, the recordings were re-released together as compilations on the Argo label. The first compilations were released on two pairs of individually cased cassettes: one pair for the Johnny Morris stories, one pair for Willie Rushton's.

The Willie Rushton compilation was released again after Decca's acquisition by PolyGram in 1980, this time as a twin boxed set. The recordings were distributed exclusively by EMI, which was somewhat ironic as EMI was Decca's main competitor for several decades. In addition to the 'new' Argo logo, the EMI logo was displayed on the spine of the case sleeve.

The sleeve artwork was a heavily cropped portion of the illustration from the earlier compilation. The picture was based on one from the original books, the artist being credited as "Quick on the Draw". Decca was shown as copyright holder; Kaye & Ward Ltd and Third Man Music were no longer mentioned in the sleeve notes

First release:
The Railway Stories - ARGO - SAY 87/1 - two mono cassettes - (date unknown)

These tapes were marked as 'a Delesé Production.'

The Railway Stories - ARGO - SAY 29 - two stereo cassettes - (date unknown)

  • Tape content is the same as for the 'second release' tapes.

The cassette label and case insert showed the title as "The Railway Stories", and named the narrator and original author. Apart from this, and the usual copyright data, they were completely devoid of any indication as to the content of the recordings or the people behind them. It is not known whether the cassettes were originally supplied in some form of additional outer case that better described their content.

Second release:
The Railway Stories - ARGO 1058 - Double stereo cassette - (1982)

Sides One & Two – (tape 1 - individually labelled ARGO 1059):

Sides Three & Four – (tape 2 - individually labelled ARGO 1060):

More Railway Stories - ARGO xxxx - Double stereo cassette - (1983)

Sides One & Two – (tape 1 - individually labelled ARGO xxxx):

Sides Three & Four – (tape 2 - individually labelled ARGO xxxx):

Further Railway Stories - ARGO xxxx - Double stereo cassette - (1983)

Sides One & Two – (tape 1 - individually labelled ARGO xxxx):

Sides Three & Four – (tape 2 - individually labelled ARGO xxxx):

Ted Robbins recordings[edit]

In association with Reed-Tempo Publishing, Ted Robbins recorded most of the stories written by Christopher Awdry. These were released in the 1990s by Egmont Books, on a series of four audio cassettes. In each case, the 'middle' book was split across the two sides of the cassette:

Thomas and the Twins, and other stories (1994) ( ISBN 1-86021-000-7 )

Gordon the High Speed Engine, and other stories (1994) ( ISBN 1-86021-001-5 )

Really Useful Engines, and other stories (1995) ( ISBN 1-86021-013-9 )

James and the Diesel Engine, and other stories (1995) ( ISBN 1-86021-021-X )


A selection of the stories were later released for the Early Learning Centre, under the title Storytime with Thomas the Tank Engine: "10 classic railway stories with music and sound effects". There were two cassettes released, both using the same Ken Stott-style illustration, the second being labelled 'Volume 2'.

Michael Angelis recordings[edit]

The first new Railway Stories recording in over 10 years was released on CD by BBC Audiobooks in March 2006. It contained adaptations of the first three Railway Series books, and was narrated by Michael Angelis. So far, six such CDs have been released, each containing three volumes from the Railway Series.

The CDs are more reflective of the Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends TV series than the Railway Series books. This is evident through the cover art, which uses promotional images from the recent series', the storytelling style, and the splicing of several of the songs from the TV series within the stories.

The first volume of The Railway Stories that Angelis narrated (consisting of The Three Railway Engines, Thomas the Tank Engine, and James the Red Engine) is available for download at the iTunes Store as well.

Angelis has also recorded a number of stories for the "Thomas & Friends Audio Range". Each book, which is of a similar form to those in the My Thomas Story Library range, is accompanied by a CD containing the story narrated by Angelis, with sound effects and music. Known subjects include: Thomas, Gordon, Henry, James, Toby, Bertie and Terence [1].

Other Recordings[edit]

There have been other audiobooks containing stories from The Railway Series, although most of these are based on stories re-written for the Thomas and Friends TV series.

Translations[edit]

At least one set of stories has been released in Welsh (Tomos A'r Goeden Nadolig). Published by Cyhoeddiadau Mei in September 1988, it is ISBN 0-905775-13-9, but no more is known about this recording.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Reverse of record sleeve DEL155, Delysé Recording Co., 1966
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h List of "Other recordings in the Railway Engine Series" – reverse of record sleeve DEL155, Delysé Recording Co., 1966

External links[edit]