|Emneth lies three miles south-east of Wisbech - a
stone's throw from the Cambridgeshire border.
this Fenland village is famous
for its association with the Rev Awdry - who wrote many
Thomas the Tank Engine children's stories here. Wilbert
Vere Awdry became vicar of Emneth in 1953 and during his
12 year residence at the vicarage he wrote 11 books. He first began writing the Thomas stories in 1942
when his son Christopher was ill in bed with the
measles. The first of them - entitled Three Railway
Engines - was published in 1943.
The Old Vicarage,
Rev Wilbert Awdry
The books originally drew upon the Welsh landscape
around the Talyllyn Railway (a line which Awdry helped
to preserve) - but gradually the trains, countryside and
people of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire started to creep
in. He was particularly influenced by the trains that he saw on the Wisbech
& Upwell Tramway and this lead
directly to the creation of Toby the Tram. Impending
Beeching cuts also inspired Bertie the Bus at a time
when road services were taking over from branch line
services. The line was finally closed by Dr Beeching in 1966 - after
which Rev Awdry retired and moved to Stroud in
During his years at Emneth rectory, Rev Awdry created
an extensive model
railway network in his loft - based on Barrow-in-Furnace
- which employed complex signalling methods. In fact, he spent so much time
in the loft that he
installed a bell so that his wife could let him know
when meals were ready.
In 2011 a blue plaque has been erected on the wall of the
vicarage - commemorating the connection with Awdry -
bearing the words: 'Clergyman & Author of Thomas the
Tank Engine and Friends'. There is also a memorial
window inside St Edmund's church which was dedicated in
2004.The window contains a stained glass picture of
Thomas - his most famous creation.
After Awdry's death in 1997 - his son Christopher
took over the writing and Really Useful Engines
was published in 1983.