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Emneth lies three miles south-east of Wisbech - a stone's throw from the Cambridgeshire border.

Today this Fenland village is famous for its association with the Rev Awdry - who wrote many of the 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, Emneth

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 Gloucestershire.

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.


St Edmund's Church

Wisbech and Upwell Tramway





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