Stories for children were still a relatively new business when railways were established in the 1820s. The first successful books written just for children were published in the 1740s. It didn’t take long for those stories to start featuring railways and trains.
Today, it’s easy to find picture books, pop up books, novels and many more that feature trains and railways. Many have been adapted into films and tv shows, welcoming a new audience to the original stories.
Local school children, including St George's Church of England Academy, created bunting for the exhibition.
What is your favourite railway story?
The Railway Children
The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit, follows the story of siblings Roberta, Peter and Phyllis and their adventures in the countryside after the disappearance of their father.
The children befriend staff at their local railway station, a place that becomes central to the story as they celebrate birthdays, steal coal and even prevent a railway accident! They get into trouble and argue but ultimately, they discover what happened to their father resulting in a famous reunion at the station.
Edith began writing when she was a teenager and used the money she earned to support her family. Edith wrote over 40 children’s books and also wrote poetry and novels for grown-ups.
Edith moved to and from London and the Kent countryside several times during her life. Her love of the countryside can be seen in her descriptions of the landscape in The Railway Children published in 1906.
The Railway Children was made into a successful film in 1970 starring Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins and is often found on TV at Christmas. The film and novel remain popular over a hundred years later.
Thomas the Tank Engine
Thomas the Tank Engine has been captivating children for over 75 years through books, tv shows and toys.
Thomas the Tank Engine was created by Reverend Wilbert Awdry. He started inventing stories in 1942 to entertain his son, Christopher who was recovering from measles. His stories of Thomas, Gordon and Henry were first published in 1945. 26 books were published by Reverend Awdry’s retirement in 1972.
The books follow the ‘Steam Team’ and their adventures, hoping to be called a ‘really useful engine’ by Sir Topham Hatt (the Fat Controller). On the fictional Sodor Island, steam engines are always the leaders over diesel and electric locomotives.
Reverend Awdry created a rich fictional landscape in Sodor Island with towns, stations and branch lines for children to enjoy.
The animated series ‘Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends’ first aired in the UK in 1984. Narrated by Ringo Starr, the series was immediately successful attracting over 8 million viewers.
In 2018 a move to create a more representative ‘Steam Team’ was created. Old favourites Percy, Gordon, James and Emily were joined by Nia, Ashima and Rebecca.
Captain Raggy Beard
Captain Raggy Beard is a regular visitor to the museum and although he can't visit just now, why not join him for a new railway themed story?
For more information about Captain Raggybeard visit http://www.captainraggybeard.co.uk/ [External Link]
The Little Engine That Could
The Little Engine That Could was first published as a book in 1930 by Platt and Munk. Author, ‘Watty Piper’ was actually publisher Arnold Munk.
The book tells the story of broken down engine trying to find help to carry their cargo of toys and food over a mountain. Many trains refuse to help but eventually a little blue engine offers to assist. With the famous ‘I think I can, I think I can’ reassurance, the little blue engine succeeds in delivering the heavy load to the children waiting on the other side of the mountain.
The origins of the story are unknown and have been traced to as early as 1903 in Sweden. The story has a long contested history, with a high profile court case in the 1950s allowing another author to publish the story under another title. A new version was published in 2005.
Do you know the story of The Little Engine That Could?
The Polar Express
The Polar Express was written by Chris Van Allsburg and was published in 1985.
The Polar Express tells the story of a young boy on Christmas Eve who follows the sound of sleigh bells to find a steam train waiting to take him to the North Pole. When he arrives, he is chosen by Santa Claus to receive the first present of Christmas.
The Polar Express is inspired by the author’s hometown of Grand Rapids, in Michigan, USA and his visits to see Santa Claus at different department stores. Chris began his working life as a sculptor and eventually became an illustrator and author.
It has sold over 12 million copies and a special 30th anniversary edition was released in 2015. The book was made into a motion capture film in 2004 starring Tom Hanks.
Christmas Polar Express experiences are popular on heritage railways throughout the country.
Have you been on the Polar Express?
Join Peter's Railway for Peter and the Picnic featuring a steam engine!
For more information on Peter's Railway visit https://petersrailway.com/ [External Link]
The Peter’s Railway series follows the adventures of Peter and his grandad who build their own miniature railway.
Peter and his grandad build a railway to connect their homes so they can see each other more easily. Over time, they extend the line to the local village and build a turntable. They construct a ‘granny wagon’ for Peter’s Grandma to keep her warm when she is a passenger. Peter and his grandad visit other heritage railways and museums for inspiration.
The series has been created by Christopher Vine and the first book was published in 2008. The book was a success with 5,000 copies selling out in just three months. Christopher is lifelong engineering fan and built his first go-kart when he was seven. He has won awards for his model engines.
There are now 18 books in the series and 2 activity books. The series has featured in railway documentaries and two young engineer’s centres featuring Peter’s Railway have opened at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and Severn Valley Railway.
Have you seen Peter in the museum?