Thomas the Tank Engine

For about a year now my daughter has been obsessed with the Thomas the Tank Engine series of books. Last summer I attempted to alleviate my despair at having to give yet another reading of Tank Engine Thomas Goes Bezerk in the Sidings (or something like that) by writing a short article about it. The Reader has published the article “The Tyranny of Thomas” in its landmark twenty-fifth issue. To celebrate the twenty-fifth issue and ten years of The Reader you can buy back issues for £1 each for twenty-five days from March 23rd–it’s a bargain. Here’s a taster from my article:

The Tyranny of Thomas

Growing up near to a railway line, trains were as much a part of my childhood as conkers in the autumn and frogspawn in the spring. The volcanic rumble of the 100-tonne Class-55 Deltic pulling out of the station on its way to London was our alarm clock on school days. In the holidays a favourite activity was persuading train crews to let us into the cab for a few minutes while they waited at the platform. Even now I have a working, if not encyclopedic, knowledge of the diesel locomotives of that era. And naturally Thomas the Tank Engine was big in our house.

What I didn’t realise then, but know only too well now, is that Thomas exerts a tyranny over small children and their parents. Skip forwards thirty or so years from those innocent days at the end of the platform and you will find me in an armchair with my daughter on my knee, reading Troublesome Engines or Eight Famous Engines, or one of the many modern stories based on Reverend W. Awdry’s original series. I do them in funny voices, with all the animal noises and steam engine noises. I invent back stories for the characters and suggest silly names for the anonymous ones. Anything to avoid yet another straight read through. When I had a cold, reading Thomas the Tank Engine actually made me lose my voice. …

Here’s the contents page (pdf) for this issue.

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