GALLERY: Hundreds celebrate 100th birthday of Thomas the Tank Engine author

THE Fat Controller would never have approved - hundreds of people having a good time to celebrate the 100th birthday of the man who created Thomas the Tank Engine.

Crowds gathered as a blue plaque was unveiled at the former home of The Rev Wilbert Awdry, creator of Thomas and his friends.

Rev Awdry lived in The Old Vicarage, Emneth, between 1953 and 1965 and he wrote 13 of the famous series while there.

Current owners Mark and Flo Thatcher threw open the doors to their home and invited people to visit the very study where the Rev Awdry spent hours working on tales. A model railway in the garden was also operating for visitors.

Rev Awdry’s daughter Veronica Chambers travelled from her Devon home on Saturday to help unveil a blue plaque at the house.

Mrs Thatcher said: “I think she was very touched by it all, and she said some lovely, touching things about us and the house.”

Mr Thatcher has become a railway enthusiast, joining Wisbech Model Railway Club. The G-scale model in his garden runs both steam-powered and battery trains.

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South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss was also part of the plaque ceremony, which was watched by the Rev Awdry’s churchwarden, Dobbie Carr, who still lives in the area.

Born in 1911, Rev Awdry arrived in Cambridgeshire in 1946 when he was Rector at Elsworth with Knapworth. He moved to become Rural Dean at Bourn from 1950-53 before arriving in Emneth where he was vicar until 1965 when he retired and moved to Gloucestershire.

It was during 1942, when his son Christopher was confined to bed with measles, that the first tales involving steam engine adventures began taking shape.

Three years later the first book, The Three Railway Engines, was published - but Thomas did not appear until a second volume.

The books’ enduring popularity saw the first television appearance in 1984 of Thomas and Friends, with ex-Beatle Ringo Starr called upon to provide the voices.

Rev Awdry died in 1997.

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