Captain Moonlight: All steamed up over Thomas the Lucrative Locomotive

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The Independent Online
THERE WAS a lot of excitement last week about all the money Thomas The Tank Engine, James The Red Engine, Gordon The Big Engine, Percy The Little Engine, and the Fat Controller have been making. Since Thomas and his friends have been on television, they have earned millions and millions of pounds. Children all over the world watch them. And read the books. Thomas and his friends appear on lots of other things, too, like satchels and tins of spaghetti.

But some of the parents of the children are not quite so fond of the stories. They think they are quite boring really. They used to like the pictures. But now they find them a bit, new word, crude. They sigh for the days when Thomas and friends were things of beauty.

The writer of the books is the Rev W V Awdry. He started writing the books for his son, Christopher. Now Mr Awdry is very old and Christopher writes them. The Awdrys get lots of money. Mr Awdry doesn't need much and gives lots to railway societies.

Anyway, one parent got to thinking about the pictures and how important they were, how they made children love Thomas. He wondered who had first drawn them and given them their funny faces, and how much money he had been given. But nobody at the publishers, Heinemann, seemed to know. The Keeper of Thomas Knowledge was on holiday. Other people said that a man called C Reginald Dalby had given Thomas his famous face.

The parent rang Mr Awdry. He said Mr Dalby was not the first, difficult word, illustrator. He couldn't remember his name but he hadn't been very good. Mr Awdry had done a rough drawing of the faces on the locomotive fronts but this man hadn't known enough about trains. The second artist was called Mr Payne, who knew about trains, and was good. But he died. Then came Mr Dalby.

But Mr Dalby didn't draw the trains properly enough for Mr Awdry. Mr Awdry wrote to Mr Dalby asking him not to make Percy look like a green caterpillar with red stripes. Mr Dalby got in a huff and resigned.

Nobody seemed to know what happened to Mr Dalby after that. He would be very old indeed if he were still alive today. Heinemann refused to discuss his royalties (which means, children, that they were a bit huffy and wouldn't talk about money). Perhaps one of you out there knows about Mr Dalby. Do write and tell.