“You’re all jealous. Edward’s better than all of you” – Duck
When I was around 5 or 6, Saturdays consisted of a very set routine; I would go with my Dad to take my Mum to work at a nursing home about 5 miles away. On the way back, he’d buy me a couple of packs of Merlin Premier League stickers for waking early and making the journey (my sister, if she tagged along got Neighbours stickers – seriously, Neighbours stickers?!). I would then spend the next half an hour filling my sticker album, hoping in vain my latest haul would complete it and make me a revered figure in the school playground (it never happened, but I did get within one sticker. I will never, ever forgive Gavin Peacock for this).
After this perpetually depressing activity, I’d need to boost my mood. After playing with dinosaurs and failing to ride a bike, I’d plonk a VHS tape (this was 1994 after all) into the video player, jump on the couch and watch some Thomas the Tank Engine. Like my nephew, I was obsessed with Thomas to the tune of TOYS EVERYWHERE too, with a giant drawer, bedspread, calender and, most proudly, a plastic cup I kept until it finally broke at age 15. At the time, my favourite engine was of course Thomas, though James with his red coat came a close second; regardless, I had toys for every train (up to a certain point when I moved my affiliations onto real things like Power Rangers). Or did I? There is one engine I can’t ever recall owning, not because I hated him, but because I barely realised he existed; his name was Edward.
For some reason, the marketing machine that was Thomas the Tank Engine seemed like it didn’t want to let people know he existed, so much so he wasn’t even included the big movie event of 2000, Thomas and the Magic Railroad (it even starred Alec Baldwin!). I always used to see toys and merchandise for Thomas, Percy, Gordon, Duck, even Henry, yet when it came to Edward there was very little. Although shown as friendly, happy, wise and respected, this image was presumably seen to be as exciting as a biscuit tin full of lard and as such Edward was shelved as a main character.
I can sort of work out why; despite not being cheeky, he was a blue, fresh faced engine with a chirpy personality. Sound like another famous engine with a whole toy range named after him from the same series? However, he, not Thomas, was the first engine created by Reverend W. Awdry and is the only engine to have a named crew. One episode even suggested Edward would ‘surprise’ everyone, though it’s not quite mentioned how; maybe a neat little card trick, maybe he’d eat a live scorpion or like any crazed old engine, whip his funnel out and sing in front of the Fat Controller. Either way, Edward is a train worth as much air time as any of the others.
As it turned out, though, Thomas was a usurper and happily revelled in the depression of other engines, even his elders. Edward’s stories dried up, Thomas became the star and the rest is history. If only Edward had completed *his* sticker album too, maybe he’d be the talk of the town now instead…