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Thomas and Friends, formerly named Thomas the Tank Engine, was inspired by a childhood toy and story produced by Reverend William Awdry during 1943 for his sick child in Birmingham, England. Awdry wrote 26 stories about Thomas and friends at the train station on the Island of Sodor until 1972. Following a long break in publication, Awdry's son, Christopher, resumed writing tales of the friendly train characters and brought the stories to life in 1984 on British television and soon after in 1989 on American TV. Thomas and Friends has encouraged children over 20 years to let their imaginations lead the way in learning. This children's popular television show has now aired in more than 130 countries, with events in Britain & Canada and theme parks located in Japan and soon to be California.