Toby first appeared in the seventh book in The Railway Series, Toby the Tram Engine in , and appeared in several subsequent books. Awdry's parish at Elsworth in Cambridgeshire in the same diocese. Awdry wrote about Toby the Tram Engine in , shortly before he was transferred to Emneth parish. The Tramway ran from Wisbech, through Emneth — the next station on the line — then through Outwell and Upwell.
This area and its line was well known to Rev. Awdry who often visited Ely nearby. The Tramway was primarily used for the transportation of fruit and other farm produce to the main line at Wisbech. Research by Awdry's brother, George, revealed that tramway regulations required the fitting of cowcatchers and sideplates for railway locomotives running on tracks alongside roads, and the story "Thomas in Trouble" published in , the year steam trams were replaced evolved to provide a reason for Toby being summoned to Sodor.
People come to see Toby, but they come by bus The months passed. Toby had few trucks, and fewer passengers That day [Toby's last] Henrietta had more passengers than she could manage. They rode in the trucks and crowded in the brake van. This was a common occurrence during the closing of real railway lines; demand decreased to an unprofitable amount, but services were often full for the last workings of steam.
On Awdry's model railway,  Toby was represented by a Y6,  an locomotive similar to but smaller than the J70   and better suited to the 4-wheel motor bogie available to power the model. Christopher Awdry has said that Toby is his favourite character, partly because he was there when his father received the inspiration to create him, but also because as a child he had travelled in the cab of two J70s. W, Awdry served as parish priest in two parishes in Cambridgeshire, the county associated with Toby the Tram Engine. First, he was Rector of Elsworth with Knapwell from to , then he was Vicar of Emneth from until when he retired from full-time ministry and moved to Stroud, Gloucestershire.
Toby is introduced in the 7th book in The Railway Series. The first story, "Toby and the Stout Gentleman", describes the closure of Toby's branch line due to the lack of passengers and freight. Shortly before the line was to close, a "stout gentleman" arrived on a holiday with his family; the children rode on Toby everyday for a fortnight and the stout gentleman gave Toby's crew a present. The day after the Tramway closed, ironically after an overcrowded final journey by Toby and Henrietta, a letter arrived from the stout gentleman which was to give Toby a reprieve. In "Thomas in Trouble", Thomas encounters an officious policeman, who says that, when running from the quarry, along public roads, engines who have the right to go on public roads must be fitted with cowcatchers and sideplates for safety to prevent people and animals from getting killed if they should have the right to stray onto the line.
In "Dirty Objects", James makes fun of Toby's "shabby" appearance. James later has an accident with tar wagons.
Toby and Percy help to clear up the mess and Toby is rewarded with a new coat of paint. Toby suffers from having small water tanks, meaning he is unsuitable for long distance work. He has stopped at a water-crane to refill his tanks, when he is urged on to the next station by a new Signalman who didn't understand Toby's condition. Toby tries to hurry to the next station, but uses up the water and runs out of steam, ending up marooned on the mainline far from the station.
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