Clarence Reginald Dalby (known as C. Reginald Dalby; he hated the name "Clarence") was born in 1904. After winning a scholarship to and attending the Leicester College of Art, he worked for five years producing designs for packaging - including the very first Glacier Mints Polar Bear on the side of a delivery van.
During WWII, Dalby worked for MI9, devising methods of "Escape and Evasion" for crews baling out over enemy lines. Afterwards, he was offered a job at an intelligence post with Earl Mountbatten in India, but declined and tried to re-establish himself as an artist. He found few openings for that line of work, and had to take up a job for the Blood Transfusion Service in Sheffield, but returned within six months looking for freelance work.
Edmund Ward (the publisher for the Railway Series) had heard of his work, and met him in Leicester Royal Hotel, where he gave him sketches for James the Red Engine and asked him to finish them. Dalby did, and illustrated the series up to Percy the Small Engine in 1956, despite the Reverend W. Awdry's dislike of his illustrations. Awdry remarking that engines were all the same to Dalby and that he preferred to draw the engines without getting inspiration from real life engines. Luckily, Awdry's sketches of engines were almost always based on real life engines.
Dalby drew several great pictures which caught the reader's attention with their bright colours, but his indifference to railway engineering often resulted in letters from confused readers. Eventually, after Awdry described Percy in "Percy the Small Engine" as "a green caterpillar with red stripes" (a line which was later referenced by Thomas in Tramway Engines), Dalby took offence, and refused to illustrate any more Railway Series titles.
As the illustrations for the Railway Series only took him six weeks on average, he had ample time for his own work and other work commissioned. He managed to publish his own book, inspired by the ferries at Poole Harbour, Dorset, called "Tales of Flitterwick Harbour".
Dalby died in 1983 after a short illness, aged 79.
For more information on "Tales of Flitterwick Harbour", visit the SiF minisite.