AFTER gently edging his way onto the rail, Conen turned sideways so he could slide.

“Conen! You MUST keep off the rails,” Cone-Vera said.

But Conen took no notice: “Whatever! There are no trains about and I want some fun.”

Soon he was joined by his pal Conerad. “Wheeeeeee! Brilliant!” he squealed as he slid along.

Conen and Cone-Vera are among the many characters in a series of award-winning children’s books written by West Yorkshire author Chris Madeley.

The books not only entertain with the cones’ adventures, but deliver important safety messages too.

In Cones on the Rails Conen and Conerad are so busy having fun on the tracks that they do not notice a train coming.

Conen only just avoids it, but Conerad is not so lucky.

‘The train whisked Conerad off his feet and threw him into the air. He landed on the path and lay quite still with his eyes closed,’ writes Chris.

Thankfully, due to help from a friendly police car and a wise owl, he recovers.

Safety messages resonate throughout Chris’s books, which focus not only on railways but roads and other settings too, including construction sites, canals and rivers.

To youngsters, such places can often be seen as exciting, offering a sense of mystery and adventure. They often don’t realise how dangerous they can be.

Chris’s books reinforce the message that youngsters should stay clear of places which seem enticing but where hazards - which could be a threat to life - are ever-present.

Her books are educational: the cones discover how electricity can be produced sustainably as they are given a tour of a power station and in her latest book - she has written ten with two more in the offing - Chris takes the cones behind the scenes at a children’s hospital.

Cones Visit the Children’s Hospital is about helping to help reduce the mystique of a child having to go to hospital - letting them know what to expect and who will be there to look after them.

They can take help to reduce any worries that a child may have.

It also features HRH The Countess of Wessex who gave Chris some text for one of the pages.

“I must say, getting approval from Buckingham Palace wasn’t the easiest or quickest thing we have done with the cones series,” she laughs.

The book is based around Leeds Children’s Hospital as, after Great Ormond Street, Leeds has the most diverse children’s medical abilities, with children coming from as far away as Devon and Cornwall and Scotland to be treated for more complex issues.

Identified by their hair and hats, to suit their characters, the cones each have their own personality.

The idea for the books came to Chris as she and her husband Keith travelled on motorways and A-roads.

“Our business was based in Bradford and we spent a lot of time driving up and down the M1 and A1. This entailed countless hours sitting in and going through roadworks, particularly as this was the time when construction of a big new junction south of the Leicester Forest Services on the M1 was under way.

“There was, as usual, a proliferation of cones and to turn the negative of being bored sitting in endless traffic into a positive, I started to contemplate what would happen if the cones had a life of their own, which of course, we know that they do, when you consider all the strange places in which we see them.”

The grandmother wrote the first book, Meet the Cones, in 1995 when on holiday in Madeira.

“It was hand-written in pencil as laptops were not yet freely available. I had been thinking about the stories and how I wanted them to evolve for some time so they came easily.”

Chris was raised in a house without a television, so developed an active imagination. Once she hit upon the idea, her cones quickly came to life.

Each book has its own character who explains to our young Cones what is happening – there is Constructor on the construction site, for example. In the power and nature book it is Coneservator, and Conecern in the children’s hospital.

The dialogue is peppered with ‘Cone-speak’. “Look at all the words in the English language which start with con . . . add an e and you get a cone word,” explains Chris. “Coneversation, conesideration, and so on. This goes down very well in school and the children are very clever at spotting words which can be “coneverted”.

The cones come alive when the adults are not looking.

Each book is focused on a particular situation or industry, passing on messages pertinent to it. “I work with corporate Britain in various scenarios and industries to highlight issues such as safety, life lessons such as thinking of others, the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), careers, encouraging girls to take up careers in industries which have previously been male-dominated.”

Also running through the books - the first of which was published in 2014 - are messages about friendship, inclusivity, diversity and other moral and ethical aspects of life.

“We were asked by the organisers of an exhibition we attended to sum up in five words what the Cones are about : helping corporate Britain educate children,” says Chris.

In 2017 Cones on the Rails won a national award at the UK Rail Industry Awards.

She makes notes and takes photographs of various scenarios for the illustrator to work with.

“The four main characters - Conerad, Conen, Conestance and Cone-Vera - are always the same, the different cone in each book reflects what an employee of the company would look like.”

Since their official launch at the National Railway Museum in York Chris’s books have been translated into Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian andPortuguese.

She has visited schools and other groups across the country to give readings, including several schools in Bradford, as well as Bradford Rotary Club.

“Sir James Hill bought 50 books for Dixon’s group of academies, for primary , schools to work with and we received wonderful testimonials from the children.”

Chris’s first book Meet the Cones describes how the cones first came to exist and how, after being made on the factory production line, they came to life, with names and characteristics all of their own.

‘The Cones stood exactly where they had been put down. Then, the Cone at the end opened one eye and closed it again quickly,’ she writes...’Slowly he looked around. Next to him all the other cones were standing neatly in a line as far as the eye could see.

‘He decided to speak to the Cone standing next to him.’

And so begins the series which takes the cones out and about.

Chris dedicated Meet the Cones to her ‘dearest grandchildren’ Marielle, George, Max, Henry, Rachel and Ben ‘who all believe’.

‘Keep Cone Spotting’, she writes.

* The cones books are published by Fisher King Publishing and are available from Amazon or bookshops.

Also visit Facebook: the conesbooks; W: the; T:@funwiththe cones