Major characters in The Railway Series
This article profiles the most significant characters of the series. Only characters who appear in the books have been profiled in this article and, in the case where a character has appeared in both series, only the book aspect has been addressed (follow the links for a description of the name-sake TV characters). Less significant characters are described in Minor characters in The Railway Series.
The Fat Controller's Railway
- Main article: Thomas the Tank Engine
Thomas the Tank Engine is an 0-6-0 tank locomotive, based on the LB&SCR E2 Class. He is painted blue with red lining and is number 1 in the NWR fleet. Thomas was given his own branch line, which he operates with his two coaches, Annie and Clarabel.
He is a cheeky engine who takes great pride in his branch line, and believes himself to be extremely important to the running of the railway.
- Main article: Edward the Blue Engine
Edward the Blue Engine is a 4-4-0 tender engine, the first character to appear in The Railway Series by Rev W. Awdry. He is painted blue with red stripes and is number 2 in the NWR fleet. He is one of the oldest engines on the railway, and is kind and friendly to everyone.
Edward is also one of the main characters in the TV Series.
- Main article: Henry the Green Engine
Henry the Green Engine is a 4-6-0 tender engine. He is painted green with red stripes and is number 3 in the NWR fleet. After a major accident in the snow, Henry was rebuilt with a completely different shape (sometimes known as Henry Mk 2)). He is one of the biggest engines, and can be quite highly-strung at times.
Henry is also one of the main characters in the TV Series.
- Main article: Gordon the Big Engine
Gordon the Big Engine is a 'Pacific' (4-6-2) tender engine. He is painted blue with red stripes and is number 4 in the NWR fleet. He is the biggest engine on the railway, and pulls the Express. He is also very boastful and proud, but good at heart.
Gordon is also one of the main characters in the TV Series.
- Main article: James the Red Engine
James is also one of the main characters in the TV Series.
- Main article: Percy the Small Engine
Percy the Small Engine is a saddle tank engine of indeterminate origins. He is painted green with red stripes and is number 6 in the NWR fleet. He is a cheeky little engine with a strong sense of adventure, who doesn't let anyone push him around. This sometimes gets him into trouble!
Percy is also one of the main characters in the TV Series.
- Main article: Toby the Tram Engine
Toby the Tram Engine is an 0-6-0 steam tram engine who works on the same branch line as Thomas. He is painted brown and blue and is number 7 in the NWR fleet. He is a wise, experienced engine who knows all there is to know about running a branch line.
Toby's cowcatchers and sideplates (that cover his wheels) mean he is ideal for taking stone trucks to and from the quarry at Ffarquhar, as the railway runs close to the road. Toby has his own coach, Henrietta, who is painted chocolate brown.
Toby is also one of the main characters in the TV Series.
- Main article: Duck the Great Western Engine
Duck the Great Western Engine (real name Montague) is an 0-6-0 pannier tank locomotive. He is painted in Great Western green and is officially number 8 in the NWR fleet, although he carries a cast GWR number plate on his cab sides. He currently runs his own branch line, The Little Western. He is a hard worker who believes that there are two ways to do things: "the Great Western way, and the wrong way. I'm Great Western and..."
Duck is also one of the main characters in the TV Series.
Donald & Douglas
- Main article: Donald & Douglas
Donald & Douglas are identical 0-6-0 tender engines who came from Scotland. Although The Fat Controller was only expecting one engine (not wanting to be separated they decided to travel together and hope for the best), he decided to keep both engines in his fleet, giving them the numbers 9 and 10 respectively, as well as nameplates. The 'Twin Engines' were painted all-over black on arrival at the island, but were then painted in blue with red stripes to match Gordon and Edward. They are practical, no-nonsense engines who can be relied upon for any task.
Donald & Douglas are also significant characters in the TV Series.
Oliver the Western Engine is an 0-4-2 tank locomotive who 'escaped' from the Other Railway where he was due to be scrapped. He first appears in the book Enterprising Engines, where his rescue by Douglas is described. Also escaping with Oliver were his faithful coach, a GWR autocoach called Isabel, and a GWR brake van named 'Toad'. His daring escape made him popular with the engines, which perhaps made him a little over-confident.
After arriving on Sodor, Oliver was restored, painted GWR green, and allocated loco number 11 on the NWR books. However, he was allowed to keep his GWR number '1436'. He was assigned to work with Duck on his branch line, "The Little Western", hauling Isabel and a second autocoach, Dulcie, both of whom have also been restored to full GWR livery.
When Oliver arrived on Sodor, he was not used to handling trucks. While shunting his first ballast train, an incident resulted in Oliver landing bunker-down in a turntable well. On his return from the Works, Oliver learned how to deal with them (albeit after having pulled one truck apart! - see S.C.Ruffey for the full story). Since then, he has gained experience and sense.
Oliver is based on a GWR 1400 Class 0-4-2T tank locomotive of The Great Western Railway. These engines were fitted with a mechanical system allowing the driver to control the locomotive remotely from the cab of an 'autocoach', such as Isabel.
The story of Oliver's 'escape' is related by the Rev. Awdry in The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways.
Apart from the description of his arrival in Enterprising Engines and, of course, the stories in the next book in the series, Oliver the Western Engine, Oliver has not made an appearance in other Railway Series stories.
Oliver has also appeared in the TV Series, see: Oliver.
Bill & Ben
- See also: Bill & Ben (TV Series)
Bill & Ben are twin tank engines who work for the Sodor China Clay Company. They are painted yellow, have four wheels each and have their names attached to their sides on brown nameplates. Apart from their nameplates, they are absolutely identical -- which can be confusing to engines who don't know them well. They are smaller than the other engines they work with.
They are young and cheeky and love playing jokes on the big engines, but are kept in order by Edward and BoCo. They work in the china clay quarry and at Brendam Docks, where they are kept busy shunting trucks.
Bill & Ben are based on two 0-4-0 tank engines built by Bagnall's of Stafford. They worked at Par in Cornwall and were named Alfred and Judy. They are unusually low, allowing them to fit under bridges that taller engines could not. The real examples are both preserved at the Bodmin and Wenford Railway.
- Main article: Diesel
- See also: Daisy (TV series)
Daisy is a unique diesel railcar, painted green with yellow lining (similar to the livery of British Railways DMUs in the 1960s), and was built specially for use on the Ffarquhar branch of the NWR. Her number is D1, but she does not carry this on her. She first appeared in the book Branch Line Engines.
Daisy arrived on Sodor after Thomas had an accident and needed major repairs. She was lazy at first, refusing to do any work that didn't appeal to her and claiming that she was "highly strung", and thought herself far cleverer than the other engines. But an incident with a bull and a stern warning from the Fat Controller showed her the error of her ways, and she is now a valuable addition to Thomas' branch line.
Daisy is undoubtedly based on the Class 101 diesel multiple units (DMUs), but is a one-off, being a single railcar (akin to the Class 121 'bubble cars'), with a driving cab at each end. Although normally considered to be a Class 101, Daisy is always depicted with the distinctive valances around the buffer beams that distinguishes the earlier 'light-weight' prototype units made by Metro-Cammell. This would also account for Daisy's refusal to pull a milk van to the dairy, as the lightweight units were not powerful enough to haul wagons.
Diesel engines like Daisy were becoming a common sight on branch lines during the early 60's, and therefore it can be implied that Daisy's introduction into the series is a reflection of the contemporary state of railways at the time. Some of the stories involving Daisy reflect problems that were faced by railway staff when it came to dealing with 'highly sprung' diesel engines in the earlier phases of their usurpment of steam.
- See also: Boco (TV Series)
He first appeared in the book Main Line Engines.
BoCo was received with some hostility by Bill and Ben, who called him "a Diseasel" due to a misunderstanding, and by James, who called him a "buzzbox". Edward and Duck accepted him right away, and soon the others were won over. BoCo is a friendly engine who enjoys a joke, and is always ready with a kind word when needed.
BoCo is based upon the British Rail Class 28 "Metrovick Co-Bo" Type 2 diesel-electric locomotive, named after its unusual Co-Bo wheel arrangement. The bogie beneath the power plant carries three powered axles ('Co') and the other carries two ('Bo'). This arrangement was designed to maximise the routes over which the engine could work. Another unusual feature of the Metrovick Co-Bo is the use of a two-stroke diesel power plant in favour of the more standard four-stroke. They suffered from mechanical unreliability which, according to Christopher Awdry, the Fat Controller managed to cure in BoCo's case.
Twenty of these engines were built by Metropolitan-Vickers in 1958 as part of British Railways' Modernisation Plan. One 'Metrovick' (D5705) has survived and is preserved at the East Lancashire Railway in Bury.
It should be noted that BoCo's name is always spelt with a capital B and a capital C in the books. In the television series, the C is lower-case. The name, obviously, is derived from the fact that he is a Co-Bo diesel. Rev. W. Awdry decided that "BoCo" flowed better than "CoBo", and sounded more affectionate.
Mavis is an 0-6-0 diesel-mechanical shunting engine. She belongs to the Ffarquhar Quarry Co. rather than the Fat Controller, and works mainly shunting stone trucks in their quarry. She sometimes comes down the line when Toby is busy. She is painted black, with yellow-and-black "hazard" stripes on her radiator and cab back. Mavis is based on a BR Class 04, some of which were fitted with with the sideplates and cow-catcher for use on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway, the same line that Toby came from.
When she was young she was convinced that she knew it all and that Toby with his worn-in rules and methods was a "fusspot", but discovered that sometimes there is nothing wrong with taking advice - ignoring Toby's advice on truck-management-skills brought Mavis to a (literal standstill) at a level crossing near Ffarquhar where iced rails allowed the trucks to turn the tables on her. To Mavis' indignation rescue came in the form of 'fusspot' Toby. The two became friends however when she rescued him from a collapsing bridge. She is now allowed to come down the line from time to time, and is a useful addition to the branch line.
She first appeared in the book Tramway Engines
Mavis has also appeared as a character in the TV Series. Her function here is confused somewhat however - though she still works in various Quarries and carries her Ffarquhar Quarry Co. markings she seems to be fully under the authority of the Fat Controller.
Annie and Clarabel
- Main Article: Annie and Clarabel
Annie and Clarabel are Thomas's coaches and are used to carry passengers for him. They are his confidantes and friends.
- See also: Henrietta (TV Series character)
Henrietta is Toby's coach and travels everywhere with him.
She worked with Toby on his old railway on the mainland but got fewer and fewer passengers. When the line closed down the station master wanted to use her as a henhouse, and Toby couldn't allow that, so when the Fat Controller invited Toby to move to Sodor, he took Henrietta too. Henrietta now has more passengers, and is very happy on the Island.
Henrietta is based on a Wisbech and Upwell Tramway 4-wheel coach - one of four such coaches built for the tramway. One of her sister coaches (who has bogies) has recently been found and saved, and now is in a museum.
Henrietta is the only named 'Thomas' character who doesn't have a face, but Toby always seems to know how she feels.
Main article: Skarloey Railway
- Main Article: Skarloey
Skarloey is one of the oldest engines on the Island of Sodor. Skarloey lives and works on the Skarloey Railway as Engine No.1. He is a wise engine who knows everything there is to know about running a railway. He has great respect for coaches, passengers and his fellow engines, and often gives advice to the younger engines when it is needed. He also acts as a narrator in several of the stories.
When he first arrived in 1865, he was proud and arrogant, and believed himself too good to pull trucks. He also suffered from a short wheelbase which made him unstable and gave him the nickname "Bucking Bronco". He was given an extra set of wheels and a cab, which made him more pompous still. However, Rheneas eventually showed him the error of his ways. From then on, Skarloey was a hard worker, running the line with Rheneas until he was worn out.
- Main Article: Rheneas
Rheneas is one of the oldest engines on the Island of Sodor. Rheneas works on the Skarloey Railway as Engine No.2, and is known as the "Gallant Old Engine" because he saved the railway by getting a train home after a breakdown.
He was built in 1865 by Fletcher Jennings of Whitehaven, the same company that built Skarloey. He arrived shortly after Skarloey, but was at the start the more sensible of the two engines. He was a determined engine, and by the early 1950s he was running the railway alone. In Four Little Engines, he was sent away to be overhauled and did not return until seven books later, in Gallant Old Engine.
- Main Article: Sir Handel
Sir Handel is named after the owner of the Skarloey Railway, Sir Handel Brown, and works as Engine No.3. He worked on the Mid Sodor Railway under the name Falcon. He is a pompous character who thinks that pulling trucks is beneath him, and will do anything to get out of jobs he does not want to do.
He was built in 1903 for the Mid Sodor Railway, when he was painted blue and carried the name 'Falcon'. After that line closed, he was sold to the Sodor Aluminium Company and then to the Skarloey Railway, which at the time was desperately short of locomotives. Sir Handel did not cope well with the neglected track on his new railway, and would often derail - sometimes deliberately. He was given special wheels with broad tyres to cure this problem, which were known as "steamroller wheels" by the other engines.
In the 1980s, he was invited to the Talyllyn Railway. This story actually had some basis in fact, as the Talyllyn Railway had paid tribute to the Railway Series by repainting their locomotive Sir Haydn to resemble Sir Handel. Sir Handel was actually based upon Sir Haydn.
Sir Handel first appeared in Four Little Engines.
- Main Article: Peter Sam
Peter Sam works as Engine No. 4 on the Skarloey Railway. He was known as Stuart when he worked on the Mid Sodor Railway. He is a polite engine, popular with passengers and coaches alike. Even the trucks do not play tricks on him.
He was built in 1922 for the Mid Sodor Railway by Kerr Stuart, and was therefore given the name 'Stuart'. Like Sir Handel, he was later sold to the Sodor Aluminium Company and then to the Skarloey Railway. Following a collision with some trucks and an accident in a tunnel, he lost his funnel and was fitted with a Giesl ejector which made steaming far easier.
In the 1990s he was sent to the Talyllyn Railway. As with Sir Handel, this was based upon the Talyllyn Railway creating a "lookalike" engine, in this case by repainting the locomotive Edward Thomas.
He first appeared in Four Little Engines.
Rusty the Diesel is painted black and works as Engine No. 5 on the railway. He was built by the Ruston & Hornsby company from which he gets his name. His equivalent engine on the Talyllyn Railway is Midlander.
He is a reliable, practical and friendly engine who mainly works on maintenance duties, although he can also pull passenger or goods trains if the need arises.
He arrived in The Little Old Engine.
Duncan (engine No.6) arrived on the railway as a replacement when Skarloey was away being repaired. He was rough and bad-mannered, and believed himself to be overworked. He would often sway and lurch along the track - what the Thin Controller referred to as "rock 'n' roll". He had a number of accidents as a result. Although his behaviour has greatly improved, he can still be grumpy and cynical. His exact origins are unknown, but he did once work in a factory, according to Rusty.
He arrived in The Little Old Engine.
Terence the Tractor
- Main article: Terence the Tractor
Terence the Tractor is first seen in 'Thomas, Terence and the Snow' in the book Tank Engine Thomas Again (1949). He can go "anywhere" thanks to his caterpillar tracks and once famously helped Thomas out of a snowdrift.
Bertie the Bus
- Main Article: Bertie the Bus
Bertie is the friendly bus that first appears in the story in which he rescues Thomas's passengers whilst in a snow drift, and has his most famous adventure when he challenges Thomas to a race.
Trevor the Traction Engine
- Main Article: Trevor the Traction Engine
Trevor the Traction Engine was rescued in the story 'Saved from Scrap' and spends most of his time working in the orchard alongside Edward's branch line. He is used for all sorts of odd jobs.
Harold the Helicopter
- Main Article: Harold the Helicopter
Harold the Helicopter is a friend to The Railway Series characters, although they share a friendly rivalry. He is owned by the Island's coastguard and lives at Dryaw Airfield.
The Fat Controller
- Main Article: The Fat Controller
Sir Topham Hatt, The Fat Controller, is the head of the railway on Sodor. He is a firm but fair leader for whom the engines have the greatest respect.
Other Human Characters
- For other human characters see Minor human characters
A list of human characters in The Railway Series can also be found here.