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North Western Railway
Thomas (Number 1)
Thomas the Tank Engine (No. 1) is a 0-6-0T ex-London, Brighton and South Coast Railway E2 class locomotive, built in 1915, who arrived on Sodor in the same year. He is painted in blue with red lining. Thomas is also the primary character in the eponymous television series, Thomas and Friends.
Edward (Number 2)
Edward the Blue Engine (No. 2) is a 4-4-0 ex-Furness Railway K2 class locomotive. He is the first character to appear in The Railway Series. He is painted blue with red stripes. He was built in 1896 and arrived on Sodor in 1915.
Edward is one of the oldest engines on the railway, as well as very kind, always tries to help, and is a friend to everyone. He likes pulling trains as well as shunting trucks, which he is very knowledgeable about. However, the bigger engines sometimes make fun of him because they say that "' Tender Engines don't shunt'", and that he is old fashioned, but the Fat Controller still says he's a Useful Engine.
Henry (Number 3)
Henry the Green Engine (No. 3) is a 4-6-0 based on plans for an LNER A1 with parts from an LNER C1. He was built in 1919 and arrived on Sodor in 1922. There have been two Railway Series books devoted to him, namely Henry the Green Engine and Henry and the Express.
Awdry had wanted to write Henry out of the series, because Clarence R. Dalby's drawings made him look too similar to Gordon. After getting various letters from children about the character, Awdry changed his mind and in the sixth book, Henry the Green Engine, Henry is damaged in an accident and rebuilt in a more distinctive style, based on a Stanier "Black Five". Henry is painted green with red stripes.
Henry was the central character in a controversial Railway Series story. In 'Henry's Sneeze', the character blasts some troublemaking schoolboys with soot and they "ran away as black as niggers". In 1972, articles in the British press raised this as an example of racism. Awdry claimed that it was a case of oversensitivity on the part of the race relations board, but he apologized and changed the offending sentence to "as black as soot", which has been used in subsequent editions of the book.
Gordon (Number 4)
Gordon the Big Engine (No. 4) is a 4-6-2 ('Pacific') ex-London and North Eastern Railway Gresley Class A1 locomotive. He is painted blue with red stripes. He is the biggest engine on the railway and usually pulls the Express. He is also very boastful and proud, but good at heart. He loves pulling coaches but not dirty trucks. He was built in 1922, arrived on Sodor in 1923, and rebuilt in 1939.
Gordon is named after a rude boy that lived on the Awdrys' street when Christopher was a child.
James (Number 5)
James the Red Engine (No. 5) is a 2-6-0 ('Mogul') ex-Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Class 28 mixed-traffic locomotive. He is painted red with black (later blue) and gold stripes. He is quite vain, hot-headed, and loves showing off his red paint. Despite this, he is good-hearted and kind. He was built around 1912/13.
It is stated[where?][by whom?] that James arrived on the Island of Sodor in 1925, however in the Author's Note of 'James the Red Engine' (where James first appeared), it states that the nationalisation of British railways has just happened, which would mean he arrived in 1948.
Percy (Number 6)
Percy the Small Engine (No. 6) is an 0-4-0ST of indeterminate origins, partly based on the GWR No. 1340 Trojan. He is painted light green with red stripes. He is a cheeky little engine with a strong sense of adventure, a high work rate, and who doesn't let anyone push him around, which sometimes gets him into trouble. He was built in 1925, He arrived on Sodor sometime before 1935 during a railway strike.
Toby (Number 7)
Toby the Tram Engine (No. 7) is an 0-6-0 tram engine, of the Great Eastern Railway's class C53. He works on Thomas's branch line, the Ffarquar branch line. He is painted brown and blue. He is a wise, experienced engine who knows all there is to know about running a branch line. He was built in 1914 and arrived on Sodor in 1951.
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.
Duck (Number 8/5741)
Duck the Great Western Engine (real name Montague; No. 8, but displays his ex-GWR number, 5741) is an 0-6-0PT ex-Great Western Railway 5700 Class locomotive. He is painted in Great Western green and is officially numbered 8, although he carries a cast GWR number plate on his cab sides (5741). He currently runs his own branch line, The Little Western. He is a loyal hard worker who believes that "there are only two ways to do things: the Great Western way, and the wrong way." He was built in 1929 and arrived on Sodor in 1955. Prior to his arrival on Sodor, he worked at Paddington. This fact is revealed in the story "Gordon goes Foreign".
Donald and Douglas (Numbers 9 & 10)
Donald and Douglas the Twin Engines (Numbers 9 and 10 respectively) are identical 0-6-0 ex-Caledonian Railway 812 Class locomotive who came from Scotland on trial. Not wanting to be separated, and knowing that one of them would have been scrapped on remaining in Scotland, they decided to travel together and hope for the best. Although the Fat Controller was only expecting one engine and intended to send the other back to Scotland, he changed his mind after hearing how they performed in the snow and decided to keep both engines in his fleet.
The 'Twin Engines', as they became known, were painted black all-over on arrival at the island, but are then painted in blue with red stripes to match Gordon, Edward and Thomas. Donald & Douglas were given the numbers 9 and 10 respectively, as well as nameplates. They are practical, cheeky and no-nonsense engines who can be relied upon for any task. They were built in 1899 and arrived on Sodor in 1959.
Oliver (Number 11/1436)
Oliver the Great Western Engine (No. 11, but displays his ex-GWR number, 1436) is an 0-4-2T ex-Great Western Railway 1400 Class locomotive, who 'escaped' from the Other Railway where he was due to be scrapped. The GWR 1400 class engines were fitted with a mechanical system allowing the driver to control the locomotive remotely from the cab of an 'autocoach', such as Isabel.
He first appears in the book Enterprising Engines, where his rescue by Douglas is described. Also escaping with Oliver were his faithful coaches, 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 overconfident. He was built in 1934 and arrived on Sodor in 1968. BoCo's Brother D5701 was one of the diesels looking for Oliver when Oliver hid on that old quarry branch but never caught him, later arriving at Barrow-in-Furness due to running out of coal and water until Douglas saved him.
After arriving on Sodor, Oliver was restored, painted GWR green, and allocated loco number 11 on the North Western Railway books. However, he was allowed to keep his GWR number '1436'. He was assigned to work with on Duck's 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, as he had operated a passenger branchline up until this point. While shunting his first ballast train, an incident resulted in Oliver landing bunker-down in a turntable well. On his return from the Works, the trucks continually harassed him, teasing about his accident with an irritating song called "Pop Goes Old Ollie". With Toad's help, Oliver learned how to deal with them (apart from one truck, S.C.Ruffey, who was torn apart). Since then, he has gained experience and sense.
The story of Oliver's 'escape' is related by the Rev. W. Awdry in The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways.
Oliver has appeared in Enterprising Engines and, of course, the stories in the next book in the series, Oliver the Western Engine. He had a cameo appearance in the next volume, after which he was not seen again until Henry and the Express.
Oliver was named after Oliver Wicks – Awdry's next door neighbour in Rodborough, Stroud – who was a much respected member of Stroud Baptist Church.
Daisy (Number D1)
Daisy the Diesel Railcar (No. D1) is a unique diesel railcar, painted green with yellow lining (similar to the livery of British Railways' DMUs in the 1960s). She was built in 1960 and arrived on Sodor specially for use on the Ffarquhar branch line (Thomas' branch line). 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 sprung", and thought herself more clever 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 wiser and valuable addition to Thomas' branch line.
Daisy is 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 is because the original model was built by amalgamating two of Tri-ang's R157 models. This would also account for Daisy's refusal to pull a milk van to the dairy, as the lightweight units were not strong 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.
BoCo (Number D2)
BoCo the Big Friendly Diesel (No. D2) is a Co-Bo mixed traffic locomotive diesel locomotive, who works mainly on Edward's Branch Line (the Brendham branch line, but can also be seen working on The Main Line. He is painted in a shade of green (light green in the television series) used by British Railways in the 1960s. He first appeared in the book Main Line Engines. He was built in 1958 and arrived on Sodor in 1965.
BoCo was received with some hostility by Bill and Ben, who called him a "Diseasel" due to a misunderstanding (the word "Diseasel" is also a portmanteau word combining the words "Disease" and "Diesel" and characters are heard commenting that "Coughs and sneezles spread diseasels"), and by James, who called him a "buzzbox". Edward accepted him right away, and soon the others were won over. BoCo is a kind-hearted engine who enjoys a good joke, and he is always ready with a good word when needed.
BoCo is a Metropolitan-Vickers Type 2 Class 28 diesel-electric locomotive, named after its unusual wheel arrangement, which is known as "Co-Bo". 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 rather than 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, undergoing restoration to operational condition.
BoCo's name is always spelt with a capital B and a capital C. 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.
In the Railway Series, BoCo carries his North Western Railway number 'D2', whereas in the television series he carries the number D5702, which is in the range of numbers assigned to the real "Metrovick" locomotives by British Railways. In reality, D5702, built in October 1958, was withdrawn in September 1968 and cut up at John Cashmore's scrapyard in Newport, in November 1969.
Bear (Number D3) / D7101
Bear (No.D3) was originally known as D7101.
As described in the books, D7101 first arrived on the Island of Sodor on a trial for The Fat Controller. He was accompanied by another diesel engine, D199, who talked about taking over the railway, which D7101 didn't like. Later in the same story, D7101 suffered from a failed ejector and had to be rescued by Henry. He befriended his rescuer, and The Fat Controller decided to give him a second chance. D7101 was given a new name, "Bear", a new number, D3, and a new coat of paint, and D199 was sent away in disgrace.
Bear attracted his nickname because of the sound of his engine, which is loud and gives off a growling sound he can't help. Bear was one of the later additions to the Railway Series universe, built in 1964 and arriving in 1967. He is based on the British Rail Class 35 "Hymek" B-B diesel-hydraulic locomotive, first built in 1961.
Bear now pulls the Express. He wears the two-tone green livery he would have carried when built (all-over British Railways locomotive green, with a narrow band of a lighter, lime green along the bottom of the sides, cream-white cab window surrounds, and a small yellow warning panel). When he arrived he wore the British Rail 'Rail Blue' livery.
Like D199, Bear's number, D7101, is fictional but plausible; the final Class 35 was numbered 'D7100'.
He first appeared in the book Enterprising Engines and he has several cameos, one very noticeable cameo is in the "James And The Diesel Engine" Story: "Old Stuck-Up" where he is shown with BoCo and the other engines in the shed.
Pip and Emma
Pip (short for Philippa) and Emma are the two class 43 locomotives (or "power cars") which top and tail an InterCity 125 High-Speed diesel trainset. They had experienced problems with their cooling system and came to the railway when Gordon was on a journey. They soon made friends with all the engines.
They have had three appearances, one in Gordon the High-Speed Engine, and two others as main characters in Thomas and the Fat Controller's Engines and Thomas and His Friends. Following Privatisation, the Fat Controller has decided to purchase them in order to run a faster service to London.
Pip and Emma are based on the British Rail Class 43 HST painted in the original InterCity 125 livery of yellow and blue, and built in 1975. After being purchased by the Fat Controller in 2011, the words "InterCity 125" and the BR Logo which were painted on their sides were replaced by "NWR" and have red nameplates with yellow writing.
Pip and Emma are also the names of two sibling characters in the Agatha Christie novel A Murder is Announced. The phrase "pip emma" was also used in the signalese developed by the British Army signallers in the First World War to mean post meridiem, or p.m.
Annie and Clarabel
Annie and Clarabel are Thomas' coaches and carry passengers on his branch line. They are his confidantes and friends. Annie can only take passengers, while Clarabel can take passengers, luggage, and the Guard. Thomas sometimes sings them little songs, and they love to sing too.
Isabel, Dulcie, Alice and Mirabel
Skarloey Railway locomotives all have real-life equivalents; numbers 1-7 and number 9 are all "twins" of locomotives on the Talyllyn Railway (with the same numbers); Number 8 (Duke) is based on Prince, a Small England class locomotive on the Ffestiniog Railway.
Skarloey (Number 1)
Skarloey (No. 1) is named after Skarloey station, the northernmost station on the Skarloey Railway. He's an 0-4-2ST (originally an 0-4-0ST), and is one of the oldest engines on the Island of Sodor. He is a wise and kind 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. Skarloey's equivalent engine on the Talyllyn Railway is Talyllyn. He was built in 1864.
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 pompous still. However, he was eventually shown the error of his ways. From then on, Skarloey became a hard worker, running the line with Rheneas until he was worn out.
Rheneas (Number 2)
Rheneas (No. 2) is named after Rheneas station, a station on the Skarloey Railway. He is an 0-4-0WT (but also has a back tank), and is one of the oldest engines on the Island of Sodor. Rheneas is known as the "Gallant Old Engine" because he saved the railway by getting a train home after a breakdown. His equivalent engine on the Talyllyn Railway is Dolgoch.
He was built in 1865 by Fletcher, Jennings & Co. 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.
Sir Handel (Number 3)
Sir Handel (No. 3) is named after Sir Handel Brown, the owner of the Skarloey Railway. He is an 0-4-2ST (originally an 0-4-0ST, like Skarloey), who originally worked on the Mid Sodor Railway under the name Falcon. He is a stubborn and pompous engine who thinks that pulling trucks is beneath him, and will do anything to get out of jobs he does not want to do. His equivalent engine on the Talyllyn Railway is Sir Haydn.
He was built in 1904 at the Falcon Works in Loughborough, and arrived on the Mid Sodor Railway in the same year, when he was painted blue and given the name 'Falcon' (after the works he was built in). 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 soon 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 (whom Sir Handel was based on) to resemble Sir Handel. Sir Handel first appeared in Four Little Engines.
In the recent TV series, Sir Handel has a kind and wise personality like Skarloey, Rheneas, and Duke.
Peter Sam (Number 4)
Peter Sam (No. 4) is named after Peter Sam (better known as The Thin Controller), the manager of the Skarloey Railway. He is an 0-4-2ST, who originally worked on the Mid Sodor Railway under the name Stuart. He is a polite engine, popular with passengers and coaches alike. Even the trucks do not play tricks on him. His equivalent engine on the Talyllyn Railway is Edward Thomas.
He was built in 1920 by Kerr Stuart and Co. in Stoke-on-Trent, for the Mid Sodor Railway and was given the name 'Stuart' and painted green. Like Sir Handel, he was later sold to the Sodor Aluminium Company and then to the Skarloey Railway. Following an accident with some slate trucks (set before the arrival of Duncan), he soon lost his funnel and was fitted with a Giesl ejector which made steaming far easier (set before Sir Handel got new wheels).
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 (Number 5)
He is a reliable, practical and friendly little engine who mainly works on maintenance duties, although he can also pull passenger or goods trains if the need arises.
He arrived in the book The Little Old Engine.
Duncan (Number 6)
Duncan (No. 6) is an 0-4-0WT, built by Andrew Barclay in Kilmarnock in 1918, and arrived on Sodor in 1958. He arrived on the railway second-hand, as a replacement when Peter Sam had his accident at the quarry. 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. Despite the fact that he can still get bad-mannered, cheeky, and cynical, his behavior has greatly improved and he became a much nicer, respectable, more useful locomotive. His exact origins are unknown, but he did once work in a factory, according to Peter Sam. His equivalent engine on the Talyllyn Railway is Douglas.
He arrived in the book The Little Old Engine.
Ivo Hugh (Number 7)
Ivo Hugh (No. 7) is named after Ivo Hugh, the Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the Skarloey Railway and Rusty's driver. He is an 0-4-2T, and is the Skarloey Railway's newest engine, built in 1996. His equivalent engine on the Talyllyn Railway is Tom Rolt.
He was built in 1996 in the Skarloey Railway's workshops, at Crovan's Gate.
He first appeared in New Little Engine.
Duke (Number 8)
Duke (No. 8) is named after The Duke of Sodor. He is an 0-4-0STT, who originally worked on the Mid Sodor Railway under the same name. His equivalent engine on the Ffestiniog Railway is Prince, one of the four engines in the Ffestiniog Railway's 'Small England class'.
He was built in 1879 for the opening of the Mid Sodor Railway. He was named 'The Duke', after the Duke of Sodor. This name was later shortened to simply "Duke".
He first appeared in Duke the Lost Engine.
Fred (Number 9)
He first appeared in New Little Engine. He was bulit in 1996.
Bill and Ben (Sodor China Clay company numbers 1 & 2)
Bill (No.1) and Ben (No.2) are twin 0-4-0ST engines who work for the Sodor China Clay Co.. They are painted dark orange with red lining, and both have Saddle tanks which cover their smokeboxes, but not their Fireboxes. They have 'SCC' painted in yellow on their Saddle tanks, and underneath are their names on brown nameplates; their numbers are painted on their smokeboxes, under 'Brendam Bay'. Apart from their nameplates and numbers, 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 were built in 1948 and arrived on Sodor sometime in the 1960s.
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 Alfred and Judy, two engines built by Bagnall's of Stafford, who worked at Par, Cornwall. They are unusually low, allowing them to fit under bridges that taller engines could not. Alfred and Judy are both preserved at the Bodmin and Wenford Railway.
In the television series, they are nearly twice the size of the engines upon which they are based.
Mavis (Ffarquar Quarry company)
Mavis the Quarry Diesel is a 6wDM shunting engine. She belongs to the Ffarquhar Quarry Co., and works mainly shunting stone trucks in their quarry. She sometimes brings Toby's trucks down the line when he 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 the sideplates and cow-catcher for use on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway, the same line that Toby came from. She was built by the Drewry Car Company  and arrived on Sodor in 1962.
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. However the two became friends 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. She was named after the Rev W. Awdry's neighbour in Rodborough, Stroud.
Non-rail vehicle characters
Terence is a tractor who was 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. He was built in 1934.
Bertie is the friendly bus that first appears in the story in which he rescues Thomas' passengers whilst in a snow drift, and has his most famous adventure when he challenges Thomas to a race. He often talks to Thomas and takes his passengers to their homes at the end of the day.
Trevor the Traction Engine
Trevor is a traction engine who 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. Edward often stops to talk to him on his journey. Trevor's favorite thing to do is to take children for rides in the orchard.
Harold is a friendly helicopter to The Railway Series characters, although they share a friendly rivalry. He is best known for the famous race between him and Percy. He is owned by the Island's coastguard and lives at Dryaw Airfield. He is white and has red stripes. He was built in 1949 and appears in 1956.
The Fat Controller
The minor characters are described in the articles about the railways on which they operate:
- Culdee Fell Railway locomotives
- Arlesdale Railway locomotives
- "W. Awdry Dies". The Washington Post. The Washington Post. 23 March 1997. Retrieved 24 October 2020.
- Sibley, Brian (1995). The Thomas the Tank Engine Man. London: Heinemann. pp. 272–5. ISBN 0-434-96909-5.
- The Rev. W. Awdry; G Awdry (1987). The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways. Kaye & Ward. p. 126. ISBN 0-434-92762-7.
- Awdry, Christopher (2005). Sodor, Reading Between the Lines. Sodor Enterprises. p. 9. ISBN 0-9549665-1-1.
- Awdry, Christopher (2005). Sodor: Reading Between the Lines. Sodor Enterprises. p. 13. ISBN 0-9549665-1-1.
- "The Wisbech and Upwell Tramway: Toby and Mavis". lner.info. LNER. Retrieved November 5, 2017.