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Thomas the Tank Engine - The Books and the Characters

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Thomas the Tank Engine
The Works of WV Awdry | On TV and in Film | The Books and the Characters

The Characters

The original series of Thomas the Tank Engine books introduced a whole range of characters, some more popular than others and some appeared in many of the books, while others were just 'bit players'. Here is a list of some of the most common characters:

The Fat Controller

The Fat Controller, also known as Sir Topham Hat1, runs the railways on Sodor. He is strict with his engines but always fair. Rarely seen without his top hat and tails.

Bertie the Bus

Bertie is a small, red single-decker bus. He arrived on the island soon after Thomas got his own branch line and the two became good friends, having had races and helped each other out on numerous occasions. Despite sometimes teasing the engines about being stuck on rails, Bertie is a friendly, helpful little bus.

Bill and Ben

Bill and Ben are identical twins, two bright yellow pannier engines. If you can't see their nameplates on their sides, you'd never be able to tell them apart. They work in the clay quarry on Sodor and are frequently to be heard arguing amongst themselves. They also have the reputation of being very mischievous and love teasing the other engines.


Boco is a green diesel engine. He works with Bill and Ben in the Clay pits and has to put up with their arguments and teasing. However, he keeps his sense of humour and smiles in the face of the terrible twins.


An old fashioned vintage car. Caroline isn't very fast and is a little fragile, but she loves pottering around the country lanes and taking people on picnics.


Daisy is a small diesel passenger train. She was sent to the island originally to help out on Thomas' branch line after he'd suffered an accident. When she first arrived she wasn't very popular, appearing stuck up and insulting Annie and Clarabelle (Thomas' coaches). She eventually calmed down however and is now very popular with the other engines.


Known as 'Devious Diesel' by the other engines. He came to the island 'on trial' but was quickly sent away after upsetting the other engines. Later on, when the Fat Controller needed an extra engine in an emergency, Diesel was the only one available, so he was sent back to the island. However, the other engines still distrust him and he's always ready to cause trouble in the engine sheds.

Donald and Douglas

Donald (No 9) and Douglas (No 10) are twins. They are both painted black and the only way to tell them apart is by their numbers, painted on their sides. They came down from Scotland to work on the Fat Controller's railway and have stayed their ever since. Despite the fact that they are a mischievous pair, they are friendly and well liked by all the other engines. Donald has even managed to 'adopt' a pet duck, who travels everywhere with him in his cab.


Duck is a bright green GWR2 pannier tank engine who has his own little branch line on the island. His proper name is Montague, but he much prefers Duck.


Edward is one of the older engines on the island. Painted bright blue, with the number 2 on his tender, he runs a little branch line which stretches from Brendam on the coast to Wellworth.


Gordon is a bright blue engine. Built in Doncaster as a prototype for The Flying Scotsman, he is a proud engine, a little snobbish at times but a hard worker all the same. Gordon is the fastest and strongest engine on the island, the trouble is that he knows it as well!


Harold the Helicopter is based at an airfield near Thomas' branch line. He's often busy in an emergency, dropping supplies for snowed-in villagers, hot drinks for stranded passengers, or just looking out for tourists on the beach.


Henry is a bright green engine with the number three painted on his side. He's nearly as big and fast as Gordon, but tends to be a little sensitive. When he first arrived on the island he refused to come out of a tunnel 'because the rain will damage my nice green paint'. He had a lot of teething problems when he first arrived on the island, he had to have a new smokebox fitted so that he could run on normal coal, instead of the expensive Welsh coal he was used to. He's still a bit of a hypochondriac though and often suffers from boiler trouble and colds. Despite this, he's friendly enough and always willing to help the other engines out.


James is a bright red engine. Shortly after he arrived on the island he was damaged when his wooden brake blocks caught fire. However he was soon repaired and even had an extra pair of wheels fitted to the front. He's a mixed traffic engine, meaning he's equally at home pulling passengers as pulling trucks. His bright red paint and polished brass dome makes him a little conceited at times, which usually leads to his downfall.


Mavis is a small diesel shunting engine, she normally works in the quarry but has been known to help out Toby with the tram. She's a little high spirited however and often gets into trouble.


Oliver, along with his brake van, Toad, were saved from the scrapyard by Douglas. He is a green GWR engine and now is quite happy helping out on Duck's branch line.


Percy is the smallest of the Fat Controller's engines. He is painted bright green and carries the number six. He's a cheerful little thing but isn't very brave.


Rusty, as his name suggests, is a little worse for wear. An old diesel shunting engine, he works around the docks. He's not afraid of anything and will always help out, regardless of the consequences.

Terence the Tractor

Terence runs on caterpillar tracks, he lives on a farm near Thomas' station - Ffarquhar. He's often being teased by the engines for being slow, but he's proved himself really useful on various occasions, whether it be clearing snow blocked roads, landslides or pulling engines out of snowdrifts.


Thomas the Tank Engine is the most famous steam engine on the island. He was originally loaned to The Fat Controller from the south of England. Once he had proved himself to be 'a really useful engine' he was given his own branch line and a permanent place on the island. He's a cheerful little blue engine, cheeky at times, but always happy to help out when needed. He runs his little branch line pulling two old coaches, named Annie and Clarabelle.


Toby is an unusual little engine. Originally designed to pull trams he has side plates covering his wheels and a cowcatcher on the front. He's a lot older than most of the engines, but that doesn't stop him running the tram and pulling goods trains when needed. He has his own little coach named Henrietta, who, strangely enough, is the only named character on the island never to have been drawn with a face.

Trevor the Traction Engine

Trevor was saved from the scrapyard by James and Edward. He's very old now and spends most of his day asleep in the Sun, but his favourite pastime is to take children on rides around the field.


Whilst not given individual characters in the stories. Trucks are generally bad tempered, obstinate things, whose sole purpose in life seems to be making things hard for the engines, either refusing to cooperate or, if they can get away with it, pushing the smaller engines around the yards. Many a small engine has ended up in a lot of trouble because of the trucks.


No.1 The Three Railway Engines - 1945

  1. Edward's Day Out
  2. Edward and Gordon
  3. The Sad Story of Henry
  4. Edward, Gordon and Henry

No. 2 Thomas the Tank Engine - 1946

  1. Thomas and Gordon
  2. Thomas' Trains
  3. Thomas and the Trucks
  4. Thomas and the Breakdown Train

No. 3 James the Red Engine - 1948

  1. James and the Top Hat
  2. James and the Bootlace
  3. Troublesome Trucks
  4. James and the Express

No. 4 Tank Engine Thomas Again - 1949

  1. Thomas and the Guard
  2. Thomas goes Fishing
  3. Thomas, Terence and the Snow
  4. Thomas and Bertie

No. 5 Troublesome Engines - 1950

  1. Henry and the Elephant
  2. Tenders and Turntables
  3. Trouble in the Shed
  4. Percy Runs Away

No. 6 Henry the Green Engine - 1951

  1. Coal
  2. The Flying Kipper
  3. Gordon's Whistle
  4. Percy and the Trousers
  5. Henry's Sneeze

No. 7 Toby the Tram Engine - 1952

  1. Dirty Objects
  2. Mrs Kyndley's Christmas
  3. Thomas in Trouble
  4. Toby and the Stout Gentleman

No. 8 Gordon the Big Engine - 1953

  1. Down the Mine
  2. Leaves
  3. Off the Rails
  4. Paintpots and Queens

No. 9 Edward the Blue Engine - 1954

  1. Bertie's Chase
  2. Cows
  3. Old Iron
  4. Saved from Scrap

No. 10 Four Little Engines - 1955

  1. Old Faithful
  2. Peter Sam and the Refreshment Lady
  3. Sir Handel
  4. Skarloey Remembers

No. 11 Percy the Small Engine - 1956

  1. Duck Takes Charge
  2. Percy and Harold
  3. Percy and the Signal
  4. Percy's Promise

No. 12 The Eight Famous Engines - 1957

  1. Double Header
  2. Gordon goes Foreign
  3. Percy Takes the Plunge
  4. The Fat Controller's Engines

No. 13 Duck and the Diesel Engine - 1958

  1. A Close Shave
  2. Dirty Work
  3. Domeless Engines
  4. Pop Goes the Diesel

No. 14 The Little Old Engines - 1959

  1. Home at Last
  2. Little old Twins
  3. Rock 'n' Roll
  4. Trucks

No. 15 The Twin Engines - 1960

  1. Brake Van
  2. Hullo Twins
  3. The Deputation
  4. The Missing Coach

No. 16 Branch Line Engines - 1961

  1. Bulls-eyes
  2. Daisy
  3. Percy's Predicament
  4. Thomas Comes to Breakfast

No. 17 Gallant Old Engine - 1962

  1. Gallant Old Engine
  2. Passengers and Polish
  3. Special Funnel
  4. Steam-Roller

No. 18 Stepney the Bluebell Engine - 1963

  1. The Bluebells of England
  2. Bowled Out
  3. Stepney's Special
  4. Train Stops Play

No. 19 Mountain Engines - 1964

  1. Bad Look-out
  2. Danger Points
  3. Devil's Back
  4. Mountain Engine

No. 20 Very Old Engines - 1965

  1. Bucking Bronco
  2. Crosspatch
  3. Duck and Dukes
  4. Stick-in-the-Mud

No. 21 Main Line Engines - 1966

  1. Buzz Buzz
  2. Edward's Exploits
  3. The Diseasel
  4. Wrong Road

No. 22 Small Railway Engines - 1967

  1. Ballast
  2. Mike's Whistle
  3. Tit for Tat
  4. Useful Railway

No. 23 Enterprising Engines - 1968

  1. Escape
  2. Little Western
  3. Super Rescue
  4. Tenders for Henry

No. 24 Oliver the Western Engine - 1969

  1. Bulgy
  2. Donald's Duck
  3. Resource and Sagacity
  4. Toad Stands By

No. 25 Duke the Lost Engine - 1970

  1. Bulldog
  2. Granpuff
  3. Sleeping Beauty
  4. You Can't Win

No. 26 Tramway Engines - 1972

  1. Ghost Train
  2. Mavis
  3. Toby's Tightrope
  4. Woolly Bear

The last book to be written by Rev. W Awdry - the series was later to be continued by his son, Christopher.

No. 27 Really Useful Engines - 1983

  1. Fish
  2. Mind That Bike
  3. Stop Thief!
  4. Triple Header

No. 28 James and the Diesel Engines - 1984

  1. Crossed Lines
  2. Deep Freeze
  3. Fire Engine
  4. Old Stuck-up

No. 29 Great Little Engines - 1985

  1. Patience is a Virtue
  2. Peter Sam and the Prickly Problem
  3. Pop Special
  4. Sir Handel Comes Home

No. 30 More About Thomas the Tank Engine - 1986

  1. Better Late than Never
  2. Drip Tank
  3. The Runaway
  4. Thomas, Percy and the Coal

No. 31 Gordon the High-Speed Engine - 1987

  1. Fire Escape
  2. Gordon Proves his Point
  3. High-Speed Gordon
  4. Smokescreen

No. 32 Toby, Trucks and Trouble - 1988

  1. Bullstrode
  2. Mavis and the Lorry
  3. Toby Takes the Road
  4. Toby's Seaside Holiday

No. 33 Thomas and the Twins - 1989

  1. Down the Drain
  2. Scrambled Eggs
  3. Trevor Helps Out
  4. What a Picture!

No. 34 Jock the New Engine - 1990

  1. Jock
  2. Sticking Power
  3. Teamwork
  4. We Need Another Engine

No. 35 Thomas and the Great Railway Show - 1991

  1. Museum Piece
  2. Not the Ticket
  3. Thomas and the Railtour
  4. Trouble on the Line

No. 36 Thomas Comes Home - 1992

  1. Snow Problem
  2. Thomas Comes Home
  3. Toby's Mega Train
  4. Washout

No. 37 Henry and the Express - 1993

  1. Henry Sees Red
  2. Out of Puff
  3. Overhaul
  4. Sliding Scales

No. 38 Wilbert the Forest Engine - 1994

  1. Cab over Wheels
  2. Foaming at the Funnel
  3. Percy's Porridge
  4. Wired-up

No. 39 The Fat Controller's Engines - 1995

  1. Birdstrike
  2. Edward and the Cabbages
  3. Golden Jubilee
  4. Rabbits

No. 40 New Little Engine - 1996

  1. Dirty Water
  2. I Name This Engine
  3. Sir Handel's Plan
  4. Speedkiller
1Prior to the nationalisation of the British railway system he had the title of 'The Fat Director'.2GWR - Great Western Railway.

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