Minor characters in The Railway Series

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The Railway Series by the Reverend W. V. Awdry and Christopher Awdry is populated with many and varied characters. Some of these had only a few stories or pages devoted to them and, as such, they cannot be regarded as 'major' characters.

This page lists and profiles these characters using the same categories as the sister page, Major characters in The Railway Series.

Standard gauge engines[edit]

These are the characters that run on standard gauge (4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)) railway track. They comprise the majority of Engines on the Island of Sodor.

'Sodor' engines[edit]

Neil[edit]

See: Sodor & Mainland Railway locomotives

LNER Class J15[edit]

An unnamed LNER Class J15 appears in the book Toby, Trucks and Trouble. He was rescued by Toby when that engine worked on the London and North Eastern Railway. The J15 was dirty and badly maintained, and suffered from steam leaks which made it hard for him to pull trains. (This poor condition has led to its nickname among fans: "The Old Engine".,[1] even though it specifically says that he was younger than Toby.)

Sixteen[edit]

Sixteen (16) is a Hunslet 'Austerity' Class tank engine, painted rusty reddish-brown with black and yellow hazard stripes.

In the book Wilbert the Forest Engine, Wilbert (another Austerity) told a story about Sixteen, in which Sixteen worked in a steelworks and spent all day shunting trucks full of slag to take to a place called the 'tip' – a huge pile of waste. Engines were not allowed to travel along the track on the tip itself, as it was not firm enough to take their weight. However, one day Sixteen wished to be insolent, and told the trucks to drag him past the board. The ground beneath him gave way and he rolled down an embankment. He was rescued but not repaired, and remained in storage until bought by a preservation society, and he now works somewhere in the Midlands.

Albert[edit]

Albert is a red Furness Railway J1 2-4-2T tank engine with a yellow FR on him who worked on the Lakeside branch, as seen in the book Thomas and Victoria, where his two coaches are Victoria and Helena. He is involved in an incident where snow falls on him as he sets off with gusto from Haverthwaite station which teaches him to take more care in wintry conditions.

The J1 class was rebuilt from the earlier E1 class of 2-4-0 tender engines of 1870-82, which were built originally by Sharp, Stewart & Co. Seven of these were rebuilt into J1s in 1891.

Rolling Stock[edit]

The Flying Kipper[edit]

The Flying Kipper is an overnight express freight train carrying fish from Tidmouth docks to London and elsewhere on the mainland. The train is usually pulled by Henry and comprises only four-wheel fish vans. The train features directly, or indirectly, in a number of stories in The Railway Series, and Henry is very proud to be responsible for such an important duty.

The Flying Kipper first features in Henry the Green Engine. It is a very snowy night, and a build-up of ice prevents a semaphore signal from returning to 'danger'. Unaware that the points ahead have frozen and are set the wrong way, Henry passes the signal and crashes into the back of a goods train, which had been shunted into a siding to let him pass. This is a significant incident in the story of Henry since it meant he was sent to Crewe to be repaired and modified, and came back literally 'a different engine'.

The train featured again in the book Really Useful Engines. Railway regulations state that all trains must carry a red light on the last vehicle, so signalmen know that the train is complete. In this story, Duck is being the banker for Henry as he tackles Gordon's Hill. Henry manages to pull ahead, but Duck's driver cannot see the tail lamp on the 'Kipper', and, as it is a very dark night, he is caught out when Henry slows down at the top of the hill – with the result that Duck crashes into the back of the train.

Duck is clearly shown to crash into a van, so by the time of that story the 'Kipper' was running as a 'fully fitted' train (i.e. every van fitted with vacuum brakes), hence not requiring a brake van. The illustrations for the earlier stories give no clues whether a brake van is used or not, but in all cases the engine pulling the train shows the correct 'Class 4' headlamp code to indicate an express freight service.

The Flying Kipper makes another appearance during Henry's next major overhaul. In Henry and the Express, it is James who is asked to pull the train. After an incident where some crates are dropped on the track and James is splattered with fish oil, James comments that he hated The Flying Kipper because "you can't get the smell off your tender for weeks".

The Flying Kipper is based on the Scots Goods that steam trains haul daily.

The Spiteful Brakevan[edit]

The Spiteful Brakevan is a brake van who appeared in book 15, The Twin Engines, in the story 'Break Van'. He took a dislike to Douglas and delayed his trains until Donald told him off. Later, he held James's train back and Douglas had to help push the train up a steep hill. However, Douglas's efforts crushed the brake van into pieces, and subsequently he was not rebuilt.

The illustrations are based on a standard LNER brake van type.

Isabel, Dulcie, Alice and Mirabel[edit]

Isabel is an autocoach originally from the Great Western Railway. She has always worked with Oliver, and escaped with him and Toad to Sodor. She now works with him on Duck's branch line.

Her name comes from the fact that there "is a bell" on her, which she rings when she is happy. She travels coupled behind Oliver. When he is pushing ('propelling') her, he cannot see ahead, and so Isabel looks out for him.

When the Fat Controller reopened Duck's branch line, he had Isabel refurbished and bought three other autocoaches. One, Dulcie, runs with Oliver and Isabel. The other two, Alice and Mirabel, run with Duck.

Oliver once sang of Isabel and Dulcie, "If I did not look after them, they'd not know what to do." In fact, the opposite seems far more likely!

The coaches first appeared in Enterprising Engines.

Toad the Brake Van[edit]

Toad is a 20-ton brake van from the Great Western Railway who was rescued by Douglas at the same time as Oliver and Isabel. In gratitude, he became Douglas' brake van. Unusually among the trucks, he is well-behaved and always has the greatest respect for engines and the orderly running of the railway. He always refers to engines as "Mr", calling Oliver "Mr Oliver" and Douglas "Mr. Douglas".

His name comes from the fact that, on the Great Western Railway, brake vans were known by the telegraph code "Toad".[2]

Scruffey[edit]

Scruffey was a Private-Owner ballast truck owned by one S. C. Ruffey and based at Tidmouth. After Oliver had been pushed down a turntable well by trucks, Scruffey led the other trucks in singing rude songs about the accident. However, Toad the brake van (see above) had a plan to control the trucks, giving Oliver guidance on marshalling them two by two and Scruffey last and making sure he had sand on the rails to give him a good grip. When Scruffey told the other trucks to hold back he was pulled apart between them and Oliver. This wasn't so much a result of Oliver's strength as the fact that Scruffey suffered from rotten wood and rusty frames, and would probably have fallen apart anyway. This fact was kept from the other trucks, who now believe Oliver to be extremely strong, and not an engine to be antagonised.

He only ever appeared in Oliver the Western Engine in the story 'Toad Stands By', as he was scrapped as a pile of broken parts- although he was rebuilt with a new body in the TV series.

Victoria[edit]

Victoria is a vintage Furness Railway 4-wheeled coach, who was formerly used on the Lakeside branch, in conjunction with Albert (an engine) and Helena, an identical coach. After she became obsolete, she moved to Sodor and became a summerhouse in a garden near Elsbridge station on Thomas's branch line. Discovered by Thomas' driver, it was decided that she could be restored and used on the tramway from Ffarquhar to Anopha Quarry, to help Toby and Henrietta. She also helps Thomas, Annie and Clarabel on busy days, too.

It appears that she is based on a 4-wheeled coach dating from 1882. As there is no evidence of this type recorded in use post-grouping, it seems likely that she moved to Sodor before 1923.

Helena[edit]

Helena is a Furness Railway 4-wheeled coach, who is identical to Victoria.

The Other Railway engines[edit]


Steam engines
  • The Foreign Engine/The Big City Engine
  • Jinty & Pug
Diesel engines
  • The Diesel/D4711/Bowler
  • D199/Old Reliable/Spamcan
  • Old Stuck Up
  • The Works Diesel

Narrow gauge engines[edit]

As the name implies, narrow gauge railways have their rails closer together than standard gauge railways. There are three narrow gauge lines on Sodor : the Culdee Fell Railway (800 mm (2 ft 7 12 in) gauge); and the Mid-Sodor and Skarloey Railways (both 2 ft 3 in (686 mm) gauge).

Culdee Fell Railway[edit]


  • Godred
  • Ernest
  • Wilfred
  • Culdee
  • Shane Dooiney
  • Lord Harry / Patrick (at end of book)
  • Alaric
  • Eric

Rolling Stock:

  • Catherine
  • The Truck

Mid Sodor Railway[edit]


  • Duke
  • Falcon
  • Stuart
  • Stanley
  • Smudger

Skarloey Railway engines[edit]


For the other Skarloey Engines, see Major Skarloey Engines

Ivo Hugh[edit]

Ivo Hugh first appeared in the final story of Volume 40 (New Little Engine), 'I Name This Engine', when his name was revealed.

Ivo Hugh was named after the Chief Mechanical Engineer for the Skarloey Railway, and the naming of the engine was an idea by both all the engines on the Island of Sodor and the Director of the Railway, The Thin Controller. He is engine number 7 on the Skarloey Railway.

Ivo Hugh is based on 0-4-2 tank locomotive No. 7 Tom Rolt, of the Talyllyn Railway in Wales.

Duke[edit]

For the TV Series character, see Duke (TV series)

Duke is the third-oldest engine on the island, after Skarloey (1864) and Rheneas (1865). He is a "George England and Co."-type 0-4-0 tender/saddle tank locomotive. He was built at Boston Lodge in 1879, to the order of the Earl of Sodor, for the opening of the Mid Sodor Railway (MSR) in 1880. The MSR Directors named him "Duke" in honour of the Earl, who was the company Chairman.

Duke was MSR engine number 1, and was painted in a brown livery. He is the only narrow gauge engine in the Railway Series to have a tender, and, like the other MSR engines, has no buffers (in order to prevent buffers locking together on tight curves)

Being the oldest engine on the line, Duke liked everything to be "just so". Whenever something displeased him he would utter his catchphrase, "That would never suit His Grace". These characteristics prompted the other MSR engines, Falcon and Stuart, to give him the nickname "Granpuff", although secretly they had great respect for him.

When the assets of the Mid Sodor Railway were sold off after its closure in 1947, Duke was considered to be too old. Unsold, he was left oiled, greased, and tarpaulined in his shed. This was subsequently buried by a landslide, leaving Duke almost forgotten. Following his rediscovery in 1969 by the Fat Clergyman, the Thin Clergyman and the Small Controller (see the book Duke the Lost Engine), he was restored by the Skarloey Railway to be their No.8, although he still carries his MSR brown livery, rather than the red used on the other steam engines.

Duke first appeared in the book Duke the Lost Engine. His restoration was completed in Great Little Engines and he appeared in the illustrations of New Little Engine.

Prince, an older engine to the same design as the Duke, may be seen working at the Ffestiniog Railway, and Rev. W. Awdry acknowledges in the foreword to Duke the Lost Engine that this is the basis of the character.

Fred[edit]

Just like Rusty, Fred is a diesel working on the Skarloey Railway. So far, he has only had a brief mention in one story in the book New Little Engine. The book Sodor: Reading Between the Lines elaborates a little further, stating that the Skarloey Railway bought two worn out Hunslet diesels from the National Coal Board. Using parts from both engines, they constructed Fred.

He is the Skarloey Railway's No.9. Nothing is known about his personality.

Fred is based on the locomotive Alf, which works at the Talyllyn Railway in Wales. The name 'Fred' is a play on the prototype's, both names are shortened versions of 'Alfred'.

Skarloey Rolling Stock[edit]

The Skarloey coaches are:

Agnes, Ruth, Lucy, Jemima and Beatrice[edit]

These four coaches have served the Skarloey Railway, and are named after Sir Handel Brown's daughters. Sir Handel the engine, however, referred to them as "cattle trucks", which made him very unpopular with them. Agnes is a first class carriage, and looks down on the others, who are third class. She appears to be their leader, and has a deep voice. They first appeared in Four Little Engines, and have appeared in every Skarloey Railway-centred volume since. Their real-life equivalents are the Talyllyn Railway carriages numbers 1 to 4.

Beatrice is a guard's van, usually coupled behind Agnes, and the others: Ruth, Lucy and Jemima. Like them, she is named after one of Sir Handel Brown's daughters. The coaches look down on her, and claim that she "smells of fish and cheese". She is, however, very useful. She has a ticket booth and an emergency buzzer, and sometimes even carries passengers when the coaches are full. She too has appeared in every Skarloey Railway-centred volume. Her real-life equivalent is the Talyllyn Railway brake van number 5.

Cora[edit]

Cora is another guard's van. She came from the Mid Sodor Railway (MSR) in The Little Old Engine and, unlike Beatrice, earns her keep on maintenance and goods trains. Peter Sam likes her best, for she was his guard's van on the MSR.

She is based on the Corris Railway brake van which transferred to the Talyllyn Railway in 1951 and became their number 6.

Ada, Jane and Mabel[edit]

Three open carriages. They came in the book The Little Old Engine. They were originally designed for carrying quarry workers, but are now used for tourist traffic. Since their arrival, they have had roofs fitted. They were once honoured to be used by a television crew filming on the railway. Their real-life equivalents were carriages from the Penrhyn Quarry Railway that run on the Talyllyn Railway which are numbers 11, 12 & 13, which have since been rebuilt with roofs.

Gertrude and Millicent[edit]

Sir Handel considered Gertrude and Millicent the only 'proper' coaches on the Skarloey Railway. Unlike the other coaches, they run smoothly on bogies. As a result, Sir Handel is always trying to take them out. Their real-life equivalents are Talyllyn Railway numbers 9 and 10, which were originally constructed by the railway using bought-in frames (and known as the "cardboard coaches"), but later re-bodied using pre-manufactured bodies.

They first appeared in The Little Old Engine.

Miniature railway engines[edit]

The Arlesdale Railway (or the Small Railway) is the miniature railway on Sodor. With a gauge of only 15 in (381 mm) – just over half the width of the narrow gauge railways – this line could be regarded as a minimum gauge railway.

Arlesdale Railway[edit]

Main article: see Arlesdale Railway Locomotives
  • Rex, Bert and Mike – the original steam engines brought over from the mainland
  • Jock – a new steam engine, built at the railway
  • Frank – a diesel engine

Real Engines featured in the Railway Series[edit]

City of Truro[edit]

The famous GWR engine, City of Truro, visits the Island of Sodor, at the beginning of Duck and the Diesel Engine (volume 13 of The Railway Series), with a special train for the Railway Society.

Duck talks Great Western all night with City of Truro, which makes Duck very proud of his GW ancestry, much to the annoyance of the other engines.

He is mentioned in Thomas and the Great Railway Show as one of the engines Thomas meets at the National Railway Museum.

City of Truro also appears in the TV Series, albeit in a rather less significant role.

Stepney[edit]

The "real" Stepney, on the Bluebell Railway

Stepney is a London, Brighton and South Coast Railway A1X Class 'Terrier' 0-6-0T tank locomotive. He appears in Stepney the "Bluebell" Engine (vol 18 of the Railway Series) on a visit from the Bluebell Railway.

Stepney is named after the area of London (Stepney). Many of the Terrier locomotives were named after similar areas. Stepney is painted in the attractive yellow ochre locomotive livery of the LB&SCR, perversely called Stroudley's Improved Engine Green.

Following adventures with a 'Special' (train) and a cricket match, Stepney is asked to help Duck pull diesel D4711's train, after the diesel has inhaled the Inspector's bowler hat. It is at the beginning of this journey that Stepney gives Duck his advice about using sand to get a good start, referred to in later books in the series: "...as they backed down, they dropped sand on the rails, rolling it firm with their wheels"

The Rev W. Awdry originally wrote Stepney into the series as a means of publicising the Bluebell Railway, and encouraging readers to support the fledgling railway preservation movement in the UK.

Stepney also appears in the TV Series, although his story is somewhat different from that in the books.

The Bluebell Engines[edit]

The 'Bluebell Engines' – steam locomotives from the Bluebell Railway – were only mentioned in the story 'Stepney's Special', from the 18th volume of The Railway Series, Stepney the "Bluebell" Engine. These engines are Bluebell, Primrose, Adams, Cromford and Captain Baxter.

Flying Scotsman[edit]

Flying Scotsman is given a major role in the 23rd book of the series, Enterprising Engines.

Henry becomes jealous of Flying Scotsman's two tenders, and comes unstuck when he tries to copy by pulling a line of six old tenders used for storing boiler sludge.

Flying Scotsman appears once in the TV Series, though only his two tenders are seen because the modeling crew could not afford to build the entire engine.

Engines at the National Railway Museum[edit]

In the 35th Volume of The Railway Series, Thomas and the Great Railway Show, Thomas is sent to the National Railway Museum in York as a representative of Sodor. Among the real engines he meets there are Rocket, Green Arrow, Boxhill, Iron Duke, Mallard and Duchess of Hamilton.

Wilbert[edit]

Wilbert in his shed on the Dean Forest Railway

Wilbert the Forest Engine was brought to the railway to help Donald and Douglas when they were overworked, but when Percy was involved in an accident with some porridge, he was brought to Thomas' branch line. Whilst here he told them a story about an engine called Sixteen and drank quite a lot of milk at the dairy. Once Percy was mended Wilbert went onto Duck's branch line for a bit and then he returned home.

Wilbert is a Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST that is based on the Dean Forest Railway. The real engine was named after the Reverend Wilbert Awdry and in April 2012 returned to traffic. His number is 3806.


Non-rail characters[edit]

George[edit]

George is a grumpy steam roller and no friend to railway engines. His motto is "Railways are no good, pull them up, turn them into roads!" and enjoys doing it. He is unfriendly to all engines, even the ones who try to be pleasant towards him. He once had an accident with Sir Handel, and managed to upset Daisy by threatening to build a road over her rails and leaving a traffic cone for her to run over.

George is based on an Aveling and Porter steamroller owned by the Rev. W. Awdry's friend Rev. 'Teddy' Boston, who also owned the traction engine on which Trevor the Traction Engine is believed to be based.

He appears in Gallant Old Engine and Thomas Comes Home.

George also appears in the TV Series, see George the Steamroller (TV Series).

Caroline[edit]

Caroline is an old, small motor car who belongs to the Elsbridge Cricket Team on the Island of Sodor. We first meet her when she has to chase Stepney after he chuffed away with the cricketers' ball, which landed in one of his trucks. Caroline did not like that at all, because she has a sensitive engine, which will easily overheat or break down when she exceeds her usual speed. Although she used to think steam engines were silly, she admitted that "they have their uses" after Stepney was able to help her home. She always refers to her driver as "Master".

Caroline appears to be based on a Morris Oxford.

She appeared in Stepney the "Bluebell" Engine.

Bulgy[edit]

Bulgy is a red and cream double-decker bus who hates railways and has very left wing political views.[note 1] He tried to steal Duck and Oliver's passengers by pretending to be a railway bus, but ran into trouble with his attempt at a shortcut – he got stuck under a low bridge. His lies never improved, and eventually people would not even believe his destination boards. He is now a henhouse by Duck's branch line.

In the TV series, Bulgy is now a veggie stand bus.

He appeared in Oliver the Western Engine.

Bulstrode[edit]

Bulstrode is a highly disagreeable barge who used to carry stone. He liked nothing more than making life difficult for the engines and trucks, sometimes even blaming them for his mistakes. He got his comeuppance one day when a row of trucks came off the end of his quay and landed in his hold, causing him to sink. After this, he was towed to a nearby beach and is now played upon by children.

He appeared in Toby, Trucks and Trouble.

'Human' characters[edit]

Jeremiah Jobling[edit]

Jeremiah Jobling is a passenger on James's train in the story, James and the Boot-lace. When a hole in the brake pipe causes the train to stop, James's guard asks the passengers for a leather boot-lace, so that the driver can mend the leak. Jeremiah Jobling, who wore a bowler hat (which helped to identify him in the pictures), initially hid his feet from the guard. When Jeremiah refused to hand over his leather boot-lace, the guard said the train would stay put and the other passengers told Jobling he was a 'Bad Man'. Reluctantly, Jobling then gave his laces, the driver tied a pad of newspapers tightly round the hole and James was able to pull the train.[3]

Mrs. Kyndley[edit]

The appropriately named Mrs. Kitty Kyndley appears in the books Toby the Tram Engine and Thomas' Christmas Party. She is a great friend to the engines, and once saved Thomas from an accident by warning him of a landslide.

Sidney Hever[edit]

Main article: Sidney Hever

Sidney Hever is Edward's Fireman and is named in the introduction to Edward the Blue Engine in which he is regularly named not just as "Edward's Fireman" but as Sid in conversations between Charlie Sand, Edward's Driver.

Charlie Sand[edit]

Main article: Charlie Sand

Charlie Sand is Edward's Driver and is named in the introduction to Edward the Blue Engine in which he is regularly named not just as "Edward's Driver" but as Charlie in conversations with Sidney Hever, Edward's Fireman.

Jem Cole[edit]

Jem Cole is the driver of Trevor the Traction Engine, at least until Trevor is sent to the scrapyard, and there sold to the Vicar of Wellsworth, the Rev'd Charles Laxey (in the story Saved from Scrap, in Edward the Blue Engine). Christopher Awdry noted that, although the books do not specifically say as much, it is a safe assumption that, after the purchase, the vicar continued to employ Jem's services when a driver for Trevor was required.[4]

Thin Controller[edit]

The Thin Controller is the nickname for Mr Peter Sam Bentley the manager of the Skarloey Railway.

Small Controller[edit]

The Small Controller is known as Mr. Fergus Duncan and works on the Arlesdale Railway. He first appears in the book Small Railway Engines.

Nancy the Guard's Daughter[edit]

Nancy used to polish the Skarloey Railway engines, and appeared in several stories.

Lord Harry Barrane[edit]

Mr. Walter Richards[edit]

Fat Clergyman[edit]

The Fat Clergyman is a portrayal of the (late) Rev. Edwin Richard 'Teddy' Boston, a well-known railway enthusiast and traction engine owner.

See also: Cadeby Light Railway – which was in the Rev. Boston's 'back garden'.
See also: Trevor the Traction Engine – which was based on the Rev. Boston's own engine, "Fiery Elias".

Thin Clergyman[edit]

The Thin Clergyman is the Rev. W Awdry himself!

Other humans[edit]

  • Bert (Engine washer – Seen in Leaves)
  • Alf (Engine washer – Seen in Leaves)
  • Mrs. Last (late-arriving passenger in Four Little Engines)
  • Sir Handel Brown I (Skarloey Railway Owner #1)
  • Sir Handel Brown II (Skarloey Railway Owner #2)
  • Mr. Ivo Hugh (Skarloey Railway Engineer)
  • Patrick (Rock climber – Seen in Devil's Back)
  • Mr. Mack (Skarloey Railway Controller #1)
  • Mr. Bobbie (Skarloey's builder & engineer)
  • Duke of Sodor (Seen in Duck 'n' Dukes)
  • Bert (Porter – Seen in Buzz Buzz)
  • Fred (Porter – Seen in Buzz Buzz)
  • Willie (Farmer – Seen in Useful Railway)
  • Mr. Crowe (Farmer – Mentioned in Ghost Train)
  • New Lorry Driver (Seen in Mavis and the Lorry)
  • Royal Personage (Seen in Golden Jubilee)
  • Kathie & Lizzie (Talyllyn Railway volunteers)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Enjoyment's all you engines live for, taking the petrol from the tanks of us workers."Bulgy, Oliver the Western Engine
  1. ^ "The Old Engine" page at The Real Lives of Thomas the Tank Engine - accessed 2009-10-05
  2. ^ Code Names for Great Western Carriage Stock and Vans
  3. ^ Awdry, The Rev. W. (1948). James the Red Engine (Book 3 of The Railway Series). Edmund Ward. pp. 28–30. ISBN 0-434-92780-5. 
  4. ^ Awdry, Christopher (2005). Sodor, Reading Between the Lines. Sodor Enterprises. p. 23. ISBN 0-9549665-1-1.