The engine began life working for the Bord na Móna. This is a semi-state company in Ireland, created by the Turf Development Act, 1946. The company is responsible for the mechanised harvesting of peat, primarily in the Midlands of Ireland. This company uses narrow gauge railways to carry vast amounts of peat.
As passenger numbers continued to grow during the late 1960s the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society realised that further motive power was needed, especially as the rebuilt No. 1, Talyllyn was not performing well. However, as the 2 ft 3 in (686 mm) gauge of the Talyllyn Railway was so unusual they could not buy an engine with the correct gauge, so would either have to buy and re-gauge an engine or else make a new engine. In 1969 the Talyllyn Railway purchased an 0-4-0 well tank engine from Bord na Móna, unofficially named Irish Pete, in order to create the new locomotive they needed.
Tom Rolt at Nant Gwernol
The new engine was built in 1991 at Pendre works on the Talyllyn Railway. The frames,boiler, driving wheels, cylinders and other parts of the 0-4-0 well tank engine from Bord na Móna were used. The new engine became an 0-4-2side tank and was named Tom Rolt after the author L. T. C. Rolt who inspired the Talyllyn's preservation.
Tom Rolt is running in the standard Talyllyn Railway livery of deep bronze green lined with black borders and yellow lining.
Unlike the rest of the Talyllyn Railway engines Ivo Hugh only appeared in one story in which he was the new engine to arrive. His name, Ivo Hugh, is a reference to his real name, Tom Rolt, with even the same amount of letters and words. Also in the book of Thomas The Tank Engine in which he appeared (New Little Engine) it was announced he was named after the former Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Skarloey Railway, Mr. Ivo Hugh. This is a reference to Tom Rolt being named after an L.T.C Rolt on the Talyllyn Railway.