Toby the Tram Engine

Toby the Tram Engine is a fictional anthropomorphic tram engine in The Railway Series by the Reverend Wilbert Vere Awdry and his son, Christopher; he also appears in the spin-off television series Thomas & Friends. Toby, a tram engine with cowcatchers and sideplates, carries the North Western Railway running number seven and works on the same Ffarquhar Branch Line as Thomas the Tank Engine.

Toby the Tram Engine
Thomas & Friends character
Toby's Model in Series 8 (2004)
First appearanceToby the Tram Engine (1952)
Created byRev. W. Awdry
Designed byJames Holden
Voiced byUK: Ben Small (2009–2015)
Rob Rackstraw (2015–present)

US: William Hope (2009–present)

Other: Colm Feore (Thomas and the Magic Railroad)

Toby first appeared in the seventh book in The Railway Series, Toby the Tram Engine in 1952, and appeared in several subsequent books. The second book focused on Toby was the sixth of Christopher Awdry's books, Toby, Trucks and Trouble.

Prototype and back-story

Toby is based on a J70 tram engine from the Great Eastern Railway (GER Class C53).[1] His cowcatchers and sideplates allow him to run on roadside tramways, which other engines are not allowed to do for safety reasons.[2] J70s were used for light duties, such as branch line work and dock shunting.[3]

Many J70s could be found working on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway in East Anglia only 28 miles (46 km) from Rev. W. Awdry's parish at Elsworth in Cambridgeshire in the same diocese.[3] Rev. W. Awdry wrote about Toby the Tram Engine in 1952, shortly before he was transferred to Emneth parish. The Tramway ran from Wisbech, through Emneth – the next station on the line – then through Outwell and Upwell. This area and its line was well known to Rev. W. Awdry who often visited Ely nearby. The Tramway was primarily used for the transportation of fruit and other farm produce to the main line at Wisbech.[4] The line closed to passengers in 1927, but freight services continued until lorries and road transport boomed in the 1950s.[5] In 1952, the steam tram engines were replaced by diesel Drewry Shunters (the BR Class 04).[6] Inspiration for Toby came from the Awdrys watching a J70 – probably 68221, one of three J70s built in 1914 (as GER 127)[7] – at Great Yarmouth in 1951.[8] Further inspiration was drawn soon after when the Rev. 'Teddy' Boston, then curate at Wisbech, arranged for Awdry to ride on the footplate of one of the last surviving steam tram engines on the Tramway.[8] Fascinated by the unusual engines, Awdry sought a way to incorporate them in the stories. Research by Awdry's brother, George, revealed that tramway regulations required the fitting of cowcatchers and sideplates for railway locomotives running on tracks alongside roads, and the story "Thomas in Trouble" (published in 1952, the year steam trams were replaced) evolved to provide a reason for Toby being summoned to Sodor.[8] The story includes a description of Toby's final journeys on the line:

People come to see Toby, but they come by bus...The months passed. Toby had few trucks, and fewer passengers...That day [Toby's last] Henrietta had more passengers than she could manage. They rode in the trucks and crowded in the brake van.

Rev. W. Awdry, "Toby and the Stout Gentleman", in Toby the Tram Engine.[9]

This was a common occurrence during the closing of real railway lines; demand decreased to an unprofitable amount, but services were often full for the last workings of steam.

On Awdry's model railway,[10] Toby was represented by a Y6,[11] an 0-4-0 locomotive similar to but smaller than the J70[12][2] and better suited to the 4-wheel motor bogie available to power the model.[11] In 1961, Awdry wrote an article for Railway Modeller magazine on the construction of this locomotive.[11]

Christopher Awdry has said that Toby is his favourite character, partly because he was there when his father received the inspiration to create him, but also because as a child he had travelled in the cab of two J70s.

Rev. W, Awdry served as parish priest in two parishes in Cambridgeshire, the county associated with Toby the Tram Engine. First, he was Rector of Elsworth with Knapwell from 1946 to 1953, then he was Vicar of Emneth from 1953 until 1965 when he retired from full-time ministry and moved to Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Toby in The Railway Series

Toby is introduced in the 7th book in The Railway Series. The first story, "Toby and the Stout Gentleman", describes the closure of Toby's branch line due to the lack of passengers and freight. Shortly before the line was to close, a "stout gentleman" arrived on a holiday with his family; the children rode on Toby everyday for a fortnight and the stout gentleman gave Toby's crew a present. The day after the Tramway closed, ironically after an overcrowded final journey by Toby and Henrietta, a letter arrived from the stout gentleman which was to give Toby a reprieve.[13]

In "Thomas in Trouble", Thomas encounters an officious policeman, who says that, when running from the quarry, along public roads, engines who have the right to go on public roads must be fitted with cowcatchers and sideplates for safety to prevent people and animals from getting killed if they should have the right to stray onto the line.[14] The Fat Controller, urgently needing to rectify this,[7] is discussing the fitting of these, when Thomas remarks that "everyone will laugh...they'll say I look like a tram".[15] The Fat Controller (the "stout gentleman") remembered Toby immediately and arranged for him to come to Sodor.[8] Toby arrives with his coach, Henrietta, and became a friend of Thomas after Toby rings his bell and frightens the policeman.[16]

In "Dirty Objects", James makes fun of Toby's "shabby" appearance. James later has an accident with tar wagons. Toby and Percy help to clear up the mess and Toby is rewarded with a new coat of paint.[17] His chosen livery of chocolate brown with blue sideplates replicates that which he would have worn on the GER.

Toby suffers from having small water tanks, meaning he is unsuitable for long distance work. In "Double Header" (in The Eight Famous Engines), Toby uses the Main Line to travel to the Works for servicing. He has stopped at a water-crane to refill his tanks, when he is urged on to the next station by a new Signalman who didn't understand Toby's condition. Toby tries to hurry to the next station, but uses up the water and runs out of steam, ending up marooned on the mainline far from the station. Toby is pushed by James to the station, where some boys misunderstand the situation and suggest that James was unable to pull the Express, and Toby was needed to double-head the train.[18]

Toby is also associated with the coach Victoria, who forms the "vintage train" with Henrietta that takes workers to and from the quarry.

Toby in the television series

Toby first appeared towards the end of the first season of the TV show and is considered to be one of the central characters. Toby has his own song, of the same name, which is based upon his theme composed by Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell.

Toby was originally depicted as a wise, brave and kind old engine, often giving advice to younger engines like Thomas,Percy and Mavis. Due to his experience and wisdom Toby rarely ever had accidents or derailments, and almost never got into trouble with the Fat Controller. In recent seasons, Toby has been feeling more insecure with the world around him as he is an old engine, and is not on the same page as the younger engines, like Percy, who feel more rough and ready.

Toby was dropped from the main cast in the 22nd season as part of the attempt to bring the Steam Team's gender balance to a near 50/50 split. However, he was not dropped entirely, and he still can be seen in the series doing various jobs around the island and is the focus of the season 23 episode Heart of Gold.

Voice actors

Toby in Thomas and the Magic Railroad

In the film, Toby is first seen reminding the other engines that they must not let Diesel 10 push them around. Later, after Diesel 10 overhears Thomas and Percy's conversation about how Mr. Conductor travels to Sodor, Toby manages to stall Diesel 10 ringing his bell. Diesel 10 tries to attack Toby with his claw, but instead fails and brings a shed down by himself as well as his cronies.[19]

Colm Feore provided the voice of Toby in the film.


Henrietta is Toby's faithful coach, based on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway non-articulated GER four-wheeled coach.[20] She worked with Toby on their old railway, and when that line closed Toby could not bear to leave her behind. The stationmaster had wanted to turn her into a henhouse, but The Fat Controller agreed that "that would never do."[16] The two are inseparable, and whenever they are apart they worry about each other:

Toby had wanted to take Henrietta, but the Fat Controller had said, "No!"...He wondered if Henrietta was lonely. Percy had promised to look after her; but Toby couldn't help worrying. "Percy doesn't understand her like I do," he said.

Rev. W. Awdry, "Double Header", in The Eight Famous Engines.[21]

Henrietta carries passengers and is used to bring quarry workers to and from work. In "The Fat Controller's Engines" (The Eight Famous Engines), she is used as the Fat Controller's private coach when the locomotives take a trip to The Other Railway.[22]

Henrietta was the only named character not to be illustrated with a face in The Railway Series until book 41 of the series, Thomas and Victoria. In this book, Henrietta is depicted with a small rectangular face where a window on the end doors would be. It was the same colour as her cabin, like the other coaches. She even didn't have a visible face in the television series until the eighteenth season. Her face in this series is larger than in the Railway Series, and it completely replaces the door on one end, as well as the immediately adjoining window on both sides. The face is also whitish-gray as are those of the engines and much of the rolling stock, as opposed to the same brown as her paintwork as she appears in the book.

Voice actors


Toby also has a baggage car named Elsie, mentioned in The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways and the 1979 Thomas the Tank Engine Annual. However, she has not yet appeared in any stories. According to the Rev. W. Awdry, she is based upon a Wisbech and Upwell Tramway luggage van and shares a shed with Henrietta.

Heritage railways

There are no surviving J70 trams; a replica, based at the East Anglian Railway Museum, is a diesel-hydraulic 0-4-0 shunter with a metal casing over it. When this diesel was converted a replica Henrietta was built from scratch. The underframe was taken from an old box van, but the body was a complete new build. Toby and Henrietta can be seen running on the Museum's Day out with Thomas events.

A project to build a steam-powered replica of a GER Class G15 Wisbech and Upwell tram based on a Belgian Cockerill 0-4-0 tram engine has been underway for some time at the Nene Valley Railway.[23] Named "Toby", work on the project stalled following the deaths of the tram's owners, but the project was sold in January 2011 with a view to recommencing work on the replica.[24]

A project to build a J70 replica to resemble a tram engine based on the 'Wisbech and Upwell Tram Railway's "Toby the Tram Engine" is under way at Mangapps Railway Museum near Burnham on Crouch in Essex. The engine is a Drewry – Vulcan industrial diesel locomotive '11104'.[25]

Not based on the character, the Királyrét Forestry Railway built a diesel railcar in 2010. Because of its rather rectangular shape and the wooden sheathing very similar to that of Toby the Tram Engine the railcar is nicknamed Toby, or with a Hungarian spelling, Tóbi.


  1. Sibley 1995, p. XIX.
  2. Boddy et al. 1977, p. 90.
  3. Allen et al. 1970, pp. 100–2.
  4. Awdry 1988, p. 20.
  5. The Wisbech and Upwell Tramway: Introduction, LNER Encyclopaedia. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  6. The Wisbech and Upwell Tramway: History, LNER Encyclopaedia. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  7. Awdry 2005, p. 7.
  8. Sibley 1995, p. 169.
  9. Awdry 1952, pp. 6,8,16.
  10. "The Ffarquhar Branch". (Photographs of the model Toby on the Rev. Awdry's layout). Awdry Family website. 2007. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  11. Sibley 1995, p. 222.
  12. Allen et al. 1970, p. 100.
  13. Awdry 1952, p. 16.
  14. Awdry 1952, pp. 24,26.
  15. Awdry 1952, p. 32.
  16. Awdry 1952, p. 34.
  17. Awdry 1952, pp. 36–46.
  18. Awdry 1957, pp. 38,42–48.
  19. 'Full Cast and Crew for Thomas and the Magic Railroad' (2000) at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 18 June 2005.
  20. The Wisbech and Upwell Tramway: Toby and Mavis, LNER Encyclopaedia. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
  21. Awdry 1957, p. 40.
  22. Awdry 1957, pp. 52,54,58,60.
  23. Y6 Tram replica, Nene Valley blog, June 2010
  24. "Y6-Wisbech tram loco replica". Archived from the original on 13 July 2012.
  25. "Mangapps Railway Museum Stock List". Retrieved 5 May 2014.


  • Allen, D. W.; Boddy, M. G.; Brown, W. A.; Fry, E. V.; Hennigan, W.; Manners, F.; Neve, E.; Proud, P.; Roundthwaite, T. E.; Tee, D. F.; Yeadon, W. B. (November 1970). Fry, E. V. (ed.). Locomotives of the L.N.E.R., part 8A: Tank Engines - Classes J50 to J70. Kenilworth: RCTS. ISBN 0-901115-05-3.
  • Awdry, Rev. W. (1952). Toby the Tram Engine. Edmund Ward. ISBN 0-7182-0006-3.
  • Awdry, Rev. W. (1957). The Eight Famous Engines. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-92789-9.
  • Awdry, Christopher (1988). Toby, Trucks and Trouble. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-92808-9.
  • Awdry, Christopher (2005). Sodor: Reading between the Lines. Spalding: Sodor Enterprises. ISBN 0-9549665-1-1.
  • Boddy, M. G.; Brown, W. A.; Fry, E. V.; Hennigan, W.; Hoole, Ken; Manners, F.; Neve, E.; Platt, E. N. T.; Proud, P.; Yeadon, W. B. (June 1977). Fry, E. V. (ed.). Locomotives of the L.N.E.R., Part 9B: Tank Engines—Classes Q1 to Z5. Kenilworth: RCTS. ISBN 0-901115-41-X.
  • Sibley, Brian (1995). The Thomas the Tank Engine Man. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-96909-5.

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