Henry Thomas and Friends: History & Stories
Biography in the Railway Series
Henry Thomas, a green mixed-traffic tender engine, holds the esteemed position of being the North Western Railway's number 3 engine. His origins are shrouded in mystery, with a fascinating tale surrounding his creation. Legend has it that he was built from stolen drawings of Sir Nigel Gresley's A1 "Pacific" locomotives, although the thief mistakenly acquired rejected plans instead.
As a result, Henry was constructed with various flaws, including an undersized firebox that made him an unreliable steamer.
Despite these setbacks, Henry found himself in the hands of The Fat Controller, who had unwittingly purchased the "White Elephant."
Initially, Henry exhibited vanity and refused to leave the Ballahoo Tunnel due to concerns about his pristine paintwork. However, circumstances changed when Gordon experienced a breakdown while pulling the Express, prompting The Fat Controller to release Henry from his tunnel confinement.
Henry eagerly seized the opportunity and proved his worth.
Impressed by Henry's performance, The Fat Controller decided to reward him with a fresh coat of paint.
Henry expressed a desire to be painted blue like Edward, but the confusion it caused with Gordon led to Henry ultimately being repainted green, solidifying his unique identity.
Henry's journey was not without its share of trials and tribulations. From being pushed out of a tunnel to enduring humiliation at the hands of an escaped elephant, Henry faced challenges that tested his mettle.
Together with his fellow engines, Gordon and James, he went on strike, only to learn the importance of hard work and cooperation. Despite experiencing ongoing steaming problems and the threat of being replaced, Henry's fortunes changed when the railway acquired high-grade Welsh coal, significantly improving his performance.
Following a collision with a goods train, Henry underwent a remarkable transformation. He was sent to Crewe and rebuilt into a Stanier 5MT locomotive, featuring a new shape and a larger firebox.
The Fat Controller's connections with Sir William Stanier expedited the rebuilding process, and Henry returned to the rails with renewed vigor. His remarkable strength and ability to pull the Express stirred envy in Gordon, leading to a newfound rivalry.
Henry's encounters with other engines and his involvement in various incidents shaped his character. From learning humility and respect from Duck to facing the consequences of his own actions, Henry's experiences contributed to his growth as a valuable member of the railway.
Henry's original form drew inspiration from one of Sir Nigel Gresley's early designs for the Great Northern Railway (GNR) A1 class 4-6-2 locomotives. While it remains unclear which exact design Henry was based on, it can be inferred that it was one of the versions predating 1919.
After the infamous Flying Kipper incident in 1935, Henry underwent a significant transformation. He was rebuilt as an LMS Stanier 5MT "Black Five" 4-6-0 locomotive.
Surviving members of the LMS Stanier 5MT class provide real-world examples of Henry's rebuilt basis, with some engines even serving until the end of steam on British Railways in 1968.
Henry dons the standard green livery, accented with red and yellow lining, that is emblematic of the North Western Railway. His tender proudly displays his number, 3, in yellow with a red outline. The locomotive's black running board harmonizes with its red bufferbeams and valences.
It is worth noting that early illustrations by William Middleton depict Henry with a darker shade of green, a green roof, black wheels, buffer holds, and valences, as well as white buffers.
These illustrations also portray him with yellow boiler bands during his temporary blue livery phase, which were later changed to red in subsequent renditions.
Henry has made numerous appearances in both the Railway Series and the television adaptation of Thomas & Friends. His noteworthy appearances include "The Sad Story of Henry," "Henry and the Elephant," "Henry the Green Engine," and "Henry and the Express."
Through these stories, readers and viewers have had the opportunity to witness Henry's trials, triumphs, and personal growth.
Henry holds the record for appearing in the most books and individual stories within the Railway Series.
Additionally, the mention of Henry originally being intended as a Robinson Atlantic in the book "Sodor: Reading Between the Lines" is based on Awdry's original illustrations, which depicted him as a 4-4-2 locomotive.
Thomas and Friends: Henry the Green Mixed-Traffic Engine in the Television Series
Arrival on Sodor
When Henry first arrived on the Island of Sodor, the Fat Controller was displeased because Henry couldn't steam properly with his smaller firebox. Later, during a rainy day, Henry's vanity got the better of him. He refused to leave his tunnel, fearing his paintwork would be ruined by the rain.
After several failed attempts to coax him out, he was bricked up in the tunnel for several weeks to a few months. However, Henry was eventually released to help when Gordon broke down while pulling the Express.
Challenges and Rebuild
Despite his initial challenges, Henry proved to be a hard worker. He faced illnesses that often stemmed from issues with his boiler, but he never shied away from his responsibilities.
Henry, along with Gordon and James, once went on strike, leading to their confinement in the shed for several days. However, after promising to work hard, they were let out again.
A significant turning point came when the Main Line engines received a poor delivery of coal. Henry struggled to pull trains consistently, even after numerous part replacements. Rumors of his replacement spread, but the Fat Controller personally investigated the issue.
Henry's fireman explained the problem with the poor coal and the inefficiency of his small firebox. The solution was to purchase high-grade Welsh coal from the Great Western Railway, giving Henry a fair chance to perform better.
Rebirth and Success
With the arrival of Welsh coal, Henry's performance improved significantly, putting him on par with Gordon. He continued using the coal until his collision with a goods train while pulling the Flying Kipper.
This incident led to Henry being sent to Crewe for a rebuild. Not only did he receive a new shape, but he also acquired a larger firebox, allowing him to use regular coal again.
Upon his return, Henry joined the rotation for the Express and pulled it so well that he made Gordon envious.
Gordon's attempt to criticize Henry for whistling loudly at stations backfired when Gordon's own whistle valve jammed open. Henry also had memorable encounters, such as "sneezing" ashes at boys who had thrown stones at him.
Love for Nature
Despite his occasional grumpy and arrogant attitude, Henry developed a soft spot for nature. He played a part in replanting trees in the forest after it was devastated by a storm. Henry also developed a fear of the viaduct, which led to a mysterious encounter with an old fogman who had been trying to warn him.
Kind-Hearted and Hardworking
Henry is generally well-behaved and friendly, although he can display arrogance on occasion. Despite his frequent bouts of illness, he is a hard worker at heart. As a mixed traffic engine, Henry doesn't mind pulling trucks, but he can become self-important when given the responsibility of pulling the Express.
Over time, he has shown a more kind and softer side, becoming a voice of reason among the big engines.
Henry's personality underwent changes throughout the series. In later seasons, he became worrisome and easily scared.
However, he also demonstrated his capabilities and confidence, even when faced with challenges. Henry's character development showcased his ability to evolve and overcome his fears.
Respectful and Reliable
Among the big engines, Henry is known for his respect towards engines like Thomas, Edward, Percy, and Toby. Unlike Gordon and James, he rarely antagonizes his fellow friends and often shows remorse for his actions.
Henry's level-headedness and voice of reason make him a reliable and respected member of the team.
Henry's original shape in The Railway Series combined elements of a Black Five 4-6-0 locomotive and his own unique design. After his rebuild, Henry is based on the LMS Stanier 5MT "Black Five" 4-6-0 locomotive. His tender is a hybrid design, featuring characteristics of both a Stanier tender and his original tender from The Railway Series.
Henry is painted in NWR green with red lining on various parts, including his cab, splashers, tender, cylinders, and boiler. His number, 3, is painted in yellow with a red outline on his tender. Henry's white running board is complemented by red buffer beams and valences.
Here are some interesting trivia facts about Henry:
Name Variations: In certain international dubs, Henry's name has been changed. In the Greek dub of the first to seventh series, Henry is referred to as "Charlie." In the French dub of the first to seven series, Henry is called "Henri" (pronounced "Unree"). Early Spanish translations of the Random House books referred to Henry as "Enrique."
Merchandise Variation: Henry's original shape, prior to his rebuild, has only been depicted in a small pull back toy and a prototype for the Thomas Engine Collection Series. This variation features a tapered firebox, inside steam pipes, and the absence of a topfeed.
Whistle Shape: Henry's original whistle shared the same shape as Gordon's. However, this design was later modified in subsequent series.
Voice Audition: Actor Martin Sherman, who provided voices for Thomas and Percy, originally auditioned for the role of Henry. However, he was ultimately cast as the voices of Thomas and Percy instead.
Appearance in Specials: Henry, along with Thomas and James, is one of the few characters to speak in every special episode. He also appears in every special, except for the original model version of the Island of Sodor opening sequence.
Surviving Members: In real life, several members of the LMS Stanier 5MT "Black Five" class, which Henry is based on after his rebuild, have survived into preservation. Notably, engines 44781, 44871, and 45110 were used to haul the Fifteen Guinea Special on August 11, 1968, before the end of steam on British Railways.
Henry's Fear of the Viaduct: Henry's encounters with a viaduct and the mysterious figure of the old fogman who tried to warn him became a significant part of his character's storyline. These stories showcased Henry's vulnerability and the importance of heeding warnings.
Changed Tenders: While Henry doesn't have a Fowler tender in the television series, certain merchandise depicting him includes a Fowler tender. This variation deviates from his on-screen appearance.
Henry's Relocation: In an online video titled "Still the Best of Friends," it is explained that Henry relocated to Vicarstown Sheds to be closer to his work, particularly in reference to his tasks involving trains to the Mainland.
Christmas Incident: During a Christmas celebration, the boiler at the Sodor Animal Park broke down. Henry suggested taking the animals to the Steamworks for warmth, but the idea was initially overlooked by the Fat Controller.