Open main menu

Henry the Green Engine

Henry the Green Engine is an anthropomorphic 4-6-0 steam locomotive from The Railway Series books written by the Reverend Wilbert Vere Awdry and his son, Christopher Awdry, and the spin-off children's television series, Thomas & Friends.

Henry the Green Engine
Thomas & Friends character
Thomas and Friends Henry.png
Henry's Model in Series 8 (2004)
First appearanceThe Three Railway Engines (The Railway Series, 1945)
"The Sad Story of Henry" (Thomas and Friends, 1984)
Created byRev. W. Awdry
Designed byWilliam Stanier
Voiced by

Henry lives on the fictitious Island of Sodor with many other locomotives, including Thomas the Tank Engine. He is engine number 3 on the North Western Railway, and was one of the first engines to be described, appearing in the first book. Henry is a little smaller than Gordon the Big Engine, who also appeared in the first book.

Henry's first (mis-)adventure was in "The Sad Story of Henry", the third story in the Railway Series book The Three Railway Engines. In this story, he went into a tunnel and refused to come out due to fears that the rain would spoil his "Lovely Green paint and Red Stripes". As punishment, the Fat Controller ordered that he be bricked up in the tunnel for eternity. Weeks later, he was eventually let out to help Edward pull Gordon's express train, after Gordon burst a safety valve.

Henry was originally a failed prototype engine who, as the result of a small firebox (which was a similar shape to Gordon's), was often ill and a poor steamer. The Fat Controller gave him special Welsh coal, which helped. But worse was to come – Early one cold winter morning, Henry was pulling the special fish express train titled "the Flying Kipper", when some frozen points diverted him in to a siding where he eventually crashed in to another goods train. This prompted the Fat Controller to send Henry to the locomotive works at Crewe where he was rebuilt with a new shape and no longer needed special coal. Henry has kept his so-called "new shape" through today. Henry was given a new firebox which gave him a similar specification to an LMS Class 5MT "Black Five" locomotive. This cured his illness completely.

Henry now works on the main line. He can pull coaches and trucks equally well, and sometimes even hauls the Express when Gordon is not available. He is still the engine responsible for the Flying Kipper, and in the television series he also brings the post from the Mainland.

He has been in the television series from the start, and in recent seasons has been identified as part of the Steam Team, the eight central characters.

There have been two Railway Series books devoted to him, namely Henry the Green Engine and Henry and the Express.


Character profileEdit

Although he is a hard worker by heart, Henry has shown to be rather vain and arrogant at times. Unlike Gordon and James, Henry does not frequently antagonize his fellow engines and actually shows remorse for his actions. He was prone to illness, and frequently complains about it, much to the annoyance of many engines, most notably Thomas, who even once told Henry that he is "too fat and needs exercise".

Out of the bigger engines such as Gordon and James, Henry is the most likely to be respectful to engines such as Edward, Percy and Toby on a regular basis.

Henry's RebuildEdit

Behind the scenes, Rev. W. Awdry had a great deal of trouble with the illustrators' depiction of Henry. He was unhappy with the way C. Reginald Dalby had portrayed the character, as he looked almost identical to Gordon, especially when he was painted blue at the end of Book 1 and in Books 2-4. In one illustration in Tank Engine Thomas Again, he looks identical to Gordon. To make things worse, the character was portrayed inconsistently, often having several different appearances within the space of a single story: in most of Dalby's illustrations Henry was portrayed as a 4-6-0, but occasionally he becomes a 4–6–2 instead.

Awdry's original idea had been to write Henry out of the series, hence the character's illness. But by the sixth book, Henry the Green Engine, he had decided against such a drastic measure. He instead decided to have the character involved in a serious accident, allowing him to be rebuilt into a Class 5MT which, being a real locomotive, would effectively force Dalby to be consistent.

Accounts differ as to when the accident actually took place. In The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways the Rev. Awdry states that it occurred in 1935 (when Stanier 5MTs were still being built). However, Sodor: Reading Between the Lines, by Christopher Awdry, states that it took place in 1951, the year the book was published. The latter is not necessarily an oversight on Christopher's part, because the stories suggest it could just as easily be either. Certainly the dates listed in The Island of Sodor are all consistent with one another, and suggest that for the earlier books, the events on the railway happened many years before the books were published. On the other hand, some instances mentioned in these books would indicate that the stories were more likely set around the time of publication.

Technical controversyEdit

There is a certain amount of debate as to the nature of Henry's rebuild, caused by the book The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways. It was written to provide some historical background to the world of The Railway Series and to correct pictorial inconsistencies that had occurred in the earlier volumes. In this book, the Rev. W. Awdry claims that the pre-rebuild and post-rebuild Henry are actually two completely separate engines. But the stories do not indicate this since he still seems familiar with events that happens before the crash, and the other engines certainly don't know this. Indeed, Gordon in the story following the rebuild, and in the story 'Percy Takes the Plunge', set after the rebuild, Henry recalls the events of 'The Sad Story of Henry', which suggests that his memory survived the rebuild. As both sources may be considered equally canonical, the question of whether there have been two Henrys or one will always have a paradoxical answer and will likely remain unanswered.

The same book featured a certain amount of retcon to explain Henry's old shape in the first place. The explanation devised was that he was an experimental locomotive built according to plans stolen from Sir Nigel Gresley. Owing to a mistake, the wrong plans were taken and the locomotive built was so riddled with faults that the only person who could be persuaded to buy it was the Fat Controller (then the Fat Director), who at the time was desperate for any locomotive he could get. The name of the thief is never revealed. The Fat Controller claims that he wanted a GNR Class C1 Atlantic (a locomotive with a 4-4-2 wheel arrangement). This latter point is worth noting, as William Middleton, the very first Railway Series artist, portrayed Henry as this type of engine, as did Awdry's initial sketches.

The Island of Sodor also features a biography of the Fat Controller, which mentions that he was apprenticed with Stanier at Swindon Works. It is possible that this is another piece of retcon to explain how he was able to have Henry rebuilt so easily – something that even Rev. W. Awdry admitted was "a mystery".

In the book Sodor: Reading Between the Lines, it is said that Henry looks very much like a Stanier 5MT, which suggests that he is not totally identical to one of these engines. It is not clear why Christopher Awdry should have felt the need to contradict his father, who was, of course, the original author, but it may be simply a result of copy-editing errors and publication deadlines – there is a second error (or misprint) in the same book, the character Mavis is correctly described as a Drewry Class 04, yet is inaccurately said to be an 0-4-0.

Portrayal in TV seriesEdit

In the television series, some degree of technical consistency was achieved. Unlike his Railway Series counterpart, Henry was never portrayed as a 4-6-2; always a 4-6-0. But there were major differences between the TV version and the Book versions of Henry, in his old, and new incarnation. His old shape is quite similar to his newer one. The only difference appears to be the presence of a top feed, and Belpaire firebox. This could have been done for ease of the changeover to his "Black Five"-esque appearance. If looked at closely in the episode The Flying Kipper when Henry is wrecked, his top feed from his new shape is already fitted. In another continuity error, during a head-on shot after Henry has returned from his Crewe rebuild, his old shape (without external steam pipes) is used.

Henry was never portrayed in the TV series as being blue, as he was in some early Railway Series stories; this was likely done so that young viewers would not confuse him with Gordon (as young readers had once done), as well as to save production costs.

Old Shape:

  1. Henry in the series has a curve in the running boards similar to an LNER Class A1/A3.
  2. In the television series, he has his firebox flush with the running boards.
  3. His dome is mounted like a Black Five's, close to the cab.
  4. He has a cutoff third splasher, that is flush with the firebox.
  5. The front of his frames (below his smokebox door) are angled sharply, like a Black Five, instead of being rounded as in The Railway Series.
  6. No external steam pipes are evident at his smokebox.

New Shape:

  1. In The Railway Series Henry lacked splashers. In Season one the producers followed this rule of thumb, but since Season two he gained a set of 3 full splashers.
  2. Henry's original cab was identical to his new shape (save for window shape, angled inward vs. vertical, respectively), further demonstrating how old and new shape Henry were possibly the same model.

Awdry's ModelEdit

C. Reginald Dalby, Sodor's first CME, originally drew Henry for the first book "Three Railway Engines" as an engine similar to Gordon. In this incarnation he was a rather sickly engine until "Henry the Green Engine" (1951), when he was found to run well on Welsh coal (in real life, high-calorific anthracite which supplied the GWR). In that book he was involved in a serious accident and sent to Crewe. The staff at Crewe, the LMS locomotive engineering headquarters, rebuilt him as that railway's most prolific loco, the 4-6-0 5MT "Black Five".

First appearing in 1934, "Black Fives" were Sir William Stanier's most rugged and versatile design. They were similar to his "Jubilee" 5P express passenger loco, but with slightly smaller driving wheels to give it ability to haul freight as well as passengers. They show the hallmarks of Stanier's distinctive standard LMS style, a practice he brought with him from his previous employers, the GWR of Churchward and Collett, with the purpose of using interchangeable parts on very different locomotives. Stanier's ideas led the way for British Railways' standard designs of the 1950s.

The model Henry made by the Rev W Awdry is said to have had as many problems as his fictional counterpart, according to the Reverend himself in this text from his Model Railway Scrapbook:

"A Graham Farish (1950 Henry) adapted. I had a lot of trouble with this loco at first. Bought second hand, it reached me in a deplorable condition. But, when all the dirt and fluff had been removed from the wheels, gears and motor, it proved quite a useful engine. The main disadvantage was that one had to start it with full regulator away, then with throttle down immediately afterwards. This made smooth starting impossible, and shunting difficult."

It is said that this model "did not make it into preservation".

Racism allegationEdit

Henry was the central character of what might be the most controversial story in the history of the Railway Series. In the story 'Henry's Sneeze', the character blasts some troublemaking schoolboys with soot. The story was attacked in 1972 due to the fact that it stated - in question - that the boys "ran away as black as niggers".[1]

The story was considered so controversial that it was actually reported in the national press. Awdry himself claimed that it was a case of oversensitivity on the part of the race relations board. To solve the problem, he changed the offending sentence to "as black as soot", which has been used in subsequent editions of the book.[1]

The 'Henry's Forest' ControversyEdit

Henry was the focus of Rev. W. Awdry's irritation once again in the 1990s, when the third series of the television series, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends was released. This series featured a number of original episodes that had not been adapted from The Railway Series stories, some of which annoyed Awdry with their lack of realism. The story that particularly angered him was called "Henry's Forest", written by the series' current head writer, Andrew Brenner.

This episode begins by explaining that Henry's favourite place on Sodor is a forest through which the line runs. He likes to stop here and admire the scenery. A storm damages the forest, making Henry sad. The episode ends happily, with new trees being planted to replace the ones lost.

Awdry's complaints were directed at two aspects of the episode in particular. One was that it was unrealistic to have a railway running through a forest, and that sparks from an engine's funnel could cause a wildfire. Britt Allcroft, the producer of the series, countered this aspect by claiming that she had seen a number of lines do the same thing.

The other aspect was that Henry stops to admire the view without alerting the signalman, which was in direct contravention of British Railways' Rule 55. This, Awdry argued, would never be allowed to happen in real life, and would be highly unsafe.

In the Series 5 episode "James & the Trouble with Trees", some trees are removed because "The Fat Controller says they're too close to the line." This is evident in the Series 8 story "Henry and the Wishing Tree", in which the trees are further back. It seems likely that these changes were a response to Awdry's complaints.

Henry in the television seriesEdit

Henry was introduced in the first series of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. He has appeared in every season and is one of the eight engines of the "Steam Team".

Henry was originally portrayed as generally well behaved engine, though did have occasions where he was Arrogant and Vain and looked down on smaller engines. In very recent series, Henry was portrayed as a not very bright and worrisome engine often getting scared of the smallest issues.

From Hero of the Rails onwards, Henry is voiced by Kerry Shale (US) — with a noticeable New York City accent — and Keith Wickham (UK) (who also voices Edward, Gordon, Percy, James, Bertie, Harold, The Fat Controller and other characters).

Henry was written out of the series in its 22nd season and replaced with a new female engine named Rebecca. This was done in an effort to bring the gender ratio among the main cast closer to a 50/50 split.[2] However, he still makes a few cameos in this season.

In Japan, Ryo Horikawa voiced him from season 1 to season 8. From Calling All Engines onwards, Junichi Kanemaru voices him.

Voice ActorsEdit

Henry in Thomas and the Magic RailroadEdit

Henry is voiced by Kevin Frank in the movie Thomas and the Magic Railroad. He is the only steam engine to have an American accent and appears to still suffer from boiler trouble in the film. The major difference between this incarnation and the pre-rebuild version of the television series is that his sickness is cured by "Island of Sodor coal" rather than Welsh.


  1. ^ a b Sibley, Brian (1995). The Thomas the Tank Engine Man. London: Heinemann. pp. 272–5. ISBN 0-434-96909-5.
  2. ^ Clarke, Stewart (October 14, 2017). "Mattel Sets Thomas The Tank Engine Makeover With Eye on Global Appeal". Variety. Retrieved February 6, 2018.

External linksEdit