Ivor the Engine
Ivor the Engine is a British cutout animation television series created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin's Smallfilms company. It follows the adventures of a small green steam locomotive who lives in the "top left-hand corner of Wales" and works for The Merioneth and Llantisilly Railway Traction Company Limited. His friends include Jones the Steam, Evans the Song and Dai Station, among many other characters.
|Ivor the Engine|
|Created by||Oliver Postgate|
|Voices of||Oliver Postgate|
|Narrated by||Oliver Postgate|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||26 (1959 b/w)|
40 (1975-1977 colour)
|Running time||10 minutes per episode (b/w)|
5 mins per episode (colour)
Having produced the live Alexander the Mouse,[i] and the stop motion animated The Journey of Master Ho for his employers Associated Rediffusion/ITV in partnership with Firmin, Oliver Postgate and his partner set up Smallfilms in a disused cow shed at Firmin's home in Blean, near Canterbury, Kent.
Ivor the Engine was Smallfilms' first production, and drew inspiration from Postgate's World War II encounter with Welshman Denzyl Ellis, a former railway locomotive fireman with the Royal Scot train, who described how steam engines came to life when you spent time steaming them up in the morning. Postgate decided to locate the story to North Wales, as it was more inspirational than the flat terrain of the English Midlands. The story lines drew heavily on, and were influenced by, the works of South Wales poet Dylan Thomas.
Ivor the Engine used stop motion animation, of cardboard cut-outs painted with watercolours.
The series was written, animated and narrated by Oliver Postgate. Peter Firmin provided the artwork. The sound effects were endearingly low-tech, with the sound of Ivor's puffing made vocally by Postgate himself. The music was composed by Vernon Elliott and predominantly featured a solo bassoon, to reflect the three notes of Ivor's whistle.
The original series was in black and white and comprised six episodes which told how Ivor wanted to sing in the choir, and how his whistle was replaced with steam organ pipes from the fairground organ on Mr Morgan's roundabout. There then followed two thirteen-episode series, also in black and white. Black and white episodes were 10 minutes each.
In the 1970s, the two longer black and white series were re-made in colour, with some alterations to the stories, but they did not revisit the original six. The colour series consisted of 40 five-minute films. These would often each form part of a longer story.
Although the six original black and white episodes were subsequently released on video, the two longer black and white series (totalling 26 episodes) were not and for many years were thought to have been lost. In October 2010, however, film copies of all 26 episodes were discovered in a pig shed.
When the colour series was subsequently released on DVD, some of the episodes whose content linked, were edited together, with the relevant closing and opening titles and credits removed.
The colour series episodes were:-
- 1. The Railway (26 January 1976) – We see a typical day in the life of Ivor the Engine. Ivor delivers Coal to Grumbly Gasworks, tomatoes to Mr Davy and Fish to Mrs Thomas. Ivor also goes to choir practice.
- 2. The Hat (27 January 1976) – Jones and Ivor bring back a package, which is supposedly a hat for Mrs. Porty. However, Jones and Dai discover it's a new telescope cover for Professor Longfellow and go home for the night. In the morning, the package has gone...
- 3. Old Nell (29 January 1976) – A silly sheep has got itself stuck on a ledge in the hills. Jones tries to rescue it but ends up stuck himself. He ends up sending Ivor and Nell, the sheepdog, to get help.
- 4. Mr. Brangwyn's Pigeons (30 January 1976) – Ivor has to deliver some pigeons to Mr. Brangwyn. Thanks to Evans the Song, they end up escaping and on Miss Pryce's roof. There follow some amusing attempts to get them down.
- 5. The Egg (2 February 1976) – Going past Smoke Hill, an extinct volcano, Jones and Ivor spot smoke coming from the top. Jones discovers a fire inside the hill and a strange egg. He puts it in Ivor's firebox to keep it warm. Mr. Dinwiddy doesn't have any idea what it is so they go off to choir practice. During the practice there seems to be a voice coming from inside Ivor.
- 6. The Proper Container (3 February 1976) – Dai Station isn't too pleased about Ivor's new friend, Idris, travelling in his firebox. He orders him into a box, which catches fire and then scares him off trying to extinguish it. So where has Idris got to?
- 7. The Alarm (5 February 1976) – After choir practice Idris helps out Mrs. Thomas, whose fish fryer is on the blink. While everyone is enjoying a fish supper, Evans the Song spots a worrying article in his bit of newspaper.
- 8. The Retreat (6 February 1976) – Idris is still missing when the representative of the antiquarian society arrives to interview Jones about him. After a few embarrassments, Jones and Ivor find Idris in the most obvious place.
- 9. The Visitor (9 February 1976) – A rock on the line turns out to be a wounded elephant. Jones and Ivor take the elephant, named Alice, and her keeper to Mr. Hugh's gasworks to recuperate.
- 10. The Invalid (10 February 1976) – Jones and Evans the Song have great difficulty bathing Alice and giving her medicine.
- 11. The Boot (12 February 1976) – Mr. Brangwyn provides a boot for Alice to wear until her foot heals.
- 12. Banger's Circus (13 February 1976) – Alice's circus, run by Mr. Charlie Banger, is coming to Grumbly town. Bani and Alice are very excited.
- 13. Unidentified Objects (16 February 1976) – Jones and Dai are relaxing when they spot some strange objects in the sky. The source appears to be Mr. Dinwiddy's goldmine.
- 14. Mrs. Porty's Foxes (17 February 1976) – Mrs. Porty shows Jones and Ivor the fox cubs in the wood near her house. As Ivor and Jones go to deliver Mrs Porty’s Hat for the Institute Prize Giving, they save the fox from the fox hunt, by hiding her in the hat box.
- 15. Bluebell (19 February 1976) – Jones is cleaning Ivor when they are called off on an emergency - Mr. Dinwiddy needs his new boots! Jones leaves Bluebell the Donkey holding the bucket. She follows them all the way to the goldmine, so Jones and Mr. Dinwiddy arrange for a mode of transport.
- 16. Dai and the Donkey (20 February 1976) – Dai Station isn't too keen on Bluebell riding around with Ivor, but she soon proves her worth when the engine is derailed.
- 17. Gold (23 February 1976) – Mr. Williams of head office breaks the terrible news to Jones and Dai that the railway is to be sold and Ivor might have to do shunting at Pontypool. Then Mr. Dinwiddy has a brainwave.
- 18. Mrs. Porty (24 February 1976) – After Mr. Dinwiddy's idea falling through, Mrs. Porty comes up with a solution to the railway being sold.
- 19. Cold (26 February 1976) – One morning Jones and Ivor spots some smoke beside the railway line. It turns out to be Idris the Dragon. They rescue him and he explains that Smoke Hill is now extinct.
- 20. The Endowment (27 February 1976) – Jones and Dai are not getting anywhere trying to find a home for Idris and the other dragons. Jones decides he must go to Lanmad and ask for the help of Mrs. Griffiths.
- 21. Snowdrifts (22 November 1977) – It's winter in the top left-hand corner of Wales and Ivor's railway is not running because of deep snow. Llaniog needs supplies soon, though, as Eli the Baker is nearly out of flour. What Ivor needs is a snowplough.
- 22. Cold Sheep (23 November 1977) – Thanks to a new snowplough, Jones and Ivor have collected supplies from Grumbly. On the way back they come up against an unusual snowdrift.
- 24. Sledging (24 November 1977) – Ivor is having a lovely time in the snow. With a winch attached to his front, he is pulling the children on sledges up the hill. He pulls too many at a time and ends up wheel-deep in the snow. Various rescue attempts prove futile. Who can save Ivor now?
- 25. The Rescue (25 November 1977) – Some old fashioned pushers and pullers come to Ivor's rescue.
- 25. The Fire Engine (29 November 1977) – There's a fire at Mr. Pugh's barn but the new fire engine has got stuck in the snow. Ivor comes to the rescue, taking along the firemen and a hand-pump.
- 26. The Water Tower (30 November 1977) – Something's very fishy when Ivor won't go under the water tower.
- 27. Mrs. Bird (1 December 1977) – Jones and Ivor decide to help a family of birds that have built a nest on the line.
- 28. The Cuckoo Clock (2 December 1977) – Jones and Ivor desperately need to find the birds a home. Perhaps Mrs. Porty has the answer?
- 29. The Trumpet (6 December 1977) – Ivor receives a mysterious package in the post. It turns out to be a trumpet from some old friends and comes in handy for rounding up Old Idwoll's sheep.
- 30. The Seaside (7 December 1977) – The Grumbly Choir decide to spend some time having fun at Tewyn Beach after taking part in the Eisteddfod. Of course, Ivor is left alone and feels very sad. Back at Grumbly, standing sad and alone again, he decides to go off on his own.
- 31. The Lost Engine (8 December 1977) – Jones discovers Ivor has gone and Mrs. Porty suspects bandits. It isn't bandits, of course, and they find the engine at Tewyn beach.
- 32. The Outing (9 December 1977) – The choir are going on their now annual outing to Tewyn beach. They are planning a very special surprise for Ivor.
- 33. The Sheepdog (13 December 1977) – Jones and Dai are watching the sheep dog trials and a very large contestant turns up to enter.
- 34. Juggernaut (14 December 1977) – Ivor goes off with Banger's Circus as "The Singing Engine". His replacement is a Juggernaut built by Bynon Smith. It turns out to be a lot less reliable than Ivor.
- 35. The Bird House (15 December 1977) – Ivor returns along with a small fortune and knows just what he wants to buy.
- 36. Time Off (16 December 1977) – It's a lovely summers day and Ivor has finished all his work. Jones and Dai decide to go and relax by the river. Ivor feels a little left out standing by the station platform so he goes off on his own.
- 37. Half-Crowns (20 December 1977) – The Dragons have nearly run out of Half-Crowns for their gas meter at Smoke Hill. Jones and Ivor find some in one of the most unlikely places.
- 38. Chickens (21 December 1977) – Ivor has gone off on his own again. Dai gets quite cross about it, while Jones finds Ivor at Mr. Pugh's farm along with some guests.
- 39. St. George (22 December 1977) – There are some problems with Smoke Hill again. So, Jones, Ivor and the dragons go to Merioneth to see Mrs. Griffiths. While there, Gaian and Blodwen encounter an old enemy.
- 40. Retirement (23 December 1977) – The Dragons are in danger of being caged. Luckily, Mr. Dinwiddy knows just the place for them to live. But will everyone have to say goodbye to the Dragons forever?
UK VHS releasesEdit
Throughout the 1980s and the early '90s, the BBC released a few videos of Ivor the Engine.
In 1984 a single 57 minute compiled video called Ivor the Engine and the Dragons with 13 stories joined up together as an omnibus.
|VHS video title||Catalogue Number
|Year of release||Episodes|
|Ivor the Engine and the Dragons||BBCV 9015||BBCV 4033||1 October 1984||The Egg, The Proper Container, The Alarm, The Retreat, The Seaside, The Lost Engine, The Outing, Cold, The Endowment, Half-crowns, Chickens, St George and Retirement.|
In 1985 a single 58 minute compiled video called Ivor the Engine and the Elephants with 13 stories joined up together as an omnibus. In 1995 The video was re-released in different packaging.
|VHS video title||Catalogue Number
|Year of release||Episodes|
|Ivor the Engine and the Elephants||BBCV 9017||BBCV 4015||4 March 1985||Mr Brangwyn's Pigeons, The Visitor, The Invalid, The Boot, Banger's Circus, Sheep Herding, Juggernaut, The Bird House, Bluebell, Dai and the Donkey, Time Off, Sledging and The Rescue.|
In the early 1990s a video with six black and white stories of the very first Ivor the Engine series in the late-1950s (previously broadcast on Associated-Rediffusion) and seven colour episodes of the 1970s BBC series of Ivor the Engine, all shown as single episodes, was released. The video was introduced by Oliver Postgate.
|VHS video title||Catalogue Number||Year of release||Episodes|
|Ivor the Engine- The First Story||BBCV 4652||19 August 1991||the first six episodes in black and white and seven colour episodes that are 'The Fire Engine', 'Mrs Porty's Foxes', 'Gold?', 'Mrs Porty', 'The Water Tower', 'Cold' and 'The Endowment'.|
In 2000, a video called The Complete Ivor The Engine containing all 26 colour episodes was released by Universal
|VHS video title||Catalogue Number||Year of release||Episodes|
|The Complete Ivor The Engine||0781443||1 May 2000||all 26 colour episodes from the 1970s BBC version|
Ivor is the steam locomotive of the Merioneth and Llantisilly Rail Traction Company Limited. Unlike real ones, he has a mind of his own. Ivor can drive himself and use his whistle to communicate. His fondest dream is to sing with the Grumbly and District Choral Society, a dream that is realised when his whistle is replaced with three pipes from an old fairground organ. He becomes the first bass of the choir, as well as providing them with a means of getting from place to place.
Ivor enjoys doing all sorts of things that humans do. As well as singing in the choir, he likes visiting the seaside, making tea from his boiler and spending time with his friends. He is fond of animals, and has several of them among his friends. He can be wilful and disobedient at times, and it is not unknown for him to go and do his own thing when he should be working. He dislikes shunting and timetables.
Jones the SteamEdit
Edwin Jones is Ivor's driver. He is a cheerful and kind-hearted man who perhaps sympathises more than most railway staff with Ivor's idiosyncrasies. Postgate and Firmin describe him as "an ordinary engine driver who is there to cope with whatever needs to be coped with". People who are new to the area find him rather eccentric for talking to his engine.
When not driving Ivor or helping the engine with his latest flight of fancy, he enjoys fishing and day-dreaming.
The station master at Llaniog. He is a stickler for the regulations of the railway, but sometimes bends the rules to help his friends. His life is made a little difficult by the fact that Ivor really doesn't care much for regulations at all. Although he is often gloomy and overly strict, he is a good person at heart.
Owen the SignalEdit
Owen the Signal inhabits a signal box near Ivor's shed and makes an occasional appearance in the episodes.
Evans the SongEdit
A rich and eccentric aristocratic lady who enjoys the occasional glass of port and has new hats sent from London every week. She is also technically the owner of the railway, having bought it when the line was threatened with nationalisation. However, she does not bother much with the day-to-day running and things remained much the same after she bought it.
A very odd, possibly insane miner who lives in the hills and digs for gold. He enjoys explosions and mining. In fact, his mountain is full of gold, but as soon as he digs it up, he puts it back again. He often has need of new boots.
He is something of an amateur scientist. He describes himself as "educated" and knows "something about rock". He has constructed a few odd devices, including a donkey carriage and a bubble-blowing machine.
An elephant keeper from India, who works for Charlie Banger's Circus. He is in charge of the elephants Alice, George, Margaret and Clarence, who all obey him without question.
The eponymous and larger-than-life owner of Charlie Banger's Circus, who arranges a free show for the town in order to thank Jones, Evans and Mr Hughes for their help in looking after Alice the Elephant following her injury.
Idris the DragonEdit
A small, red Welsh dragon who also sings in the choir for a time. Having been hatched from an egg in Ivor's fire, he lives with his wife Olwen and any of their twins, Daian and Blodwen, in the extinct volcano Smoke Hill. As well as singing, he proves useful by cooking fish and chips for the choir using his fiery breath.
Unfortunately, Idris runs into trouble when Smoke Hill goes cold and needs to be kept hot in order to survive. The gasboard provide a temporary furnace, but when that became too expensive (and decimalisation renders the slot-machine inoperable), the only other option for the dragons is a heated cage. Luckily, Mr Dinwiddy is able to provide a solution, and they now live in a geothermally-heated cave under the ground.
Alice the ElephantEdit
A circus elephant with Charlie Banger's Circus. She is normally placid, but does not like taking medicine or being bathed by anyone except her owner, Bani Moukerjee. When Ivor met her, she had escaped and was asleep on the track with an injured foot. Since then they have become friends. She and her elephant friends were able to help Ivor when he got stuck in the snow.
Bluebell the DonkeyEdit
A donkey who lives at Mrs Porty's house. She cannot talk, but she and Ivor just enjoy sitting around together. As the Merioneth and Llantisilly Rail Traction Company Limited has only one locomotive (apart from the short service of Juggernaut), Bluebell is sometimes called upon to provide motive power. Examples include the towing by chain of the broken down locomotive Juggernaut and also the pulling of Mrs Porty's donkey cart when this was temporarily set on the railway tracks to pursue 'robbers' when Ivor had been 'stolen' in the episode The Lost Engine; in this latter case, like a locomotive, Bluebell strictly observed the railway signals, halting the chase until Owen the Signal had raised the signal arm.
Morgan the RoundaboutEdit
Mr Morgan is the fairground owner. He gave Ivor some pipes from the steam organ on his roundabout, so that Ivor could sing in the choir. He only appeared in the very first black and white series.
Claude Gilbert was the station master of Tan-y-Gylch station in the original black-and-white series, and would share a cup of tea with Jones whilst Ivor rested at the platform. It was he who directed Jones and Dai to Mr Jenkins the Builder when they were searching for organ pipes to replace Ivor's whistle. Like Mr. Morgan, he only appeared in the first black and white series and was not seen again.
Mr Hughes The GasworksEdit
The gruff but kind-hearted proprietor of the local gasworks, he is well-known for keeping pets, in particular budgerigars. He is asked to provide shelter for Alice the Elephant when she has an injured foot, and, despite his initial reluctance, he more than rises to the occasion.
The local vet, with a dry sense of humour, who comes to examine Alice's injured foot.
A robust and larger-than-life pigeon-fancier, who occupies a house by the railway, and is engaged to Miss Price from Llangubbin. It is Mr. Brangwyn who provides the elephant's boot for Alice: he obtained said boot during the time he once spent in India.
The local postmistress, who is a bit batty and a bit of a gossip. She occasionally interacts with Jones and Ivor.
Eli The BakerEdit
The feisty but big-hearted and hard-working local baker.
The local fish-and-chip shop owner. A plump woman with a big voice, she is kind and cheerful and serves the choir with food after their sessions.
Mainly known as P.C. Gregory. The local and only village policeman. One of his most notable happenings is after Ivor went to keep the chickens warm on his boiler. Jones and Dai find 3 small eggs in Ivor's coal bunker, and after a small "finders-keepers" argument they are interrupted by P.C. Gregory, who then removes his helmet (which was padded on the inside) and takes the eggs, after he leaves Dai asks if the farmer will ever see those 3 eggs again, as P.C. Gregory "Dai* likes a good egg in the mornin' "
This seemingly batty professor was only seen in a few episodes. He was famously known for ordering a telescope cover, however due to it being one of Ivor's deliveries, Mrs. Porty believes it is her newest hat, and subsequently wears it to a meeting later in the episode. He was also notable for telling jones, idris, and dai, that the closest active volcano to the now extinct "smoke-hill" is in southern Italy
The local bank manager. He only appears in a few episodes with his most notable appearance being he and jones adventure to find more Half-Crowns for the gas meter powering "Smoke-Hill" (half-crowns are a pre-decimalisation form of currency, worth then 30 old pennies or two shillings and sixpence. Now with inflation and so-forth estimated at around 60-75 pence) But as this episode takes place at the time decimalisation occurs, jones must inform Idris and Co. that there are no more half-crowns in wales and that "you have had the lot" But shortly they go and find in a small shop, an old tin teapot full to the brim with half-crowns. And so "Smoke-Hill" is gas fired for the final time until the dragons go to Mr. Dinwiddy and his geothermal heated cave
The Juggernaut is a diesel rail lorry made out of bits, bobs and flanged wheels, which appears towards the end of the series. Due to its brakes being as unreliable as its engine, it runs down a hill and falls into the lake soon after starting service, nearly killing Idris, whom it was carrying on a chestnut barrow.
Ivor the Engine published by Abelard Schuman in 1962.
Six story books, based upon the TV series were published in the 1970s and were reprinted in 2006/07:
- The First Story
- Ivor the Engine and the Dragon
- Ivor the Engine and the Elephant
- Ivor the Engine and the Foxes
- Ivor's Birthday
- also The Ivor the Engine Annual c.1978
As the books were published in the early days of political correctness, London Borough of Hackney Public Libraries banned the entire series because of the Indian elephant keeper, called Bani. They thought ethnic minorities might be offended by him.
Influences and future appearancesEdit
- Postgate and Firmin created a map of their fictional railway which was adhered to rigidly during filming.
- The Who include a character named 'Ivor The Engine Driver' in their song "A Quick One, While He's Away", which appears on their 1966 album 'A Quick One'.
- British ska band Bad Manners also name check Ivor, on their 1980 album Loonee Tunes! with a track called "The Undersea Adventures of Ivor the Engine".
- In The Amazing Adventures of Morph episode "The Magic Wand", when Gobbledygook the alien is trying to change Chas back into a dog, Ivor, painted in navy blue with his name "Ivor" in black, makes a cameo appearance.
- In 2007 'All Aboard with Ivor' events were held at various heritage railways around the UK following the modification of a small Peckett industrial locomotive to resemble Ivor. Railways hosting the event include the Battlefield Line Railway in Leicestershire, the Watercress Line in Hampshire and the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway in Oxfordshire.
- BBC2 Wales revived Ivor for a series of promotional spots advertising their new digital television channel "2W" for Wales. Oliver Postgate and Anthony Jackson provided new dialogue for these spots.
- Some of the artwork from production is on display at the Rupert the Bear Museum, along with several other items from Smallfilm's history. The Rupert Bear Museum is now part of the Canterbury Heritage Museum in Stour Street, Canterbury.
- In April 2011, Smallfilms collaborated with mobile gaming company Dreadnought Design to launch an Ivor the Engine game under the newly created Smallworlds brand.
- In June 2014, Smallfilms collaborated with board game company Surprised Stare Games to launch an Ivor the Engine boardgame 
- Gideon Coe uses Ivor's Cruising Theme as the musical bed over his last song leading up to midnight on BBC 6 Music to say nighty night.
- The Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway hold an annual Ivor the Engine Weekend in August.
- Functional programming language Idris was named after the dragon in the show.
- Paper puppets, moved by magnets and filmed in real-time
- Postgate, Seeing Things, pp. 203–204.
- "An interview with Oliver Postgate". Clive Banks. March 2005. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- "Bagpuss creator Oliver Postgate in his own words". guardian.co.uk. Guardian News and Media Limited. 9 December 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- "British actor Anthony Jackson dead at 62". The Big Cartoon Forum. 10 December 2006. Archived from the original on 14 July 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
- DeMott, Rick (18 December 2006). "Ivor the Engine Actor Dies". Animation World Network. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
- Laura Chamberlain (27 October 2010). "Ivor The Engine episodes unearthed". BBC Wales Arts. Retrieved 26 March 2011.
- "1960s' Ivor the Engine episodes unearthed in Kent". BBC News. 26 October 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2011.
- "Ivor the Engine: People – Evans the Song". SmallFilms (Official Website). Retrieved 13 January 2010.
- Ivor The Engine: The First Story, ISBN 0-9552417-0-7, page 15
- ISBN 0-9552417-0-7
- ISBN 0-9552417-1-5
- ISBN 0-9552417-3-1
- ISBN 0-9552417-2-3
- ISBN 0-9552417-4-X
- ISBN 0-9552417-5-8
- "Cult TV - Interview with Oliver Postgate". BBC Cult TV. 27 April 2005. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- "Postgate's genius lives on at museum". Canterbury City Council. 16 December 2008. Archived from the original on 31 October 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
- "Children's TV character Ivor the Engine brought back to life in a new mobile phone game". Kentish Gazette. 27 April 2011.
- "Ivor the Engine". Surprised Stare Games. 31 May 2014.