Henry the Green Engine

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Henry the Green Engine
Thomas & Friends character
File:Thomas and Friends Henry.png
Henry's Model in Series 8 (2004)
First appearanceThe Three Railway Engines (1945)
Created byRev. W. Awdry
Designed byWilliam Stanier
Voiced byKeith Wickham (UK)
Kerry Shale (US)
Kevin Frank (Thomas and the Magic Railroad)

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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.[1]

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 of his imprisonment to help Edward pull Gordon's express train, after Gordon burst a safety valve.

Henry was originally an unsuccessful Gresley A1/Ivatt C1 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 and permanently.

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.

Henry's rebuild[edit]

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; essentially being described as an engine built from the rejected plans of an LNER A1 with parts from an LNER C1. 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. In Awdry's original sketches, Henry was originally going to be based on an LNER C1 Atlantic locomotive but was changed due to unknown reasons.[2]

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.

Awdry originally wanted to write Henry out of the series, due to his frustration with the illustrator, Clarence R. Dalby, who was perceived to be depicting Henry too similarly to the Gordon character. However, inquiries from concerned children made him change his mind, and he decided to keep Henry in the books, but caused him to suffer a nasty accident so that he could be rebuilt in a more distinctively unique style.[3]

Portrayal in TV series[edit]

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 model[edit]

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 allegation[edit]

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".[4]

The story was considered so controversial that it was reported in the national press. Awdry himself claimed that it was a case of oversensitivity on the part of the race relations board. Awdry did apologize and eventually went back to fix the problem by changing the offending sentence to "as black as soot", which has been used in subsequent editions of the book since 1972.[4]

The 'Henry's Forest' controversy[edit]

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 Andrew Brenner, who would later become the head writer of the series in the 2010s.

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 concerns.

Henry in the television series[edit]

File:Henry Series 1 promo, 1984.png
Henry as he appeared in Series 1 (1984) in his original shape, prior to the events of "The Flying Kipper"

Henry was introduced in the first series of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. He has appeared in every season and was 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, along with Edward and Toby, was removed from the Steam Team and demoted to a supporting character when the show underwent a soft reboot in the 22nd season in favor of a new female engine named Rebecca, a yellow tender engine from the mainland. This was done in an effort to bring the gender ratio among the main cast closer to a 50/50 split.[5] Henry still appears frequently, but unlike Edward and Toby, he has had no major roles since his removal from the main cast.

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

Voice actors[edit]

  • Kevin Frank (Thomas and the Magic Railroad)
  • Keith Wickham (UK; Hero of the Rails onwards)
  • Kerry Shale (US; Hero of the Rails onwards)
  • Ryō Horikawa (Japan; Season 1 - 8)
  • Kenji Utsumi (Japan; James and the Trouble with Trees (First half) only)
  • Junichi Kanemaru (Japan; Calling All Engines! onwards)
  • Kenta Miyake (Japan; Edward the Hero only)
  • Nozomu Sasaki (Japan; Day of the Diesels only)
  • Jeon Tae Yeol (South Korea; Season 13 - Present)

Henry in Thomas and the Magic Railroad[edit]

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. https://play.thomasandfriends.com/en-us/engines/Henry.html
  2. "The Real Lives of Thomas the Tank Engine: Henry the Green Engine". Sodor-Island.net. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  3. "W. Awdry Dies". The Washington Post. The Washington Post. 23 March 1997. Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sibley, Brian (1995). The Thomas the Tank Engine Man. London: Heinemann. pp. 272–5. ISBN 0-434-96909-5. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  5. Clarke, Stewart (October 14, 2017). "Mattel Sets Thomas The Tank Engine Makeover With Eye on Global Appeal". Variety. Retrieved February 6, 2018.

External links[edit]

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