Thomas the Tank Engine Wikia
Thomas the Tank Engine Wikia
Behind the Scenes

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This is a behind the scenes subpage for Bill and Ben.
This subpage contains all behind the scenes material relating to said article.

Background Information

The Railway Series

Bill and Ben are fictional standard gauge twin tank locomotives created by the Rev. W. Awdry. They live and work at the Sodor China Clay Company, and carry the numbers 1 and 2 respectively.

They first appeared in The Railway Series book, Main Line Engines, which was published in 1966. Their last appearances was in Thomas and the Twins, published in 1989.

Front of Bill and Ben:

Rear of Bill and Ben:


Bill and Ben are based on the Bagnall 0-4-0STs Alfred and Judy.

Television Series

In 1986, Bill and Ben were introduced in the second series of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and are regarded as the most iconic twin characters of the series along with Donald and Douglas. Unlike in the Railway Series, Bill and Ben are owned by Sir Topham Hatt and do not carry numbers.

In the eighth series, Bill and Ben were meant to appear in the episode, Thomas to the Rescue, but their scene was cut resulting in them being absent for a year. But they returned in the following series. For the majority of the eighth to twelveth series, they only appeared as minor characters. There have also been occasions where Ben appears without Bill.

When the show transitioned into full CGI in 2009, the twins were absent for four years. In 2013, Bill and Ben made their return in the seventeenth series.

From their return in 2013 until 2016, Jonathan Broadbent provided the voices for Bill and Ben in both the British English and American English dubs of the series. Following Broadbent's departure in 2017 or 2018, Tim Whitnall and Matt Wilkinson took over the roles of Bill and Ben in both dubs of Big World! Big Adventures!. While Wilkinson continued to voice Ben in the twenty-second series, Rasmus Hardiker took over the role of Bill from Whitnall in both dubs. All four voice actors gave Bill and Ben Birmingham accents.

Ben was consistently portrayed with a deeper voice compared to Bill. This carried over to Jonathan Broadbent's portrayal of the twins. Rasmus Hardiker gave Bill a higher pitched voice with a bolder tone, when Ben retained his somewhat softer vocals.

Behind the Scenes

Gauge 1 models

Bill and Ben's models were custom built with a perspex body shell and used a Märklin locomotive as a donor for the chassis and various parts. They were painted using glossy car body paint and lined with red automotive pinstripe tape with the letters on their saddle tanks were custom cut vinyl stickers.

In the second series, Bill and Ben's nameplates were made to be removable, which was required for the episode, The Diseasel, which centred around the twins playing a trick on BoCo to confuse him with their identical looks. Since the third series their nameplates were replaced with custom printed stickers.

Bill and Ben's wheels were sourced from a gauge 1 locomotive made by Märklin, the BR 80. The buffers were also from the BR 80.

In a behind the scenes picture of Bill's model during the second series reveals that the twins were to have numbers on their smokeboxes above their faces, as they did in The Railway Series. However, they were removed for unknown reasons once filming of The Diseasel began.

During the production of the sixth series Bill and Ben's paint was given a matte finish. In the episode, Buffer Bother, Ben's buffers were temporarily painted brass.

Twelve different facial expressions were worn by Bill and Ben on-screen.[1][2] The faces were first sculpted in clay and from that resin casts were made using a silicone mould. Some of Bill and Ben’s faces were duplicated in case they needed to wear the same facial expression in the same shot. One of Bill and Ben's facemasks is owned by Twitter user TomsProps.

The eye mechanism had two servos, one for up and down movement and one for left and right movement. The up/down servo was attached to the body. The left/right servo had a rod attached to the arm, which connected to a bracket. The eye balls were coupled to the bracket and locked in by the face-plate, so whenever the servos were powered, the eye balls would move however the crew member desired.

Bill and Ben's models were twice the size of their basis' in order to accommodate their eye mechanisms and motor. This was carried over to their CGI models.

In the fifth series episode, Double Teething Troubles, Bill and Ben were seen with lamps. They were powered by hidden battery packs.

During the production of the eighth series, the models had to go under some repair; Ben's model was refurbished with a new cab roof due to a huge crack.

The twelfth series marked the beginning of the show's transition into CGI and the characters' faces were animated through CGI with the aid of motion capture animation. The physical models' molded faces were replaced by white targets with triangles to fix a computer-animated face in post-production. Ben’s resin faces were only used in background shots.

Bill and Ben’s models are now currently on display at the Hara Model Railway Museum in Japan.

CGI models

In 2009, the series introduced Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) as a replacement for the show's long-standing live-action models. In 2013, Bill and Ben were created in CGI by Arc Productions. The model was "hand-sculpted" in Maya, a 3D animation and modelling software.

Bill and Ben have had modifications throughout the CGI series. These include:

  • Series 17:
    • Their faces became smaller, and were raised slightly higher up.
    • Permanent lamps and taillamps.
      • An additional sandbox was added on the footplate to mount the lamp.
      • An extra wood panel was added to the rear window to accommodate the taillamp.
    • Taller cabs.
    • Brass nameplates.
    • Red lining behind the "SCC" lettering on their boilers.
    • Red wheels.
    • External brake shoes.
    • Black domes and crossheads.
    • Brake pipes.
    • Yellow wheel lubricators on both sides, that connected to their valve gears.
    • Yellow siderod guards.
    • Black rivets on their front bufferbeam and coupling hook bases.
  • Series 19:
    • Their crossheads became grey again.
    • The text on their nameplates became gold.
  • Series 21:
    • Their crossheads became black again.

Recoloured versions of Bill and Ben were made for the episode, Bill or Ben?. They were repainted dark blue with dark blue wheels, yellow lining and yellow lettering.

Voice Actors

Bill:

Ben:

  • Jonathan Broadbent (UK/US; seventeenth series - The Great Race)
  • Matt Wilkinson (UK/US; Big World! Big Adventures! onwards)
  • Miyuki Hara (Japan; second - third series)
  • Hiromi Nishida (Japan; fifth - seventh series)
  • Noriko Shitaya (Japan; ninth series onwards, excluding The Great Race)
  • Sakura Yoshioka (Japan; The Great Race only)
  • Sascha Draeger (Germany; seventeenth series onwards)
  • Wojciech Chorąży (Poland)
  • Anders Sundstedt (Norway; seventeenth series only)
  • Scott Maurstad (Norway; Tale of the Brave only)
  • Reinder van der Naalt (The Netherlands)
  • Carlos Domínguez (Latin America; seventeenth series only)
  • Miguel Ángel Leal (Latin America; Tale of the Brave onwards)
  • Yehonatan Magon (Israel)
  • Silas Borges (Brazil; seventeenth series onwards)
  • Miguel Ángel Poison (Spain; seventeenth series onwards)
  • Joonathan Kettunen (Finland; Tale of the Brave onwards)
  • Anton Savenkov (Russia; Emily Saves the World only)
  • Loukas Frangoulis (Greece)

References