These are added to the back of a goods train and a guard rides in it. Each brake van is equipped with a strong brake to assist with slowing and stopping the train. From here, the guard can keep an eye on the train in case of problems, such as hot axle boxes or trucks becoming uncoupled while running.
Toad, a GWR brake van, escaped from scrap on the Other Railway along with Oliver and Isabel. The stowaways were rescued by Douglas, who brought them to Sodor. Toad was restored and repainted in full Great Western colours.
One of these brake vans was used as part of The Circus Train. The brake van carried the circus performers and brass band members. Thomas was given the task of pulling the train and was told to share the load due to its weight. However, as he wanted all the glory, he tried to pull the train all by himself. When his side-rods broke from the strain of pulling the heavy train, James and Percy came to the rescue. James took the brake van of performers for Thomas.
Toad is the only known sentient brake van of this design in both the Railway Series and the television series.
Toad the Brake Van:
These brake vans are based on the real GWR 16 ton brake vans nicknamed "Toad". Early vans were just 10 or 16 tons in weight, but this gradually increased to 20 and 25 tons. A number of these brake vans survive in preservation.
The character Toad's name originates from the nickname ("toad") given to these brake vans on the Great Western Railway. It can also be considered a subtle pun: a brake van is 'towed' everywhere it goes.
These brake vans are painted grey. Toad and the Circus brake van both have "GW 56831" written on their side in white.
There are also scrap variants of these brake vans seen in a rusty and deteriorated brown colour with "SCRAP" written on the sides in white.
- To date, Toad is the only known brake van of this design to have a face.
- One of the GWR brake van models that appears in the television series is actually Toad's model but faceless. The scrap variant is also a faceless model of Toad; this first appeared as the character in the third series episode, Escape.
- Another model of a grey GWR brake van without any white lettering is currently on display at Drayton Manor. This brake van very rarely appeared on-screen and was hidden alongside an assortment of other rolling stock in the television series.
- Pocket Fantasy (discontinued)