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The Railway Series

For other uses, see Henry (disambiguation).

“Never mind. You can do it - you're an Enterprising Engine, remember.”
― Henry's Driver to Henry[src]

Henry is a green mixed-traffic tender engine who lives and works on the Island of Sodor, and is the North Western Railway's number 3 engine.


Henry's exact origins are unknown. The story goes that he was built from drawings stolen from Sir Nigel Gresley at Doncaster in 1919 by an anonymous locomotive builder who held a grudge against him. The spy, however, blundered and took the wrong drawings. Instead of the new A1 "Pacific" locomotives that Gresley was designing at the time, with the prototype of the A1 Class being Gordon, the thief ended up with plans that had been rejected early on. The mistake was realised too late, and Henry was built with many resulting flaws, and only a superficial likeness to Gresley's Pacifics. One of these flaws was an undersized firebox, making Henry an unreliable shy steamer.[1]

The thief was delighted to sell his "White Elephant" on to the first desperate customer who came along - The Fat Controller. He had intended to buy a Great Central Railway Robinson Atlantic locomotive but was swindled and Henry was purchased instead.[2] Henry arrived in 1922, and as the railway was facing a motive power crisis the Fat Controller, out of desperation, had no choice but to keep him.

When he came, Henry was vain and stopped in the Ballahoo Tunnel and refused to come out, believing that his paintwork would be spoiled by the rain. After several attempts to move him failed, he was bricked up in the tunnel for a duration of time, between several weeks to a few months, until Gordon broke down while pulling the Express. As Edward was unable to move the train himself, the Fat Controller offered to let Henry out of the tunnel to help. Henry eagerly accepted and was later freed from being bricked up.

Henry performed well and the Fat Controller promised him a new coat of paint, since Henry's existing paintwork had been spoiled more by his stay in the tunnel than it would have been by the rain. Henry asked to be painted blue like Edward, only for many people to confuse him with Gordon, much to the bigger engine's annoyance. The matter was worsened after a trip to the Works when Henry was given a spare set of Gordon's buffers. These buffers were later removed after Henry - while boasting about them - ran into the buffers at Tidmouth. To cheer him up after losing his square buffers, the Fat Controller offered Henry to be repainted green, so as to end the confusion between him and Gordon.[3]

Unfortunately, Henry was to suffer humiliation when he was pushed out of a tunnel and later hosed with water by an escaped elephant. After Gordon and James had suffered humiliations of their own (and all three had become thoroughly fed up having to do their own shunting and fetch their own coaches), the big engines went on strike. The Fat Controller naturally disapproved of this nonsense and locked them up in the shed for several days, leaving them miserable. However, they were let out again after promising to work hard.

The poor engine and his system - which was already finicky at best due to design flaws - never really recovered from his stay in the tunnel. Henry developed steaming problems, which he complained about constantly, though he found little sympathy from the engines, especially when it caused him to run late.

A period came when the Main Line engines were supplied with a poor delivery of coal and Henry had a very difficult time of it indeed. He had strength to pull trains only sporadically, in spite of numerous part replacements, and there was talk of being replaced by another engine. At last, the Fat Controller looked into it personally and asked for the opinion of Henry's fireman, who told him about the poor coal and Henry's firebox being too small to burn it efficiently. The fireman also suggested purchasing the high-grade Welsh coal used on the Great Western Railway. Sir Topham Hatt agreed to purchasing some in order to give Henry "a fair chance".

When the Welsh coal came, Henry's performance vastly improved, such that he was comparable to Gordon. He continued to use the coal until he had an accident near Killdane when pulling the Flying Kipper and was sent to Crewe to be rebuilt in around 1935. Henry was rebuilt into a Stanier 5MT. The Fat Controller had connections with Sir William Stanier, so this is likely the reason he managed to get Henry rebuilt so quickly. Besides being given a new shape, Henry also received a larger firebox, allowing him to use regular coal again.

After returning, Henry was added to the rotation for the Express and pulled it so well that he made Gordon jealous. Gordon tried to get even by rudely criticising Henry for whistling loudly at stations, but he had to eat his words later that day after his own whistle valve jammed open. Sometime later, Henry was taking a slow train. As he passed under a bridge, three boys he had assumed to be railfans threw stones at him and his coaches. He paid them out on his return journey by "sneezing" ashes that collected in his smokebox at them.

When Queen Elizabeth II was due to visit Sodor in 1953, Henry assumed that he was the Fat Controller's choice to pull the Royal Train. But the day before, while he was idling at the station, his smoke blinded a painter, who fell along with his paint pot onto Henry. The paint splashed over Henry's boiler and as painting over it would take too long, Gordon was given the job instead.

When Duck arrived in 1955 to take over Percy's duties as station pilot, Henry - along with Gordon and James - teased him and tried to give him orders, as they had been doing to Percy. With Percy's help, Duck blocked the big engines from entering the shed. The Fat Controller arrived and told the two tank engines off for causing a disturbance. Henry and the others laughed - until the Fat Controller shouted for silence and told them that they had been worse, as they had made the disturbance. He told them that Duck was right - he, Sir Topham Hatt, is in charge and he gives the orders; Henry respected Duck more after that.

Henry acted rudely with the engines at Barrow-in-Furness who were in the middle of a conversation with Percy, calling him and them "silly things" and challenged Percy's statement that he did not fear water. Percy retaliated by reminding Henry about his stay in the tunnel, but Percy was shown wrong when he accidentally ended up smokebox-first in the sea at Knapford Harbour. When Percy was to be sent to the works the next day, Henry ridiculed Percy and told him that he would be braver the next time he plunged into the sea, but Percy was quite determined that there would not be a next time.

Henry would then later accompany the engines to England.

Henry's good opinion of Duck would be briefly spoilt in 1957. He and the other main line engines were growing very tired of Duck's incessant talk about the Great Western Railway following City of Truro's visit. A diesel sent to the island on trial quickly developed a grudge against Duck and spread nasty stories about the main line engines to the trucks, stories he falsely claimed that Duck had told him. Furious at being called "Old Square Wheels", Henry joined Gordon and James in barring Duck from the shed just like what Duck and Percy had done previously. He felt sorry a few days later when he became the next target of Diesel's slander and when Duck returned after preventing an accident, Henry cheered for him loudly.

When Gordon started feeling depressed in 1967, Henry - who thought Gordon was just moaning and groaning - teased him and told him he should get a wash-out and would feel much better. When Gordon's brother Flying Scotsman visited Sodor, Henry was jealous of the visitor's second tender. Although Duck and Donald explained this (which Henry understood), he was still vain enough to want an additional tender. Deciding to bring Henry down to earth, Duck told the big engine that he had in his possession not one, but six spare tenders, which, as a tank engine, he had no need of. Henry accepted and all the engines waited to see him go past. But instead of a splendid sight, the tenders were old, rusted and full of boiler sludge. Gordon mocked him with a comment about wash-outs.

Henry became frustrated the day after D7101 and D199 arrived on trial. This made him so hot that his regulator fused wide open and his driver had to use the reverser to control him. On his return journey (no train), he stopped at a signal box next to 199, who had a train of fuel and oil tankers. The signalman told them that 199 - who he nicknamed "Spamcan" - had failed and that he needed to be moved out of the way to clear the line for the "Limited". Henry pulled the train clear, but shortly afterwards, 7101's ejector failed and the "Limited" ground to a halt. Henry then volunteered to help move both trains. Luckily all he had to do for 7101 was keep the vacuum brakes off, but it was still hard work. The cavalcade made it to a station where Flying Scotsman waited to take the coaches and Donald to take the goods. Henry brought 7101 to the Works afterwards and following this valiant rescue, he was no longer teased for the incident with the tenders.

Later, when Gordon needed new tubes, Henry pulled the express, but soon fell ill as well. This left the job of the express to Thomas, Percy and Duck. A while later, Henry had to pull an extra-long Flying Kipper and Duck had to help him up Gordon's Hill. But due to a tail-lamp falling off the rear van, Duck accidentally crashed into the train.

During the subject of paint colours, Henry commented on how he would hate to be red and look like a fire engine in an attempt to mock James. The next day, he was rough with his coaches and resulted in breaking the drawbar between him and his tender. Because of his separated source of water, his fireman was forced to throw out the fire, which set the sleepers alight. After the fire brigade put out the flames, Henry never made rude comments on fire engines again.

In 1985, Henry complained to Thomas the time that the Viaduct had gone under repairs, when Thomas became impatient with his connection between the main line engines and his branch line. Later when bringing passengers for Thomas, the tank engine ran away.

In 1986, when Gordon accidentally blew ashes when his smokebox was clogged, Henry suggested that Gordon should have a good "sneeze", but Gordon reminded Henry that The Fat Controller did not like Henry's sneeze. He also pulled the express when Gordon slipped on the icy rails and befriended Pip and Emma.

When Thomas had been invited to the Great Railway Show, Henry was angry at having not been chosen and later teased Percy that Thomas was old enough to become a museum piece.

In 1992, during the time when the railway began using a new type of coal, Henry began having problems with it. This resulted in his smokebox door having to be pasted shut with damp shredded newspaper when hot ashes damaged it. He was to head to Crovan's Gate with James on the Express, but after crossing the Viaduct one of the steel rims on his driving wheel broke off and shattered a window on one of the coaches. He was taken off and managed to get to the Works. After his repairs, he was given an undercoat of red paint, but before the green could be applied, he was called out to pull the Express. Despite his looks, he managed to pull the train, even getting up Gordon's Hill on his own and returned home with his finished coat of green.

He later fretted over the Golden Jubilee despite Duck, Daisy, James and Donald trying to cheer him up.

Technical Details


In his original form, Henry is based on one of the early rejected designs for Gresley's Great Northern Railway (GNR) A1 class 4-6-2, of which Gordon would later become the prototype. Between 1915 and 1922, a number of different iterations of the design were created. While it is unknown which exact one Henry was built from, it would have to be one of the designs drafted before 1919, given his build date.

Following the 1935 Flying Kipper incident, Henry was rebuilt as a London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) Stanier 5MT "Black Five" 4-6-0.

In the real world, eighteen members of the LMS Stanier 5MT class have survived into preservation. Several members of this class survived until the end of steam on British Railways in 1968. Three class members, 44781, 44871 and 45110 were used to haul the Fifteen Guinea Special on August 11, 1968. 44871 and 45110 have survived into preservation whereas sister engine 44781 was purchased for use in the film, The Virgin Soldiers, and was scrapped after being used in a train scene disguised as a Malayan Railway L class locomotive (with the number 531.03).

Upon his return from Crewe, Henry originally carried a Stanier tender, however this was later replaced by a Fowler tender.


Henry is painted in the standard green livery used by the North Western Railway, with red and yellow lining. His number (3) is painted on his tender in yellow with a red outline. He has a black running board with red bufferbeams and valences.

In William Middleton's illustrations, Henry was a significantly darker shade of green compared to later illustrations. His roof was green, his wheels, buffer holds and valences were black, and his buffers were white. Additionally, he is shown to have yellow boiler bands when being repainted blue - to match Edward and Gordon in these illustrations - which was later changed to red in re-illustrations.

For a short period between him leaving the tunnel and the incident with the elephant, Henry was painted in the standard blue livery used by the North Western Railway, with red and yellow lining. He later returned to his original livery to avoid confusion with Gordon.

In Henry and the Express, he was briefly painted red as an undercoat before his standard green livery was applied.


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Official Description

From Official Media:[4]

Henry (NWR No.3): Since 1922 there have been two Henrys - Henry I and Henry II.

Henry I was one of Sir Topham’s rare bad bargains. We only made his acquaintance in 1943, but even after 20 years he was SO angry at having been “done” that he would never admit who it was who had swindled him. ”I wanted an Atlantic,” he would fume, ”and that -------,---------,---------, sent me that!” and he thumped a photograph on the table. We never saw Henry I, but we talked to men who had crewed him. Henry I had a superficial likeness to Gordon, they said, but that was as far as it went. They, remembered hearing rumours of a scandal at Doncaster in 1919 or thereabouts, about the theft of some drawings. Nothing was proved, but it was alleged that a Locomotive Builder with a grudge against Gresley had engineered a "leak" so as to steal a march on him. His spy, however, blundered and took the wrong drawings. The mistake was discovered too late. The locomotive when built, showed so many faults that the builder was glad of chance to unload his "white elephant" on to a desperate customer. (The locomotive crisis on the NWR in the 1920s was desperate and Topham Hatt was having to make do with anything he could get.) No-one was better, pleased than Topham Hatt when the Killdane accident occurred in 1935. At last he had an opportunity of having Henry completely rebuilt at Crewe.

Henry II - It has been a mystery to many that Topham Hatt was able to send the deplorable Henry I to Crewe in 1935, and receive back a Stanier Class 5MT in tip-top condition as Henry II. The story current at Crovan's Gate Works is that Topham Hatt and William Stanier" were apprentices together at Swindon, and that on at least one occasion, perhaps more, the future Sir Topham was able to help the future Sir William to escape the consequences of what might have been a serious scrape. We cannot, of course, vouch for this story, but it does at least offer a plausible explanation.

From Official Media:[5]

Henry (3): There have actually been, in effect, two Henrys. Suffice here to say that since Henry's return from Crewe he has been, to use my father's expression, "a reformed character". He now looks very much like a Stainer Class 5, of which several examples can be seen at preserved lines up and down the country. It is the current Fat Controller's hope that the Works at Crovan's Gate may yet be able to tap into what could ve a lucrative market for the supply of spares for these heritage line locomotives.


  • Henry appeared in the Railway Series more than any other engine, having been in both the most books and the most individual stories.
  • The mention of Henry having originally been ordered as a Robinson Atlantic in Sodor: Reading Between the Lines is based on Awdry's original illustrations of The Three Railway Engines, which depicts him as an 4-4-2.[6]

See also