When Diesel came to the North Western Railway on trial, he attempted to shunt some old, rusty vans. He found it difficult to move the vans and used excessive brute force on them them, not realizing the vans' brakes were on. Soon Diesel pulled the trucks so forcefully that he accidentally overturned some when their brakes finally snapped. He could not move the remaining trucks and was forced to give up. As a result, Diesel was a laughing stock to the other trucks.
Percy once had to deliver vans of sugar to the chocolate factory, but on the way, he slipped on an oily track and crashed through the entire factory.
Arthur once had to take some fruit vans, but he sped down Gordon's Hill and caused the vans to be destroyed.
The 12 ton vans have often been used for the Flying Kipper and have been involved in many accidents on the train's run. Since the eighth series, the vans have been known to transport other things, such as fireworks equipment and ice cream.
In Journey Beyond Sodor, Thomas took some of these trucks to the Mainland in place of Henry who had derailed with them prior. The trucks mocked and teased Thomas for not knowing his way around the Mainland. They later aided James who went searching for Thomas.
Fed up of Bill and Ben's tricks, Edward decided to give the Twins a taste of their own medicine. He hid a special van loaded with decoration for the annual Christmas party at Ulfstead Castle, and the Twins initially believed they had hid the truck themselves. They frantically searched all over the Island for the "missing van".
The trucks on Sodor are described as being Troublesome Trucks. The African trucks are depicted as quite the opposite; somewhat silly, polite, helpful and enjoy singing peaceful and uplifting songs.
A Chinese van named Lei is the only known van of this design with a name.
After the eighth series, the vans were faceless. They regained faces in the twentieth series, although the faces were raised and the front vent was removed. In the fifth series episode, Haunted Henry, a van had a rectangular face because its vents were removed.
In the seventh series, scratch-built vans were made, albeit with their vents raised and smaller than their previous counterparts. These vans coexisted alongside the regular type until the show's transition to CGI.
The Salt Vans in the CGI era are modified from these vans.
All scratch built vans from the sixth series to the twelve series have raised vents; this was most likely done to allow for easier use of the larger face masks. Many more of these vans were built for the eight series, although they were not used as much due to the fact that open wagons ended up being used for all Troublesome Trucks.