Behind the Scenes

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

Background Information

In the Railway Series

Oliver is a fictional standard gauge tank locomotive created by the Rev. W. Awdry. Oliver lives and works on the North Western Railway. He carries the number 1436.

He first appeared in the Railway Series book, Enterprising Engines, which was published in 1968. His last appearance was in Wilbert the Forest Engine, published in 1994.

Front of Oliver:

Rear of Oliver:

Oliver is based on Great Western Railway 14xx Class 0-4-2T.

Oliver is named after Oliver Wicks, who was a much respected member of Stroud Baptist Church. He was the Rev. W. Awdry's next door neighbour in Rodborough, Stroud. Oliver's name may have also been inspired by Bulliver, a member of his class preserved on the Dart Valley (now South Devon) Railway, which is mentioned at the beginning of Oliver the Western Engine.

In the Television Series

In 1992, Oliver was introduced in the third series of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, reprising many of his roles from the Railway Series. Unlike the Railway Series where his number was 1436, he was given the number 11.

Since his introduction, Oliver appeared as a supporting character up until the seventh series. As a result of the stories from the eighth to sixteenth series focusing primarily on the Steam Team, Oliver was neglected and left absent along with many other characters from the eighth to eleventh series. He reappeared in the twelfth series, but was left absent again when the series moved from live-action model animation to Computer-Generated Imagery. Oliver eventually returned in the eighteenth series, and has made regular appearances until 2018.

Since his return in 2014, Oliver has been voiced by Joe Mills in both the British English and American English dubs of the series. Joe Mills gives Oliver a West Country accent, reflecting his basis' origins.

Behind the Scenes

Awdry's model

Gauge 1 model

Oliver’s model was custom built from brass by model makers, Peter Eves and Jeremy King. It was painted in glossy car body paint while the numbers and GWR logo were custom cut vinyl stickers.

Oliver's chassis was sourced from a gauge 1 locomotive made by Märklin, the BR 78., but modfied. The buffers, coupling frame and brake pipes were made by Tenmille. The chassis' AC motor was replaced by a DC motor to allow for easier running and maintenance.

Seven different facial expressions were worn by Oliver on screen.[1] The faces were first sculpted in clay and from that resin casts were made using a silicone mould. One of Oliver'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.

In the episode, Oliver's Find, Oliver was seen with a lamp. This was powered by a hidden battery pack.

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.

Oliver has had modifications throughout the model era. These include:

  • Series 4:
    • His whistle sound changed to a lower pitched version of Duck’s.
  • Series 6:
    • His paint was given a matte finish.
    • He gained a coupling hook base.
    • He is painted in a lighter shade of green.
  • Series 12:
    • He has slightly thicker eyebrows.

Oliver’s model is now on display at the Hara Model Railway Museum. It had previously been on display at Nitrogen Studios.

Close-up model

Several close-up shots of Oliver's cab was required for scenes in the fifth series episode, Oliver’s Find, where he had to interact with close-up scale figures. It was also used for close-up whistle shots; smoke would emit from the whistle when required. The model was not complete and only portions of the cab were built.

CGI model

In 2009, the series introduced Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) as a replacement for the show's long-standing live-action models. In 2014, Oliver was created in CGI by Arc Productions. The model was "hand-sculpted" in Maya, a 3D animation and modelling software.

Oliver has had modifications throughout the CGI series. These include:

  • Series 18:
    • He is now painted in a slightly darker shade of green.
    • He has black side-rods and lamp irons.
    • He has more hand rails.
    • His boiler and cab windows are slightly smaller.
    • His back cab windows gained yellow lining to match his front windows.
    • His whistle guard became slightly taller.
    • The 'GWR' logo, his number and his trailing wheels are slightly bigger.
    • His driving wheels are slightly further away from each other.
    • His buffer-beam is significantly smaller.
    • His running board was painted black, like it was in the Railway Series and is also thicker than on his basis.
    • The frame around his coupling hook changed to black.
    • He lost his guard irons on his cab windows, the counterweights on his wheels, his middle lamp iron and the lamp iron on top of his smoke-box.
    • The four rods (one on the top currently holding his tail lamp) on the back of his coal bunker became black.
    • His smoke-box saddle is narrower.
    • His top feed has moved forward slightly.
    • He is slightly taller, but is also noticeably scaled down compared to his model form and his basis.
    • His dome is taller and thinner.
    • His funnel is thinner and less detailed compared to his model form and his basis.
    • He gained rivets on his smoke-box and on the sides of his buffer-beams.
    • He gained a permanent headlamp and tail-lamp.
    • His whistle design is the same as Thomas', but his whistle sound stayed the same. His current whistle design is also the same as Duck's current one.
  • Series 19:
    • His side-rods became grey again.
    • The rivets on the sides of his buffer-beams changed to red.
    • The frame around his coupling hook became red again.

Voice Actors


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