Thomas the Tank Engine Wikia
The Railway Series

Sir Topham Hatt I, also known as The Fat Controller and formerly The Fat Director, was the controller of the North Western Railway from 1914 to 1954.


Topham Hatt was apprenticed at the Great Western Railway's Swindon Works in 1894 at the age of fourteen. During his time there, he seems to have struck up a friendship with William A. Stanier, a fellow apprentice. The story current at Crovan's Gate Works is 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. Due to his training at Swindon, he always admired things Great Western.

He came to Sodor in 1901 and joined A.W. Dry and Company, a firm of drainage engineers, at Tidmouth. On their recommendation, he became an engineer to the Tidmouth, Knapford and Elsbridge Light Railway in 1910, the Tidmouth, Wellsworth and Suddery in 1912 and the North Western Railway upon its formation in 1914. On the North Western Railway, he rose to be General Manager in 1923, Managing Director in 1936 and upon Nationalisation in 1948, he was created a baronet on his appointment as Chairman of the Regional Executive.

For A.W. Dry and Company, he built a series of four vertical boiler engines known as Coffee Pots between 1905 and 1908, which were used by the TK&ER. After an Autumn gale in 1908, he directed unemployed miners in cutting a tunnel through the ridge south of Tidmouth. In 1915, for the NWR, he designed a double-tracked Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge of 120 ft span to cross the Walney Channel. Sometime after this, he was appointed a director of the company.

When the railway was suffering from a locomotive crisis in the early 1920s, he was responsible for acquiring new engines. During this time, he made one of his rare bad bargains when he was tricked into purchasing Henry, who suffered from numerous flaws, instead of the Robinson Atlantic he wanted. He remembered the mistake with sorrow for the rest of his days and was so angry at having been "done" that he would never admit who it was who had swindled him. No-one was better pleased than Topham Hatt when the Killdane accident occurred in 1935. Using his connections with William Stanier, now CME of the LMS, he was able to have Henry completely rebuilt at Crewe Works.

In 1953, when The Queen visited Sodor in Coronation year he had the honour of welcoming her to Tidmouth, having been previously presented to Her Majesty by Viscount Harwick, the Governor, who was also his son-in-law.

He retired in 1954 in favour of his son Charles, whom the Board had no hesitation in electing as his successor. It is no exaggeration to say that the present prosperity of the Railway is almost entirely due to his initiative and resource.

He married Jane, sister of Sir Handel Brown in 1910 and they had two children, a daughter named Barbara Jane (born 1911) who married Henry Regaby in 1938 and later a son named Charles Topham (born 1914) who would later become the second Fat Controller.

Sir Topham Hatt I passed away at his house in Wellsworth in 1956 at the age of 76.


Sir Topham Hatt is a short, chubby gentleman. He usually wears a morning dress, consisting of grey trousers, a white shirt, a black tie, a cream, yellow, blue, purple or grey waistcoat, a black tailcoat and a black top hat. He is most often depicted as having thinned grey, black or brown hair and brown eyes, while in the television series, he is depicted as completely bald.


The Railway Series

Companion Volumes


  • In The Three Railway Engines and Thomas the Tank Engine, he was nicknamed "The Fat Director" but from James the Red Engine onwards, his nickname changed to "The Fat Controller".
  • According to Sodor: Reading Between the Lines, the Fat Controller is based on no one in particular, though Christopher Awdry suggests his doctor at the time the character was created may have been an "unconscious contribution".


The Railway Series

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* RWS only | ** T&F only | --- Dropped