Behind the Scenes

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

Background Information

The Railway Series

Skarloey is a fictional narrow gauge saddletank locomotive created by the Rev. W. Awdry. He is one of the oldest engines on the Island of Sodor. Skarloey lives and works on the Skarloey Railway as their No. 1 engine.

He first appeared in the Railway Series book, Four Little Engines, which was published in 1955. His last appearance was in New Little Engine, published in 1996.

Front of Skarloey:

Rear of Skarloey:

In The Thomas Way DVD, the Mr. Perkins segment features a re-illustrated version of the story Trucks! where Skarloey is depicted in his television series livery. However, his stripes remain blue as in the books.

Skarloey is based on the Talyllyn Railway No. 1 locomotive, Talyllyn. Several historical events that occurred with Talyllyn in real life, were mirrored with his fictional counterpart, Skarloey. Talyllyn has also been used by the Talyllyn Railway to represent Skarloey in real life. In the books, Talyllyn is mentioned as being Skarloey's twin and Rheneas and Dolgoch are mentioned as being his brothers.

Television Series

In 1995, Skarloey was introduced in the fourth series of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. The series placed a great focus on him and the other narrow gauge characters, with a number of stories from the original books adapted for the television series. It should also be noted that Skarloey and Rheneas have never been referred to as brothers in the television series adaptation and have been called "friends" in most episodes. Out of all the narrow gauge engines of the Skarloey Railway, Skarloey is the only one to keep his original Railway Series red livery (albeit with different shades as the series progressed and different coloured lining).

In the classic era of Thomas and Friends, Skarloey is portrayed as an old and wise engine. However, as the series progressed, Skarloey's character gradually became altered to a more younger personality under the influence of HiT Entertainment. The narrow gauge engines took a full absence in 2004, but returned the following year.

When the show transitioned into full CGI in 2009, the narrow gauge engines were absent for three years. Skarloey later returned in the 2012 special, Blue Mountain Mystery, along with Rheneas, Sir Handel, Peter Sam and Rusty. In the CGI series, his classic personality returned and he is seen frequently working at the Blue Mountain Quarry, but still pulls passenger trains daily when he is not working at the Quarry. He is also one of the fewer narrow gauge engines to gain a speaking appearance in at least one episode per series probably due to the fact he's the leader of them.

Since his return in 2012, Skarloey has been voiced by Keith Wickham in both the British English and American English dubs of the series. Keith Wickham gives Skarloey a Welsh accent, reflecting his basis' origins.

Behind the Scenes

Awdry's model

The Reverend Wilbert Awdry built an OO9 scale model of Skarloey. The model was made from a GEM Dolgoch kit with a PECO James saddle tank and new cab. Skarloey's model is now on display at the Narrow Gauge Museum in Tywyn, Wales, UK, located near the Talyllyn Railway along with the other Skarloey Railway engines and rolling stock.[1]

O gauge model (Small scale)


Skarloey's small model was custom built from brass by model maker, Peter Eves to run on O gauge track to the Gauge 1 Scale Standard during production of the fourth series. It was painted using glossy car body paint and lined with white and gold Letraline pin-striping tape. The number and nameplates were custom printed foil stickers.[2]

Skarloey's wheels were sourced from Slater's 10 spoke Wantage Tramway wheels. These wheels were used on an O gauge locomotive chassis. All the narrow gauge steam engine side rods were sourced from old OO scale Triang models and modified slightly to fit. These rods did not fit well at all and the engines ran notoriously bad behind the scenes. The buffers were sourced from Slater's Plastikard as well, with most engines using the square based short sprung buffers.[2]

There were 10 different facial expressions worn by Skarloey on screen. The faces were first sculpted in clay and from that resin casts were made of a silicone mould.[2]

The model had a motor to power it mounted inside the chassis as well as an eye mechanism. There was no room to fit a smoke mechanism or the battery and receiver needed for the R/C eyes. Wires connecting to the battery, servo and receiver were usually hidden off camera or carried in rolling stock behind the engine. The eye mechanism used servos mounted in the cab; the servos were hidden by blacking out the cab doors and windows. Metal rods went from the servos in the cab to a bracket in the smoke box behind the faceplate, one for up and down movement and one for left and right movement. This limited the range of movement of the eyes as well as being cumbersome and jamming often. Although the model did not produce smoke, smoke was released from the set under them. The smoke tended to drift out the funnel to create the illusion as if they did produce smoke for a brief moment.[2]

Nearly all drivers and firemen for the small scale locomotives were cut down the middle and black tacked to the engines' cab because the servos for the eye mechanism would not allow them to stand half in the cabs.[3]

In the fifth series episode, Duncan Gets Spooked, the model was reused as Rusty's Ghost Engine. It was only seen when it fell into the swamp below a ravine.

The small scale Skarloey model was predominantly used in the fourth series. It was used in the fifth series for in between shots where they would interact with the gauge 1 scaled characters and sets. The small scale model later appeared via stock-footage in the seventh series episode, James and the Queen of Sodor. In the tenth series episode, Thomas and Skarloey's Big Day Out, Skarloey's small scale model was used again for the first time since the fifth series (minus stock-footage). The small scale model was used in the long shots alongside Thomas' gauge 1 model.

Skarloey was modified and refurbished to resemble his large scale model in the tenth series. These changes include:

  • The brass ring around his funnel and his buffers were painted black.
  • His model became significantly weathered.
  • His livery became a dark crimson colour.
  • His cab became opened out instead of blacked-out.
  • A tail lamp was added.

In the 2004 merchandise referencing promo of Sir Handel, he incorrectly wears Skarloey's happy face mask. This error was later depicted on Sir Handel's Pocket Fantasy toy.

O gauge model (Large scale)


For ease of filming and reliability, the fifth series introduced larger-scale versions of the narrow gauge engines and from the sixth-twelfth series, these larger models were used almost exclusively. They were built to a larger scale than the gauge 1 engines and ran on O gauge track. They were close to 16mm scale, but slightly larger.[3]

There were 13 different facial expressions made for Skarloey, with only 12 shown on screen. The faces were first sculpted in clay and from that resin casts were made of a silicone mould.[2]

The model was made from brass. The wheels and chassis were custom machined (CNC). The model was track powered, so pickup contacts were attached to the metal wheels, which ran into the motor to power it. The electricity ran from the track to the wheels/pickup contacts and went into the motor to power him. The model was also fitted with a smoke unit.

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.

Three bodies of Skarloey were made to this scale, a weathered model, a clean model and a dented model. The dented model was required for the tenth series episode, Wharf and Peace, when several logs tumble down a slope, hitting and denting his saddletank.

In the fifth series episode, Duncan Gets Spooked, Rusty's Ghost Engine was made using Skarloey's model. According to Models on TV, an online magazine, the model used was specially modified so that it could only travel a certain distance before a motor swung it off from the bridge. In a following scene, the model was also covered in white powder to represent a ghost.

In the ninth series episode, Tuneful Toots and the twelfth series episode, The Man in the Hills, Skarloey 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' moulded faces were replaced by white targets with triangles to fix a computer-animated face in post-production. Skarloey's resin faces were only used in background shots.[4]

Skarloey's large scale model underwent many modifications throughout the television series. These include:

  • Series 5:
    • The cab handrails present on his previous model counterpart disappeared on the large scale model and his buffers changed from grey to silver.
    • His whistle sound changed pitch.
  • Series 6:
    • His paint was given a matte finish.
    • The brass ring around his funnel and his buffers were painted black.
    • His model is significantly less weathered.
  • Series 9:
    • A tail lamp was added.
    • His whistle sound went back to its original pitch.
    • His livery became a dark crimson colour.
  • Series 12:
    • His pupils became bigger.

Throughout the HiT Entertainment era, Skarloey and Rheneas were often seen mistakenly wearing each other's facemasks.

Close-up model

A larger scale model of Skarloey was built in the fourth series. It was required for scenes where he had to interact with the close-up scale figures. It was also used for close-up whistle, funnel and firebox shots and smoke would emit when required.

The cab was made in pieces so it was able to be dismantled and resembled for use of interior shots. Most of the close-up scale models did not have faces seeing as most of the time the models were not complete, on top of the fact the faces would often never need to be seen in this scale.

Unlike his O gauge models, Skarloey's front and back cutout windows had glass and brass gold porthole rings.

It appeared in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, tenth and twelfth series.

The close-up model underwent a few changes throughout the television series. These include:

  • Series 5:
    • Part of Skarloey's cab roof became snapped.
  • Series 6:
    • His cab roof is now repaired.
    • The brass gold porthole rings inside the back of his cab have moved and now face around his front windows.
    • His model is significantly less weathered.
  • Series 9:
    • His livery became a dark crimson colour.
  • Series 12:
    • His cab interior changed from black to dark crimson.

CGI model


In 2009, the series introduced Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) as a replacement for the show's long-standing live-action models. Skarloey was recreated from scratch in CGI by Nitrogen Studios in 2010 for production of the 2012 special Blue Mountain Mystery. His model was "hand-sculpted" in Maya, a 3D animation and modelling software.[4]

Photographs of Skarloey's large scale model were used for referencing. According to Greg Tiernan, every detail of the original television series models for each character is carefully reproduced in the CGI model. The models are subjected to many rounds of review before they are submitted to HiT Entertainment for final input and approval.[4]

In addition, Nitrogen Studios went to the Talyllyn Railway and took measurements of Skarloey's basis, Talyllyn, so that his CGI model would resemble Talyllyn as closely as possible.

Skarloey has had modifications throughout the CGI era. These include:

  • Blue Mountain Mystery:
    • His pupils became smaller.
    • Accurate bufferbeam to his basis.
    • His boiler is painted black instead of red.
    • Handrails across the top of his smokebox and saddle tank like his basis.
    • His cab handrails returned, but now gold instead of red.
    • His cutout windows gained brass frames and contained glass.
    • Sanding gear.
    • Black siderod guards.
    • Extra lining on his cab.
    • Differently designed front sandboxes.
    • Footsteps underneath his cab.
    • He gained a new whistle sound.
    • A number plate on the back of his cab, similar to Talyllyn.
  • Series 22:
    • He gained a headlamp in the same design as Timothy's above his face.
    • He regained the brass ring around his funnel.

Voice Actors


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