Toby the Tram Engine is a fictional anthropomorphic tram engine in The Railway Series by the Rev. W. Awdry and his son, Christopher. Toby, a tram engine with cowcatchers and sideplates, carries the North Western Railway running number seven and works on the same Ffarquhar branch line as Thomas.

Toby first appeared in the seventh book in The Railway Series, Toby the Tram Engine in 1952, and appeared in several subsequent books. The second book focused on Toby was the sixth of Christopher Awdry's books, Toby, Trucks and Trouble.

Prototype and back-storyEdit

Toby is based on a J70 tram engine from the Great Eastern Railway (GER Class C53). His cowcatchers and sideplates allow him to run on roadside tramways, which other engines are not allowed to do for safety reasons. J70s were used for light duties, such as branch line work and dock shunting.

Many J70s could be found working on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway in East Anglia.{ The Tramway was primarily used for the transportation of fruit and other farm produce to the main line. The line closed to passengers in 1927 but freight services continued until lorries and road transport boomed in the 1950s. In 1952, the steam tram engines were replaced by diesel Drewry Shunters (the BR Class 04). Inspiration for Toby came from the Awdrys watching a J70 – probably 68221, one of three J70s built in 1914 (as GER 127) – at Great Yarmouth in 1951. Further inspiration was drawn soon after when the Rev. 'Teddy' Boston, then curate at Wisbech, arranged for Awdry to ride on the footplate of one of the last surviving steam tram engines on the Tramway. Fascinated by the unusual engines, Awdry sought a way to incorporate them in the stories. Research by Awdry's brother, George, revealed that tramway regulations required the fitting of cowcatchers and sideplates for railway locomotives running on tracks alongside roads, and the story "Thomas in Trouble" (published in 1952, the year steam trams were replaced) evolved to provide a reason for Toby being summoned to Sodor. The story includes a description of Toby's final journeys on the line: {{quote|People come to see Toby, but they come by bus...The months passed. Toby had few trucks, and fewer passengers...That day [Toby's last] Henrietta had more passengers than she could manage. They rode in the trucks and crowded in the brake van.|Rev. W. Awdry|"Toby and the Stout Gentleman", in Toby the Tram Engine. This was a common occurrence during the closing of real railway lines; demand decreased to an unprofitable amount, but services were often full for the last workings of steam. On Awdry's model railway, Toby was represented by a Y6, an 0-4-0 locomotive similar to but smaller than the J70 and better suited to the 4-wheel motor bogie available to power the model. In 1961, Awdry wrote an article for Railway Modeller magazine on the construction of this locomotive.

Christopher Awdry has said that Toby is his favorite character, partly because he was there when his father received the inspiration to create him, but also because as a child he had traveled in the cab of two J70s.

Toby in The Railway SeriesEdit

Toby is introduced in the seventh book in The Railway Series. The first story, "Toby and the Stout Gentleman" describes the closure of Toby's branch line due to the lack of passengers and freight. Shortly before the line was to close, a "stout gentleman" arrived on a holiday with his family; the children rode on Toby everyday for a fortnight and the stout gentleman gave Toby's crew a present. The day after the Tramway closed, ironically after an overcrowded final journey by Toby and Henrietta, a letter arrived from the stout gentleman which was to give Toby a reprieve.

In "Thomas in Trouble", Thomas encounters an officious policeman, who says that, when running from the quarry, along public roads, engines who have the right to go on public roads must be fitted with cow-catchers and sideplates for safety to prevent people and animals from getting killed if they should have the right to stray onto the line. The Fat Controller, urgently needing to rectify this, is discussing the fitting of these, when Thomas remarks that "everyone will laugh...they'll say I look like a tram". The Fat Controller (the "stout gentleman") remembered Toby immediately and arranged for him to come to Sodor. Toby arrives with his coach, Henrietta, and became friends with Thomas when Toby rings his loud bell, making the policeman jump.

In "Dirty Objects", James makes fun of Toby's "shabby" appearance. James later has an accident and gets covered in tar; Toby and Percy help to clear up the mess and Toby is rewarded with a new coat of paint. His chosen livery of chocolate brown with blue sideplates replicates that which he would have worn on the GER.

Toby suffers from having small water tanks, meaning he is unsuitable for long distance work. In "Double Header" (in The Eight Famous Engines), Toby uses the Main Line to travel to the Works for servicing. He has stopped at a water-crane to refill his tanks, when he is urged on to the next station by a new Signalman who didn't understand Toby's condition. Toby tries to hurry to the next station, but uses up the water and runs out of steam, ending up marooned on the mainline far from the station. Toby is pushed by James to the station, where some boys mis-understand the situation and suggest that James was unable to pull the Express, and Toby was needed to double-head the train.

Toby is also associated with the coach Victoria who forms the "vintage train" with Henrietta that takes workers to and from the quarry.


When he was first introduced, Toby was old but hardworking, and knew enough about running a branchline to justify running Thomas' with Thomas and Daisy after Percy's accident with the trucks. He is also savvy enough to control the trucks. However, his advanced age and design means that he is weaker than the other engines


Toby was painted brown with black cowcatchers and sideplates (which sported "LNER" in bright yellow letters) before working on his tramway, where he was repainted greyish-brown with grey sideplates and cowcatchers. After helping James he was repainted chocolate-brown with olive frames and blue sideplates. In addition, he carries two plaques on the sides of his cab stating that he works on the NWR, his number, and the last time and place that he was rebuilt.


  • In Thomas Comes Home, the illustrations of "Toby's Megatrain" show Toby with a face at the rear cab as well as the front cab. This is the only time in the Railway Series that Toby has been illustrated with two faces.
  • Toby is Christopher Awdry's favourite engine. This is because while on a trip in Yarmouth, he and his father got to ride in the cab of one.

Photo GalleryEdit