Are UK kids TV characters sexist?

The first ever series of the kids TV show Thomas and Friends hit our screens in September 1984. This show was filled with starry eyed young teen trains such as the loveable Thomas, Gordon and Edward, all pulled together by the delightfully charming Fat Controller. However, as the years passed, the celebrity lifestyle started to show strain on the young stars, causing them to spiral out of control. The young chug trains started out as the best of friends, regularly heading down to Euston station together for a night on the tracks. But as the show got more popular and the series became longer, the younger, more vulnerable trains began their way down a darkened tunnel. Only now, since Thomas the Tank Engine has become fully computer generated, have the original convoy came forth and spilled the gossip on their original co-stars.

Thomas the Tank Engine


Thomas, whose real name is Boris the Tank Engine, was only 18 when he was snapped up for the lead role in the show. Young and impressionable, he quickly rose to stardom, being plastered all over lunchboxes, tea towels and a number of novelty badges. This success caused the young engine to become horribly arrogant. “Some days Thomas would turn up to shoot in sunglasses and requesting that he be fully steamed and buffed before shooting. Sometimes it would take hours before he would even get on the right tracks” explained the Fat Controller. According to other sources, he once stopped ugly passengers getting inside him, saying, “do I look like a repulsive engine? I am on every lunchbox this side of Watford and you give me these ugly kids as passengers, are you high?”

The Fat Controller


Though the Fat Controller is one the most famous characters from the series, it was unveiled that he had a huge drinking problem on the set. Red-cheeked Topham Hatt was apparently more than prone to simply wandering off the set, sitting near Harold the Helicopter and getting out a brown paper bag until his shots were to be retaken. “It was disgusting behaviour” claims Edward, the Blue Engine, “often he would wander onto the tracks, shouting and yelling stuff at Thomas like ‘Really useless Engine’. It was totally unfair on Thomas, he normally took the brunt of his drunken rages”.

Percy the Small Engine


Percy was often perceived as one of the happiest and most charismatic personalities on set, being noted as the one to often be the carriage to cry on when other trains had issues. However, in Percy’s Auto-Biography, “Small, Green and Obscene”, he discusses his homosexuality and coming out to the rest of the cast. “It was a big deal back then being gay, I told a small circle of friends, such as Thomas and Emily who were really great and supportive. But some of the older, bigger trains just didn’t get it…eventually some passengers refused to ride me, one even tried to spray me pink. It is a lot better now, people are far more accepting of homosexual transport”.

Gordon The Big Engine


Gordon, or “Big G” as he demanded to be called, was the biggest and most powerful of the group. Though he was not afraid of setting the other trains straight once in a while, Big G was supposedly not very keen on the idea of female or feminine trains being on the tracks. He has been quoted as saying “Whats them bloody women doing here on the tracks” and “Those women call themselves drivers?”. He even once apparently called Percy a “little woofty”, talking about his “clag”, which did not go down well with the Small Engine who says, “I admit that back then I may have been annoying and a little extrovert but there was no need for that big bully to say those cruel things to me! Sometimes he would tell all the other trains that I fancied him, which was just simply untrue”.

James The Red Engine


James, known as the naughtiest of all the locomotives, infamously crashed in on his first day into a field. After this he was simply regarded as accident prone, often being left to his own devices whilst other trains took the important loads. Unfortunately, this meant that James was unguarded most of the time, resulting in a tar sniffing addiction. This meant he became regularly unhinged, whizzing up and down the tracks, spinning on the turntables and ram-raiding tar trucks. Thomas explained “it was ashame, he was a brilliant eager engine, who was slightly clumsy. Then when his tar addiction happened, his buffers would get dirtier, he would be late for work and his clumsiness just got worse, until the big accident, where he was ironically drowned by ten tonnes of tar. We replaced him with his brother Eric for a couple of seasons and nobody noticed until recently”.



On Emily’s first day, she took a couple of Thomas’ carriages by accident. Though Thomas was mad, she promised that she would make it up to him. Half way through the second series, it was announced that Emily and Thomas were romantically linked, though it quickly turned sour. “I was really happy with him” explains Emily, “we would often talk about having carriages of our own one day but Thomas’ jealousy was too much”. Reports from other cast members were that Emily would often ‘nip to the station’ with other trains, causing Thomas to eventually break it off with Emily. “She was basically the Christmas Train, everyone had a go”, said one anonymous carriage. After getting married to Edward in 1989, Emily apparently went on to cheat on him with a number of extras including Terrence the Tractor, Captain the Lifeboat and a sordid one-nighter with Elizabeth the Steam Lorry, which ended in their gruesome break-up.


-Matt Moore