The Women of Sodor: A Guide to the Female Charaters of Thomas and Friends
Thomas the Tank engine has many friends but they're almost all male. While girls can certainly play with trains with male names some will prefer a female locomotive. The design and planning skills gained through playing with train layouts should not be surrendered for lack of relatable characters. By providing female characters that a girl may find more familiar, caregivers can open up a new avenue of imaginative storytelling and introduce play activities that cross gender lines.
This article provides a list of girl identified trains, coaches, and other vehicles appearing on the US television show and in the books released in the US. Considerably more episodes of the show are available in the UK and readers outside the US may find characters more or less appealing than is suggested here because of these differences in animated appearances.
Annie and Clarabel
Annie and Clarabel always appear as a team of coaches and are most often pulled by Thomas. Their personalities have not been well developed but they are beloved because they appear so frequently. Annie and Clarabel are nearly indispensable if your train play will involve carrying passengers. They range from brown to orange in color depending on the maker of the toy and the time of production. They are available in almost any form from motorized scale models, to pop up tents, to the standard wooden rails toy. They are Thomas' most frequent companions.
A quick overview of Annie and Clarabel through the years
Emily is a dark green and black steam engine. In older materials Emily is referred to as the only female steam engine but the US version of the Thomas and Friends homepage currently describes her as the newest member of the Steam Team. Regardless of when she made her first appearance she's been around long enough to have appeared frequently in a significant role. Her personality, however, is considerably more complex than most of the Thomas characters. She's frequently bossy, snobby, and condescending. She's also stubborn, doing whatever she wants, disregarding instructions, and creating the issue that is the focus of an episode. On the other hand she can also be kind, thoughtful and helpful. She a little brother's vision of a teenage sister.
Emily is available as a toy in most track sizes. She is seen with both a matching tender and matching coaches. She also appears in videos, particularly "Up, Up, and Away," and in books. While not as frequently seen as Thomas or Percy, Emily appears in the series only slightly less often than Henry or James. She is the most frequently seen female train.
Mavis is most often described as kind in the Thomas and Friends books. She isn't a figure to inspire dreamy princess type play but she is s solid role model. She's one of the few who doesn't tease and or cause trouble. She takes pride in her work, organizes the other engines and is helpful whenever possible. She's a practical boxy diesel engine painted in basic black with caution stripes who works at the quarry. A child may see her as one of the few grown-up engines on Sodor. Mavis has a mature personality and often comes in to help Thomas solve the issue of the episode or storybook.
It's worth making special note that Mavis is a diesel engine. This is often presented as a negative quality in the Thomas and Friends series but Mavis is well regarded by both steamies and diesels. An intense analysis of the Thomas and Friends series may see human racial issues in the ongoing steam engine and diesel locomotive conflict which ranges from mutual dislike to outright war. Analyzed this way Mavis is a disconcerting mammy figure but a less critical eye sees Mavis as a kind and peaceful woman who frequently brings new friends together to accomplish a goal.
Mavis is widely available in play figures, videos, and books. If a story features the quarry or diesel engines Mavis is likely to appear.
An homage to Mavis the diesel engine
Belle is a strong, friendly, blue engine. She has two water cannons which can be used to fight fires but she's not a firefighting engine. She's backup for the male fire engine. Her water cannons are described as red but may appear pink on toys. Their placement makes them seem like the bows on pigtails. Belle does not make frequent appearances and toys and books featuring her, even as a background character, can be harder to find. Belle is available in TrackMaster, Take-n-Play, and wooden rails size.
Lady (the train)
Lady is one of the rare Thomas characters that is fully in the fantasy realm. Most of the Thomas and Friends episodes treat the trains as alive but otherwise are grounded in reality. Thomas' mechanical friends are moving fairly standard cargo (mail, passengers, milk, etc.) for ordinary reasons. The average train is painted in bright, primary colors with little embellishment. Lady is exceptional.
Lady is a magic train, painted mauve and gold. She works the magic railway high in the mountains mining magic gold dust and communicates with Thomas in dreams. She is a rather poor match to the rest of the series and and absolute delight to a certain type of young girl. Look for her in the movie "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" where she helps defeat Diesel 10. There are several books based on the movie, all titled with "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" which feature Lady. She is available as a rolling figurine for the Wooden Railways train set and the Take Along (also known as Take and Play or Take N Play) sets.
A clip including Lady from "The Magic Railroad"
Molly is a background character. She's bright yellow steam engine with yellow tender which carries the water and coal. She is often used in promotional materials or may cruise through a scene without speaking but her personality is a blank aside from the standard traits of the series (i.e. she wants be really useful and well regarded by her friends). She appears more frequently in the books and magazines released outside the US and the episode "Molly's Special Special" seems to be currently unreleased here. Because of her bright yellow color, large matching tender and her relatively large size compared to other engines Molly is a popular toy engine. She is available in the major scales and types of the Thomas and Friends toys including a remote controlled Track Master model and the Talking Railway model with recognizes the other engines on the tracks.
Rosie is friendly, fun, and purple. She gets along well with Thomas and he's usually pleased to see her. They play a messy water game in the Splish, Splash, Splosh Episode and ride along together to Knapford in the musical book "Ride Along with Thomas." While her appearances aren't frequent when she does appear she's usually a significant part of the story. She has made extensive appearances in the UK version of the Thomas program and is viewed as a pesky hanger on by some there. Here in the US she tends to be presented as an enthusiastic younger sister type.
Rosie is a purple engine with white side panels and freckles on her face. She is widely available in toy form and makes frequent appearances in videos and books. While not a lead character like Percy or Henry or even a lead secondary character like Harold the Helicopter, Rosie can be described as having a regular guest role in the Thomas and Friends line of videos and books. She is widely available in toy from including most sizes and varieties of rail lines.
Charlie the purple engine is male.
Caroline is a car who overheats if she drives too quickly.
Elizabeth is a vintage, steam powered truck.
Flora is a steam tram.
Kelly is a male construction truck.
Madge is described as lorry. She looks like an older model flat bed truck. She has a triangular face which is unusual for the series.
Henrietta is Toby's coach.
Lady Hatt is Sir Topham Hatt's wife. While he is a major character she is rarely seen and isn't typically a part of a plot line . She is a human, not an engine.
Dowager Hatt is Sir Topham Hatt's mother. She's largely a background character but takes the lead in the episode Jitters and Japes when Thomas takes her for a fast, bumpy train ride. In the US she's almost a caricature of a stuffy, old British lady, similar to Jon Stewart's impression of the Queen of England.
The Thomas and Friends television show is still in production, supported by a full compliment of supporting toys and books. New characters are introduced regularly and as the demand for female characters continues to grow the appearance of new ones is almost certain. Newer books tend to treat the female trains as simply trains with girl names rather than relying on the stereotypes of women used for the first introduction of Emily, Rosie, and Mavis.