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Toby is a GER C53 steam tram who came to Sodor after his tramway in East Anglia closed down. He has two coaches named Henrietta and Victoria and a luggage van named Elsie, and works on Thomas' Branch Line.
Toby was built by James Holden at the Great Eastern Railway's Stratford Works in Stratford, London, England in 1914 and originally lived at Great Yarmouth Docks, Norfolk with his brothers before working on an unnamed tramway. In 1951, Toby came to work at the quarry on Thomas' Branch Line after his old railway in East Anglia closed, as it was found to be illegal for Thomas to go on the Quarry Tramroad without sideplates or cowcatchers. At first, Toby was teased by James for his shabby paint. James stopped calling him names after he crashed into some tar wagons and Toby was given chocolate-brown paint for his hard work and a new coat for Henrietta as well.
Toby also got into a bit of a controversy with a female diesel shunter named Mavis, as she was not willing to shunt the trucks where they needed to be. After an accident with some trucks, the two engines made up their quarrel and are now good friends.
When Mavis was sent to the works after her accident with a lorry, Toby was sent to do her work at the quarry, leaving Percy to do Toby's work as well as his own. Toby once came off the rails at a crossing when the earth was swollen over the rails and ended up on the road. Luckily, with the fireman guiding the driver, they managed to reverse Toby back on the rails. The Fat Controller, however, heard about it, but rather than being cross, he only joked with him and told him that he should leave the roads to what they were made for.
By 2007, Toby was having trouble taking the workmen to the quarry as Henrietta didn't have enough room in her to carry them all at once. Bertie usually helped, but one day, he was ill, and Henrietta was so full that some workmen even had to ride on her balcony. As he went past a part of his line that went through a town, he stopped quickly when a car came out of a side street and nearly collided with him. To make matters worse, a policeman witnessed the workmen riding on Henrietta's balcony, and after he made a report, an inspector spoke to the quarry manager, telling him that passengers were not allowed to ride on coach balconies. Luckily, Thomas managed to help Toby when he found an old and worn out coach named Victoria, who was used as a summer house for many years when she was taken out of service. Victoria was eventually restored, and now works with Toby and Henrietta along their line.
When the Horrid Lorries arrived on the Island, Toby found his work at the quarry being taken over by Lorry 2 and his work at the mill being taken over by Lorry 3. When the two lorries became damaged and sent back to the docks, Toby threw Lorry 2's remarks about usefulness back at him.
After many weeks of rain, Toby inspected a dam for potential damage due to rising floodwaters along his branch line. Unable to cross the dam, Toby finds that the dam was breaking and tries to return to safety, but the dam breaks just as Toby was crossing a wooden bridge, which broke off and carried Toby toward a waterfall. Harold managed to drop one end of a rope to Toby and the other end to Percy, who pulled Toby to safety. Afterwards, a party was held for Toby, and the Fat Controller praises Toby's bravery.
When taking the Fat Controller and his grandchildren to the seasides, the Fat Controller decided to use Toby for an exploration in search of a castle, which they found as well as a mine. Toby was scared of the mine's spooky atmosphere (certain it was haunted) and stayed on guard at night during the restoration. Thomas told Toby about the Old Warrior Ghost, who was really a narrow gauge engine named Bertram. After this, the two engines became good friends and now take visitors to and from the castle and mine. Toby once took Sir Topham Hatt's family on vacation again, this time to a small river inlet.
Toby has had several winter escapades. The thick fog concealed Thomas' crash site from Toby's view, and the foghorn had been damaged from the landslide Thomas had crashed into. Luckily, Cyril the Fogman managed to place a detonator on the rails to warn Toby just in time. During the holidays, Toby was unable to clear the snowdrifts by himself, so he needed Thomas' help to deliver a Christmas tree to the festivities on his branch line. During one harsh winter, Toby had to rescue Farmer McColl's lambs that were trapped on a hillside.
Toby was given a temporary three-chime whistle while his bell was being cleaned at the Steamworks. It helped with warning Thomas and Gordon that the tracks were blocked. He once was scared of Knapford Junction.
He once ran out of coal while delivering scrap to Crocks Scrap Yard, and after a few unsuccessful attempts at stopping passing engines to ask for some of their coal, Reg decided to lift Toby into the air so that the next engine would see him. Unfortunately, Thomas passed by and thought Reg was about to scrap Toby. After the story spread across the island, Emily took Henrietta to the scrapyard so that she and Toby could explain the truth.
In Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, Thomas nearly collided with Toby while racing Bertie. The next morning, Toby attempted to warn Thomas about his red signal, but Thomas was too late to stop and, nearly hitting Emily, and crashed Gordon's coaches. Thomas tried to blame him along with Gordon and Emily, but Sir Topham Hatt saw through his lie.
In the twentieth season, Toby met Philip for the first time and was rather taken aback by the boxcab's talkative nature and desire to have races. Philip also had mistaken Toby as a boxcab before realising Toby was a steam tram. Later, he told Thomas the trees look very spooky. Toby told Thomas and Percy that reminded the others about how the littlest goat survived by going across the bridge first and told the troll to eat his bigger brothers.
In the twenty-first season, after Toby took Henrietta to the Steamworks to getting her seats refurbished, he's given a replacement carriage named Hannah. Hannah ordered him to go faster down the line and pushed him down Gordon's Hill, nearly making him derailed. He gets fed-up with Hannah abandons her on a siding beside the main line. When he returned to the siding to fetch her, he saw James is going so faster with Hannah until she broke away and crashed into a siding. After Henrietta had finished her new seats fitted, he's took Hannah to the Steamworks to be mended, where she reunited with Henrietta and revealed to him that they were sisters. Afterwards, he began working with Henrietta once again.
During the winter, Toby was taking some trucks when he was diverted into a siding to avoid colliding with Donald and Douglas. In doing so, he ended up running into a snow bank and while his driver dug him out, he had a beard of snow on his face for the rest of the day.
Toby is old but wise, hardworking, and knows enough about running branch lines to justify running Thomas' line with Daisy after Percy's accident with the trucks until Thomas came back. He is also savvy enough to control the trucks. However, his advanced age and design means that he is weaker than the other engines. While Toby is always ready to work hard without any fuss, he can be a bit temperamental sometimes, especially when young and inexperienced engines who are full of themselves make things difficult for him. However, work at the quarry line often soothes off his moods without any cause of grief to anyone, except of course his old faithful coach, Henrietta.
Toby is based on a GER Class C53 0-6-0T Wisbech steam tram (reclassified as J70 by the LNER) built at Stratford Works. They were seen by the Reverend Wilbert and Christopher Awdry on a holiday at Yarmouth, hence Toby's origins. The J70 started their career on the Great Eastern Railway and were known as C53. They spent most of their career on the Wisbech and Upwell tramway pulling slow goods trains and, until 1927, passenger trains, though several were also assigned to the docks at Ipswich and Yarmouth. The first withdrawal came in 1942. Eventually, the sole survivor of this class was withdrawn from service and scrapped at Stratford Locomotive Works by 1955. They were replaced by BR Class 04s, Mavis' class.
In the Railway Series, 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 the television series, Toby has consistently been painted brown with grey sideplates and cowcatchers. He has the number "7" painted on his sides in yellow with a red border.
In the Railway Series, 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 various books released by Publications International, the top side of his sideplates are red, going along with the bufferbeams.