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Sir Topham Hatt
Thomas & Friends character
First appearance The Three Railway Engines (1945)
Created by Rev. W. Awdry
Voiced by UK
Ringo Starr
Michael Angelis
Pierce Brosnan
Keith Wickham
Ringo Starr
George Carlin
Alec Baldwin
Michael Angelis
Pierce Brosnan
Michael Brandon
Kerry Shale (2009–15)
Keith Wickham (2015–present)
Quinton Flynn
Rob Rackstraw (Thomas' Magical Birthday Wishes and Learn with Thomas)
Occupation Controller of the North Western Railway
Spouse(s) Lady Jane Hatt
Nationality British English

The Fat Controller (real name: Sir Topham Hatt) is a fictional character in The Railway Series books written by the Reverend W. Awdry and his son, Christopher. In the first 2 books in the series (The Three Railway Engines and Thomas the Tank Engine) he is known as The Fat Director. In the third book (James the Red Engine) he becomes The Fat Controller, as the railway has been nationalised. His full name is revealed in the foreword to the 1951 book Henry the Green Engine.

The Fat Controller also appears in the television series Thomas & Friends, adapted from the books. On television he was usually portrayed in the form of a static figure, but has been portrayed using computer-generated imagery (CGI) from the twelfth season onward.

Origin of nickname

The character is first seen in "The Sad Story of Henry" in the first book in the Railway Series, The Three Railway Engines. When Henry refused to leave a tunnel, the story says "a Fat Director who was on the train told the guard to get a rope". The character is referred to as the Fat Director/Controller for the remainder of the Railway Series, both in the narrative and by the other characters.

The name Sir Topham Hatt is first mentioned in the foreword to Henry the Green Engine and also appears on his luggage trunk in the same book in the story "Percy and the Trousers". The first use of the name Sir Topham Hatt in the narrative in the TV series comes in the episode "The Sad Story of Henry" when Ringo Starr introduces him to the audience.

The American version of the television series always refers to him as Sir Topham Hatt, and never as The Fat Controller due to different societal norms between the US and Britain.

Biography (Railway Series)

There have been three Fat Controllers. This is not revealed directly in the stories, as they all look very similar and are all known as Sir Topham Hatt. However, the books The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways (written by Rev. W. Awdry and George Awdry) and Sodor: Reading Between the Lines (by Christopher Awdry) make this clear.

Sir Topham Hatt, 1st Baronet (1880-1956)

He was a talented engineer who was apprenticed with Sir William Stanier at the Great Western Railway's Swindon works, which gave him a great love of all things Great Western. He went on to assist A. W. Dry in the construction of the Tidmouth, Knapford and Elsbridge Light Railway, which became the branch line, and designed the locomotives that ran upon it.

When the standard gauge railways of the Island were merged into the North Western Railway in 1914, Topham Hatt was called upon for his engineering skill. He constructed a bridge to link Sodor with the Mainland, as well as a number of branch lines and improvements to locomotive facilities. He was immediately made a Director of the railway.

Topham married Jane Brown and fathered a son (Charles Topham Hatt) and a daughter (Barbara Jane Hatt). Jane was sister to Sir Handel Brown, Liberal MP for Sodor East and owner of the Skarloey Railway, making all successive descendants of the two railway families cousins. Charles wed Amanda Croarie, daughter of the owner of the Ffarquhar Quarry Company, and Barbara married Henry Regaby, the Viscount Harwick. In light of this, Topham's family unit can be seen as an alliance of several of the most prominent families in Sodor.

When the North Western Railway was nationalised and became part of British Railways in 1948, Topham Hatt was made Controller of the railway. 1948 also saw him made a baronet for his services to the railways of Sodor.

Sir Charles Topham Hatt, 2nd Baronet (1914-1997)

Charles Topham Hatt was the son of the first Sir Topham Hatt and the second Controller of the NWR. He too served an apprenticeship with Stanier, this time working under the locomotive designer. Like his father, he was an innovative engineer and made a number of improvements to the railway and its engines. He was also the originator of the scheme to construct the Arlesdale Railway and the ballast consortium that used it.

He was responsible for the line's policy of retaining steam locomotives long after they had been abolished on the rest of British Railways, and while Dr Beeching was closing down branch lines on the Mainland, Charles was reopening them on Sodor.

Sir Stephen Topham Hatt, 3rd Baronet (1941-)

When the North Western Railway was nationalised and became part of British Railways in 1948, Topham Hatt was made Controller of the railway. 1948 also saw him made a baronet for his services to the railways of Sodor.

Biography (television series)

In the television series, The Fat Controller is always the same man, with the same wife and grandchildren. He is in his mid 60s (as evident in a newspaper article in the Great Discovery), although his voice in the UK versions sometimes hint at old age, and he has even appeared with a white moustache in certain episodes. Very little of his history is revealed, although we do see more of his extended family, including his mother (Dowager Hatt), and his mischievous twin brother (Sir Lowham Hatt). In the first season, he and all the other human characters were made out of lead. From the second season onwards, they were made out of resin so they could move around more easily.

He is shown to be a qualified railway engine driver when he brings Percy to the yard for the first time. He is in charge of all the engines on Sodor and seemingly has a great deal of say over other vehicles. As a young man, he learnt to drive in Elizabeth the vintage Sentinel lorry, though in a few episodes, his driving skills are poorly developed, which were used as comedic gags for when the chance arises (often in Winston the Inspection Car). He has overseen the construction of a number of lines, railway services, and has been involved with the opening of several tourist attractions on Sodor.

UK narrator Michael Angelis portrayed the character with a strong Yorkshire accent, with a low gruff voice a trait of which has been continued when Pierce Brosnan briefly took over the mantle, and also when individual voice artists were brought in to voice the characters, The Fat Controller being voiced by Keith Wickham in both the UK and US versions as of 2015 onwards. Kerry Shale initially voiced him in the US prior to 2015, and gave the character a clear American accent and a deep, booming voice. In the American version, he has always been referred to by his actual name, Sir Topham Hatt, possibly because "fat" is a much more pejorative term in the US than in the UK.

The Fat Controller's name was revealed to be Bertram by Alicia Botti, the famous opera singer, in "Play Time", and by his mother Dowager Hatt in "Percy's Parcel", "Jitters and Japes", "Edward the Hero" and "Stop that Bus!".

Mode of dress

In his iconic top hat and morning suit, the Fat Controller looks rather old-fashioned and formal. However, until at least the late 1950s it was customary for railway officials in Britain to be so dressed – for Sir Topham Hatt to be dressed any other way would be far more unusual.

In the television series, Sir Topham's suit has often been used for comic effect, being augmented with scarf and mittens in winter. The series plays on the outdated nature of this outfit, giving Sir Topham an entire wardrobe of old-fashioned and formal clothes for occasions when he is not "on duty". In the Series 8 episode "Halloween", he is shown wearing pyjamas and a nightcap, and in the Series 9 and 10 episodes "Flour Power" and "Sticky Toffee Thomas" he is briefly shown wearing a wizard costume. In yet another episode, he is shown wearing a kilt, a gift from a visiting Scottish Lord. In various CGI episodes, he dresses like Santa Claus.

Sir Topham's household

Wife: Lady Hatt

Lady Jane Brown Hatt helps her husband run the railway, and is happiest when she sees new lines opened, and has had some special birthday parties. She likes the railway, but had a certain dislike of Annie and Clarabel, calling them beach huts. Later, she took a liking to them, after they got new coats of paint. Although her husband runs a railway, she likes a day out in their car or on a boat.

  • Teresa Gallagher (UK; Season 13 onwards / US; Season 17 and 21 only)
  • Jules de Jongh (US; Season 13–20, excluding Season 17 and 21)

Mother: Dowager Hatt

Dowager Hatt visits Sodor occasionally, and on her first appearance in a TV episode ("Gordon and the Gremlin"), her son held a party for her. On this occasion, her Dalmatian dog (soon to be named Gremlin) ran away after being frightened by Gordon's whistle, and ended up in Thomas' cab, where he greatly enjoyed a long ride to the docks. She says the railway is really useful, and the Fat Controller says she is always right.

  • Keith Wickham (Season 13 onwards)

She is the only household member to originate in the TV series, never having appeared in the Railway Series books.

Grandson: Stephen Hatt

Stephen Topham Hatt lives on the Island of Sodor, and regularly has outings and holidays with his grandparents and sister. Stephen loves trains, and was excited when he first met Toby the Tram Engine. Stephen also has a bit of knowledge about the Island, of which is the reason they discovered the Old Castle and the mine (in which Bertram was found).

In the Railway Series, Stephen ultimately took the railway over and is the current Fat Controller. In the television series, he has always remained a child.


  • Matt Wilkinson (UK; Season 13 only)
  • Teresa Gallagher (UK; Season 14 onwards / US; Season 19 onwards)
  • William Hope (US; Season 13 and 14 only)

Granddaughter: Bridget Hatt

Bridget Amanda Hatt lives on Sodor, and regularly goes for outings and holidays with her grandparents and brother. On one occasion they went to Toby's old line, where she thought Toby was an electric tram and was reprimanded by her brother for offending him.

Her parents (mentioned only in the book Sodor: Reading Between the Lines) are Charles and Amanda Hatt.

  • Teresa Gallagher (UK; Season 14 onwards / US; Season 19 onwards)
  • Jules de Jongh (US; Season 13 and 14 only)

(Twin) Brother: Lowham Hatt

Sir Lowham Hatt is the jolly twin brother of Sir Topham Hatt, the son of Dowager Hatt, the great-uncle of Stephen and Bridget Hatt, and the brother-in-law of Lady Hatt.

Lowham is mischievous and enjoys playing with the children. He seems to know little or nothing about railways. He played hide-and-seek with the children and then went into a signal box and pulled the lever, switching Gordon to the branchline. He dresses exactly like Sir Topham but has a moustache. It is unknown how and why he got his knighthood.

  • Keith Wickham (UK)
  • Kerry Shale (US)

The Hatt's Butler

Sir Topham Hatt has a butler who is featured in the Railway Series and the Thomas (the Tank Engine) & Friends TV Series. He has appeared in only three stories - "Thomas in Trouble/Breaks the Rules" in Season 1, "Lady Hatt's Birthday Party" in Season 5 and "Fergus Breaks the Rules / Thomas and the Search for Fergus" in Season 7.