Sir Topham Hatt, nicknamed "The Fat Controller", "The Stout Gentleman" (previously known as "The Fat Director"), is the manager of the North Western Railway and is a father figure to his engines.
The Fat Controllers
So far, there have been three controllers in charge of the North Western Railway.
Sir Topham Hatt I (1880-1956)
Topham Hatt was apprenticed at Swindon Works at age 14 and seems to have struck a friendship with W. A. Stanier during his time there. He came to Sodor in 1901 and joined A. W. Dry & Co. at Tidmouth. On their recommendation, he became engineer to the Tidmouth, Knapford and Elsbridge Light Railway in 1909, the Tidmouth Wellsworth & Suddery in 1912, and the North Western Railway upon its formation in 1914. On the NWR, he rose to be general manager in 1923, managing director in 1936, and on Nationalisation in 1948, he was created a baronet on his appointment as chairman of the Regional Executive. He married Jane, sister of Mr. Handel Brown, and retired in 1954 in favour of his son Charles, whom the board had no hesitation in electing as his successor.
Sir Charles Topham Hatt II (1914-1997)
Sir Charles Topham Hatt was the Fat Controller from 1954 to 1984, when he retired in favour of his own son. During his period of office he began improvements to the harbour at Knapford, planned by his father, and re-opened the Arlesburgh branch in 1965/6, being responsible for the construction of the Arlesdale Railway and for establishing the ballast consortium which uses it. He married Amanda Croarie in 1940 and they had two children, Stephen Topham, born in 1941, and Bridget, born 1943. Charles inherited his father's baronetcy in 1956.
Sir Stephen Topham Hatt III (1941-)
Sir Stephen Topham Hatt (who first appeared in Toby the Tram Engine while on a family holiday in East Anglia with his parents and grandfather) became the Fat Controller in 1984, succeeding to his father's baronetcy in 1997. In 1970 he married Helen Margaret, a distant cousin and granddaughter of the Reverend Nicholas Dreswick, the much-respected historian of Sodor. They have three children: Richard Topham, born in 1972 and no doubt destined to be Sir Topham Hatt IV (his father will be 70 in 2011, though he has, as yet, given no hint of an impending retirement), Charles Nicholas (1974-) and Emily Helen (1977-). He played a part in arranging the construction of the Arlesdale Railway's new locomotive, Jock, in 1990, a project which had been dear to his father's heart. With great skill he masterminded the arrangements for the royal visit in 1995, when he welcomed the Prince of Wales on his visit to Sodor.
The Fat Controller in the television series
In the television series, Sir Bertram Topham Hatt, a combination of the three from the Railway Series, runs the railway. He once owned a Sentinel steam lorry named Elizabeth.
The Fat Controller is a small stout gentleman. He's usually dressed in a black suit with gray trousers, a cream-coloured waistcoat, a black tie, and a top hat. He's most often depicted as having thinning gray hair and blue eyes.