Main page

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.


The Railway Series

Thomas & Friends


  • 1985 - Percy to the Rescue, Thomas and the Important Visitor, Donald's Duck (mentioned) and Gale Warning
  • 1986 - Percy and the Christmas Tree (mentioned), Old Groaner and Gordon's Stowaway (mentioned)
  • 1987 - Donald and the Lost Tarpaulin (mentioned), Signal Failure and Percy's Passengers (mentioned)
  • 1988 - Responsibilities (mentioned) and Thomas and Trevor (mentioned)
  • 1989 - Trapped by Trees (mentioned), Post Early for Christmas (mentioned) and Harold and the Landslide (mentioned)
  • 1990 - Thomas and the Cricketers (mentioned), Hosepipes and Shunters (mentioned), Old Square Wheels (mentioned) and Points of No Return
  • 1992 - Percy and the Vicar's Prizes and Galloping Sausage (mentioned)
  • 1993 - James' Traffic Jam, Thomas and the Snow Block, Oliver Gets the Bird (mentioned) and The Hut that Walked by Itself (mentioned)
  • 1994 - Thomas and the Tickles (mentioned), James' Rest Cure and Bertie the Snow Bus
  • 1995 - Easter Egg Special The Picnic Express and Thank You, Thomas and Toby
  • 1996 - James Gets Cracking, Rings a Bell!, All Pull Together (not seen), The Wrong Shirt and Pantomime Pranks
  • 1997 - Percy in Print and We Wish You a Merry Christmas!
  • 1998 - Engines to the Rescue, Henry Scores a Goal and The Star of the Show
  • 1999 - Blooming Railways (does not speak) and Blowing Bubbles
  • 2000 - Thomas the Famous Engine, Double Trouble, The Flood and Star Engines
  • 2001 - Very Special Engines, Thomas the Famous Engine and Donald and Douglas
  • 2002 - Terence to the Rescue (does not speak), Percy's Dream (does not speak) and Harold the Helicopter

  • Trivia

    • Due to political correctness, the Fat Controller is always known by his Sunday name of Sir Topham Hatt in America.
    • Sir Topham Hatt's television model from Lady Hatt's Birthday Party was used in the 2009 Children in Need charity single and was animated using stop-motion.
    • In Thomas and the Magic Railroad, Diesel 10 called him Fat Hatt, a combination of his nickname and his real name.
    • According to Elizabeth, Sir Topham Hatt was a bad driver in his younger days. 
    • In 2010, Sir Topham Hatt's office set was part of and exhibit at the Hangaram Museum in Korea.
    • Throughout the television series, Sir Topham Hatt is accompanied by two men in standard blue railway uniforms. They are presumed to be his assistants.
    • The Fat Controller received his knighthood for his service to the railway industry.


    "I never like these big engines. Always going wrong. Send for another engine at once!"
    — Sir Topham Hatt, The Three Railway Engines

    “We'll see about that, engines on My Railway do as they are told.”
    ―Sir Topham Hatt, Troublesome Engines
    "This gentleman is a gentleman who knows how to speak to engines."
    Toby about Sir Topham Hatt, Toby the Tram Engine
    "The Fat Controller spoke severely to Daisy too.
    "My engines do not tell lies! They work hard with no shirking. I send lazy engines away!"
    "However, Toby says you worked hard yesterday, after Percy's accident. So you shall have another chance!"
    "Thank you, sir! I will work hard, sir. Toby says he'll help me."
    "Excellent! What Toby doesn't know about branch line problems, such as er..bulls, isn't worth knowing. Our Toby is an experienced engine!"
    — Sir Topham Hatt and Daisy, "Percy's Predicament", "Branch Line Engines".
    "Oh, it's you! Have you learned to drive properly yet?"
    Elizabeth, Elizabeth the Vintage Lorry, sixth season
    "You are lucky Gordon, to have a controller who knows how to run railways."
    Flying Scotsman, Enterprising Engines


    * RWS only | ** T&F only