The Flying Kipper 1989

Shepperton Studios

Henry the Green Engine! At age 6, I received this book which introduced me to the magical railway of the fictional Island of Sodor. Imagine my surprise when as an adult, someone started making little model railroad videos of the same stories I used to read as a kid. I was hooked.

This review comes from my DVD, “Thomas & Friends, The Early Years”. I am concentrating on just the story, “The Flying Kipper”, as that was one of my faves. Narrated by Ringo Starr, I will note the slight changes made in the story line from the book to the movie and present the images side by side for comparison. This episode was originally broadcast on 2 April 1989 (from

The original books were written by The Rev. W. Awdry with illustrations by C. Reginald Dalby. The videos were created and adapted by Britt Allcroft.

Dontbesilly! Dontbesilly! Trock, trick! Trock, trick! Henry #3 is a 4-6-0 green engine with red stripes. Here he is hustling along with the Kipper in the pre-dawn darkness. Note in the book picture (right), he is pulling about 9 freight cars.

At the roundhouse, Henry gets the news that he’ll be pulling the Flying Kipper early next morning.

Neat ship models in the harbor (sorry, HARBOUR), and I’m really digging the red box truck next to Henry’s train.

Fresh Fish!! Those are mighty big kippers, but I suppose it’s just a metaphor. ;p Henry backs carefully down to a join.

As Henry prepares to start, check out that gent on the left. I’d say that’s a replica of Ringo Starr himself (compare with this link picture), or my name ain’t Aloysius!

From the book picture, there’s that red truck again, albeit a pickup this time. I count at least 13 boxcars in shot. Is the Flying Kipper running in two sections today? ;p

With a spin of his drivers and a heavy whiff of smoke, The Flying Kipper is off to the races.

In the above movie picture, it looks like Henry is pulling a 6 car train consisting of:

  • Large box car (double doors in the center)
  • Short box car
  • Short box car
  • Short box car
  • Flat car with some sort of tarped load
  • Guard’s van.

As the sun also rises, we can see more clearly Henry’s train, rolling along in profile.

Green signals beckon The Flying Kipper onward. Henry races through the snowy landscape past streams, through stations and over viaducts.

(from the book) “Distant signal – up” thought Henry, “caution”. They prepared to stop, but the home signal was down (clear).

To paraphrase both book and movie, snow and ice had forced the signal down (unlikely). The switch had frozen, lined for the siding.

Up ahead is a goods train in the siding waiting for The Kipper to overtake them. I wanna know why these guys are sitting around drinking cocoa instead of being outside to give Henry a rollby. Maybe then they would have noticed the misaligned switch.

And why the heck didn’t they line the switch back to the main track after they entered the siding? Bit of a plot hole, but “Safety First”, I always say.

POW! Henry reduces the guard’s van to kindling and lands on his side. In the movie, the men in the van got out just in time. In the book, the crash threw them, unharmed, into a trackside snowbank.

The last view shows a brakeman complaining to Henry about spilling his cocoa. I like Henry’s surprised expression.

Poor Henry. They bring out a couple “big hook” cranes to put him back on the rails. In the background, you can just see James The Red Engine #5 (a 2-6-0) arriving to help out. Great detail shots of the wreckage.

The Fat Controller (Sir Topham Hatt) tells Henry he’s being sent to Crewe to be rebuilt.

It’s springtime and Henry is back with a new shape. Notice he now has a square Belpaire firebox just in front of the cab. IMDb Trivia says the “new Henry” is based on a LMS Stanier Black Five locomotive.

The last picture above was also the paper cover (lost long ago) of my little, yellow book. Henry is doing a great, speed-lined runby for his throngs of admirers.

One final scene in the movie that the book only mentions, show Henry pulling “The Express” (3 cars shown here) while his rival Gordon The Blue Engine #4 (a 4-6-2) is stuck with a slow goods train — bringing my review to a close.

Here’s what IMDb has to say (not much) about The Flying Kipper:

If you have ANY information about this movie you’d like to share, please contact me at:, or leave a comment.  Thanks and enjoy the blog!



4 thoughts on “The Flying Kipper 1989

  1. atthefootball

    There was a real accident where snow froze a signal at “clear” where it should have been at danger, at Abbots Ripton on the Great Northern Railway (UK) in 1876. The points were frozen and the signalman would have been in charge of them.

    Incidentally, this is one of the few instances in the series where the correct headlamp code is carried; in the day’s of steam in the UK trains would carry different headlamp combinations depending on the type of train.



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