Harold the Helicopter

Harold the Helicopter is a character in the Railway Series books by the Rev. W. Awdry and Christopher Awdry and the television series Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.

He is very proud of being able to fly, and the speed and versatility this gives him. This has led to rivalries with the engines, most notably a race with Percy the Small Engine in his first appearance. Despite this, he is a friend to the railway and has often been able to help the engines out- even though they do sometimes refer to him as "whirlybird".

He is owned by the Coastguard on Sodor and lives at Dryaw airfield by Thomas' branch line. He keeps a watchful eye over the Island in case of trouble, and speeds to the rescue of anyone in distress.

He speaks in a manner reminiscent of an RAF pilot as depicted in movies of the 1940s and 50s, using terms such as "wizard" in conversation.

Harold makes his first appearance in Percy the Small Engine (1956), appearing in two stories. He is not seen again under the Reverend's name, but reappears in More About Thomas the Tank Engine (1986) and Thomas Comes Home (1992) by Christopher Awdry.

Behind the Scenes

Harold first appeared in the book Percy the Small Engine. Martin Clutterbuck suggests that the inspiration for the story in which he races Percy came from the British Department of Transport's claims that the helicopter would soon render railways obsolete.

Harold is based on a Sikorsky S-55 helicopter, built in the UK as the Westland Whirlwind. This was one of the most successful early helicopters, with examples being used all over the world. The character's name may arise from the fact that variants of the Whirlwind in UK military service were designated HAR 1, HAR 3, HAR 10 etc.


  • In the television series, Harold's flight is simulated by replacing his rotor blades with a sheet of clear plastic to give the illusion of blurring. He is held up by two pieces of see-through wire. This is later replaced in Season 3 onward with real spinning blades.
  • In the UK, Harold has always had a higher pilot-like voice, which is also evident in Thomas and the Magic Railroad.
  • In the new Season 10, Harold's eyes are now animated, and can move.
  • Harold has had a total of 1 accident throughout his life on Sodor (In 'A Bad Day for Harold the Helicopter').
  • Harold is one of the few TV Series characters who doesn't have a grey face but only eyes, nose, and mouth (Other examples are Annie, Clarabel and Jeremy).
  • In the Japanese version, Harold is voiced by Hiroyuki Sato.


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