Oliver is a Great Western auto-tank engine, who works on the Little Western alongside Duck. He has two auto-coaches named Isabel and Dulcie, and a Great Western brake van named Toad, who he shares with Douglas.
Oliver used to live in the West of England, and worked on a line with Isabel, his auto-coach. However, by 1967, British Railways began shutting down branch lines one by one, and Oliver was at risk of being scrapped. His Driver and Fireman, both bachelors with no local ties, were appalled at the thought of their engine being scrapped, and decided to aid Oliver in escaping to the North Western Railway, which they knew was a safe haven for steam engines. (Book; The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways)
Oliver took Isabel and Toad with him during his escape, and his crew planned out their escape route with friendly signalmen who sympathized with them. To avoid being spotted, Oliver had to travel at night and keep hidden during the day, but when Control heard tell of a "mystery train", he, his crew and the rolling stock had to hide on an old quarry branch line, and the cutting was blocked off by rubbish to avoid being seen by the diesels outside. Oliver had to stay on the quarry branch for several days. Once when the coast was clear, the runaways set off again, but before they could reach the greener pastures of Sodor, Oliver ran out of coal at Barrow Yard.
Thankfully, Oliver was found by Douglas when he had delivered the Midnight Goods to Barrow-in-Furness, and he and his crew helped him and the runaways to Sodor. Oliver was hidden away on an empty siding at Crovan's Gate Works, but he and his rolling stock were found by the Fat Controller later that day. The Fat Controller had Oliver restored and painted in Great Western colours, and gave him a second auto-coach, Dulcie, to go along with Isabel. Once when he was restored, Oliver was put into service on the Little Western. (RWS; Enterprising Engines)
However, shortly after he entered service, Oliver became conceited. The big engines were all fascinated by his daring escape to Sodor, and their compliments went to his smokebox. He became even more overconfident when he had to take a train of ballast trucks, and after pushing them about, the trucks decided to get back at him. Oliver tried to pull the trucks back, but the trucks pushed him into the turntable well, damaging both the turntable well and himself. After the incident, Oliver was sent to the Works to be repaired.
When Oliver returned from the Works, he became a laughing stock among the trucks, and they sang rude songs to mock him. After a suggestion by Toad, Oliver decided to teach the trucks a lesson, and arranged a train of trucks at the station. When Oliver attempted to move the trucks, the trucks put their brakes on and pulled back, but this resulted in S.C. Ruffey being destroyed when he was pulled between the trucks and Oliver. After S.C. Ruffey was presumably scrapped, the trucks became much more respectful to Oliver, out of fear that they would be ripped apart if they misbehaved around him. (RWS; Oliver the Western Engine)
Personality and Traits
Oliver is based on the GWR 14xx class, a class of 0-4-2 tank engine designed and built at Swindon Works for branch line passenger work. These locomotives were fitted with a mechanical system which allowed the Driver to control the locomotive remotely from the cab of an autocoach. The real engine which carried Oliver's number, 1436, was built at Swindon Works in August 1934 and worked up until it was withdrawn in 1958. It was scrapped the following year.
In the Railway Series, Oliver was painted BR unlined brunswick green with the late BR crest before he arrived to Sodor, and the word "Scrap" was written all over him. After Oliver was restored, he was painted in the GWR's green livery with black wheels, yellow window trimming and a gold safety valve bonnet. He carries the GWR logo on the side of his tanks, and his original GWR number is carried on the sides of his cab on black plates with gold writing.
In the television series, Oliver was covered in rust, leaving him a rusty red colour. When Oliver was restored, he was painted in unlined NWR green with a white footplate and gold safety valve bonnet, the GWR logo was painted on his tanks, and he carries his number, 11, on his cab in yellow with red lining. In the eighteenth season, Oliver's footplate and siderods became black, and his bufferbeam became a darker shade of red.
- Oliver was named after Oliver Wicks, who was a much respected member of Stroud Baptist Church. He was the Reverend W. Awdry's next-door neighbor in Rodborough.
- Oliver has used two different whistle sounds in the television series; his first whistle, which was only used in the third season, was Gordon's at a higher pitch. This same whistle sound was reused for Neville and Flying Scotsman later on. Since the fourth season, he has used Duck's whistle sound at a slightly lower pitch.