A scene from the Watercress Line Thomas week.
The Fat Controller (more formally referred to as Sir Topham Hatt), is the head of the railway in The Railway Series of books written by the Rev. W. V. Awdry. In the first two books in the series (The Three Railway Engines and Thomas the Tank Engine) he is known as The Fat Director. In the third book (James the Red Engine) he becomes The Fat Controller, as the railway has been nationalised. His full name is revealed in the foreword to the book Henry the Green Engine.
Sir Topham Hatt!
He was a talented engineer who was apprenticed with William Stanier at the Great Western Railway’s Swindon works, which gave him a great love of all things Great Western. He went on to assist A. W. Dry in the construction of the Tidmouth, Knapford and Elsbridge Light Railway, which became Thomas’ branch line, and designed the locomotives that ran upon it.
When the standard gauge railways of the Island were merged into the North Western Railway in 1914, Topham Hatt was called upon for his engineering skill. He constructed a bridge to link Sodor with the Mainland, as well as a number of branch lines and improvements to locomotive facilities. He was immediately made a Director of the railway.
Topham married Jane Brown and fathered a son (Charles Topham Hatt) and a daughter (Barbara Jane Hatt). Jane was sister to Sir Handel Brown, Liberal MP for Sodor East and owner of the Skarloey Railway, making all successive descendants of the two railway families cousins. Charles wed Amanda Croarie, daughter of the owner of the Ffarquhar Quarry Company, and Barbara married Henry Regaby, the Viscount Harwick. In light of this, Topham’s family unit can be seen as an alliance of several of the most prominent families in Sodor.
When the North Western Railway was nationalised and became part of British Railways in 1948, Topham Hatt was made Controller of the railway. 1948 also saw him made a baronet for his services to the railways of Sodor.