- Oh, yes! My escape from that scrapyard was probably the greatest escape anyone's ever had!"
- — Oliver, Toad's Adventure, eighteenth season
Bio in the Railway Series
Oliver worked on the Great Western Railway. Sometime during the 1960s, he ran away for fear of being scrapped with his coach, Isabel and a brake van named Toad. The three were forced to hide between signal boxes and rely on the goodwill of signalmen to pass at safe times. When control got wind of the runaways, they hid in an old quarry branch and had the cutting blocked by rubbish to avoid being spotted by the diesels outside. The runaways decided it was safe to leave at some point, but before they could reach the greener pastures of Sodor, Oliver ran out of coal. Luckily, Douglas was able to rescue Oliver and took him to Sodor, taking him to Crovan's Gate Works. The Fat Controller soon found out and arranged for the three to be repaired and painted in Great Western colours. Toad decided to be Douglas' brake van to thank him and the Fat Controller rescued an auto coach named Dulcie and gave her to Oliver.
Oliver was then sent to work on the Tidmouth-Arlesburgh branch line, but became conceited after the big engines gave him their respect in recognition of his adventures and pushed his weight around, prompting several ballast trucks to push him into a turntable well. Oliver received little respect from the trucks after the incident, but got his own back by pulling the ringleader, S.C. Ruffey, apart. Oliver is now well-respected by the trucks, out of fear they will be pulled apart too.
Bio in the Television Series
Oliver and Toad were escaping from scrap when Douglas found, saved and brought them to the North Western Railway. The other engines were impressed by his adventures and the attention soon went to Oliver's smoke-box. He was so conceited that he ignored Duck and Donald's advice about trucks and several pushed him into the turntable well. Upon his return from the Works, Oliver regained his respect after pulling the ringleader of the trucks, S.C. Ruffey, apart.
Since then, (with the exception of running Thomas' Branch Line during the engines' trip to England) Oliver has worked at Callan Yard, also known as Oliver's Yard, and the trucks have feared him, considering him to be dangerous and preferring Percy. Oliver missed the long runs and wanted to do more than simply push trucks onto the turntable, but he remained tight-lipped about his problem and grew unhappy as a result. He ended up roughly biffing the trucks into the turntable well, damaging it. The Fat Controller transferred him to the mail train so the night air can clear his smokebox, but Oliver ended up getting lost, discovering an abandoned house (which was later turned into a tea-house) in the process. When Harold found him, Oliver concluded that being found is much nicer than being lost. His brakevan Toad started feeling a similar problem when he was glum about always going backwards. Oliver tried to cheer him up by reminding him of his usefulness. When the trucks broke away from Oliver on the hill, taking Toad with them, Oliver determinedly chased after the runaway through Wellsworth and Crosby and all the way to the Old Stone Bridge. Oliver couldn't help teasing Toad when all was said and done and assured him no harm done in case of Toad causing Oliver an embarrassment.
He once had to spend the night as a snowman after crashing into one in the village and was saved by Emily when he was about to be hit by Thomas.
In the eighteenth season, Oliver started repeatedly telling everyone about his "escape" from the scrapyard, even to the point of annoying Toad. After his brake van had an adventure without him, James told Oliver to listen to Toad's story for once. During a flood, he collided with Rocky and James who were rescuing Duck, who had stalled underwater. He also nearly collided with Duck after the latter ran a red signal by mistake. Later, he broke down whilst on his way to the docks to deliver some trucks. When Gator arrived to take the train, Oliver was surprised by his unusual shape and wondered where Gator's lamp was, unaware it was not working properly.
In the nineteenth season, he began to get fed up of Toad singing during their journeys and explained to Duck that Toad is always like this when he is in a good mood. Later Toad told Oliver that he saw a whale and he did not believe him at first until he saw the whale for himself. He then helped with rescuing the whale.
In Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, Oliver helped to build the new Harwick Branch Line. Marion believed that he had made a wish to turn himself into a digger and the Arlesdale engines had granted his wish. It was not until the branch line's opening ceremony that Marion discovered there were in fact two Olivers.
In the twentieth season, he and Duck were responsible for taking people safely home when a storm struck the Island. At Arlesburgh, the two met Skiff and warned him to get to safety, upsetting the rail boat. When he had finished his jobs, Oliver picked up Toad and headed for home, however they nor Duck, who was travelling to Tidmouth on the opposite track, were aware that a lightning strike had caused a tree to fall on the line. Thankfully, Skiff, who had been blown away by the storm, was able to warn them just in time. Oliver proclaimed him the bravest rail boat he had ever known. Another time, he found Judy and Jerome, the Breakdown Train, in Arlesburgh Harbour. He agreed to take the two to the countryside. He later informed Ryan that Duck had moved them again.
Oliver escaped the dreaded scrapyards of the Mainland, mainly thanks to Douglas, but also as the result of sympathetic signalmen, luck and using "goods only" routes under cover of darkness, with some close calls along the way. Despite his previous heroism and daring feats, Oliver is an engine who is willing to admit every day is a learning curve. When he was still new to Sodor, he let the other engines' responses to his courage, resource and sagacity from his amazing recounts of daring escapes and adventures get to his smoke-box and he became conceited. However, when the Troublesome Trucks pushed him into the turntable well, he grew into a much more humble, settled engine and was far warier of trucks. But later, with some help from his brake van Toad, he did gain much respect and authority among the trucks when he showed his strength with the ringleader of the trucks, S.C. Ruffey, a little more than he had perhaps been intending. Oliver still has gumption, but is now a more obedient, sensible engine. He feels his responsibility on the railway deeply, is ever thankful for being aided in his escape from scrap by Douglas and is a trustworthy, tenacious, plucky engine. However, he can still be occasionally boastful, or temperamental; but despite this setback, Oliver is still one of the more really useful and well-behaved engines on Sodor.
Oliver is based on a GWR 14xx 0-4-2T. These engines were fitted with a mechanical system allowing the driver to control the locomotive remotely from the cab of an 'Autocoach', such as Isabel. The particular engine Oliver is based on, No. 1436, was built at Swindon Works in August 1934 and worked until it was withdrawn in 1958. It was scrapped at Swindon Works the following year. Four of these engines survive in preservation.
In the Railway Series, Oliver is painted in the Great Western Railway's Brunswick green livery with yellow lining, black wheels, brass GWR numberplates on the sides of his cab and a brass safety valve bonnet. Before he came to Sodor, he was painted in the British Railways Brunswick green livery, with a BR crest painted on the sides of his tanks.
In the television series, his paint had faded by the time he was rescued, leaving him in a rusty red colour. After his rescue, he was repainted in the North Western Railway's green livery with the 1934 GWR crest painted on the sides of his tanks and the number "11" painted on the sides of his cab in yellow and has remained like this ever since.
In the Railway Series, he carries two builder's plates on the sides of his cab.