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The Flying Kipper, occasionally known as The Kipper Express, is the railwaymen's nickname for the overnight goods train, usually pulled by Henry, that carries fish from Tidmouth to the Mainland. The train is made up of vans, utility vans and salt vans. On occasions, two trucks full of fish crates are added to the front of the train
James appears to be the secondary engine to take the Flying Kipper when Henry is unavailable, as the former has been seen pulling the train several times.
Bio in the Railway Series
Henry the Green Engine
Henry was sent to take the Flying Kipper one morning, with the prospect of pulling the Express as a reward. After leaving punctually at 5am, Henry made good time on the way to the Mainland, but unfortunately a set of points had been jammed by the frost and Henry was led down the line into the rear of a goods train.
Really Useful Engines
By this time, Henry had become the main engine in charge of the Flying Kipper.
One morning, extra vans for the "Kipper" were required after a boat returned with a greater load of fish than usual and unluckily for Henry the only vans available were old, rusty and dirty. After a quick hose-out, the vans were coupled to the train and loaded and Henry made his way to Wellsworth, where Duck was acting as a "banker". On the way up Gordon's Hill, however, the tail-lamp fell off the rear van, causing Henry to lead up the hill with the "Kipper" while Duck, confused, lagged behind, until Henry slowed enough for Duck to catch up and ram the rear van. The train remained stuck on the hill until the late morning.
Henry and the Express
While Henry was away being overhauled, the engines took it in turns to pull the Flying Kipper. Everyone seemed satisfied with this arrangement, except James, who claimed that "you couldn't get the smell off your tender for weeks".
As James was preparing to leave one evening, a forklift, swerving to avoid another, tipped the crates of fish it was carrying onto the rails, causing their contents to spill just in front of James. The fish were hastily picked up, but when James tried to start, oil left by the fish caused him to slip helplessly. The rails were hosed down carefully and after sand was spread on the rails, James set off at last, many minutes late.
Bio in the television series
At some point, instead of catching fish and taking it straight to Tidmouth in their boats, the fishermen at a small seaside village decided to have Thomas take it up in his vans. One day, Thomas was delayed by a crate falling on him and eroded ballast underneath the rails and by the time he arrived at Tidmouth, the "Kipper" was long overdue; Henry was so cross at the delay that he deliberately ignored Thomas' warning about the rails. This meant greater haste was taken to couple the vans to the Flying Kipper and by the time Thomas' crew had warned the yard manager about the rails Henry had left Tidmouth. Another attempt to warn a signalman down the coast failed when poor reception meant he was unable to hear the warning in time and at last Henry ran off the rails and into the bay. It was not until morning that Henry and the vans were able to be rescued.
In the seventeenth season, when Caitlin was spending the night on Sodor, Henry decided to let her take the Flying Kipper so the engines could get some sleep. However, she was not being considerate and she woke up all the animals at the Animal Park. Later Henry challenged James to pull the "Kipper" but James tricked Henry into pulling it anyway; because of this, the "Kipper" was late. Sir Topham Hatt told James off and made him pull it the next night. At the docks, Cranky accidentally spilled some of the fish on James.
In Tale of the Brave, James had to pull the Flying Kipper whilst Henry was on the Mainland and unexpectedly met Gator. As Gator's lamp was out, James mistook him for a monster and ran away, derailing at the Fenland Track.
In Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, Henry was pulling the train, when he spotted what he thought was a ghost boat gliding along the rails. It was only Skiff, but Henry was so frightened that he ran into a siding and accidentally bumped his buffers. He later encountered Sailor John and Skiff again one afternoon and the same night as well, while pulling the Flying Kipper.
In the twentieth season, because Henry had pulled the express that day, the Fat Controller asked Gordon to pull the Flying Kipper. However the express engine refused to pull it, thinking it beneath him and smelly until Henry and Thomas tricked him into pulling it anyway. On another night, Henry was late with the Flying Kipper because Bradford noticed Henry's lamp had a crack in it so it had to be replaced before he could leave Brendam Docks.
- In an interview with SiF, Steve Asquith explained that complaints about fish being carried in trucks were ignored due to the belief that children would understand a story better if they could see what was in the trucks. As a result, from the eighth to the fifteenth season, all fish were carried unhygienically.
- Since the seventeenth season, the Flying Kipper starts from Brendam Docks instead of Tidmouth.