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"The Flying Kipper" (also 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. James appears to be the secondary engine to take the train 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 train 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 "Kipper".
One morning, extra vans for the "Kipper" soon became 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 trucks 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 "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 trucks. 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 "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.
Until the sixteenth season, the "Kipper" seemed to have been scrapped in favour of taking fish from the seaside village in open trucks.
In the seventeenth season, when Caitlin was spending the night on Sodor, Henry decided to let her take the "Kipper" so they can have some sleep. However, she wasn't 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. The Fat Controller told James off and made him pull it the next night. At the docks, Cranky accidentally spilt some of the kippers on James.
- In an interview with Sodor Island Fansite , Steve Asquith explained that complaints about fish being carried in open trucks fell on deaf ears, 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 season to the fifteenth season, all fish were carried unhygienically.