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- “There's no real harm in them, but they're maddening at times.”
- ―Edward, The Diseasel, Main Line Engines
Bill and Ben are tank engine twins who work for the Sodor China Clay Company, though they can commonly be found at Brendam Docks. They formerly worked at Anopha Quarry. They enjoy playing tricks and being cheeky to other engines.
The Railway Series
One day, Bill and Ben returned from shunting some trucks to find that some other trucks they had shunted earlier were missing. Their drivers, after examining a puddle of oil on the ground, concluded a diesel was responsible. After the twins argued over who brought the "diseasel" into the yard, the drivers suggested they go looking for the diesel. The twins were horrified at the possibility that the "diseasel" might magic them away like he did with the trucks, but their drivers quickly persuaded them otherwise, and so they set off.
At last, the twins found the "diseasel". While Ben ran behind, Bill confronted the "diseasel" over the theft. The "diseasel" claimed the trucks were his and ordered Bill to "go away"; Bill pretended to be frightened and slunk away, remarking, "You'll be sorry". With that, Ben ran up and accused the "diseasel" of being a "truck stealer", before running back so Bill could run up again. This continued until the "diseasel", under the impression that there was only one very swift and annoying saddletank, became so giddy that his eyes "nearly popped out", just as the twins puffed up beside him. The "diseasel", initially confused, laughed at his ignorance. When Edward arrived moments later, inquiring as to why Bill and Ben were not shunting, the twins angrily claimed that the "diseasel" had sneaked into their yard and stolen their trucks. Edward soon realised what was going on and explained the situation. The twins, embarrassed, apologised to the "diseasel", who asked to be called BoCo, and then left to shunt some more trucks, leaving Edward and BoCo to laugh about the incident.
A few days later, after BoCo took the Express in James' absence, Edward recounted what Gordon had said about branch lines to the twins. The next morning, after Gordon ended up at Brendam after a series of events involving poor preparations and a large floppy green hat, the twins sneaked up beside him and loudly recounted what Gordon had said about branch lines. Concluding that the engine beside them could not be Gordon, the two declared he was nothing more than a pile of old scrap-iron, and began to contemplate what they should do (Bill was all for sending Gordon to be scrapped, while Ben favoured the more humane option of dumping him in the sea), all the while ignoring Gordon's protests, until at last, BoCo arrived. Gordon begged him to save him, and so BoCo threatened the twins to leave with the trucks he had brought. The twins quickly left, leaving Gordon with BoCo. BoCo wisely neglected to tell Gordon the twins were joking.
In 1988, Thomas was sent to work on Edward's Branch Line while repairs were carried out on the bridge. The twins were quick to tease him about his colour, but Edward was savvy enough to send the twins away before an argument broke out.
After Thomas returned to the Yard, covered in dairy from a collision with a farm lorry, the two teased him even more about his new livery. This continued until Edward announced a party of enthusiasts were coming, and threatened that he would not bring them to see the twins. The twins, excited, decided instead to worry about their own paint - for example, how clean it was - although one day, when the drivers remarked that "the enthusiasts would not eat their dinner off them", Bill quipped that "They might if we were Thomas".
When at last, the enthusiasts did arrive, a photographer with an "instant" camera began harassing Ben by continuously taking pictures of him, even after the remainder of the crowd went to watch Bill tug a boat into deeper waters. At last, the photographer prepared to take one final picture, just as Bill's driver arrived to ask for assistance. Ben's driver turned on the steam just as the photographer took the picture; disgusted with the poor quality of the shot, he abandoned it on the floor and left. The picture was later discovered by Bill's driver after the two rescued the boat.
The repairs to the bridge took a long time, and Thomas was still at Brendam when the rainy season came. At the "Drain", a hollow in the land where rainwater collected, the water even began to come near the rails, although no one took much notice. One particularly wet day, as Ben returned from the Workings, the wind whipped the rainwater into a wave which swamped Ben, dousing his fire. His fireman went for assistance, and brought Thomas to help. While Thomas dragged Ben out, Bill took away the trucks. When at last the water subsided four days later and Bill returned to Brendam, the two made a pact to never tease Thomas again.
Thomas & Friends
Bill and Ben make their first appearance listening to Percy recount the time he got caught in a flood helping Thomas, before being shooed off by Henry, as they were in a shed specifically for the Fat Controller's engines.
One day, Bill and Ben were sent to work in the yard. They got to use the turntable as a reward for their hard work. But Bill and Ben were accidentally sent down the same track and they ended up buffer-to-buffer. They each blamed each other for the incident and refused to speak to one another. At last, Edward and BoCo lost patience and the Fat Controller heard about the incident. He gave the twins a chance to work together, and sure enough, the plan worked. The twins started to speak to each other again. Bill and Ben sometimes find it dull up at the clay works and they wanted something exciting to happen. They got their wish when a rockslide devastated the quarry. Luckily, Bill and Ben had taken all of the workmen and the foreman out of the quarry before the rockslide. The Fat Controller was so pleased that he called them heroes.
Later, BoCo could not handle the twins as much as he used to, so Sir Topham Hatt had to bring in another diesel, Derek. Bill and Ben had heard from Percy that Derek had a toothache. But they soon found out that Derek really had teething troubles. The twins and Derek had to pull a train the next day, and Derek soon overheated. Together, the twins got the train to their destination. That night, they, BoCo, and Duck talked about Derek all night long.
When Salty was sent to work with the twins and Mavis with an important job, he impressed the twins with his skills for handling the trucks. When Salty handled the trucks with songs and tales of the sea, Bill and Ben became jealous. They became even crosser when Salty told them stories. Luckily for them, Salty was transferred to Brendam Docks. Bill and Ben met Salty again when they themselves went to the docks and started teasing Cranky. This time, they encourage Salty to tell them his stories, knowing that Cranky can't stand them. The twins spent the entire night being engrossed in and fascinated by Salty's many tales, and when they left the following morning, Cranky was pleased. Afterwards, Ben had to get new buffers, so he was sent to the Works. Bill became jealous and his mind drifted away from his work. After some trucks teased him, Bill crashed into a ditch. Ben arrived to rescue Bill and Bill was taken to the Works to be mended.
Some time later, Fergus was sent to help the twins at the quarry. They got tired of his "do it right" attitude. Bill and Ben collected a rock crusher from the docks and caused a rockslide. Fergus pushed them out of the way, but the twins returned the favour when they helped him out of the rocks.
In the seventeenth season, they teased Percy after he had an accident with a mail bag, unaware the pumpkins on their train were falling onto the tracks, which caused more problems for Percy. After the Fat Controller ordered one twin to act as a back engine, Bill reluctantly went to push from behind. Ben ended up derailing near an embankment, and Percy, although he was nervous because he had lost his new lucky charm, helped Bill pull Ben back onto the tracks.
After racing Connor several times (by racing, one would start the race and the other twin would be waiting at the finish) Sir Topham Hatt figured out their tricks. So people would not confuse the two or think they were the same engine, Bill was repainted blue. To continue the tricks, Ben tricked Kevin into giving him a blue coat of paint too. Since then they were repainted to their yellow schemes. They also teased Harvey about going fishing with his hook.
Thomas was sent to work with the twins at the Clay Pits while a bridge on his branch line was being repaired. They ran away from him, and after he caught up, they teased him about being slow. They showed him to a line of trucks, which he was coupled up to. Thomas began pulling them, but did not realise that Timothy was on the other end, jerking the little oil-burning engine backwards. Later that day, there was a storm at the Pits, and the rain made the cliffs unstable. Thomas was near some cliffs, and saw a set of mysterious footprints. However, the area was still unstable and he was unable to investigate. Bill and Ben pushed Thomas to safety just before the three were hit by a landslide. The next morning, the twins were congratulated by the Fat Controller. Later in the week, Thomas asked if they were playing a trick on him by scaring him with fake footprints. However, Bill and Ben thought that he thought that their rescuing was a trick and so they puffed away, offended. The next morning at dawn, when Percy went to the clay pits to prove his bravery to James, Bill accused Ben of making puffing noises in his sleep, and when Thomas came looking for Percy, the twins assumed that they could literally hear what Timothy was dreaming. When they went to work for the day, they were almost hit by a landslide, and after Marion found a fossil, Bill and Ben were both very intrigued by the concept of fossils.
In the eighteenth season, Bill and Ben played Guess What's In My Shovel with Marion. They also teased Timothy for being an oil burning engine, but when the Clay Pits ran out of coal, Timothy went to pick up some more. They apologised for their teasing. However, they later sent Timothy on what the Fat Controller referred to as a "fool's errand" to search for a rainbow-coloured truck. Timothy brought back a green truck with several colours of paint on it full of dockyard waste. Bill and Ben were sent to take it to Whiff's Waste Dump as a punishment, as well as being on waste duty. They also teased Emily and Samson.
In the nineteenth season, the twins became convinced that Timothy was no help at all. So when they found out that the Fat Controller was looking for an engine to help at Brendam Docks, they volunteered Timothy. Unfortunately, the twins were too busy messing around to work on their own properly. Luckily, once Timothy was no longer required at the docks, he came back to the Clay Pits to help them clear up the mess.
In Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, they teased Henry when he saw a ghostly railboat on the rails the previous night, which was really Skiff.
Bill and Ben are Sodor's mischievous saddle tank engine twins, who have great fun in teasing the other engines of the railway. Each has four wheels, a tiny chimney and dome, and a small squat cab. They often work in the China Clay pits and quarries. Their loads of clay can be used for many things such as paper, paint, and pottery. They take trucks for engines on the main line and ships in the harbour and are regularly seen around Brendam Docks. They enjoy attention and love taking visitors and being photographed. They tend to work together, like most twins, but even this youthful pair can have their arguments among themselves and can squabble with one another. They are highly prone to playing tricks and being cheeky. They have even teased Gordon on more than one occasion. Duck has called them "the bees" before, for being terrors when they start buzzing around. Edward and BoCo are the only engines who can really keep them in order enough to put a stop to their games and make them scamper along and behave. There is no real harm to them, but even Edward admits that they are maddening at times.
Despite their cheeky and mischievous antics, if a dangerous event occurs, such as a rockslide, they are shown to be quick-witted and capable to act to rescue anyone in trouble. This was shown when they saved a group of workman and Thomas from many different rockslides.
Bill and Ben are based on the Bagnall 0-4-0STs "Alfred" and "Judy" of Par, Cornwall, who are both preserved and in working order at the Bodmin and Wenford Railway.
Alfred and Judy are painted in a green coat of paint, with yellow lining, although the former was once repainted in a yellow coat of paint, very similar to Bill and Ben's yellow coats of paint.
According to the foreword of Thomas and the Twins, Alfred and Judy are both Bill and Ben's twins.
In the Railway Series, Bill and Ben are painted dark orange with red lining. In the television series, they are painted dark yellow with red lining.
In the television series, Bill and Ben both have brass nameplates with yellow writing, "SCC" written on both sides in yellow and "Brendam Bay" on the front of their saddle tanks. In the Railway Series, they have number plates reading 1 and 2 respectively above both the back of their cabs and their faces. In The Diseasel, they have nameplates, but from Wrong Road onward, they have their names painted on their saddle tanks.
From the seventeenth season onwards, the twins have had red wheels instead of black ones. In the episode from the same season, Bill or Ben?, the twins were painted dark blue with blue wheels, yellow lining and yellow lettering, but they returned to their normal livery soon afterwards.
- In the Railway Series, from Wrong Road onward, Bill and Ben have their names painted on their saddle tanks to avoid the trick they played on BoCo from happening again.
- A behind the scenes picture of Bill's model reveals that he and Ben were to have numbers on their smokeboxes above their faces, as they did in the Railway Series.
- Bill and Ben's television series models are currently on display at the Hara Model Railway Museum in Japan.
- In the television series, Bill and Ben are twice the size of their basis'; Alfred and Judy. This was so their eye mechanisms and motors could be accommodated. When they returned in CGI, they were rendered in the same larger size.
- The twins' whistle sounds are really Thomas' at higher pitches. Often, throughout the CGI Series, they swap whistle sounds.
- Bill and Ben were known as Guillaume and Benjóin in the French version of the Classic Series.
- Nathan Clarke did an audio sample of Bill and Ben on his DAA Management Page
- In an interview with SiF , Andrew Brenner stated that Bill and Ben were two of his favourite characters, along with James and Toby.
- They might have been named after Bill & Ben the Flowerpot Men, who were first created in 1952, the same year Toby the Tram Engine was first published.
- Bill and Ben went through several aesthetic changes in the television series:
- Season 3:
- Their nameplates were painted on instead of being actual plates.
- Buffer Bother:
- Ben gained gold buffers.
- Season 7:
- Ben regained black buffers.
- Season 11:
- Ben gained a new cheeky facemask.
- Season 17:
- Their faces became smaller, and were raised slightly higher up.
- Permanent lamps and taillamps.
- An additional sandbox was added on the footplate to mount the lamp.
- An extra wood panel was added to the rear window to accommodate the taillamp.
- Taller cabs.
- Brass nameplates.
- Red lining behind the "SCC" lettering on their boilers.
- Red wheels.
- External brake shoes.
- Black domes and crossheads.
- Brake pipes.
- Yellow wheel lubricators on both sides, that connected to their valve gears.
- Yellow siderod guards.
- They speak with a Brummie accent
- Season 19:
- Their crossheads became grey again.
- The text on their nameplates became gold.
- Season 21:
- Their crossheads became black again.
- Season 3:
- Their drivers examined a patch of oil.
- "That's a diesel!" they said.
- "It's a what'll?" asked Bill.
- "A Diseasel, I think!" replied Ben. "There's a notice about them in our shed."
- "Coughs and sneezles spread diseasels!"
- "You had a cough in your smokebox yesterday! It's your fault the Diseasel came!"
- "It isn't!"
- "It is!"
- "Stop arguing you two!" laughed their drivers.
- Bill and Ben arguing, "The Diseasel", "Main Line Engines".
- “What's that?" asked Bill loudly.
"Shh!" whispered Ben. "It's Gordon!"
"It looks like Gordon, but it can't be. Gordon never comes on branch lines; he thinks them vulgar!"
Gordon pretended he hadn't heard.
"If it isn't Gordon!" said Ben. "It's just a pile of old iron."
"Which we better take to the scrapyard!"
"No Bill, this lot's useless for scrap! We'll take it to the harbour and dump it in the sea!"
Gordon was alarmed.I am Gordon! STOP! STOP!”
- ―Bill and Ben teasing Gordon, "Wrong Road", second season
- “I remember the first time I met those two," laughed BoCo. "They nearly made my eyes pop out! Edward soon put a stop to their games."
"Edward is the only one who can keep Bill and Ben in-order," chuckled Duck. "I sometimes call them, the Bees."
"A good name!" replied BoCo. "They're terrors when they start buzzing around!”
- ―BoCo and Duck talk about Bill and Ben, "Buzz Buzz", third season