Edward was built by Sharp Stewart and Company in Manchester, England in 1896 and worked on the Furness Railway before coming to Sodor in 1915 to finish the building of the North Western Railway.
After his work was completed, Edward was kept in a shed, to the delight of the other engines, who claimed that he was too weak to work. Edward was eventually let out again and proved that what he lacked in strength he made up for in work ethic.
Edward has always been a kind and wise engine, though in some scenarios he has acted a bit out of character. For example, in the sixth season episode, Harvey to the Rescue, his attitude towards Harvey was out of character. In the ninth season episode, Thomas And The New Engine, his attitude towards the new engine, Neville, was out of character, as well. In the tenth season episode, Edward Strikes Out, he was incredibly out of character all throughout the episode. In the eleventh season episode, Edward And The Mail, he didn't want to embarrass himself in front of the other engines, so he tried to take the mail train without asking Percy, who was in need of repairs for advice, in result of him delivering the mail to all the wrong places. In the twelfth season episode, Steady Eddie, he was given a task of taking the new water wheel to Great Waterton, but ignored The Fat Controller's advice to take the express track, and took all the bumpy tracks, and almost had the water wheel scrapped. In the thirteenth season, he laughed at Thomas's new "funny" replacement funnel, and wanted to help Thomas chase after The Fat Controller's grandchildrens' kite. Since then, he has regained his usual self.
Edward is kindhearted and always keen to help a friend in need. The small engines trust him to lend a listening ear and sympathetic advice. He is a hard worker too, and always does his best to finish a job.
Sadly, the big engines often see Edward as old-fashioned and slow. While it is true he is the oldest engine on the North Western Railway - it must be noted he helped build it - he has proved time and time again that he is more than capable of working as hard as any engine, but he is a more clever and wiser engine, too.
Since The Great Festival Adventure, Edward's persona differs slightly. Despite his reputation of being kind and friendly, Edward has sometimes seemed to act cheeky. Edward has also acted with a lack of confidence in himself in that he keeps secrets from the other engines and the Fat Controller, when he was once leaking steam and likewise when he was told to pull the post train whilst Percy was being repaired. Sometimes, Edward has seemed to share the same personality as James, such as when he decided to show off his special waterwheel and laughed at Thomas when he was wearing a funny funnel.
The Reverend W. Awdry stated that Edward is based on a heavily modified Sharp, Stewart and Co. "Larger Seagull", supplied to the Furness Railway in 1896.
Sodor "historian" Martin Clutterbuck notes that Edward bears a close resemblance to a LNER D3/4 "Glen" (NBR Reid Class K) 4-4-0 from the London and North Eastern Railway. At any rate, the Reverend W. Awdry used an engine of this class to represent Edward on his model railway.
Visible Crovan's Gate modifications are: making the rear splasher flush with the cab, new cab windows as opposed to cutaways, and new cab lookouts as opposed to the original round ones.
Edward is painted NWR blue with the NWR red and yellow lining and the number "2" painted on his tender sides in bright yellow with a red border. In the Railway Series, he carries two builder's plates on the sides of his cab.
It can be assumed that, before arriving on Sodor, Edward was painted in the Furness Railway's red livery with the letters "FR" written in yellow on his tender sides and black wheels.
The inspiration for Edward himself came from the Reverend W. Awdry's watching trains on the Great Western Railway as a child. He said in an interview with Brian Sibley for The Thomas the Tank Engine Man that, to him, the noise of the locomotives' exhaust almost sounded like dialogue - for example, the larger engine having trouble climbing the hills would appear to be saying, "I can't do it, I can't do it" and the smaller engine helping them would sound like it was saying, "I will do it! I will do it! I will do it!" Later, Reverend Awdry told his son a bedtime story about an engine who was sad because he was never taken out of the shed for being old. Upon being asked what the engine's name was by his son, the Reverend Awdry picked the name Edward out of thin air.
Edward was the very first character created for the Railway Series, in 1943.
Edward is the only engine whose crew has been named in the Railway Series. In the foreword of "Edward the Blue Engine" their names were given as Charlie Sand (driver) and Sidney Hever (fireman). Their surnames came from their duties (one of the driver's jobs is to sand the rails when they are slippery to let the engine's wheels grip, while the fireman "heaves" coal to the firebox); their Christian names came from an engine crew from the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway.
Three of Edward's models are currently on display; one at Drayton Manor and one in Canada at Nitrogen Studios. One is also on display in Japan.