Etienne competed in the Great Railway Show during the events of The Great Race, competing in the speed competition of the same name. He, along with the other eleven contestants for the show, came to Sodor by mistake when the ferry they were on accidentally stopped at Sodor instead of England. After Gordon was forced to drop out of the race, Etienne fought with Spencer for first place. Spencer nearly won, but the electric engine managed to pass Spencer at the last second, winning the race and setting a new world rail speed record.
After the Great Railway Show ended, Etienne left the Mainland and returned to France.
Etienne is described as being polite and gentlemanly, as he only joined the Great Railway Show to have fun and meet new friends.
Etienne is based on SNCF's BB 9003 and 9004 electric locomotives, built by Jeumont-Schneider of Paris in 1952 and 1954, respectively. On March 29th, 1955, 9004 broke the world speed record for a locomotive when it reached a speed of 331 kilometres per hour on a run from between Bordeaux and Dax, Landes. Taken out of service in 1973, 9004 has been preserved and is on display at the Cité du Train in Mulhouse.
Etienne is painted white and dark blue with red and silver lining and red wheels, the colours of the French flag. He carries his name on a silver nameplate.
- Etienne is the fourth engine to have a moustache, the first being Earnest, the second being Iron Duke, and the third being Coran. He is also the first engine in the television series to have a moustache.
- Etienne is the first catenary-powered electric engine to be introduced in the television series, and the first ever in either series to be physically seen, as the Peel Godred Engines were never shown except for one in the railway safety book, More Bad Days for Thomas and his Friends.
- Despite being an electric-powered locomotive, Etienne has been incorrectly described as a Diesel-Electric locomotive in The Great Race.
- “I'm just here to have fun and meet new friends, and if I should win, then vive la France!”
- ―The Great Railway Show Announcer quoting Etienne, Meet the Contenders
- “On track one, we have the French diesel-electric Etienne, who'll be trying to beat his own world record today.”
- ―The Great Railway Show Announcer introducing Etienne, The Great Race
- “Au Revoir!”
- ―Etienne upon passing Spencer, The Great Race