The fireman helps maintain the steam engine, and, along with the driver, keeps the engine in control and provides a voice of reason when an engine is being difficult.
If the driver is unwell, the fireman usually takes over and drives the engine instead.
While the engine is moving, they shovel coal into the fire and keep the water level where it needs to be, and fill up an engine's water tanks or tender. After a day's work is over, they clean out the ash from the firebox. They also couple the engine if a shunter is not available.
A North Western Railway fireman's uniform consists of blue trousers, a black tie, a white shirt with a blue jacket over it, and a blue cap.
- From the eighth to sixteenth seasons of Thomas and Friends, drivers and firemen acted almost purely as background characters and are very rarely acknowledged, but from the seventeenth season onward, they have been seen more often and have worked more realistically.
- To date, two firemen have been named: Sidney Hever, Edward's fireman, and Ted, Henry's fireman.
- As with the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, the steam engines of the Arlesdale Railway do not have firemen, as the drivers are capable of handling the duties that they do with the larger gauge engines since their cabs are so small.