- “That Hugo is the engine of the future!”
- ―Stephen on Hugo, Engine of the Future, twentieth season
Hugo is a gentle rail zeppelin. Hugo is unique for being fitted with a propeller. He is a very fast engine, whose spinning propeller makes him very popular with passengers.
Upon arriving on Sodor, he surprised many engines and Sir Topham Hatt with his fast speed. Stephen, however, told Thomas that he may replace them. This made all the engines unfriendly with him and it was not until Hugo explained to Thomas and Percy that Stephen was wrong. He was not replacing the engines; he does not even have a coupling hook to pull coaches or trucks. This helped the engines learn that Hugo is actually very nice and later they gave him a proper welcome.
He would later see a real Zeppelin in the sky and felt upset that he could not fly like it. He followed it all over the island and was so keen on flying that he forgot to turn off his propeller upon entering Knapford's platform. Sir Topham Hatt explained that he is a rail Zeppelin meant to travel on the rails and not in the sky.
Hugo is a kind and gentle engine. He loves to be useful, but is also a bit sensitive. This was shown when his feelings were hurt by the other engines ostracising him, out of fear that his kind would replace them; but they soon saw that they were wrong and apologised to him.
Hugo is based on the Schienenzeppelin, known as "the Rail Zeppelin" in English, an experimental German propeller driven railcar built in 1929. It set several speed records, including the world rail speed record in June 1931 at 143 mph, which was not surpassed until 1954. It still holds the world speed record for a petrol powered rail vehicle. Due to safety concerns about having a moving propeller in crowded stations and its inability to haul rolling stock, it did not enter regular service and only a single example was built. It was scrapped in 1939 due to its material being needed by the German Army during the Second World War.
The Schienenzeppelin was rebuilt several times during its short career; Hugo is based on its appearance "as-built".
Hugo is painted silver, with a two-tone blue strip beneath his windows and a thin blue stripe above them. He has blue nameplates on the sides of his cab with his name in white and he has blue wheels. The area around his front lights is painted black.
- 2017 - Journey Beyond Sodor (cameo)
- Rob Rackstraw (UK/US)
- Yuta Odagaki (Japan)
- Diego Estrada (Latin America)
- Yannick Blivet (France and French speaking Canada)
- Zvika Fohrman (Israel)
- Mark Bremer (Germany)
- According to the Earl's exclaim in Engine of the Future, it is revealed that Hugo's driver is named Franz, who is most likely named after Franz Kruckenberg, the real life designer of Hugo's basis.
- Hugo is the second railcar to be introduced into the television series, the first being Daisy.
- Hugo has some modifications compared to his basis:
- His height has been reduced considerably.
- Much of his front nose has been flattened to accommodate a face.
- He appears to have two additional windows on his cab compared to his basis.
- He is fitted with a siren which he uses to warn nearby people that his propeller is starting.
- Unlike his basis, Hugo is able to move backwards.
- He runs on diesel fuel instead of petrol (gasoline), unlike the first shape of the Schienenzeppelin he is based upon. The real engine would eventually gain a diesel motor after its last rebuild.
- Even though he does not have any couplers on either his back or front, he is depicted with them in his Wooden Railway and TrackMaster toys.
- Hugo was the last Wooden Railway character produced.
- Hugo is the second German engine to be introduced in the show, the first being Frieda.
- Chronologically, Hugo would have been the first German engine to be introduced with Frieda being the second.