Hiro is a Japanese engine.
Hiro was built in order to maintain the transportation of passengers and goods from the Mainland. He, along with Ryu and No. 12, ran on a special line from たにしま to けいかん Island, where goods and passengers were exchanged. He was the strongest engine on the line, and was called the "Master of the Railway" by his friends and the railwaymen. In the mid 1950s, it was decided by the Mainland that the Upper Valley Railway would handle the special line, and opted to sell their steam locomotives, while working on their own diesel fleet. Ryu and No. 12 were sold to the UVR; however, Hiro was far too expensive. Luckily, he was introduced to Sir Topham Hatt, who runs the North Western Railway and the other railway when they were closed on the Island of Sodor. Hiro was sold and was sent away, while Ryu and Morning Light were left to handle the Mainland's line. He does not appear to hold a grudge; in his first appearance, he helped Spencer after an accident, despite Spencer previously trying to send Hiro to the smelter's yard.
Hiro once lived on a faraway island. He was the strongest engine on his railway, and was famously known as "Master of the Railway". He was eventually brought to Sodor where he worked for many years. However, he began to show his age, and the works didn't have the necessary parts to repair him. To avoid scrap, he was put on a siding, where he had to wait for the parts to come from his homeland.
Thomas eventually found him and, fearing Hiro would be scrapped if he wasn't Really Useful, promised to bring him back to his former glory while keeping him a secret from Sir Topham Hatt. Thomas also had many of his friends help in the restoration, and Hiro quickly gained their friendship. After breaking down again while trying to avoid Spencer, Hiro was hidden away in another siding, where passing engines visited him and kept him company. When Sir Topham Hatt found out about the situation, Hiro was brought to the Sodor Steamworks, where Victor oversaw his restoration. Once Hiro was restored, he helped Spencer after his accident, and worked with him and Thomas to finish The Duke and Duchess's summer house. Despite everything, Hiro had grown homesick, so Sir Topham Hatt arranged for him to be sent back to his homeland.
Hiro eventually came back to Sodor to help the engines with the summer holiday traffic. Upon arrival back to Sodor, Hiro went to the Steamworks to be examined and then went to Knapford station for his welcome party, which was almost delayed as Thomas was trying to find a welcome present for Hiro instead of telling the other engines about the party. But, Hiro told Thomas that having his friends at the party was the best welcome present. During his visit, Hiro told Thomas to take the load of bees through the woods, which Thomas ignored. However, Thomas took Hiro's advice after taking Hiro's flower truck to get the bees back to their hives. Later on, Hiro saw The Fat Controller, and assumed he was too busy to give orders to his engines. So, he tried to help The Fat Controller by ordering his engines - but he only suceeded in becoming "Master of the Muddle". However, he made up for his mistakes by telling the engines to go to Knapford and await orders from The Fat Controller.
Hiro is wise, very dignified and enormously kind. He is friendly and able to find good in any engine he meets, and he loves to give advice on how to do things properly. He does not appear to hold a grudge against any engine or human, not even Spencer and he always tries to keep things in order on the line. Now with him far away from home, the engines of たにしま keep him their hearts and work their hardest every day. Hiro is also a gentle engine, in spite of his huge size and is fond of all his friends.
Aside from telling stories from his native home in Japan, Hiro oftens tells the younger engines of the Sodor Railway stories of a very special steam engine he once knew named Lady. According to Hiro, Lady was a magical engine, who when she chuffed along the rails, she spread gold dust along the rails. As the Sodor Railway's "wise elder", Hiro possess unbeatable wisdom. He cares for his fellow engines as a grandparent would for their grandchildren. Because he is from Japan, Hiro sometimes uses Japanese words in his sentences which include the following - はい (yes), ども ありがとう (thank you very much), こんにちは (hello), おはよう (good morning) and さようなら (goodbye).
Hiro is based on a heavily modeled and rescaled Japanese National Railways (JNR) Class D51 でごいち type tender engine designed by ひでお しま and built by the Kawasaki Heavy Industry Rolling Stock Company in 1936. However, Hiro runs on standard gauge track, while the real D51 engines were built for cape gauge. He has scaled up to 1,422 mm (4 ft 8 in) standard gauge, with added buffers on his front and his tender, a loose coupling on his tender and a knuckle coupler on his front (which make pushing rolling stock or being pulled away by another engine physically impossible, unless a special adapter used to connect knuckle couplers and loose couplings was fitted onto his knuckle coupler), regauged wheels and pistons as mentioned, and other minor modifications.
The first type of the D51 were called なめくじ, meaning "slug". These had a streamlined look with the funnel flush with the dome. 95 なめくじ D51s were built, 18 remain to this day. Hiro's Number, 51, is a reference to his class, but it is also the number of one of the preserved なめくじ D51 SL's in Japan. It is on static display at the さがのかんこ Railway, and has been displayed elsewhere in Japan as well. Judging by amount of pics, it can be safely said that this engine gained its popularity long before HiT thought up Hiro and will only gain more with Hiro's appearance. This could be rebuilt into a Type 2 D51 to run as Hiro. Moving along, this reason for ひでお しま needing to redesign the D51 was due to balance problems the なめくじ had due to their streamling caused weight problems for the axles. There was a third type of D51: a War Type with a "dustpan" style funnel. Most of these, however were rebuilt into Type 2 D51's after WWII had ended. There may be at least one War Type Preserved. It's likely Hiro's Prototype was chosen for the same reason as Hank's: it is considered to be the standard steam engine of Japan, like the K4 is American's Standard.
Hiro's prototype is called the D51 because of the Japanese engine numbering system. It's pretty much based on the engine's wheel arrangement, and Hiro's is 2-8-2. But there's also a reason why D51 are known as でごいち, which also has to do with Japanese Numbers and their engine numbering system. In this kind of case, the "で" is borrowed from the English Language "D", and the rest pretty much has to do with counting in Japanese. "ご" is 5 and "いち" is 1. Put it all together "でごいち", meaning D51! Not surprising, HiT did a little bit of altering to Hiro: real D51's have their whistle on the dome; Hiro's is where the safety valve on the boiler would be, and his whistle only somewhat resembles that of a real D51.
Just some last info about the D51 mentioned before moving along to the next portion. A whopping 1115 Standard-Type D51s were built only 181 are left in existence. Most are on static display in Japan, and only D51-498 is still running today, doing rail-tours on Eastern Japanese lines. There are few D51s that were shipped elswhere to form other engine classes, much like Rosie's did. Some were sent off to Korea to form the Korean DT650 class: Some D51's were left in Sakhalin, Russia by the retreating Japanese soldiers at the end of WWII, and were used by Russian Railways until 1979. Two are kept at the Yuzhno-Sakhalisnk, one on display outside the station and one is running condition.. The D51's are massive in size; there would be no way he could be rescaled to work with the Skarloey engines. So HiT wisely rescaled him to standard. Hiro is probably the best, most interesting and unique not-one-off character made by HiT for many reasons.
Hiro, like most Japanese and foreign engines, has a knuckle coupler, but he only has it in the front. Normally, knuckle couplers can only be hooked onto other knuckles couplers. For countries that have switched from screw-link to knuckle, a special adapter can be fitted to the coupler in order to pull rolling stock with screwlink couplings. They are used in Australian and New Zealand but Japan may have them as well as some Japanese engines have buffers and screwlink couplings. He has one knuckle coupler rather than two, or two screw-link couplings. Since Trainz, Hiro has been built with two screwlink couplings. Models are more realistic than the TV series ones, built like real engines, adding a bit of a RWS flair to them. Hiro has a stowed screw-link coupling in front and built to scale using plans of a D51 なめくじ.
Hiro is painted black with gold bands and fittings and red wheels. His name is written in black on gold nameplates, on his smoke deflectors. He has the number "51" painted on the sides of his tender in white. His "patchwork" color scheme consists of some blue, green, purple, and rust colored parts. He is most likely based on D51 #22, which served in the Soviet Union. This engine left native Japan for Russia, just as Hiro did for Sodor, although ther complete history of this engine is yet to be recognized. This engine sports the same headlamp, handrails, detailing, and nearly identical livery to Hiro's. Many other D51 types did not have these features like #22 did, as the detailing and craftsmanship varied depending on the needs of the owner. Hiro bears a hybrid livery of Soviet Railway and Orient Express colors. D51 #498 sports the Orient Express livery, consisting of gold heater bands, tender stripes, and various other gold fittings like Hiro does. Knowing the number 51 on the side of his tender, Hiro was repainted as a red fire department style engine with the words 'Los Angeles', 'Fire Dept', 'Rescue' and 'Squad' on the side of his boiler and his tender.
- Togo Igawa (UK/US; Hero of the Rails onwards)
- てっしう げんだ (Japan; Hero of the Rails onwards)
- Hiro says that he is the oldest engine on the Island, but the D51 class was not built until 1936, making him much younger than most of the other steam engines on the island.
- Before the Thomas and Friends US and UK website's overhaul to their current state, Hiro's profile specifically mentioned that he is a wise old Japanese engine.
- Like Hank and Flora, Hiro has only been partially modified to work on Sodor. He has been scaled up to standard gauge, and has been given buffers on his front and his tender. But oddly enough, he has a loose coupling on his tender, and a knuckle coupler on his front. This would make pushing rolling stock or being pulled away by another engine physically impossible, unless a special adapter used to connect knuckle couplers and loose couplings was fitted onto his knuckle coupler.
- The Take-Along Hiro has a six-wheeled tender; the Take-n-Play Hiro one has eight.
- Hiro has a B flat whistle.