Nia the Helpful Engine is a Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends character who debuted in the 2018 special, Big World! Big Adventures!. She is a Kenyan tank engine who befriends and accompanies Thomas during his journey around the world.
Thomas & Friends
Nia is a tank engine from the African country of Kenya. She first met Thomas in her homeland when he stopped in her yard to collect more trucks to take to Dar es Salaam while in pursuit of Ace. Noticing how heavy his train was getting, she offered to help, but Thomas sternly refused, stating he could handle it himself. However, she later arrived to help him over a steep hill when the trucks nearly caused him to slide back down it. She later encouraged the trucks to sing to raise Thomas' mood during the journey and to help soothe an elephant that tried to charge Thomas when it was blocking the tracks. When they reached Dar es Salaam, Nia had a chat with her friend Kwaku, but Thomas interrupted when Kwaku was asking Nia if she had found a new shed yet due to the fact that her old one was destroyed. After Thomas thanked her for her help, he prepared to board a ship bound for South America and the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, suggesting Nia returned home to Kenya, unaware of how Nia could not. However, Nia decided to join him, much to his chagrin, having wanted to see the world herself.
Thomas remained unfriendly toward Nia throughout their journey, and Nia grew annoyed by Thomas wanting to find and keep up with Ace during his road rallies. However, they both began to warm up to each other after they rescued a crashed Ace and made it through the Amazon Rainforest after some difficulty. While continuing their journey through Central America and Mexico before reaching North America and the United States, Nia maintained her suspicion regarding Ace whenever he tried to remind Thomas of his motto of "living Free and Easy". As they made their way through Arizona, Ace tricked Nia into splitting their delivery to San Francisco between them and racing to see who was the faster of the two steam engines. Thanks to Ace, who wanted to get to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, Nia was separated from Thomas. This led to her thinking that Thomas was in on Ace's trick and had betrayed her by wanting to stay with Ace instead of her. As a result, she became hurt and cross, and continued on alone to China, acquiring a snowplough before making her way through Zhangye Danxia and into the treacherous Himalayas.
When Thomas caught up to her in the Himalayas, she refused to listen to his explanations for what happened, still hurt and upset about it. However, she heard his heartfelt apology and realised he never meant to upset her and was truly sorry for it. Before she and Thomas could fully make amends, an avalanche caused by Thomas trying to get Nia's attention swept her off the tracks and left her dangling precariously over a cliff. Thomas attempted to pull her back to safety, but a rock underneath her was dislodged and caused her to go over the edge and nearly pull Thomas with her. Thankfully, Yong Bao arrived just in time to save both of them. After Nia was lifted back onto the rails by the breakdown cranes brought by Yong Bao and The Chinese Diesel, she and Thomas prepared to return to the Island of Sodor, with Yong Bao advising they travel through Asia and Europe to get back to Sodor via the Mainland.
Together, Nia and Thomas made their way back to Sodor, unaware of a signalman in India seeing Thomas and phoning ahead to let the North Western Railway know he was coming home. When they reached the Vicarstown Bridge, Thomas realised that once he crossed it, he would be home, but Nia would have to return to Kenya. However, Nia revealed what she had tried to tell Kwaku back in Dar es Salaam before Thomas interrupted them - that she no longer had a home to go back to. Sympathetic to her plight, Thomas offered Nia the chance to stay and work on the North Western Railway, knowing that Sir Topham Hatt would love to have her working on his railway. The two engines crossed the bridge, returning to Knapford to find a large group of Thomas' friends, human and engine alike, welcoming him home. After Thomas formally introduced Nia to Mr. Percival and the others, Nia prepared to enjoy her new home on the Island of Sodor.
While enjoying her new life on Sodor, Nia bonded with Gordon when he was upset over Edward and Henry moving out of Tidmouth Sheds by reminding him they were still his friends, revealing to him that she felt the same way due to all of her friends being back in Africa. When Sir Topham Hatt asked her to pull Thomas' coaches, Annie and Clarabel, she could not read the numbers above the platforms, or a speed limit sign, which caused her to get derailed. She revealed her dilemma to the two coaches, who then helped her to learn her numbers. However, she also fell victim to Bill and Ben's tricks when they made up a game called "Hunt the Truck", and Edward had to step in to make them give back the truck they hid from her.
When Darcy arrived on the Island of Sodor for the first time, Nia was asked to pick her up from Brendam Docks. Darcy was excited to work on the Island, though she became a little more hesitant after her enthusiasm caused problems for Cranky, James, Max and Monty. Following these incidents, Nia helped her to regain her confidence and show the rest of the Pack her talent in digging tunnels and gained James' admiration in the process.
Another time, she and Paxton thought that Diesel was no help at all leading to the devious diesel covered in glow paint to make them find him hidden at the Blue Mountain Quarry, to when they did, they were very cross about his self-interested attitude and used his own trick on him to get him back to work.
Later, Nia was instructed to take the Sodor Rangers on a camping trip to Callan Castle. Following a storm, she gave the job to Emily so that Emily could have her own adventure while she had more time to work in the yards. Once she had finished in the yards, she realised that Emily had forgotten the truck with camping supplies and - assuming she was in trouble - went with the truck to find her. Fortunately, Emily was unharmed - though derailed - and the rangers had set up a camp using their survival skills. Nia then spent the rest of the night on a campout with the rangers and Emily, before helping her friend back onto the rails the following morning.
Once, Nia was tasked with picking up an elephant and taking it to the Sodor Animal Park. However, the elephant proved to be very difficult to handle, as it felt very uncomfortable around steam engines. Nia tried various attempts to get the elephant into her wagon, such as singing, using a truck of apples, and having Belle spray water, but to no avail. The elephant eventually ran away, prompting Nia, Belle and the Elephant Carer to find it, but had no luck doing so. Nia felt that the incident was her fault, but Belle comforted her by stating that the elephant was scared and that everything on Sodor was strange to it. This gave Nia the idea of bringing another elephant to make the first elephant feel at home. After transporting both elephants to the Animal Park, Sir Topham Hatt awarded her with the job of helping out there. This included her bringing animal feed from the Docks, fruit from the farms, and straw for the animals' bedding, and sometimes giving safari rides to visitors.
One Christmas, Nia was asked to pick up a shipment of lights from Arlesburgh Harbour for the Earl's Christmas party at Ulfstead Castle. Whilst she was at the harbour, she learned from Skiff how lighthouses work and how they help guide ships to safety. Once Nia delivered the lights to the castle, the Earl told her to pick up a special surprise from the Sodor Animal Park, which later turned out to be reindeer. On her way back from the park, she noticed that Harold, who was bringing Sir Topham Hatt, along with the Duke and Duchess of Boxford, to the castle, was struggling his way through a snow storm. After arriving back at the castle, and realising that Harold hadn't arrived yet, Nia remembered what she learned about lighthouses and suggested to the Earl that the big wheel be covered with Christmas lights. Thanks to her idea, Harold was able to see where the castle was and arrive there safely. Harold thanked Nia and called her a hero, with Nia saying that she was glad to have been really useful.
Nia is an adventurous and fun engine who teaches Thomas about friendship.
Nia is based on the KUR ED1 class, a class of 2-6-2 tank locomotive built by Vulcan Foundry for the Kenya-Uganda Railway between 1926 and 1930. They were later operated by the East African Railways and were reclassified as part of the EAR 11 class.
Nia has been modified in order to work on British railways. Whereas her original basis was narrow gauge, Nia is standard gauge, and she has been given buffers and screwlink couplings in order to work with the other engines.
Nia is painted orange with yellow lining. She has yellow, green and red patterns painted along her tanks, dome and cylinders, and her footplate is painted red. Her name and number are painted on the sides of her tanks and cab respectively in yellow.
- Series 22 - Forever and Ever, Confusion Without Delay, School of Duck Template:Cameo, Seeing is Believing, Apology Impossible Template:Cameo, Samson and the Fireworks, Thomas' Animal Ark, Counting on Nia and Hunt the Truck
- Series 23 - Chucklesome Trucks, Steam Team to the Rescue, Panicky Percy, Rangers of the Rails, Out of Site Template:Cameo, First Day on Sodor! and Diesel Glows Away
- Series 24 - Emily's Best Friend, Thomas' Fuzzy Friend, The Great Little Railway Show, Emily to the Rescue, Nia and the Unfriendly Elephant, James the Super Engine, A New Arrival, World of Tomorrow, Nia's Bright Idea and Gordon and Rebecca, Coming Through!
- 2018 - Big World! Big Adventures! The Movie
- Nia's name means "purpose" in Swahili.
- Experts at the United Nations assisted the production team with creating Nia.
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