Thomas the Tank Engine is getting two new female characters to help with gender imbalance

The world of Thomas the Tank Engine has mostly been male-dominated, but Mattel wants to change that.

The toymaker is adding two female main characters to the Thomas & Friends TV series next year.

Nia and Rebecca will help fix the gender imbalance at the shed where Thomas and the other characters live.

Three of the seven engines at Tidmouth Sheds will be female, up from just one.

Nia, who is from Kenya, will first meet Thomas in a movie next summer and join the TV series next autumn. She is mainly orange and has a stripe of colourful African print running across her.

Nia is “adventurous” and “fun,” according to Mattel, and teaches Thomas about friendship.

Like the other characters, Nia is based on a real engine: East African Railways’ ED1 class.

Rebecca, a yellow engine, comes from the Mainland near the fictional island of Sodor. She’ll be first introduced in the TV series next autumn.

Rebecca is not “afraid to stand up for herself,” Mattel said, and isn’t intimidated by the older engines.

Her design is based on a Southern Railway West Country 4-6-2 Pacific engine.

The new series will also see Thomas visit real countries, such as China and Australia, for the first time.

Other changes include animation moving at a faster pace and a new theme song, while the narrator will be replaced by the voice of Thomas.

And oh, be prepared for more jokes on the show.

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