The Railway Dragon (also simply known as "Dragon" as its real name is never revealed) is an animated character that appears in the 1989 short film of the same name and its 1992 sequel, The Birthday Dragon.
The Railway Dragon was voiced by the late Barry Morse.
The Railway DragonThe Railway Dragon is said to be one of the last of his kind - as Dragons were originally great in number but were later hunted by humans who feared them for their size. Nowadays, there aren't many dragons left and what is left of their once numerous race now hide away from humans in caves, fog or other places. The Railway Dragon chooses to hide in a cave within a railway tunnel - hence his name. During his time in his tunnel, the dragon collected a large amount of 'treasure' - although the majority of this was items that had fallen or been thrown from the passing trains over the years. He has presumably stolen from some of the trains as has a liking for the smoked meat that the old steam trains used to make - while it's also hinted that he ate a conductor at some point in the past as he has a conductor's hat in his cave and, when talking about the man whose head it fell off, states "I didn't like him though - too tough".
Although the Dragon has seemingly lived for the most part on his own (presumably for fear of been hunted down and killed), he is discovered one day by a young girl called Emily - who was investigating around the railway tunnel after thinking there is a 'monster' and accidentally found a hidden tunnel leading into the Dragon's lair. The dragon is initially angered by her intrusion and believes her to be a 'bandit' who is coming to steal his 'treasure' - with him contemplating on eating her but decides its not worth it as he has bad teeth. However, the Railway Dragon begins to warm up to her as she sees the items in his cave as treasure as well.
Talking to her more, the Dragon explains why he is hiding and doesn't want to be found - showing her a firelight representation of the dragons been hunted down. Furthermore, he reveals that today is a Dragon Celebration known as the "Day of Tidings" - where Dragons meet up for a night of fun and games. However, he states that he won't be going as it's both too far away and too dangerous to travel. However, Emily convinces him that he can't miss the celebrations as "It's got to be worth it, whatever might happen". Thinking about her words, the Dragon agrees and also states that he'll take Emily with him. However, Emily briefly has to leave as she realizes that her Grandma had come to dinner but she had now missed dinner. Needless to say, she agrees to meet him at 'Moon-rise' at the mouth of the railway tunnel.
The Dragon patiently waits for her on top of the tunnel - at one point thinking she wasn't coming as she was taking a long time. This, however, was due to Emily getting sent to her room as punishment for missing dinner. Emily did eventually sneak out and met the dragon - expressing her excitement at what they were going to do - although her excitement was temporarily dampened when the dragon said they wouldn't be flying as there were 'better ways'. Moments later (with Emily wrapped in his tail), the dragon leapt on top of a train coming out of the railway tunnel - with him and Emily riding on top of it. While the Dragon stayed outside and on top of a train carriage to avoid been seen, Emily went inside the dining carriage and got some smoked meat sandwiches for them both.
Avoiding both a low tunnel and a conductor asking Emily for tickets (which the Dragon distracted by giving the conductor some out-of-date tickets), the pair escaped off the train and continued on foot - slipping past some hunters and their dogs. During their short trek, the two talked more about what Emily did with her time in the world, as well as the Dragon giving her some important wisdom about seeing all around her instead of what was just in front. When the pair reached the Dragon's meeting place, it appeared deserted - with the Railway Dragon explaining that Emily's presence had spooked the other dragons and so they were hiding. Showing Emily how to 'shout tidings', the Railway Dragon persuaded the others to reveal themselves - with the other five dragons who had arrived dropping their camouflage.
Emily and the Dragons spend a fun night together - playing games, eating popcorn and dancing around the fire. While watching another Dragon flying around, Emily manages to convince the Railway Dragon to try and fly again - which he initially struggles with as, according to the Railway Dragon, he hasn't flown in 100 years. With a few attempts and some words of encouragement from Emily, the Railway Dragon manages to start flying again - carrying Emily on his back as the pair leave the Day of Tidings. Admitting how he'd forgotten that flying could be fun, the dragon takes Emily on a fun ride through the sky as they head back. During the flight, the Dragon comments about how much the world has changed since he knew it last and ponders about whether it will be safe now for Dragons. With storm clouds forming ahead, the Dragon decides it's time for them to head for home.
As the Dragon nears the Railway Tunnel, however, neither him nor Emily notice the hunters they avoided earlier below them. As one of the hunters fires at their silhouette in the sky, the shot hits the dragon's wing and causes him to crash down at the tunnel entrance - the impact knocking Emily unconscious as she hits her head. Realizing they've shot something, the hunters release a trio of hounds they have to seek whatever they've hit. Meanwhile, the Dragon - having heard the sound of the Hunter's truck and their dogs approaching - puts Emily out of harm's way as he wearily heads to the tunnel entrance. When the dogs arrive - running past Emily - the dragon scares them and the hunters off by roaring at them. Exhausted and injured, the dragon collapses. Emily is later found by her father, with her head injury treated - although everyone believed that Emily's concussion was caused by her going to the railway tunnel and having a nasty fall.
Although Emily tells everyone about the dragon and even draws pictures of him, everyone puts it down to her seeing things while concussed. After getting her strength back over a few days, Emily returns to the tunnel and to the dragon's lair but cannot find him at all - even after calling out tidings like he showed her to. Upset at not been able to find the dragon and after telling a low-flying a Magpie to shoo (calling it a 'thieving mag-pirate' like the dragon did), she suddenly hears the dragon's voice. Turning around, the dragon appears - using the same camouflage ability the other dragons did at the Day of Tidings and with his wing healed from the earlier injury. The pair happily reunite and remain good friends with each other.
The Birthday DragonA few years later, Emily - having grown up a bit, with her friendship with the dragon still strong, and with her birthday party coming up - decided to try and invite the dragon to her party and meet her other friends. Shouting Tidings out of her bedroom window one night to summon him, the Railway Dragon eventually appeared and squeezed through her window into her bedroom - marveling at her 'lair' and the 'treasures' inside. When Emily reveals her proposed invite for the railway dragon to come to her Birthday party, the dragon is initially reluctant to the idea - still worrying that the world isn't safe for him and his kind to return yet. Furthermore, he isn't actually sure as to what a 'birthday' is. Getting out a slide projector and after going through several slides - including one of the forest and of the zoo (which Emily admits that she loves to visit and learn about the animals) - Emily finds a slide of one of her earlier birthday party and explains to the dragon that a Birthday is 'a celebration of the day you were born' - with a special party one day a year.
Emily asks the dragon what day he was born, although the Dragon is unable to remember. Explaining more, Emily states that at Birthday parties you play games, eat junk food and get presents (which she states is the best part). She shows him this by wrapping up a present for him using one of her old toys (a Noah's Ark clock) and letting him unwrap it - with the Dragon indeed enjoying it. Emily finishes by saying that she has figured everything out so that the Dragon will be safe, as well as stating that if he comes then it would be the best present she could ask for. Finally relenting, the dragon happily agrees to come to her Birthday party - believing that Emily is right when she says he will have a wonderful time as he flies off into the night.
At Emily's birthday party, Emily and all the other children are dressed up as dragons, which helps the Railway Dragon to fit in without causing a panic. The Dragon begins to enjoy himself at the party - calling it a 'costume ball' after seeing everyone dressed up like dragons. The children and the dragon soon start to watch a pair of clowns called Lenny and Clarence perform tricks. However, Lenny (who hates clowning and wants a 'real job') and Clarence (who loves clowning but is dumb and easily sidetracked) both mess up when trying to perform. As such, the children and dragon move onto the games such as bubble-blowing and apple-bobbing - with the dragon providing entertainment on his own by juggling apples on his tail after accidentally getting all the apples in his mouth at once.
Things go wrong, however, during a game of "Pin the tail on the Donkey" - as the blindfolded child with the donkey's tail accidentally stabbed the dragon in the back. In response, the dragon - in pain - flew up into the sky while roaring loudly, causing the children to flee. Angry, the dragon (still airborne) states it was a mistake to come to the party and flies off back to the safety of his railway tunnel - ignoring Emily's calls for him to come back. This was watched by Lenny and Clarence - who both realized that the dragon was indeed real; with Lenny now seeing an opportunity to 'make it to the top' by catching the dragon. As Emily headed to the Railway Dragon's lair to try and talk to him, Lenny and Clarence began to follow her to try and found out where the dragon was - unbeknown to Emily. However, they lost her trail after Emily slid down a hidden tunnel into the Dragon's lair.
Inside the Railway Dragon's lair, Emily calls out to the dragon - who is hiding inside but doesn't respond. Emily loudly states that she knows he is there and apologizes for what happened at the party - saying that while things went badly, it doesn't mean that they can't still be friends. As she leaves, she openly states she doesn't want to live in a world without dragons. When she is sat in the forest later, she is greeted by the dragons she first met on the Day of Tidings. However, she tells them to go and 'hide where humans aren't looking' as she feels the world still isn't safe for dragons to return. Inside his cave, the Railway Dragon tearfully looks back on the day's events and sees how he has hurt Emily's feelings - caring more as she is the one who cares the most about him. Wanting to make it up to her, the Dragon hatches an idea to give Emily the 'best present ever'.
That night, and having earlier learned about Emily's love for the zoo following their talk the night before, the Dragon manages to bring almost all the animals in the zoo to Emily's house (leaving behind only some beetles and the crocodile) as her birthday present. After Emily wakes up to find numerous zoo animals throughout her house, she heads outside and is greeted by the dragon - with the pair sharing a hug. Asking about why all the animals are outside, the dragon states it's her present. Although Emily admits that it is a wonderful present, she and the dragon both agree it's not yet safe for the animals either - with the pair agreeing that they must work to make the world safe again for both the zoo animals and for the dragons.
However, the pair's conversation is interrupted by Lenny and Clarence - who were hiding outside Emily's house as she was the only one who would know where the dragon was. As the dragon angrily advances towards Clarence, Lenny springs a trap they set and catches the dragon in a net - attached to a pickup truck from the circus - before the pair drive off. As the pair gloat to themselves on how they are 'going to the top', they are suddenly stopped by the other dragons (thanks to Emily shouting tidings to call them after the Railway Dragon was captured). Lenny and Clarence are quickly subdued and - after the Railway Dragon is released from the net - both the bumbling clowns are put inside it, with the other dragons entertaining themselves for a while before letting the pair go. Meanwhile, Emily and the Railway Dragon begin to work together to return all the animals back to the zoo - managing to do this while avoiding the zookeeper.
Back at the circus, Lenny and Clarence tell the story to their manager about the dragons. However, their manager doesn't believe them and takes several days wages from the pair for several reasons - including their story about the dragons, messing up at Emily's birthday party and taking the truck without permission. As Lenny prepares to take his frustration out on Clarence, he stops as he and Clarence hear and see the Railway Dragon and Emily flying overhead. Scared by the earlier events, both agree that they didn't see anything. In the sky, the Dragon takes Emily for a fun ride in the sky - with him catching her after she accidentally falls off during the flight. After flying over the neighborhood, the pair return to the Dragon's lair in the railway tunnel.
Inside the tunnel, the Dragon and Emily reflect on the events of the day - with the Dragon been upset that he hasn't been able to give Emily a present that she can keep, which Emily had previously said was the best part of birthdays. However, Emily is able to cheer him up by stating that the dragon has given her a wonderful present that she can keep - the memory of the day's events. Furthermore, she is happy that the two are still friends. As the dragon comments that it feels like his birthday too (despite not been able to remember his own). At that point, Emily surprises him as the rest of the dragons appear - with one of them carrying a giant birthday cake. Wishing him a happy birthday, Emily and the Railway Dragon both blow out the candles on the cake.
Appearance and Traits
The Railway Dragon himself is a very old creature and, while his age is not specified, it is specified that he is over 100 years old at least - as he states to Emily that he hasn't flown for a century (with him initially struggling to get airborne when Emily convinces him to try and fly again). Due to his age, most of his teeth have fallen out with the exception of two - neither of which are very good as the dragon shows that both are wobbly when he licks them with his tongue. He is quite senile at times - as when Emily accidentally gets a bucket stuck on her head and gets herself up by holding onto a mop, the dragon initially sees her as looking like a Knight.
Out of all the remaining dragons alive, he is also one of the biggest (in comparison with the other dragons he knows). He is green in colour with his front covered in scales that are a lighter green. He also has small horns on his head and small spikes on his elbows (although in the second movie, the elbow spikes are gone). His wings appear small when folded but are easily large enough to carry him with ease. Although he initially struggles with flight after not flying for so long, he is shown to be much better at it in the second film - easily flying at both high speed and low without issue. In the first movie, his wing membranes were orange, but in the second movie they were a dark red - which is probably another example of him getting older.