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Dawn first came to the Island of Sodor in the second season, where she arrived alongside Marie, Rose, and Levi. Dawn and Levi later revealed they worked alongside Porter on the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Later, when Gordon, James, Henry, Marie, and some of the other big engines were kept in the sheds, Dawn was sent to Knapford Yards to shunt coaches. Dawn was very nervous about this, as she had never shunted coaches before. Luckily, Oliver was there to try to make Dawn feel better, and he even helped her shunt coaches after he took his train. Dawn was also one of the first engines to welcome Jackie to the Island when she first arrived at Brendam Docks.
Dawn is a kind and hard-working tank engine. She likes to think of everyone else being equal to her. She does not like stepping out of her comfort zone, and usually gets very overwhelmed when she is pushed to do so.
Dawn is based on a H.K. Porter 0-6-0ST, built in Butler, Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh. These mainly worked in the dockyards on the east coast of the United States. The Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal Railroad, which served the dockyards in Brooklyn, New York, owned several examples of Porter's design, all of which were retired after the railroad started using diesel locomotives in 1963. One of these, B.E.D.T. 15, was rebuilt into an operating replica of Thomas by the Strasburg Railroad in 1998 for use during Day Out with Thomas events throughout the US. Dawn, like Porter and Levi, appears to be directly based on B.E.D.T. 15 prior to its rebuild. Another engine, 14, is preserved at the Ulster & Delaware Railroad Historical Society in Arkville, New York.
Dawn is painted green with blue stripes and lining. She has her name in gold on a red nameplate on her cab, and her number on her coal bunker in blue. She also has blue window frames.