"Control" is the disembodied voice of the child, who was first heard playing with his/her toy trains. Soon after, their mother's voice is heard, telling them to go to sleep. The entire show is played out in their imagination. Although Control generally doesn't sing, he acts as the commentator in the races, and gives orders in many of the songs, serving as a narrator and introducing the characters.
Although Control's gender is never specified, the child is often referred to as "he". However more often than not the recorded voice is female.
Control is generally not seen throughout the entire duration of the musical, with the exception of the UK tours, where he is briefly seen on the 3D screen and the 2013 Joburg production in South Africa. It is common for amateur productions to put a child in the role of Control onstage.
Control generally has no physical appearance in replica productions, as he is unseen throughout the musical.
Exceptions include the short-lived Starlight on Ice, where he had a costume which was very similar to Rusty's. The 2013 Joburg production had Control seen on stage, in this production, he wore a simple greyish-black nightgown over his red pajamas.
Control is a bossy young child, who plays clear favourites with Greaseball the reigning champion, but also favouring Rusty. In the original production, Control gets increasingly controlling, until at the end of the show he is screaming "Do what you're told!" To which the trains reply, "Shut it, Control!"
During the introduction to the Overture, we hear Control's Mother settling him to sleep singing a lullaby, which is the first time we hear the melody of "Starlight Express" Dependant on production, Control either falls asleep and we enter his dream (Overture), or Control disobeys his mother, and continues the game in a hushed voice (Entry of the National Engines)
In the original London production, his favourite engine is Greaseball the Diesel. As a result he always looks the other way whenever Greaseball creates trouble. He later gets angry when the plot-line is wrenched from his grasps and his favourite engine is later defeated by the unlikely challenger Rusty.
While Control is believed to be a young boy, he is often portrayed by a female voice actress.
- Nancy Wood (Original London)
- Bela and Olivier Borchardt (Original Bochum)
- Tara Wilkinson (Revised London)
- Julius Jellinek (Bochum)
- Braden Danner (Australia and Broadway)
- Yumi Tohma (Japan)
- Lori Flynn (US and Canadian Tour)
- Georgina Hagen (UK Tour)
- Jo Marie Dominiak (Bochum)