Ryan was brought to the Island of Sodor to work on the Harwick Branch Line, but was relocated to the Ffarquhar Branch Line after Thomas was sent to the construction yard as punishment for causing an accident at Knapford. Ryan took care of Thomas' passenger trains on his branch line, but when Thomas was involved in an accident at the construction yard that damaged him, Ryan was then sent to the construction yard to yet again assume Thomas' duties while he was at the Steamworks. Though Ryan was kind and wanted to befriend him, Thomas was jealous of Ryan and refused to stay in the same shed as him, even ignoring to tell him that he was taking on bad coal at an old hopper. This resulted in Ryan setting his trucks of dynamite alight when sparks shot out of his funnel, and as Thomas tried to dispose of the train, Ryan panicked and ran away from the dynamite. Fortunately, the dynamite was destroyed, and later that evening, Ryan accepted Thomas' apology and invited him into the shed, but Thomas, worried about the treasure at Knapford, turned down the offer.
That night, Ryan was passing through Arlesburgh Junction, worrying about Thomas, when he saw the pirate ship sailing into the junction. Ryan immediately panicked and tried to run away from the ship, but a loose rope dangling from the ship got caught on his buffer, and when Ryan hit a buffer stop, the ship was pulled over. Thomas congratulated Ryan as he raced by.
Ryan attended to the grand opening of the new branch line, where the Fat Controller declared that he would be handling the goods traffic on the line. Afterwards, he and the other engines went along the new line and through Arlesburgh. (TVS; Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure)
Ryan is based on the Great Northern Railway Class N2. These locomotives were fitted with condensing apparatus for working in the Metropolitan areas of London between King's Cross and Moorgate. One member of this class, No. 1744, has been preserved, and now works on the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire, England.
Ryan is painted purple with white and gold lining. The GNR initials and his number are both painted on the sides of his tanks and coal bunker respectively in gold lettering, and he carries his name on two brass nameplates, which are placed on each side of his boiler. The top of his footplate is painted light grey, while his bufferbeams are painted red.
- Ryan shares his whistle sound with Smudger. Stepney previously used this whistle sound in Thomas and Stepney.
- According to early merchandise descriptions, Ryan was described as being much more overconfident, dismissive and arrogant than he was in the actual special. This was his original personality in the first Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure script, but it was toned down to make him a more appealing character to the audience.