Mid Sodor Railway
|Founded 📆||1872 (company formed)|
October 1880 (railway opened)
Area served 🗺️
Number of employees
|Website||[Lua error in Module:WikidataIB at line 665: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value). ]|
The Mid Sodor Railway was a fictional narrow gauge railway on the Island of Sodor in The Railway Series books by the Rev. W. Awdry and Christopher Awdry. The railway was closed in 1947, but three of its engines survive on the Skarloey Railway. Part of its route is now occupied by the Arlesdale Railway.
The railway ran from the coast at Arlesburgh, east along the Arle valley, then through the Cob-y-Deighan mountain to King 'Orry's Bridge, near the town of Peel Godred. At Arlesburgh it met up with a branch of the standard gauge North Western Railway
The main sheds and works for the railway were at Arlesdale station.
The railway was at first a goods-only line for mineral traffic from the lead mines in the valley but with the arrival of tourists to Sodor it started carrying passengers, with connections at Arlesburgh for the ferries to the Isle of Man. The mountain section to Peel Godred was built to give the people of Peel a rail connection after plans for the Sodor and Mainland Railway to extend here were cancelled. Although the MSR's station was on the edge of the town it had once planned to build one in the town centre.
The MSR was responsible for the creation of the Culdee Fell Railway, although there was no connecting station for the two lines.
The railway only appeared in one book, Duke the Lost Engine, although it has been mentioned in others, as it was the railway where the Skarloey Railway engines Sir Handel, Peter Sam, and Duke first worked.
When it was first promoted, the Sodor and Mainland Railway had canvassed support from investors in the Peel Godred area with a promise to build them a branch from Cronk. As the years passed, it seemed increasingly less likely that this project would ever be implemented. By 1870, the people of Peel Godred had come to the conclusion that if they were ever to have a railway, they would have to build it themselves.
A line southward down the valley was favoured at first. This, on the face of it, would have been simplest and cheapest, but it would have involved a junction somewhere with the S&M, and since that company was on the verge of bankruptcy most felt that to embark on such a project would be the height of imprudence. It behoved them to look elsewhere. Some six miles to the west, mine owners at Cas-ny-Hawin had combined with others in the Arle Valley to build a tramway to the port town of Arlesburgh.
The Peel Godred Committee approached the mining companies who saw advantages in the Peel Godred connection, and following a series of meetings at Ulfstead Castle chaired by John Arnold Norramby, Earl of Sodor, the Mid Sodor Railway Company was formed in 1872. They bought up the tramway and relaid it to Board of Trade passenger carrying standards, and opened it in 1874. There were four stations, Arlesdale, Marthwaite, Ffarquhar Road and Arlesburgh. A road coach link was provided from Peel Godred to Marthwaite pending the completion of the mountain section. They were thus prudently in a position to earn revenue while the most difficult part of the line was under construction.
The site selected for the summit station at Ulfstead Road stood at 867 feet above sea level, 264 feet higher than Cas-ny-Hawin, though the two places are, as the crow flies, only 1½ miles apart. Mr C. E. Spooner of the Ffestiniog Railway was consulted, but as he was then much occupied with the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways, the actual survey was undertaken by his son Edwin, who advised that the railway should climb in a series of loops, thus effectively increasing the distance between the two places to 6 miles, and reducing the gradient to manageable proportions. He advised that the actual length of climb should be for 5 miles at an average of 1 in 100, and that it should be arranged in “steps” with level or nearly level stretches between them. He explained that this would allow ”labouring” locomotives to ease off and blow up steam, or alternatively to gain speed and therefore impetus before tackling the next climb ahead.
Edwin Spooner's survey and estimates were accepted. It necessitated the cutting of four tunnels, and it was here that the company's troubles began. Having cut two tunnels, it was found, inevitably, that their expenses far exceeded estimates and, with two more tunnels in prospect, money was running short. They economised by cutting down clearances to those which had been allowed on the Festiniog Railway, but even so they had little money left for the last few miles to Peel Godred. Fortunately there were no expensive civil engineering problems here, and the only casualty was the fine Central Station they had planned for the town. They had to settle instead for a temporary terminus on cheaper land in the outskirts alongside the Arlesdale Road. A branch line to Ulfstead had also been planned, and this had to be dropped too.
The line was opened throughout in October 1880, with No. 1 The Duke (later renamed to just Duke) hauling the Opening Train. They had hoped for a June opening following the Board of Trade Inspection; but the Inspector, disturbed by the scanty clearances in the mountain section, refused to allow this even though he could not fault anything else. When, however, it was pointed out by the Spooners that the clearances to which he took exception were, if anything, more generous than those which had been allowed and passed for the Ffestiniog, he paid the line a second visit at the end of September, and reluctantly passed it on condition that similar safety precautions to those enforced on the Ffestiniog should apply, namely that all carriage doors should be locked between Arlesdale and Ulfstead Road. This was no real hardship. On the Upward journey water-stops were needed at both places anyway, while for down trains at Ulfstead Road the routine brake test which common prudence required before starting the descent, also gave ample time for attention to the carriage doors.
Natives soon accepted this door drill as a matter of course, but visitors to the Island were apt to complain at ”being imprisoned without trial”. The Company's servants however never heeded such complaints. To them, as Sudrians born and bred, tourists were decent enough folk, but like all foreigners, particularly English and Manx, they were probably not quite right in the head.
While a bulk of the passenger traffic was between Peel Godred and Arlesburgh, it was the mines which provided the railway with its chief revenue. Local goods and passenger traffic was slow in developing so, bearing this in mind, the Mid Sodor set itself from the first to encourage visitors and tourist traffic. Proposals made to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company met with a favourable response. It was arranged that steamers should call at Arlesburgh twice daily in Summer, and twice weekly in Winter. Arlesburgh became the port for Peel Godred, and between 1890 and 1923 the railway enjoyed a period of moderate prosperity.
The normal journey time between Peel Godred and Arlesburgh, a distance of 25 miles, was, for local trains, 1½ hours; but the pride of the line were its Boat Expresses run in connection with the Isle of Man Steamers. The line had to be clear to allow these trains free passage, and woe betide anyone who hindered the smart running of these trains. With two stops at Arlesdale and Ulfstead Road respectively, they covered the 25 miles in the very creditable time (for narrow gauge), of 1¼ hours. Special Observation Cars were built at Arlesdale Works for these trains, The usual load was four bogie coaches strengthened at busy times to six.
Holiday-makers in the Island were catered for during the Summer by a train which came to be known as "The Picnic". This train, put on between Easter and Michaelmas, left Arlesburgh at 10am, and was given a very easy timing. It would stop, on request, at beauty spots and places of interest, to set down ramblers and picnic parties. The return train left Peel Godred at 3.30 to pick up the parties at the places where they had been set down. This train was timed to reach Arlesburgh at 5.10, thus returning passengers in good time for High Tea at the sacred hour (to Sudrian landladies) of 5.30.
The Culdee Fell Railway, though built and operated by a separate Company, was nevertheless the brainchild of the tourist conscious Mid Sodor Board. Once it was actually under construction the MSR had intended to extend their line round the head of the valley to a joint station at Kirk Machan, but the whole extension would have involved expensive engineering works for a line which would, at most, only be worked profitably for part of the year; so this project was prudently dropped, but the MSR did take the opportunity of moving their terminus from Ulfstead Road to a more commodious site near King Orry's Bridge. This was much more convenient for those who wished to reach the shopping centre of the town, and since King Orry's Bridge provides the only access to the town from the south, this station became the valley's railhead for the next thirty years.
While the mining companies had their "block trains" and paid well for the convenience, local goods traffic was slow in building up. At first the Guard's vans of local trains sufficed for parcels and small freight, but did not suit larger items. Mixed trains were then tried, but passengers complained so bitterly at delays caused by shunting operations at stations, that the Company put on a daily goods train each way which took anything and everything. It stopped to shunt anywhere on the least provocation, and was allowed a time of two and a half hours in which to cover the 25 miles, hence its name "The Horse & Cart" given to it by travellers and traders. Passengers were also carried in the brake van on payment of half 3rd class fare; but the Company, wisely, would not guarantee the time of arrival at any station.
The Mid Sodor served the valley well for nearly 40 years. It was well loved, and had become a part of the landscape. Even its vagaries were a part of local tradition. People assumed that it would last forever. It survived the First World War, though stretched to the limit, and had nearly succeeded in making good most of its maintenance arrears when it received a blow from which it was never to recover.
In 1923, just after the Grouping, the Peel Godred Power Company (a subsidiary of the British Aluminium Company), obtained powers to build a dam and hydro-electric power plant a mile or so north-west of the town. The Power Company had at first considered using the port of Arlesburgh and the MSR for the transport of their equipment; but while the port facilities were adequate, the slim clearances on the mountain section of the MSR proved an insuperable obstacle. Accordingly, they agreed with the North Western Railway for the construction of a standard gauge branch line from Killdane.
The opening of this line had a disastrous effect on the MSR. Passenger and goods traffic to and from Peel Godred steadily fell. Except in summer, when the tourists came, passenger trains on the mountain section ran almost empty, and by 1935 when the Isle of Man steamers ceased to call, even this meagre traffic had disappeared. The section was closed to all traffic in 1936. Three of the six locomotives were sold in an effort to save the company, and with them also went the bogie saloon stock used on the Boat Trains and the Picnics. These later found homes all over the Island. Their buyers put them to use as summer-holiday chalets, henhouses and garden sheds.
The engines which remained, Duke, Falcon and Stuart, were those in the best condition, and they, together with the four-wheeled passenger and goods stock sufficed for the mineral and such goods and passenger traffic still offering in the Valley. When this local traffic took to the roads, the line became just what it had been at first - a mineral tramway - with trains running only as and when required.
While World War II was able to bring an upsurge of traffic, and while the locomotives were lovingly maintained as far as possible, both track and goods stock suffered. The mines suffered too. They were stripped almost beyond safety margins to assist the war effort, and in consequence were closed one by one during 1945. That at Cas-ny-Hawin alone remained, but when this was abandoned because of flooding in December 1946, the railway, having no longer any reason for existence, was shut down as well in January 1947.
Two of the locomotives, Falcon and Stuart, were bought by the Sodor Aluminium Company to assist in an expansion project they had on hand. This was completed in 1951, and the two engines, after standing sheeted under tarpaulins for a year, were sold in 1952 to Sir Handel Lloyd Brown for the Skarloey Railway at the knockdown price of £25 each. They retained their old numbers (3 and 4), but after rebuilding they were given SR livery and renamed Sir Handel and Peter Sam respectively.
The third and oldest engine, Duke, on account of age, had found no buyer, for interest in veteran steam locomotive preservation had in those days hardly begun. Duke was left oiled, greased and sheeted up in Arlesdale Shed, until 1969 when he was recovered. He was restored at Crovan's Gate Works and reunited with Stuart and Falcon on the Skarloey Railway.
The closure of the Mid Sodor also forced the virtual closure of the NWR's Arlesburgh Branch Line. In 1964, due to congestion at Tidmouth and Knapford Harbours, Sir Topham Hatt made several visits of inspection to the area. He found that while his line was heavily overgrown, the abandoned MSR trackbed was virtually weed free. On enquiry, he was told that the MSR had, from motives of economy, used spoil from the lead mines as ballast; material which they could take and use merely for the asking.
Once exhaustive tests had proved that this spoil really was weed-resistant, Sir Topham suggested to the management of the Culdee Fell and Skarloey Railways that they join the NWR in a consortium to exploit it, and that a railway along the Mid Sodor's former trackbed could be laid to take it away. The section between Arlesburgh and Arlesdale was relaid with minimum gauge rails, and reopened in 1967 as the Arlesdale Railway.
Most of the former MSR trackbed that was not reused for the Arlesdale Railway has now been converted into roads and scenic footpaths.
Over its near-sixty-year existence, the MSR utilised a number of engines, most of which remain unrecorded. Four engines are mentioned in the books, and a further two are mentioned in the TV series. Also, Skarloey, Rheneas, and Duncan were seen working on the Mid Sodor Railway in the TV series, even though they were supposed to be working on the Skarloey Railway.
|No.||Name||Real life equivalent||Real life equivalent's railway||Notes|
|1||Duke (Formerly The Duke)||Prince, a Festiniog Railway 0-4-0TT class locomotive||Ffestiniog Railway||Built in 1879, this was the railway's first locomotive. Known affectionally as 'Grandpuff' by Stuart and Falcon. Left in Arlesdale locomotive shed when the railway closed in 1947, but was later rediscovered in 1969 and now works at the Skarloey Railway.|
|2||Stanley||Baldwin Class 10-12-D locomotives||Various, originally War Department Light Railways in World War One.||The Railway Series only. Built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and worked originally for the United States of America's army during the First World War. The loco played only a minor role in the book, where he is only named as 'No. 2', as it was converted into a pumping engine before the book was set.|
|2||Smudger||Dolgoch||Talyllyn Railway||Smudger played only a minor role in Granpuff, where he took Stanley's role. He was converted into a generator. Thomas and Friends only.|
|3||Falcon||Number 3 (informally known as 'The Falcon' following the withdrawal of the rest of the locomotives of its class from the railway).||Corris Railway (now Talyllyn Railway)||Built in 1904 by Henry Hughes and Company in the Falcon Works, Loughbrough, as an 0-4-0ST. Trailing wheels were later added to improve stability. After the Mid-Sodor Railway's closure, he was brought by the Peel Godred Aluminium Works and later by the Skarloey Railway in 1952.|
|4||Stuart||Number 4||Corris Railway (now Talyllyn Railway)||Built in 1920 by Kerr, Stuart & Co. in Stoke-on-Trent, to their standard 0-4-2ST 'Tattoo' design. After the Mid-Sodor Railway's closure, he was bought by the Peel Godred Aluminum Works and later by the Skarloey Railway in 1952.|
|Bertram||Princess, a Festiniog Railway 0-4-0TT class locomotive||Ffestiniog Railway||Worked in a mine near Ffarquhar Road and was left there following its closure. Later rediscovered by Toby, and bought by Skarloey Railway. Thomas and Friends only.|
In the book, Duke is described as being built in 1879 for the opening of the Mid Sodor Railway. He was named "The Duke", after the Duke of Sodor. This name was later shortened to simply "Duke". He worked alongside Sir Handel and Peter Sam (then known as Falcon and Stuart respectively) until 1947, at which time the line closed and Duke was sheeted and sheltered in Arlesdale Sheds. When he is sheltered, Duke wonders what has happened to his human namesake, only that the author mentions that the then Duke was only a boy and his father had been killed in action during the Second World War. Duke the engine was later discovered by Mr. Fergus Duncan in 1969 and taken by road and rail to Crovan's Gate, where he was restored and returned to service in 1984.
Duke is based on Prince, a Festiniog Railway 'Small England class' locomotive. Prince was originally known as 'The Prince', but, like its fictional counterpart, the 'The' was later removed.
Stanley was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and worked originally for the United States of America's army during the First World War. The locomotive was acquired by the MSR shortly after the war. In the book, Stanley is described as having a tendency to ride roughly on the rails. He is depicted as arrogant and careless, believing that it did not matter if he came off the track occasionally. However, this attitude resulted in his being converted into a pumping engine. As Stanley had already been converted into a pumping engine by the time the book was set, he only played a minor role in it.
He last worked at the Cas-ny-Hawin mine until he broke down in December 1946 and the mine became flooded. With no reason to stay open, the Mid Sodor Railway closed down the next month and Stanley was scrapped.
He appeared in one illustration of "Duke the Lost Engine", as a pumping engine at the back of the engine shed. The engine is only known as "No. 2" in that book; his name was not revealed until the publication of "The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways".
Stanley is based on a Baldwin Class 10-12-D 4-6-0 pannier tank locomotive. 495 of these locomotives were built by Baldwin and ALCo from 1916 - 1917 to run on the War Department Light Railways trench lines.
Smudger was a reckless tank engine who worked on the Mid Sodor Railway. He arrived on the Mid Sodor Railway in 1888. He liked to show off, riding roughly and often derailing. When Duke told him to be careful, he just laughed and scoffed. This caused the Manager to turn Smudger into a generator in 1904 behind the engine shed.
Falcon was Sir Handel's name when he worked on the Mid Sodor Railway. After its closure in 1947, he and Stuart were purchased by the aluminium works at Peel Godred for an expansion project. After that project's completion in 1951, the two were sheeted under tarpaulins for a year and were purchased by the Skarloey Railway in 1952 for fifty pounds altogether and renamed.
Falcon is based on Corris Railway No. 3, which now works on the Talyllyn Railway as Sir Haydn.
Stuart was Peter Sam's name when he worked on the Mid Sodor Railway. After its closure in 1947, he and Falcon were purchased by the aluminium works at Peel Godred for an expansion project. After its completion in 1951, the two were sheeted under tarpaulins for a year and purchased by the Skarloey Railway in 1952 for fifty pounds altogether and renamed.
Stuart is based on Corris Railway No. 4, which now works on the Talyllyn Railway as "Edward Thomas".
Bertram is an old dark brown engine who worked near an isolated mine on Sodor. He is known as the 'Old Warrior' because of his bravery. He remained at the mine until it was rediscovered years later. Toby thought he was a ghost at first, but the two were later introduced and became friends. Bertram now works at the restored mines, taking passengers to the fairground at the site.
Bertram only appeared in Toby's Discovery and had no dialogue. His body was modified from Duke's, and his face was taken from Smudger. According to Britt Allcroft, Bertram was intended to be a tank engine.
The Mid Sodor Railway can claim many sources of inspiration. Most obviously, it takes inspiration from the Corris Railway and the Ffestiniog Railway. Some of the architecture, locomotives and rolling stock are clearly based on the former line. This is most notable in the case of Falcon and Stuart, which are based on the Corris Railway's number 3 and 4 respectively.
The Ffestiniog Railway's influence is most obvious in the character of Duke, an engine based on the Ffestiniog locomotive Prince; some of the rolling stock is also Ffestiniog-inspired. Like the Ffestiniog, the MSR is designed as a narrow gauge main line. In the history of the MSR, Awdry mentions Ffestiniog engineer James Spooner's involvement.
Readers have also identified elements of the Welsh Highland Railway (the character Stanley), the Snailbeach District Railways (the engine shed) and Owd Ratty (the original 3 ft (914 mm) gauge Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway), among others, used by Gunvor & Peter Edwards the artists who illustrated Duke the Lost Engine.
In model form
Rev. W. Awdry owned two model railways based on this railway, one after the other. The second layout is displayed at the Cadeby Rectory.
Locomotives on the model railways
Model Railway "V1", as mentioned in some modelling magazines, had the following locomotive roster: Duke (No.1), Stanley (No.2), Falcon (No.3), Stuart (No.4), Albert (No. 5), Jim (No. 6), Tim (No. 7), Jerry, John, Jennings, as well as the mine engines Atlas (No.8) and Alfred (No.9).
Model Railway 'V2' is the layout that survived to be displayed at the Cadeby Rectory - here, there was only one unnamed 'Mine Engine' (No.9), along with Duke (No.1), Stanley (No.2), Falcon (No.3), Stuart (No.4), Albert (No. 5), Jim (No. 6), Tim (No. 7) and Jerry.
|No.||Name||Real life equivalent||Real life equivalent's railway||Notes|
|1||Duke (Formerly The Duke)||Prince, a Festiniog Railway 0-4-0TT class locomotive||Ffestiniog Railway||Built in 1879, this was the railway's first locomotive. Known affectionally as 'Grandpuff' by Stuart and Falcon. Left in Arlesdale locomotive shed when the railway closed, but was later rediscovered and now works at the Skarloey Railway.|
|2||Stanley||Baldwin Class 10-12-D locomotives||Various, originally War Department Light Railways in World War One.||The Railway Series only. Built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and worked originally for the United States of America's army during the First World War. The loco played only a minor role in the book, as it was converted into a pumping engine before the book was set.|
|3||Falcon||Number 3 (informally known as 'The Falcon' following the withdrawal of the rest of the locomotives of its class from the railway).||Corris Railway (now Talyllyn Railway)||Built in 1904 by Henry Hughes and Company in the Falcon Works, Loughbrough, as an 0-4-0ST. Trailing wheels were later added to improve stability. Since the Mid-Sodor Railway's closure, this locomotive has worked on the Skarloey Railway.|
|4||Stuart||Number 4||Corris Railway (now Talyllyn Railway)||Built in 1920 by Kerr, Stuart & Co. in Stoke-on-Trent, to their standard 0-4-2ST 'Tattoo' design. Since the Mid-Sodor Railway's closure, this locomotive has worked on the Skarloey Railway.|
|5||Albert||Numbers 1-3 (these were identical).||Corris Railway (now Talyllyn Railway)||Built in 1904 by Henry Hughes and Company in the Falcon Works, Loughbrough, as an 0-4-0ST. Trailing wheels were later added to improve stability, making the loco an 0-4-2ST. Model railway layout only.|
|6||Jim||0-6-0T locomotive, of the same design as Tim, but without the side-plates. Model railway layout only. According to Rev. Awdry's scrapbook, this engine mostly worked goods trains.|
|7||Tim||0-6-0T locomotive, of the same design as Jim, but fitted with side plates giving it the appearance of a tram engine. Model railway layout only. According to Rev. Awdry's scrapbook, this engine mostly worked passenger trains.|
|8 and 9||Alfred & Atlas||2 identical Jouef Decauville locomotives, built in circa 1899. These were of Decauville's standard 'Type 1' 0-4-0PT design, but with shorter Chimneys and no Cabs. Model railway layout only. They primerally worked inside the mines that the MSR served, not on the railway itself. Only of these engines survived onto the second layout, as they were prone to motor failures. The loco on the second layout was numbered 9 and unnamed.|
|Jerry||Doll, Winifred, or Gertrude (these three were identical)||Sydenham Ironstone Quarry, King's Sutton, Oxfordshire (Doll and Gertrude are now at the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway)||0-6-0T locomotive built by Andrew Barclay Sons & Co. in their Caledonia Works, in circa 1919. Bought by the MSR second hand. One of 3 engines that the Mid Sodor Railway sold in 1936 due to financial hardships. Model railway layout only.|
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February 2020)
The Mid-Sodor Railway ran from Arlesburgh, and ending at King Orry's Bridge (near Peel Godred). It stopped at Arlesburgh Bridge Street, Ffarquhar Road, Marthwaite, Arlesdale Green, Arlesdale, Cas-ny-Harwin, Ulfstead Road, and Ballamoddey en route.
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