The Mid Sodor Railway is a now-closed 2ft. 3in. gauge which ran from Arlesburgh where it connected with the North Western Railway (formerly Tidmouth, Knapford & Elsbridge Light Railway) and the sea at the 'Port.' Running alongside the River Arle, the line passes Ffarquhar Road, Marthwaite and Arlesdale where the main engine sheds, carriage sheds and workshops were located. The line then enters the 'Mountain Section' running through to Cas-ny-Hawin, Ulfstead Road (the highest station on the line at 867 ft. above sea level), and Ballamoodey before finally terminating at King Orry's Bridge just outside of Peel Godred. The line is now closed, but the 'Valley Section' inbetween Arlesburgh and Arlesdale (excluding the line to the 'Port') is now reopened as the Arlesdale Miniature Railway in 1967. The Mid Sodor was also responsible for the existance of the Culdee Fell Mountain Railway, although operated by a seperate company. The Mid Sodor Heritage Railway Trust, formed in 1969, restored the other section of the line to trains since the 1970's.
The origins of the Mid Sodor Railway began in 1867 when the Sodor & Mainland Railway began plans to extend their mainline to access the fortified town of Peel Godred by running through the Cronk Valley. By 1870, the S&M ran out of money to commit these plans so the committe of Peel Godred decided to build a railway themselves instead.
The original plan of the railway was to run from the town limits of Peel Godred running down the floor of the valley going alongside the Hawin Ab passing through the towns of Cronk, Killdane finally ending at Kellsthorpe Road junctioning with the S&M. But a threat of closure was looming over the S&M so the company had to look elsewhere. Finally, a plan was decided to run through the Arle Valley connecting the mines at Cas-ny-Hawin, to the bustling port of Arlesburgh.
The mines at Cas-ny-Hawin already had their own railway built several years earlier. The line was originally horse drawn, but following the Skarloey Railway's path in 1866 the line adopted steam traction. Passengers were passed on the route, but free of charge at their own risk and were considered responsible for their own items in case if they were lost or destroyed during the trip.
Arrangements were made and the Peel Godred Committee met up the Cas-ny-Hawin Mine Owners at Ulfstead Castle with the presence of the Earl of Sodor, and the Mid Sodor Railway Company was formed in 1872 and construction started as soon as possible. The tramway was bought and relaid to support the rules accustomed by the Board of Trade in order to carry passengers. After the 'Valley Section' completed construction, there had to be plans made for the final strech of the journey to Peel Godred. A road built for stagecoaches from Marthwaite to Peel Godred was built which raised suspision of competition of passenger traffic when the railway was opened, so they bought the road in hope to earn revenue to support construction through the mountains.
Mr. C.E. Spooner, the chairman of the Ffestiniog Railway was called to help with trackplans but was already occupied with the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway, so his son Edwin was called to the challenge. He devised a plan for the railway to run in a collection of reverse loops and that the average length of the track to at least 2 or 6 miles. He also plotted that the easiest way to get to Peel Godred was to go past Ulfstead Road which was plotted to be the highest station on the line at 867 ft. above sea level. He said that at least 3 level places at Cas-ny-Hawin, Ulfstead Road and Ballamoodey should be built in order to let the steam locomotives rest before the next climb on the railway. Edwin's propositions were accepted and the arrangement of the track would be S-shaped running through at least 4 tunnels while passing Cas-ny-Hawin, Ulfstead Road and Ballamoodey. Two of the tunnels were constructed, but then the company was running out of money to complete the other ones. Cuttings were planned to save costs, but this couldn't happen with the insuficient funds. Fourtantly, there was no expensive civil engineering involved, and plans of a grand central station in the town of Arlesburgh were relunctantly given up once a roofed station was built on cheaper land near the Bridge Street road.
In 1880, construction was finished after many long years of labour. The railway had hoped to open in June instead of September, but the inspector was worried about the narrow clearences in the 'Mountain Road' and, although finding no other fault, failed the line. The Spooners objected to this and proved the clearences were safer even than those on the Ffestiniog. With reluctance, the Inspector payed back a second visit in early September and passed the line, on the condition that the carriage doors were locked inbetween Arlesdale and Ulfstead Road and that at least two waterstops would be put at each station. The foreign passengers who visited the railway disliked the drill with the doors and complained that they were being imprisioned without trial.
The railway ran well for many years until 1923 when the Peel Godred Electric Board decided to build a hydroelectric power station and was planning to use the railway for assistance with construction. The railway was deemed "too small" for use, and the North Western Railway aggreed to service it instead with a new branchline built from Killdane. Once the power station had been completed, the Fat Controller decided to keep the railway in place due to the demand of smooth travels by the people of Peel Godred. This proved to be disastrous for the MSR, which ate away nearly half of it's yearly passenger traffic on the Mountain Road. Still, the railway struggled until 1936 once the Manager finally decided to completely shut down the section and the railway lost it's main reason of existance. The railway continued to struggle until the 1940's when high demand came for the slate and lead that was being mined on the railway, and the mines were completely drained of it's minerals for the war effort.
Eventually, only one lead mine remained at Cas-ny-Hawin until 1947 when the pumping engine (which was powered by the boiler of the MSR's former No. 2) broke down and the mines were flooded. At last, the railway was shut down the following year and saw the sale of the last two engines to Peel Godred to work on the industrial railway at the Aluminum Works. Battery powered locomotives saw them off and they were sheeted away for nearly a year until they were bought along with several ex-MSR stock to the Skarloey Railway which already shared the 2ft. 3in. gauge track of the Mid Sodor. No. 1 (Duke) never saw a sale at the railway's end due to his age and was sheeted and locked away in the main sheds at Arlesdale until recovery in 1969 by the Thin Clergyman (Wilbert Awdry) and the Fat Clergyman (Teddy Boston). Duke was restored by 1987 and was reused on the Skarloey Railway. The fate of the other engines who worked on the Mid Sodor along with Duke, Stanley, Falcon and Stuart remains unknown.
The Mid Sodor Railway was a fairly long railway running from Arlesburgh to King Orry's Bridge at a distance of, at least, more or less than 25 miles across with a branchline at Ffarquhar Road, Marthwaite and Cas-ny-Hawin which went to mines to mine either granite, lead and slate. The line started at the oceanside town of Arlesburgh where there were two stations. One was at The 'Port', the terminus of the boat express trains and mining trains. Bridge Street was the main station, it had a timber roof with two platforms and a goods yard with engine and carriage sheds. From here, the line carried on until it reached Ffarquhar Road, crossing the B5120 road heading south towards Ffarquhar. Here, a branch line went towards a granite mine which helped to supply granite for the station on the road. The site of the granite mine is now occupied by a factory. From here the line crosses the River Arle and follows the B5523 road towards Marthwaite, where there was a goods yard and a lead mine south of the village. Arlesdale Green was reached within half of a mile of Marthwaite. Was originally only a small hut and a grass platform as the main station at Arlesdale was close by. The 'Green' was later given a gravel platform and a station sign. On the corner of the B5523 road in the village of Arlesdale, the Mid Sodor had it's main engine workshops and carriage sheds. This station served as the MSR's top station in the late years of the line. The line continues on and eventually reaches the isolated hamlet of Cas-ny-Hawin, where a branchline heads off to the south and serves several slate and lead mines. The mines are now closed, but they are still used as ballast extracts for the Arlesdale Miniature Railway which built it's tracks over the former 'Valley Section' of the Mid Sodor in 1967. The line now enters the second tunnel and the 'Mountain Road' is accessed crossing Ulfstead Road, Ballamoodey and three more tunnels before finally coming to end on the outskirts of the town of Peel Godred near King Orry's Bridge. There were plans to extend the MSR into the heart of the town but money ran out and protests were made by the villagers who didn't want to be kicked out of their homes because of the railway. This helped to shut down the Mid Sodor because the Electric Branch Line from Killdane was more closer to the town and easier to access. There were also plans to build branchlines to access the towns of Kirk Machan and Ulfstead but of course, due to the lack of funds from building the tunnels on the 'Mountain Road,' nothing came of these plans.
The heaviest of the passenger traffic on the Mid Sodor was carried out inbetween Peel Godred and Arlesburgh and earned reasonable revenue throughout the years, but it was the mines that were the real big tycoons. The Mid Sodor incouraged more passengers to travel by their railway by promoting tourism through the 'Mountain Road' and conjunctioning with a steamer service to the nearby Isle of Man. The average time it took to travel from The 'Port' to King Orry's Bridge was at least one hour and thirty minutes for the local stopping trains, but the 'pride' of the line were the Boat Express trains that ran in connection with the steamers incoming from the Isle of Man. as well as the Picnic trains which provided tourists and holidaymakers with a pleasure of enjoying scenic areas and picnics. The local stopping trains were considered 'top priority' and a clear run was required. With stops only at Arlesdale and Ulfstead Road, the time only took one hour and a quarter, which was considered fast to narrow gauge standards. Special observation coaches were built at Arlesdale to make sure the passengers could get a good view of the scenery surrounding the railway. The trains were usually 4 coaches long but the trains was extended to 6 during the busy seasons.
Holidaymakers had their own special train known as 'The Picnic'. It ran inbetween Easter and Christmas, leaving the 'Port' at 10 am calling at all stations and picnic stops along the line managing to get back at 5:10 in time for tea.
Mining trains were paid and provided for by the owners of the mining company at Cas-ny-Hawin which the Mid Sodor served. Goods services were slow to shunt and the guard's van was used to transport parcels inbetween towns. Mixed trains were tried, but the passengers complained about the long time it took to shunt the wagons behind the coaches. The dillema with the goods trains were sorted by creating a slow goods train called the Horse and Cart, named because it covered the line at a very slow pace covering the line in less than 2 and a half hours. It ran daily stopping at all stations to pick up or to put away goods wagons to service the villagers. A secondhand passenger service was also carried on the Horse and Cart with the brakevan, but the company did not guarantee any arrival times at the stations.
Duke (No. 1) - The first (official) locomotive bought by the Mid Sodor Railway Company built in 1879 at the Hatcham Iron Works in New Cross, South London. He handled the Picnic trains during the prime years of the MSR, but when the passenger services declined in the 1930's, Duke was used more on goods trains and mining trains. Now works on the Skarloey Railway as their No. 8.
Stanley (No. 2) - An ex-War Department 10-12-D Class locomotive built by Baldwin in 1917, bought secondhand by the Mid Sodor in order to keep the mainline traffic to keep going through the 1920's. Uneven wheels and cumbersome size proved too much for the weak track and the engine often derailed. Eventually turned into a stationary boiler and used to power the pumping engine at one of the mines at Cas-ny-Hawin. Finally wore out in 1946, and scrapped following the MSR's closure.
Falcon (No. 3) - Bought to the MSR in 1903 with two others of his class to replace the worn out tramway locomotives. Was originally a 0-4-0ST, but problems with the wheelbase eventually came to a head and trailing wheels were added. Was the only operateable engine in the late years of the line with No. 1 worn out and No. 4's firebox in sore need of repair. Now works on the Skarloey Railway as their No. 3, "Sir Handel."
Stuart (No. 4) - Purchased by the MSR in 1920 from the Kerr Stuart Engine Works (along with No. 6 'Jim') to replace the original No. 4 (Albert) which was, by then, scrapped. His firebox was in sore need of repair in 1937 and was laid out of service at Arlesdale leaving only No. 3 (Falcon) the only operatable engine by the time the line closed in 1947. Now works on the Skarloey Railway as their No. 4 "Peter Sam," with a Giesel ejector funnel to improve performance.
Jerry (No. 5) - A Fletcher Jennings Class Bb Locomotive (Same engine class as Rheneas) bought straight from the shops in 1917. Was one of the locomotives sold away in 1936. Nothing of his fate is known.
Jim (No. 6) - Another Kerr Stuart locomotive bought somewhere around the 1920's to handle the goods services. Was rumored to be sold around 1927. Nothing of his fate is known.
Tim (No. 7) - A small 0-4-0 locomotive modified with sideplates to work on the roadside tramways that went to the mines at Cas-ny-Hawin. Was one of the strangest locomotives on the railway because no one knew what locomotive class he was nor where he came from, but looked similar to the Avonside built Charlton class locomotives. Was one of the locomotives sold away in 1936. Nothing of his fate is known.
Atlas - A Deacuville locomotive built in France in 1916, Atlas was one of the mine engines bought by the Cas-ny-Hawin to bring minerals out of the mines to connect with the Mid Sodor. Was one of the locomotives sold away in 1936. Nothing of his fate is known.
Alfred - A Deacuville locomotive built in France in 1916, Alfred was one of the mine engines bought by the Cas-ny-Hawin to bring minerals out of the mines to connect with the Mid Sodor. Was considered worn out by 1929 and was soon taken apart to be used as spare parts for Atlas.
There were other locomotives on the MSR that were not researched well before they were scrapped.
Arlesdale Tramway Locomotives - These engines were bought by the Cas-ny-Hawin Mining Company to service the tramway that preceded the MSR. When their line was absorbed into the MSR, they were worn out by this time so they were scrapped and replaced by three Falcon Hughes locomotives (No. 2, Falcon, Albert) as early as 1907. Not much is known about these locomotives, but some people say they were vertical boiler engines similar to the De Winton vertical boiler engines. Chaloner is an example of this engine.
Original No. 2 - One of the batch of three Falcon Hughes built locomotives bought in 1907 to replace the original tramway locomotives. He was worn out by 1917 and was scrapped. His number was taken by Stanley. He was never named.
Albert (Original No. 4) - One of the batch of three Falcon Hughes built locomotives bought in 1907 to replace the original tramway locomotives. He was worn out by 1917 and was scrapped. His number was taken by Stuart.
Unnamed Green Engine - A 0-6-0 tank engine bought to assist with goods traffic on the MSR. Not much is known about this engine, let alone his fate.
Unnamed Red Engine - A 0-4-2 tank engine bought to assist with goods traffic on the MSR. Not much is known about this engine, let alone his fate.
When the Mid Sodor Railway closed in 1947, it's properties were sold all over Sodor. The biggest buyer of ex-MSR properties was the Skarloey Railway.
No. 3 (Falcon) and No. 4 (Stuart) were sent to the railway's former terminus, Peel Godred, to work on the industrial railway at the Aluminum Works. In 1949, they were finally retired and sheeted until Sir Handel Lloyd Brown II bought them to be reused on the Skarloey Railway as a backup for No. 2 (Rheneas) and No. 1 (Skarloey) who were being mended at the time. They still work there to this day as Sir Handel and Peter Sam.
No. 1 (Duke) however, was not sold due to his age. But since the Manager was reluctant to scrap him, Duke was sheeted and locked away in the main engine sheds at Arlesdale for nearly twenty years before recovery in 1969 by the Thin Clergyman (Wilbert Awdry) and the Fat Clergyman (Teddy Boston). Duke was taken to Crovan's Gate where he was given a complete rebiild and overhaul. He finally returned to service in 1987 on the Skarloey Railway.
Plenty of rolling stock from the MSR was saved as well. Since Mr. Peter Sam found a ex-MSR carriage body for sale in Harwick in 1950, at least 8 bogie carriages have been saved and rebuilt for use on the Skarloey Railway with one being used as a saloon carriages for VIP's. Gertrude and Millicent were two of these carriages. Also, a brakevan was bought in 1951 named Cora as a extra brakevan to be used when Beatrice was absent. With the arrival of Millicent in 1961, Cora was reverted to be used as a tool van for maintenence duties and now works with Rusty and Fred.
The trackbed of the 'Valley Section' of the Mid Sodor was partly reused as the Arlesdale Miniature Railway to export the mine wastes at Cas-ny-Hawin to Killdane conjunctioning with the North Western Railway to use as weed killing ballast on the railways. Only the track to The 'Port' and the section of trackbed inbetween Arlesdale Green and the Works Station (Arlesdale) have not been restored.
The 'Mountain Road' inbetween Arlesdale and King Orry's Bridge lay in disuse since 1936. Traffic through the Arle Valley today is now handled by the B5523 and B5524 roads. There has been a preservation society formed in 1969 dedicated to restoring every piece of the MSR they could, and from this formed the Mid Sodor Heritage Railway.
Awdry, Wilbert: Four Little Engines
Awdry, Wilbert: The Little Old Engine
Awdry, Wilbert: Small Railway Engines
Awdry, Wilbert: Duke the Lost Engine
Awdry, Wilbert: The Island of Sodor: It's People, History & Railways
Awdry, Wilbert: Sodor: Reading Between The Lines