The North Western Railway is a 4ft. 8in. gauge line (formely known as The Fat Controller's Railway) that was first created in 1914 after a government-funded joining of Sodor's standard gauge railways to aide a rumored military blockade against Ireland. The railways involved were the Sodor & Mainland Railway, Tidmouth, Knapford & Elsbridge Light Railway, and the Wellsworth & Suddery Railway. In 1948, it became the '"North-Western Region of British Railways'", but this term was never used as the railway kept its operating independence. With Privatisation of British Railways in the early 1990s, it officially became the North Western Railway.
The railway's motto is "Nil unquam simile", which, translated from Latin, means "There's nothing quite like it!"
During World War I, Ireland was threating the British Isles that they would try and unite with Germany and the Axis Powers. Sodor was the closest landmass south of Ireland, and the Ministry of Defence thought it could be useful to have a military blockade situated on the island to defend against the Irish. By order of the British Parliament and the Ministry of Defence, the three major standard gauge railways on Sodor were bought, rebuilt and united together to make a military railway to support these blockades. The MoD also ordered the construction of a bridge that connected the new railway to the British mainland by a Scherzer rolling lift bridge of 120ft span and double track designed by Topham Hatt I, the newly-elected chairman of the railway, and erected in 1915. The bridge still runs over the Walney Channel from Vicarstown to Barrow-in-Furness.
After World War I, the trouble was over and the railway was taken into full ownership of Topham Hatt I who rebuilt the railway to serve the Sudrian inhabitants and the other railways. The main repair works for the railway were constructed at Crovan's Gate close to the interchange station with the independently owned Skarloey Railway. In the 1920's, connections to Sodor's other railway companies at Kirk Machan for the Culdee Fell Mountain Railway and Arlesburgh West for the Mid-Sodor Railway.
The North Western Railway has had running rights into Barrow Central since the agreement with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1925. Until the construction of the Jubilee Road Bridge in 1977, the NWR had rights of car-ferry and worked an intensive and profitable service.
On suburban or express trains engines from the NWR are detached at Barrow and engines from the Other Railway take over. Since 1925, the NWR has also had its own loco shed, turntable and servicing facility here. There is also a joint goods yard for exchange traffic. British Rail then had running powers over the Bridge to operate a joint NWR/BR suburban service from Barrow to Norramby.
When the railways in the United Kingdom were nationalised in 1948, Sodor was affected too with the North Western Railway becoming the North Western Region of British Railways however the railway was allowed to keep a large degree of independence from the rest of the network; this is why steam traction was preserved on the railway. The other railways on the island were not affected by the nationalisation. Since Privitization of British Railways, the railway has again become the North Western Railway Company and unlike most post-privatisation train companies, is responsible for the running of the freight and passenger operations and for the maintenance of the track and infrastructure of the railway.
The main line runs from Barrow to Tidmouth. It is run by the Fat Controller's main line-certified engines. The most important train is the Express (called the Wild Nor' Wester), usually pulled by Gordon until 2011 when Pip and Emma took over for a faster, more direct service inbetween Tidmouth and London. Other services are run by Henry, James and a diesel engine named Bear. Donald and Douglas also perform many duties on this line, and other locomotives work here. Murdoch can be seen pulling long heavy goods trains. It connects with the Skarloey Railway at Crovan's Gate, where the Fat Controller's Works are located.
The Ffarquhar Branch Line (or Thomas' Branch Line) runs from Knapford to Ffarquhar. There was once a plan to extend to the nearby town of Ulfstead, but these plans have so far been shelved. It was originally part of the Tidmouth, Knapford & Elsbridge Railway, but when the Fat Controller took over the original locomotives were replaced with Thomas and the line was extended to serve the quarry at Ffarqhuar. Thomas was put in charge, with his coaches Annie and for many years ran the line single-handedly. Toby was later brought to help on the quarry line after a muddle with a policeman. After the rebuilding of Knapford Harbour, Percy took charge of general goods traffic and stone traffic from the quarry. A diesel railcar named Daisy assists with passenger services. The Ffarquhar Quarry Company owns a diesel shunter called Mavis, who sometimes comes down the branch line. Most passenger services run between Knapford and Ffarquhar but the main commuter trains finish at Tidmouth.
As well as the quarry and the harbour, notable locations on or near this line include the Elsbridge Dairy the bridge where Thomas went fishing, Mrs Kyndley's house and the Toryreck Lead Mines (which has been reopened as a uranium mine).
Edward's Branch Line (once the Wellsworth & Suddery Railway) goes from Wellsworth to the harbour at Brendam. It also links the china clay pits at Brendam with the main line. Edward is in charge here, assisted by BoCo the diesel. Donald and Douglas help out. Sodor China Clay owns two small tank engines, Bill and Ben, who work at the clay pits and the docks. At peak times passenger services also run along the main line to and from Tidmouth.
The Little Western (also known as the Arlesburgh Branch, or Duck's Branch Line), is the newest on the NWR, having been reopened to regular services in 1967. It is known as "The Little Western" because the stations on the line are decorated in the style of the Great Western Railway (GWR); Duck and Oliver (both ex-GWR engines) are in charge; and the passenger coaches are ex-GWR autocoaches, Isabel, Dulcie, Alice and Mirabel, with a ex-GWR Toad brakevan handling goods services.
The line runs along the coast from Tidmouth to Arlesburgh West, where it connects with the Arlesdale Miniature Railway. It is used for transporting ballast for the NWR, while also being very popular with tourists. Freight services are mainly handled by Donald and Douglas, who are also based on the branch line.
The Tidmouth, Knapford & Elsbridge Light Railway opened this line in the early 1900's in order to connect with the Mid-Sodor Railway with Tidmouth and the rest of Sodor exchanging lead, slate, and goods for tourists. After the Mid-Sodor ceased operations in the late 1940's, the branchline was only kept open by demands of the beachside villagers who still used the railway for transport of their goods. Once the Arlesdale Miniature Railway reopened the MSR;s former Valley Section to trains in 1967, the branch was reopned in order to transport the minewaste to Killdane to be processed into weed-free ballast for the NWR in exchange for tourists.
The Peel Godred branch line runs from Kildane to the aluminium works at Peel Godred and connecting with the Culdee Fell Mountain Railway at Kirk Machan. Although the line has never featured prominently in the Railway Series books or the TV series, according to the Rev. Awdry, the line uses electric locomotives powered from the power station at Peel Godred. Christopher Awdry says in the book Sodor: Reading Between the Lines that goods traffic is hauled by engines similar to the British Rail Class 87 electric locomotive. Passenger trains consist of electric multiple units.
The construction of this branch was largely responsible for the closure of the Mid-Sodor Railway.
The Peel Godred branch was seen in one illustration in the book Mountain Engines but without any indication that it was an electric railway. However in Henry and the Express an electrified line is visible.
On the maps of Sodor, there is a branch line that runs from Kirk Ronan going to Rolf's Castle and merging with the NWR Main Line at Kellsthrope Road. This branch was first built by the Sodor & Mainland Railway. Only a few places on this branch was seen in the Railway Series; the most notable place was the 'Port' that Skarloey was shipped to after being built in England.
An extension of the Sodor & Mainland Railway's attempt to avoid the Ballahoo Ridge when tunneling attempts failed, to reach Vicarstown and the mainland. Unfourtantly, it never did and the line went bankrupt in 1910. When the North Western Railway bought up the former S&M trackage, the line was extended beyond Ballahoo to reach the nearby seaside town of Norramby. There are no recorded locomotives that runs this line, but it was said that the Other Railway made a DMU service inbetween Barrow and Norramby. But with the Privitization of British Railways in the 1990's, it is not known if the DMU service is still running.
Thomas (No. 1) - A LB&SCR Class E2 0-6-0T tank engine designed by Lawson B. Billington, locomotive superintendent of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway between 1911 and 1922. The E2s were introduced in 1915 to replace earlier members of the E1 class, which had been scrapped. The last five in the ten strong class had extended side tanks to give a greater water capacity but all engines had two inside cylinders and driving wheels 4'6" in diameter. Thomas was bought to Sodor in 1915 to help with the construction of the North Western Railway, and remained after the completion. The engine was first used as pilot at Tidmouth and then Vicarstown, before being drafted in to the Ffarquhar Branch line. The engine is now based at Ffarquhar. After an accident with a stationmaster's house, Thomas' footplate front was made straight. Thomas runs on the Ffarquhar Branch Line with Annie and Clarabel, and the help of Toby, Percy and Daisy. Toby runs the branch extension to the Quarry, and the private Quarry line itself is run by Mavis. Serving the Ffarquhar railhead as a railway bus is Bertie.
Edward (No. 2) - A 4-4-0 tender locomotive of the "larger Seagull" type built by Sharp Stewart in 1896 which once worked on the Furness Railway. Edward is based at Wellsworth (Edward's junction) for work on the Brendam Branch Line which he works with BoCo to the Brendam Bay China Clay quarry and Bill and Ben.
Henry (No. 3) - Sir Topham Hatt ordered a locomotive which resembled the GCR 4-4-2 Atlantic tender engine. What he actually received was a 4-6-0 tender engine which was a cross between an A3 pacific and a nightmare. Henry was a poor steamer and is believed to be the result of the LMS’s secret attempt to recreate the A3 pacific locomotive dating from about 1923. The locomotive crisis at the time on the NWR meant that they had to live with the result! In 1935 after an accident involving “The Flying Kipper” Henry was sent to Crewe for a major rebuild, into an engine which resembled the LMS Stanier Black Five 4-6-0. On return to Sodor Henry has proved to be a much more reliable machine. The main difference is that due to the shorter runs on Sodor, Henry has a low capacity Fowler tender. Henry has always been based at Tidmouth for working mainline services.
Gordon (No. 4) - An experimental engine, built by the Great Northern Railway (before the LNER was formed in 1923) in 1922 of which later became the class A3 Pacifics (4-6-2), of which the Flying Scotsman is the only other survivor. Having only been an experimental locomotive Gordon never received a number but was later rebuilt at Crewe and now has LMS under-parts. Shortly after arrival on Sodor, Gordon stalled on the large hill in the middle of the line, and hence its name. Gordon has always been based at Tidmouth for working the Main Line, which he works with Henry, James, Bear, Donald and Douglas.
James (No. 5) - An experimental 2-6-0 Hughes superheated tender engine. James is a mixed traffic locomotive and based at Tidmouth for the main line runs.
Percy (No. 6) - An Avonside 0-4-0ST of unknown origin, but is almost certainly second hand, with “Hunslet parts”. Percy arrived o Sodor sometime before 1935 and was first used as Tidmouth Pilot, then to help rebuild Knapford Harbour. Percy is now based at Ffarquhar.
Toby (No. 7) - A LNER J70 Class tram locomotive with side plates and cowcatchers, which were introduced in 1903 to replace the earlier Y6 engines. Designed by James Holden for working the docks at Great Yarmouth, Ipswich and Lowestoft, they carry a mere 15cwt of coal and only 625 gallons of water. Toby needs to stop for water at Elsbridge on each journey as otherwise it would be too long for him to complete. Toby (presumed to be No. 68221, built in Stratford in 1914) arrived in 1951 from the then recently closed Wisbech and Upwell tramway for use on the quarry line between Ffarquhar and Anophia. Toby is still based at Ffarquhar for this and other duties on the Ffarquhar branch.
Duck (No. 8) - An 0-6-0PT of the 5700 class introduced on the GWR from 1929 by Mr. Collett for Branch line passenger and goods work. Duck's real name is Montague and the number that he carried when he arrived on Sodor was 5741 (although this may well not have been his original number). Duck arrived in 1955 to replace Percy as Tidmouth Station Pilot, which he did until in 1967 he was transferred to Arlesburgh to operate the re-opened branch line to Tidmouth. The Arlesburgh-Tidmouth line is known as Duck's Branch line. Duck works it with Oliver, Donald and Douglas, and at Arlesburgh can be found the Small Railway.
Donald and Douglas (Nos. 9 and 10) - Both locomotives are 0-6-0 (812 class) tender engines built from 1899 onwards by the Caledonian Railway to the design of Mr Macintosh. There was a mix up when the engines arrived in Sodor in 1959 as originally only one locomotive had been ordered, but two arrived. They are believed to be numbers 57646 and 57647, but no one is quite sure which one is which! Both are based at Tidmouth to work freight services on the Island of Sodor.
Oliver (No. 11) - A GWR 0-4-2T 1400 Autotank locomotive built for branch line work. Oliver arrived in Sodor in 1967 and was saved from scrap. Believed to be number 1436. Now based at Arlesburgh for working the branch line.
Barry (No. 12) - Either an LMS Ivatt Class 2MT 2-6-0 or a BR Standard Class 2MT 2-6-0 tender engine, brought to assist Donald and Douglas with mixed traffic services across Sodor. Arrived in 1995 and was due to appear in a 'Railway Series' book, but was overshadowed by the 50th anniversary of the Railway Series book's publication. Named after the Barry Island Scrapyards in Northern Wales where he first came from.
Daisy (No. D1) - A single car Diesel Railcar, similar in design to many first generation BR DMU', Daisy was specially built to work on the Ffarquhar branch line in 1960.
BoCo (No. D2) - A Co-Bo Diesel-Electric Type 2 locomotive built by Metropolitan Vickers from 1958. Originally number D5702, BoCo was released for trials on the Island of Sodor in 1965 and eventually purchased by NWR for use on The Brendam Branch Line. BoCo is based at Wellsworth.
Bear (No. D3) - A BR Class 35 Bo-Bo Hymek Diesel Hydraulic originally numbered D7101 which arrived on Sodor in 1967. Bear is used on mainline services on Sodor and based at Tidmouth.
The Works Diesel (No. D5) - A BR Clas 47 Diesel engine bought to assist in the order of shunting and handling duties around Crovan's Gate and the NWR Workshops. Dosen't really have a name but has been dubbed by the workmen as 'Wendell.'
Pip and Emma (Nos. D7 and D8) - A BR 'InterCity' Class 125 HST (High-Speed Train) bought to Sodor to replace Gordon on the mainline express services inbetween Tidmouth and London in 2011 for a faster, more direct service. Based at Tidmouth when not in service.
There are some other engines that are owned by other companies, but are allowed to run on NWR metals during loan periods.
Bill and Ben (Nos. SCC 1 and SCC 2) - Two 0-4-0ST low-hung saddle tank locomotives built by Bagnalls for the Sodor China Clay company. They are used on the line from Brendam to the clay workings and harbour system at Brendam.
Mavis (No. FQC 1) - A BR Class 04 0-6-0 diesel shunter used by the Ffarquhar Quarry company at Anophia Quarry to shunt stone trucks. Occasionally she is used to take trucks to Ffarquhar.