Fictional locations in Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends
There are many fictional locations in Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, the television series based on The Railway Series of childrens' books by the Rev. W. Awdry and his son Christopher. They are all located on the Island of Sodor.
The Island of Sodor in the Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends television series differs significantly from that in The Railway Series books. The comprehensive history and geography of the island and its railways, developed by the Rev. Awdry and his brother George to ensure consistent portrayal in the stories, has largely been ignored. The television version of Sodor appears considerably larger, and has far more industry. It does not appear to be connected to the Mainland. Furthermore, the portrayal of the island has varied between series as different models have been used over the years.
The TV series features a number of stations and railway installations at towns and villages with names based on locations from the books. However, apart from the names, they have little or nothing else in common.
Towns and Villages
Arlesburgh is a town standing on either side of the River Arle estuary. There are two railway stations in the town the main one being Arlesburgh West on the North Western Railway and is the terminus of Duck's branch line. This is also the terminus of the Arlesdale Railway, and was once served by the Mid Sodor Railway. The other station is Arlesburgh Bridge Street and is served only by trains on the Arlesdale Railway.
The town is a popular tourist destination on Sodor, largely because of the Arlesdale Railway. It is also an ancient port which once boasted a steamer service to Douglas, Isle of Man, which was operated by the Mid Sodor Railway. Arlesburgh West station near the harbour was first opened in 1916. Although it more or less closed in 1947, as the mineral traffic for which it had largely been built had dried up, it was reopened in 1968 by the Fat Controller to transport ballast from the hills.
It was here that Bulgy the Double Decker Bus stole Duck and Oliver's passengers. It was also here that the troublesome truck, S.C. Ruffey or Scruffey was destroyed.
The NWR engine sheds at Arlesburgh are home to Duck, Oliver and sometimes Donald or Douglas.
On some early maps of Sodor including ones drawn by the Rev Awdry himself Arlesburgh is spelt Arlsburgh.
Arlesdale is the name of the River Arle valley and is the home of the Arlesdale Railway which runs from Arlesburgh at the mouth of the river to Arlesdale village itself.
Arelsdale village should not be confused with the nearby village of Arlesdale Green where the former Mid Sodor Railway had its main works and engine sheds.
Ballahoo is most notable for its tunnels on the main line of the North Western Railway of which there are two. The first was constructed in 1915 and, due to poor construction, partially collapsed. This left the tunnel in two sections.
The second tunnel was cut in 1922, when Henry the Green Engine stopped in the first tunnel and refused to come out. As it was impossible to move him, the Fat Director decided instead to cut a new bore. When Henry was finally removed, both tunnels remained in service. As a result of these events, the tunnels are nicknamed "Henry's Tunnel".
The only book in which the tunnels have played a significant role was The Three Railway Engines, the first book in The Railway Series, published in 1945. Although in the book the illustrations of the tunnel show that it has two bores throughout the two stories in which the tunnel is featured.
Ballahoo itself is a dormitory town for Barrow-in-Furness. It has a station served by a joint NWR/National Rail service from Barrow, and is on the Norramby branch.
Brendam is a town and a major port on the Island of Sodor.
In the television series, Brendam is the main harbour for the whole of Sodor. It is a very large port which requires the services of Salty the Dockside Diesel to deal with the large volume of traffic, assisted by Bill and Ben. Most of the other engines have worked here at one point or another, and there is an engine shed to house them. Cranky the Crane is also based here, and works hard loading and unloading ships.
A coastal branch line runs from the port, and is mainly used for fish traffic. The Sodor Shipping Company has a number of large warehouses here. Gordon's Express appears to start from here, meeting the passenger ships.
The post comes in through this port, and there is an ocean liner service. A popular attraction is the Regatta.
Christopher Awdry has criticised the design of this version of the harbour as being unrealistic, as it is far too large for the volume of traffic an island like Sodor would require. However, it should also be noted that the Sodor of the television series is generally very different to that of the books.
Many of the buildings, ships and cranes actually originated with another series, Tugs. This series was set in a large American port serving a major city, which goes some way to explaining the size of Brendam Docks.
Crovan's "Gate" is a narrow gap in the hills used to hold off invaders in the Island of Sodor's history. This has been expanded to allow road and rail to pass through. The name Crovan's Gate now also applies to a town which has grown up to serve the railway works and former quarries and mines in the area.
It is served by two railways. It is the terminus of the Skarloey Railway and a station on the main line of the North Western Railway. It is also the location of the North Western Railway's extensive works. Just east of Crovan's Gate the NWR's Ballahoo and Norramby branch leaves the main line; this line was at one time part of the Sodor & Mainland Railway. The NWR's express train from Tidmouth to Barrow calls at Crovan's Gate.
The NWR works are possibly the best-equipped steam locomotive works in the British Isles, and are capable of undertaking any repair, overhaul or restoration job for any locomotive on the Island. They have also played a major role in the construction of new engines for the Arlesdale and Skarloey Railways. The Fat Controller has also recently been looking into the possibility of manufacturing components for engines on heritage railways.
Dryaw is located on Thomas' branch line being the first station after the junction at Knapford, and is most notable in the stories for its airfield. This is the home of Harold, the helicopter owned by the Coastguard. It was here that Percy made his promise to get the Vicar's Sunday School back safely.
In the TV series the station is shown to have a small footbridge that runs over the rails and runs from the platform on one side to the platform on the other side. Dryaw also has a small picket fence running at the edge of the platform, separating the platform from the airfield.
The name is an anagram of "Awdry".
In the television series, Elsbridge Station is the junction station for Thomas's Branch Line. It is in the countryside and has two platforms. Sometimes in the TV series the junction was shown to be also Lower Tidmouth station. Elsbridge was introduced in Season 1, but has not been seen since from Season 4.
The name "Elsbridge" first appeared on a sketch map drawn by Rev. W. Awdry to illustrate the story in which Thomas the Tank Engine and Bertie the Bus have a race. The name comes from the town of Elsworth, where the Rev. Awdry was vicar at the time. In the Railway Series books, Elsbridge is a town close to Tidmouth and Knapford.
- Main Article: Ffarquhar
The town of Ffarquhar is the terminus of Thomas's branch line.
Gordon's Hill is a steep hill located after Wellsworth station and before Maron station. It was first introduced in the story "Edward and Gordon" in The Railway Series, and it has also featured as a prominent location in the TV series.
Gordon's Hill got its name after Gordon got stuck up on it and Edward had to push from behind. It is a place where a bank engine is often required to help trains up the hill. A further risk is that of runaway trains if there is insufficient braking power.
When the railway was first built, this already difficult stretch of track was made more treacherous by strong winds. The line now runs up an avenue of trees, which were planted to reduce this problem. However, this does mean that in autumn there can be the additional hazard of slippery leaves on the line, as James once discovered.
Interestingly, there is a real place in London called Gordon Hill, although it seems likely that this is a coincidence.
Knapford is the main town and the big train station on the Island of Sodor.
The station has four platforms, a glass roof, and about 8 trains a day. It contains The Fat Controller's office, and is the station where HM The Queen visited The Fat Controller. Gordon also pulls his Express out from there every day.
Knapford was introduced in Season 1 and has been in all seasons but Season 5.
The name "Knapford" first appeared on a sketch map drawn by Rev. W. Awdry to illustrate the story in which Thomas the Tank Engine and Bertie the Bus have a race. The name comes from the parish of Knapwell, where Awdry was vicar.
Peel is a station on the mainline. It has four platforms, two being on an island platform between the centre tracks. The station sign identifying it is clearly seen several times in Season 9 episode Thomas' Milkshake Muddle.
- Main Article: Tidmouth
Vicarstown is situated on the east coast of Sodor and is joined to the mainland via a bridge across the Walney Channel. Vickerstown is actually a town on the Isle of Walney, which Sodor replaces in the Irish Sea - the new name is an obvious choice for a town created by an Anglican priest.
Wellsworth lies near the coast at the northern end of a peninsula close to the island's former capital of Suddery. Near the village is a large hospital. The sheds at Wellsworth are home to both Edward the Blue Engine and BoCo the Diesel Engine who operate the branch line. Due to this Wellsworth is often called Edward's station in the books.
At one time the vicar of Wellsworth was the Rev Charles Laxey. Coincidentally, his son is now the vicar of the parish. As a result, Wellsworth vicarage is the home of Trevor the Traction Engine.
Wellsworth railway station is on the main line of the North Western Railway and serves as a junction for the Brendam Bay branch line. Although most trains run only between Wellsworth and Brendam some commence and finish at the big station at Tidmouth. The express train usually pulled by Gordon the Big Engine does not stop at Wellsworth, although it was once accidentally sent down the branch.
The line from Brendam to Wellsworth is one of Sodor's oldest and was at first known as the Wellsworth & Suddery Railway which was extended in the early part of the 20th century to Knapford to connect with other railways to become part of the NWR.
Wellsworth is known as Edward's station in the television series.
The scrap yards have no definite location but they can sure scare any engine. Iron 'Arry and Iron Bert work there. Oliver, Stepney and Trevor were saved from scrap. At the scrap yards there is a huge grabber and smelter. There are also old rusted steam locomotives lined up everywhere. They are mostly recycled stunt double locomotives that were used for crash scenes. Some examples of this happen to be that City Of Truro's model, Duck's old model, spare Gordon models and steam engines from TUGS. According to Douglas it is located on the Other Rrailway and only diesels go or work there.
Much emphasis is placed on the varying freight traffic carried around the island, since this allows for a greater range of storylines than would be the case for a purely passenger-carrying railway. To provide this traffic, a number of rail-served industries are present. For example, in the Season 9 story Thomas' Milkshake Muddle, the plot revolves around the carriage of milk (or butter) from the dairy to the ice cream factory and the bakery.
List of rail-served industries
The following is a list of the rail-served industries that have a direct bearing on the plotlines in episodes of the TV series:
- Bakery - Season 9
- Dairy - Season 9
- Ice cream factory - Season 9
- Mr. Jolly's Chocolate Factory - Season 6