North Western Railway (fictional)
The North Western Railway is the main railway company featured in The Railway Series books by the Rev. W. Awdry and the TV series Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends. Although the company's name has never been specifically stated in either the books or on television it was mentioned as such in tie-in books such as "Island of Sodor, Its History, People and Railways" by the Rev. Awdry and also on some maps that were drawn to accompany the Railway Series.
The railway is situated on the fictional Island of Sodor and is usually referred to as the Fat Controller's Railway after the nickname of its chief executive or chairman Sir Topham Hatt.
The railway's motto is "Nil Unquam Simile", which is Latin for "There's nothing quite like it"!
NWR railway lines
The Main Line
This runs from Barrow to Tidmouth. It is run by the Fat Controller's biggest engines. The most important train is the Express (called the Wild Nor' Wester), usually pulled by Gordon the Big Engine. Other services are run by Henry the Green Engine, James the Red Engine and a diesel engine named Bear. Donald and Douglas also perform many duties on this line, and other locomotives work here. It connects with the Skarloey Railway at Crovan's Gate, where the Fat Controller's Works are located. Others like Murdoch can be seen pulling long heavy goods trains.
Thomas' Branch Line
This runs from Knapford to Ffarquhar. It was originally part of the Tidmouth, Knapford & Elsbridge Railway. When the Fat Controller took over, the original locomotives were replaced and the line was extended to serve the quarry at Ffarqhuar but was at one time planned to go a few miles further east to Ulfstead. Thomas the Tank Engine was put in charge, with his coaches Annie and Clarabel and for many years ran the line single-handedly. Toby the Tram Engine was later brought to help on the quarry line, and after the rebuilding of Knapford Harbour Percy the Small Engine took charge of general goods traffic. 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 some commence and finish at Tidmouth.
As well as the quarry and the harbour, notable locations on or near this line include the dairy, the bridge where Thomas went fishing, Mrs Kyndley's house and the old lead mine (which has been reopened as a uranium mine).
Edward's Branch Line
This goes from Wellsworth to the harbour at Brendam. It also links the china clay pits at Brendam with the main line. Edward the Blue Engine 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.
Some locations on this line featured in the stories include the Vicarage (where Trevor the Traction Engine lives) and the scrap yard.
The Little Western
This is the newest branch line on the NWR, having been reopened to regular services again in 1968, and is also known as Duck's branch line. It runs along the coast from Tidmouth to Arlesburgh West, where it connects with the Arlesdale Railway. It is used for transporting ballast, and is also very popular with tourists. Duck and Oliver are in charge, and the whole line is decorated in the style of the Great Western Railway. When the line was first opened in the 1920s it connected with the Mid Sodor Railway and intended to go further up the Sudrian western coast to Harwick but this extension was never built. When the Mid Sodor closed in the late 1940s the Arlesburgh branch became used only very rarely.
Peel Godred Branch
This branch runs from Kildane to the aluminium works at Peel Godred connecting with the Culdee Fell 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.
Other branch lines
On the maps of Sodor are shown three other branch lines that run from Vicarstown to Norramby via Ballahoo, Ballahoo to Crovan's Gate and Kellsthorpe Road to Kirkronan. Parts of these branches were first built by the Sodor & Mainland Railway. Apart from a brief glimpse of Kirkronan in the 1860s and the prominent appearance of Kirkronan Station in Series 5 of the TV series, none of these lines have featured in either the books or TV series, and nothing is known of the locomotives that worked them.
According to "research" by the Rev. Awdry the railway company was formed in 1914 from a government-sponsored merger of the two standard gauge rail companies that existed on Sodor. These were:
- The Sodor & Mainland Railway (S&M)
- The Tidmouth, Wellsworth & Suddery Railway (TW&S). This Railway had been formed in 1912 from a merger of the Tidmouth, Knapford & Elsbridge Railway (TK&E) and the Wellsworth & Suddery Railway.
The three railways were extended and brought into one system as a means of coastal defence and were connected to the British mainland by a Shertzer Lift Rolling Bridge designed by Topham Hatt. The bridge runs from Vicarstown to Barrow-in-Furness.
The company first had its headquarters at Vicarstown but were moved along with the main engine sheds to Tidmouth in 1926.
The main repair works for the railway are at Crovan's Gate close to the interchange station with the independently owned Skarloey Railway. Connections to Sodor's other railway companies are at Kirk Machan for the Culdee Fell Railway and Arlesburgh West for the Arlesdale or 'Small' 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. British Rail had running powers over the Bridge to operate the joint NWR/BR suburban service from Barrow to Norramby.
On through or express trains engines from the NWR are detached at Barrow and "Other Railway" engines 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.
When the railways in the United Kingdom were nationalised 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 how come steam traction was preserved on the railway. The other railways on the island were not affected by the nationalisation. Since privatisation 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.
On some promotional items to tie-in with the Railway Series books dating from the 1970s the NWR is called Sodor Rail and uses a logo similar to the famous British Rail one now used by the organisation National Rail.
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