The Mid-Sodor Heritage Railway is a narrow gauge railway on the Island of Sodor. The majority of the line is officially reopened.
At Arlesdale, it meets the Arlesdale or Small Controller's Railway.
With the rediscovery of Mid Sodor Railway No.1 Duke at the former Arlesdale sheds in 1969, interest in the former railway began to resurge, sufficient that in the early 1970s it was proposed to found a Heritage Society dedicated to preserving its memory.
The Mid Sodor Railway Heritage Society was official established with the holding of its first meeting in Ulfstead Castle in 1972, one hundred years to the day that the original company was founded. Equally fitting was that this was the same place in which the meetings leading to the creation of MSR was held, and that the Earl of Sodor, Richard Robert Norramby, was in attendance, just like his Great-Great-Grandfather, John Arnold Norramby. In a further symbolic gesture, Richard was elected by the members as the Chairman of the new society, mirroring John’s chairmanship of the original MSR.
The new society immediately began looking to establish a permanent museum dedicated to the life and times of the MSR, and were fortunate to find a willing supporter in the form of Elizabeth Carpenter, resident of Kirk Machan and independent MP for Sodor East. The political influence of Ms Carpenter and the Earl were together able to secure the society a 99-year leasehold on the former station site at King Orry’s Bridge from the Sodor County Council, who were using it as a lockup for their Highway Maintenance equipment (including a very cantankerous steamroller). In addition to the station, a sympathetic landowner donated to the society the half-mile of trackbed immediately to the west, on which they planned to establish a demonstration line.
The site of the former station had remained relatively undeveloped during its years with the council, and due to its sheltered location in the lee of Peel Godred’s town walls the abandoned buildings had aged well, and were quickly renovated and developed into the Mid Sodor Heritage Railway Museum, which opened in 1974, just in time to celebrate a century since the original railway opened for passenger traffic between Arlesburgh and Arlesdale. In 1975, a 180hp Diesel Locomotive was acquired to help lay the half-mile demonstration line and operate trains on it, and kept sheeted under tarpaulins for the better part of six months while a supply of rails and sleepers was located, as well as rolling-stock with which to run short trains.
The spring of 1976 marked the groundbreaking ceremony on the new line, and it was at this time that the new Diesel earned her embarrassing moniker of ‘Buzz’. After initial teething problems however, the volunteers laid track west, gained HMRI certification, and soon visitors to the museum could enjoy a pleasant (if short) train-ride beside Peel Godred’s mighty fortifications, using two vintage MSR bogie saloons graciously sent on ‘long-term-loan’ by the Skarloey Railway.
1980 marked the Centennial of the opening of the MSRs Peel Godred Extension. To celebrate the society made arrangement with the Skarloey Railway to hire their No.8, ‘The Duke’, who celebrated his 100 birthday in the same year old, along with a third surviving MSR saloon. The event, featuring a complete MSR-trainset, was a huge success, and the sight of steam returned to King Orry’s Bridge catalysed the ambitions of the society’s membership, to restore as much of the railway as possible!
Come Hell or High Water
The most evident problem was that after the line had closed the Official Receiver had disposed of the land. Sections containing road crossings had been purchased by the county council to ensure their upkeep, others by farmers, and the entire Ulfstead Road to Arlesdale section had been purchased by the Sodor Island Trust (SIT), with the majority being used as a footpath, and the remainder as an access road to their tourist information centre at Cas-Ny-Hawin. The challenge seemed enormous, and while initial enquiries were smooth, the debate was soon to become fractious. While the council and many landowners were willing to sell off their sections of the trackbed, others were not so welcoming, and relations with SIT turned from cordial to downright militant, and soon the locals began taking sides. The argument was made that the railway when it closed was uneconomic, little-used, and that the section to be restored, the Mountain Road, had failed as a tourist attraction as early as 1936.
“…The Mid Sodor Railway Heritage Society,” said one particularly inflammatory (and anonymous) letter published in the Peel Godred Gazette, “seem so determined to play trains, that they are ignoring the lessons that history taught their forebears, and in stirring up old arguments they seem set to lead the entire district to Hell in a handbasket. Their motivations are questionable, their business strategy unsound, their attitude high-handed, and their sole objective seems to be to destroy the beauty and serenity of the Cas-Ny-Hawin valley, by laying a railway along what is now an extremely popular footpath…”
In response, Ms Carpenter, newly re-elected to Parliament in the 1983 General Election, made a public statement, pointing out that the tourist trade that made Sodor so wealthy was a market created by the efforts of the original Mid Sodor Railway, and that its decline was due to economic conditions, loss of local traffic, and the ending of steamer services that brought tourists in to ride the line. “In the current market”, she concluded, “further business and prosperity could be restored to the region by making it possible for people to easily enjoy the beauty of Cas-Ny-Hawin, rather than the SITs policy of footpath access only. In stubbornly maintaining this elitist policy, which denies everyone the chance to enjoy what our island has to offer, it is not the MSRHS that are acting against the common interest of the people, but their opposition!”
Despite these efforts however, the situation continued to decline. Then in 1986, the society successfully purchased the remaining goodwill of the original MSR from the Arlesdale Railway, who themselves had acquired it in the legal proceedings to build their own line. This allowed the society to reincorporate the defunct MSR as the Mid Sodor Heritage Railway Company, and transferred into the new company’s Recievership of all of the original railway’s surviving powers, emblems, documentation and archives. Detailed scrutiny of these archives, particularly those concerning the disposal of the railway’s assets after closure, revealed that the Reciever had NOT sold off the trackbed, but merely granted leases, subject to the leaseholders paying annual fees for use of the land. Payment of these fees however had never been upheld due to his untimely death, and subsequent confusion of the paperwork.
This changed everything. In not paying their fees, the leaseholders had legally violated their agreement. In principle the railway could have dragged them kicking and screaming into a courtroom and demanded not only their land back, but also forty years worth of unpaid fees, plus interest, all adjusted for inflation, resulting in a total outstanding sum of some seven digits! There was indeed talk of legal action, particularly when rumours began that the SIT had been aware all-along of their obligation to pay for use of the trackbed, but had instead tried to cover it up!
The railway however decided to settle things peaceably, even though they had everyone else involved over a barrel. Several meetings were held where the railway generously offered that if the trackbed was turned over to them, they would not demand payment of back fees. With the SIT they were even more giving, asking only for the section of track in use as a footpath, deciding (for now), that their best option was only to extend as far as Cas-Ny-Hawin, which was an ideal terminus with the good road connections and ample parking available at the Tourist Centre
The result was a peaceful settlement, and in 1988 legal proceedings were ended, relationships had been restored, and it was with the goodwill of the people that the new Mid Sodor Heritage Railway, and its volunteer arm the MSRHS, could began to push rails back along the trackbed.
On Machan’s Day, April 30th 1989, in a symbolic gesture to bury the hatchet once and for all, the Chairman of the MSHR (The Earl) and the Chairman of the SIT (Mr. Jeremy Catherick), together cut the first sod of the extension to Ballamoddey. Work was able to progress quickly, as in the years that had been spent in fiery debate the society had not been idle. A stock of good track was ready, along with a willing supply of ballast, several pieces of rolling stock that were brought, borrowed (and according to one story, stolen), and most importantly, there was a ready and able supply of manpower.
Preparing their groundwork in this manner ensured that when they gained access to the trackbed, the volunteers were ready to immediately begin work. The first task was to clear 42 years of overgrowth from the four-point-five miles of trackbed between King Orry’s Bridge and Ballamoddey. Many of the members were intimately familiar with this section, as it had been a custom in earlier years to hold annual sponsored-walks along the line, until the situation degenerated to the point that they were chased off by shotgun-wielding farm-hands!
After the ownership debate was settled, one last sponsored walk along the trackbed was held two days before the sod-cutting ceremony. The walk was carried out in pouring rain, and the money used went towards purchasing a Landrover Defender 127 to help with the construction work. This 4WD car proved extremely useful in transporting people out to worksites, though it quickly earned the dubious nickname of ‘Bottom’, a nod to the many soggy-bottoms that were endured to purchase it. The particular vehicle had been used for many years by the society before, however, the member who owned him was reluctant to part with him.
Ballamoddey Station had been looked after in the years following closure. As the line drew popularity with Hillwalkers, it was converted to a Bothy as a pet-project by Mountain Bothy Association members, Jim Forbes and Mick Reilly, to meet the needs of walkers who would be seeking shelter or accomodation before setting out again on their journeys. Up until a few nights before the return of the railway, the station building continued to serve this purpose, and it almost burnt down as a result with embers from a fire becoming caught in the rafters. Thanks to quick thinking and the presence of a train crew, the station was saved in time.
With vegetation cleared by summer 1990 it was now necessary to survey the line and determine its condition. Though the only major structure on this section was a single road-underbridge, there were many culverts and several large embankments and cuttings. Many of these had degraded over the years and required remedial work, which was tackled by volunteers using hired-in plant. Many sections of the line soon gained amusing monikers, such as Submarine Cutting, Washout Hill, and Dambuster. As can be guessed, the work was often wet and uncomfortable, yet the dauntless Restorationists (as they came to be known) laboured on, unblocking cuttings, making culverts sound, rebuilding embankments, and laying rails ever closer to Ballamoddey, which was reached by train (‘Buzz’ propelling two flatbeds loaded with rail) for the first time in triumphant style, in August of 1995. However, disaster struck in February of 1996 when a flood saw Buzz toppled from the track and into the river - putting the extension in jepoardy until she was repaired. Thankfully, the Skarloey Railway was able to assist, calling back Peter Sam from Wales to allow Edwin Richard to go and assist with the final phases of the work. Through this year the line was made good, and the decayed structures at Ballamoddey station were restored to their original state (plus the addition of a toilet block). Finally the extension was certified and ready for traffic in time for the spring season of 1997.
The opening ceremony was a grand affair. While Buzz had laboured on the extension a diminutive Hunslet named Evan had been leased from the Skarloey Railway in 1991 to operate the museum’s demonstration line, and he and Buzz were joined for the extension’s opening by Duke (on temporary loan) and Edwin Richard, who was to help provide a more intensive service through the Summer months, and then returned to the Skarloey Railway by the end of August. During the winter before opening, the borrowed MSR saloons were returned to the Skarloey Railway, for the railway had now taken delivery of five 39-foot carriages built by Winston Engineering. These bogie saloons were of similar design to another batch of coaches being built at Winston for the Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon), but featured end-steps much like the coaches of the original MSR, and painted from end-to-end in Prussian Blue.
The opening train was double-headed by Duke and Buzz (the former and current MSR #1s), with the Earl on Duke’s footplate and the Lady Elizabeth Carpenter (now retired from public life and elevated to a peerage by HRH) on Buzz’s. Many notable guests were present, including representatives from all Sudrian railways, Mr Catherick of the SIT, Nigel Dreswick (Canon of St. Luoc’s Cathederal and descendant of noted historian Canon Nicholas Dreswick) and the rector of Kirkleas Church, the Rev. Peter Herey, who provided an opening address before the Earl and Lady Carpenter cut the ribbon.
Music was provided by the brass band of the Sodor Regiment of the Territorial Army, who played a fanfare to welcome the Guest of Honour and former regiment leader, Colonel Ranald Drixon, Lord Of Arlesdale (who sadly was of ill health at the time and would pass away by the end of the year). The remainder of the regiment paraded through Peel Godred to the station in full dress colours and fired a canon from the town wall to signal the opening train on its way, while people crowded the lineside and cheered the victory of the Mid Sodor Heritage Railway all the way to Ballamoddey, where they were greeted by Evan and Edwin with much whistling and yelling. It truly was a day to be remembered.
The railway now consolidated its position and saw in the Millenium in fine style. Passenger figures remained consistent, and while Evan operated around the museum Buzz hauled the actual trains. Help was given by visiting Skarloey Railway engines, but eventually in 2004, Edwin Richard arrived on a permenant basis. During these years the original station was found to be too constrained to act as both a museum and a terminus, and so in 2000 the line was extended several hundred yards east, over the main road on a single-span bridge, to a new car-park and a dedicated terminus, built as a replica of the MSR’s Arlesburgh Bridge Street station complete with wooden overhead roof, large station building, plus carriage and engine sheds all duplicated from original plans found in the archives. The station received an award for the quality of the workmanship and accuracy to replicated the original buildings, and was partly financed by a Heritage Lottery Grant.
Thus, after five years running trains, work could be gotten down to of extending services two-point-five miles west to Ulfstead Road. Although only half the length of the section currently in operation, the gradients stiffened fiercly, so that by the time the summit was reached at Ulfstead Road the line had attainted 867 ft above sea level, a climb of some two-hundred-feet from Peel Godred. The reward for this severe climbing is awe-inspiring scenery, as beyond Ballamoddey the line ascends above the treeline giving open views towards the summit of Gob-Y-Deighan and the pass in the valley below.
Construction progressed at a good rate, as during the period of consolidation volunteers had ‘on the cheap’ begun remedial work where it was needed. The only other major obstacle was to replace the bridge over the valley road immediately beyond Ballamoddey, and a steel girder bridge was craned into place on the same day the original span was removed.
The line was opened through to Ulfstead Road on May Day 2005. It was a more low-key ceremony than the Grand Reopening of 1997, but also featured the debut of the line’s new engine, built at the Crovans Gate Works of the NWR.
The Society had approached the NWR management in 2003 with the proposal to contract out a new locomotive to them and prior to this a design had been finalised, with initial proposals of building a replica of a previous MSR being rejecting on grounds of insufficient power for the heavier traffic expected on the line. At this point Mr Ivo Hugh, retired Chief Engineer of the Skarloey Railway, proposed building an engine inspired by one of the few other 2ft 3in gauge locomotives to operate in the UK, a design of powerful 0-6-2T supplied by Andrew Barclay to the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway of Scotland.
Mr Hugh’s suggestion found favour and the design was worked out and amended by;
Joanna Farrier, CME of the Arlesdale Railway (b. 1971) (daughter of CME Ivan Farrier, appointed to his position on his retirement in 1996)
David Hugh, CME of the Skarloey Rly (b. 1950) (son of CME Ivo Hugh, appointed to his position on his retirement in 1991)
After the proposed design was accepted and agreement reached with the NWR, the locomotive was erected at Crovans Gate Works (with the option to order a second member of the class at a later date), under the oversight of the NWR’s CME, Caradoc ‘Strongarm’ Qualtrough.
Construction started in 2003 and was somewhat piecemeal due to the cost being spread over multiple payments, some of which were delayed. In mid 2004 however after progress stalled, Sir Stephen Topham Hatt stepped in and offered to pay for the remainder of the locomotive’s construction as a charitable gesture. He felt that this was only appropriate as building the locomotive from scratch had raised a lot of free publicity for his works and helped his engineers hone their skills.
The locomotive’s final assembly was fast-tracked with the cost now paid off and was delivered to the Skarloey Railway for testing in February 2005. As delivered it was named Thorfinn after a former Norse ruler of Sodor, the name chosen to honour the engine’s Scottish roots. This caused a small backlash however as many of the MSHRS members felt a name ‘closer to home’ would be more appropriate. While the controversy boiled, ‘Thorfinn’s’ testing continued, which revealed the engine to be somewhat rough-riding and cantankerous. After derailing while running in reverse it was found that the springing on the trailing axle was the cause of this, and after adjustment in the Skarloey workshops it was declared ready for service. Just before it was delivered to Peel Godred a secret ballot among the MSHRS had decided on a new name, Rognvald, to honour one of the sons of legendary Sudrian heroine Sigrid of Arlesdale. This also left a spare name in the wings for the possible second engine of the class, that of Sigrid’s other son, Edric.
Rognvald was steamed for the first time at Peel Godred a week before the opening of the extension, and having been tested thoroughly hauled the opening train, and was named by the good Canon Dreswick as sadly, the Rev Herey, first choice to name the engine, had passed away in January aged 88.
The extension to Ulfstead Road proved a great success, and two-train operation was now implemented using a second rake of carriages delivered from Winston ahead of the opening. Trains now passed at Ballamoddey, and waited for an extended period at Ulfstead Road. Since the lengthier break gave people more of a chance to enjoy the awesome scope of the scenery, this was considered no great loss.
After another brief period of consolidation, work is now underway on the next extension to Cas-Ny-Hawin, some six miles beyond Ulfstead Road. This is however the most difficult phase of construction as it features three of the four tunnels that so hindered construction of the original railway. Of these, two (T2 & T3) are built to extremely narrow clearances, far too small for the new locomotives and stock to fit through. As such they are going to have to be enlarged to allow for trains to pass, which has required an outside contractor being brought in to carry out the work. T4 however as one of the first tunnels to be built (before the original MSR’s wallets ran thin) is to larger clearances and will not pose any difficulty.
The other complexity was in providing a new footpath between Ulfstead Road and Cas-Ny-Hawin, to replace the current footpath along the trackbed. This was a mitigation measure agreed upon between the MSHR and the SIT. The footpath was surveyed to follow the inside lip of the valley, following the railway at a lower level wherever possible, and a contract for its construction was let to Sudrian contractors and engineers Thomas Cousins in 2006. The footpath was completed in time for the summer of 2008 and Thomas Cousins (based on their exemplary work) have received the contract to open out the tunnels and ensure the stability of the ledges and retaining walls supporting the track. Only after these steps are completed in summer 2009 will tracklaying be allowed to commence.
The new terminus at Cas-Ny-Hawin (due to begin construction in 2010) will be much bigger and a half-mile closer to Arlesdale than former halt, and will feature two L-shaped platforms, much like Tan-Y-Bwlch on the Ffestiniog Railway. A large station-building will be constructed in similar style to existing MSHR structures, and immediately adjacent to the site is the SIT’s shop, tourist centre and car park. The car park was recently expanded to accommodate the future railway and a new project, where the SIT intends to offer guided tours of the unflooded levels of the former lead mines in the valley. The prospect of this, plus the restored MSR, promises to make Cas-Ny-Hawin a first-class tourist destination, and both projects are currently planned to open in tandem in the summer of 2012.
Beyond the Cas-Ny-Hawin station site is the gaping portal of tunnel T1, and from its opposite end the five miles of trackbed to Arlesdale have been developed as the access road to the tourist centre, but this is now up for reconsideration. With the number of arriving cars expected to rise it is now felt that this narrow road (which becomes a single carriageway in several spots) will be too much of a liability. As such talks have recently begun between the Council, the MSHR and the SIT to build a new road on the opposite side of the valley, improving road access to Cas-Ny-Hawin and the village of Kirkleas, currently only served by lanes. If this goes ahead, then the former MSR trackbed will be open to reuse as a railway, allowing services to once again return to Arlesdale.
This bears consideration. As when the Arlesdale Railway looked at operating into this site there is very little space for expansion, and as demonstrated by Duke’s experiences the terrain has become unstable. This is due to minor earth tremors caused by a small fault-line in the mountain above the station. A section of the Mountain Road near tunnel T3 is located on a ledge above this fault and likewise had a history of geological instability, which necessitated a speed restriction in MSR days and is believed to be the cause of Falcon’s famous ‘leap’, perhaps by a disloged piece of stone falling across the rails. Part of Thomas Cousins’ contract is to reinforce the formation and shotblast all the tunnels with concrete to ensure no future repeats of this incident.
With this in mind it is unlikely that anything more than a run-round loop and two platforms could be provided without massive work and expense to stabilise the hillside and clear several hundred tons of dislodged rubble and earth that has buried much of the site over six decades, though it is alluring to consider excavating the original locomotive sheds and workshops. Even if these were exposed however, it is unlikely to become the main MPD of the railway due to limited space and poor road access, factors in which the station at King Orry’s Bridge has no trouble. In addition, since the majority of passengers ride from the Peel Godred end of the line, it makes little sense to relocate operations to Arlesdale.
Likewise there is no room to build a car-park without ripping out the heart of the village. However, the considerable parking facilities of the Arlesdale Railway’s terminus are only a pleasant ten-minute walk away, so it is possible that a Park-And-Ride facility could be established. Alternatively, visitors could be encouraged to park at Cas-Ny-Hawin and ride to Arlesdale on the railway, allowing them to explore this beautiful area without filling the village with cars. There is also the chance of extending to a new site adjacent to the Arlesdale Railway’s terminus, but this will require a new formation on an incredibly steep gradient, which makes the proposal somewhat unfeasible. Either way, it seems apparent that the primary station for this end of the line will remain to be Cas-Ny-Hawin, even if an extension is built.
The MSHR utilizes a number of engines.
Buzz is a FC Hibberd 'Planet' Class diesel locomotive. The Mid Sodor Heritage Railway Society bought this 1954-built diesel engine in the 1975 when they were planning out their demonstration line at Peel Godred. Stored under tarpaulins for several months, it was found impossible to start her in the spring due to water seeping into her battery box, leaving her unable to hold a charge. Jumpstarts from cars were required during her first few weeks until an electrician was able to sort out her electrical system, which earned her the name of ‘Buzz’, initially as a tease, but now proudly carried on her side in the form of nameplates.
Buzz is incredibly reliable, but her 180hp Gardner Engine has been known to be very noisy on occasion. Appropriately this matches her personality as she is very much a youthful and spirited tomboy, with an acid wit and (if riled) a fiery temper. Her heart is very much in the right place however and her sense of loyalty to her friends and her railway is extraordinary. Having met Duke in 1980 she has become extremely fond of him (after a rough start where he tried to treat her like a shrinking violet), and she is one of the few engines to think of him as ‘Granpuff’.
Duke’s pride in the former MSR also impacted deeply on Buzz, and she feels as the reborn line’s No. 1 she has to uphold the railway’s honour. As such she is incredibly knowledgeable on the history of the former company, having learnt much from the volunteers that drive her. She is also the favourite engine of occasional driver and retired MP Lady Elizabeth Carpenter, and she and Buzz have a very strong relationship.
Buzz is used most often on maintenance trains and off-peak services, though before Evan’s arrival she was the sole engine operating the museum’s Demonstration Line. She is also an incredible asset in extending the railway. Resourceful, intelligent and spirited, Buzz is truly the sister of the engine shed and liked by all.
Buzz is based on ‘Upnor Castle’ a 1954-built FC Hibberd ‘Planet’ Class Diesel owned by the Ffestiniog Railway, and was the workhorse that kept the extension of the Welsh Highland Railway going through thick and thin.
Just like Buzz, Upnor has a powerful but noisy 180hp Gardner 6LX diesel engine, loud enough that the engine is nicknamed ‘Uproar’ by volunteers, and yes, sometimes Upnor does need a jumpstart.
Evan is an 0-4-0ST ‘Quarry’ Hunslet built in 1906 for work at Vickers Shipyard in Barrow to a design quite often found in the Dinorwic Quarries of North Wales. Given the predominance of the narrow gauge railway network on nearby Sodor already existing to a ‘standard’ of 2ft 3in, it was decided that the industrial complex would also adopt this in order to exchange rolling stock and locomotives should there ever be a need to do so.
The engine spent a number of years in the industrial yard prior to being retired in 1961, and was ‘adopted’ by one of the factory owners, who over a number of years, sought to restore the engine in his workshop as a private concern. Following the gentleman’s death, his son loaned and later donated him to the Skarloey Railway as a goodwill gesture in 1982 where he was named Evan after the man who saved him. However, given Evan’s diminutive size and tractive effort, Mr Hugh, the Chief Mechanical Engineer felt that would not be best suited to the Skarloey Railway’s needs.
Following an overhaul which saw Evan’s boiler (fitted in 1956 but only used in service for five) being certified for five more years use as of 1984, The Thin Controller brokered a deal with a Lake Railway in England, placing Evan on loan to them that year to ease them through a locomotive crisis. Becoming surplus to their requirements in 1989, Evan was returned to the Skarloey Railway when his boiler-ticket expired, and was never sent back to England, even after his overhaul.
When it became abhorrently clear that he would not be fit for work on the Skarloey Railway (unless double-headed with another engine), The Thin Controller then made another deal with the Mid Sodor Heritage Railway, which needed an extra engine to operate their short line as their diesel Buzz was soon to be needed on extension work. This saw Evan placed on permanent loan to the Society in 1991.
From the day he arrived on the Island, Evan has retained his sky-blue livery with red lining, and this has continued at the Mid Sodor Heritage Railway. During the lengthy construction of the MSHR’s Ballamoddey Extension, Evan was the sole engine operating trains on their half-mile Demonstration Line at Peel Godred along with a pair of ex-MSR coaches, as the society’s diesel, Buzz, was needed on extension duties.
Since the opening of the extension and the acquisition of larger locomotives he is still a vital member of the team, being used on lighter trains and for Driver Experience courses, which earn a pretty penny for the MSHR. Thankfully Evan has an extremely even temperament (he is very much the peacemaker in any arguments that arise between the engines), and he has yet to loose his temper with any of these amateur drivers, no matter how cack-handed they are!
A number of the Quarry Hunslets used at Dinworic Quarries have been rescued and preserved following withdrawal from service. These engines are the mainstay motive power of the Llanberis Lake Railway and Bala Lake Railways in North Wales, and although found here predominately, their counterparts have also found homes in England, and as far afield as the United States and Canada. The locomotive, Evan, is based on Llanberis Lake Railway’s ‘Thomas Bach’.
Edwin Richard is a Kerr-Stuart 0-6-0T ‘Joffre’ class locomotive built for service in WW1and used as a regimental mascot at a Royal Engineers Barracks for many years; with the closure of the Barracks however, the engine’s future looked bleak, until the MoD found a place for it on the Skarloey Railway during a locomotive crisis in 1983. Originally numbered ‘WD 33’, the engine became the SR’s #10, and was named ‘Edwin Richard’ after the Fat Clergyman. Edwin was thus present for Sir Handel’s 1984 return from Wales in ‘Great Little Engines’, but was not depicted in illustrations due to the publishers not wanting to confuse readers with the unexplained appearance of this ‘new’ engine.
The locomotive went on to become one of the most powerful of the Skarloey fleet, however, his services were found to be in need elsewhere on the Island with the rebuilding of the ‘Mountain Road’ section of the Mid Sodor Railway following an unfortunate accident, where Buzz was withdrawn for repairs in 1996 around the completion of Ivo Hugh (hence why he does not appear in the illustrations for ‘New Little Engine’). Edwin stayed there throughout late 1996 and early 1997, completing the extension to Ballamoddey in time. After this, there was significant interest from the society in buying up Edwin Richard, but the Skarloey Railway were reluctant to accept offers at this time. However, in 2004, while the new MSHR engine is nearing completion and the new extension to Ulfstead Road is looming, a fresh bid was put forward to bring Edwin Richard's power to the Mid Sodor Heritage Railway again. This time, with the Skarloey Railway looking to build or buy a more powerful Diesel, the agreement is struck and Edwin was sold. Upon arrival at King Orry’s Bridge in mid 2004, Edwin Richard was taken out of his Skarloey Railway guise and received a new coat of burgundy red, with black and yellow lining and made his official debut on the line in their Summer Steam Gala.
Upon arrival at King Orry’s Bridge in mid 2005, Edwin Richard was taken out of his Skarloey Railway guise and received a new coat of burgundy red, with black and yellow lining prior to the opening season in 2006.
Edwin Richard arrived on the Skarloey Railway with a strong Military ethos and state of mind still firmly intact, and used it to lord over the other engines. He soon settled down however, but retained a sense of discipline and general bossiness which tied in with his appreciation of all things Military related.
Upon hearing of his redeployment to the Mid Sodor Heritage Railway, Edwin Richard was unenthused about the prospect of having to operate under the management of amateurs who he claimed would be simply “playing at trains”, but soon came around when he realised the difficult mission that lay in front of the brave and determined volunteers. Upon his deployment there on a full time basis in 2004, he was happy to return again, realising the nature of the line’s arduous topography and realising that he would be essential to its successful running in the future.
As the most experienced engine in the shed, he is very much the Grand Old Man of the group, and has taken a particular interest in Rognvald, mentoring the young engine much as Duke once did Stuart and Falcon.
Edwin Richard is based on the Kerr Stuart Joffre 0-6-0Ts that served in World War One, and saw active service in the trenches.
Rognvald is a 0-6-2 Barclay tank engine. The Mid Sodor Heritage Railway always envisioned their railway needing at least two large steam locomotives to maintain a two-train service. In 2001, the society began discussions into what form a new engine should take and approached Ivo and David Hugh, the previous and current Chief Mechanical Engineers of the Skarloey Railway with a view to them designing a new locomotive capable of meeting the needs of the new Mid Sodor Railway, given the strenuous terrain on the Mountain Road section where the engine would be working.
Ivo, though interested was very much enjoying his retirement and suggested his son seek the assistance of Joanna Farrier, the young but brilliant CME of the Arlesdale Railway. He did however make a large contribution in suggesting using this opportunity to pay homage to a defunct Scottish railway which shared the same gauge as both the Mid Sodor and Skarloey Railways. The Campbeltown and Machrihanish Railway employed the largest and strongest examples of 2ft 3in gauge traction in Britain, and the veteran engineer knew that it would be ideal for coping with the Mid Sodor’s distance and terrain.
What was to become the Mid Sodor Heritage Railway No.4 began construction at Crovan’s Gate Works in early 2003. The work was subject to funding, and therefore stalled in 2004, at which point Sir Topham Hatt made a charitable contribution which ensured the engine’s completiton ready for the opening of the Ulfstead Road extension in summer 2005, with the engine undergoing successful trials (after initial teething troubles) on the Skarloey Railway throughout the spring months, and given the honour of double-heading with the former MSR No.1, Duke on a special service for MSHR society members.
The name of the engine became the subject of fierce debate; it was turned out carrying the name Thorfinn, honouring the Scottish connections of the locomotive, but many felt this decision had been made over their heads and wished to honour those who had significant impact in the region. A ballot soon returned the name Rognvald, after one of the sons of Sigrid, a legendary Sudrian heroine. The engine was formally named at a special ceremony at King Orry’s Bridge by the Canon Nigel Dreswick, grandson of noted historian Canon Nicholas Dreswick, on the opening day, May Day 2005.
Rognvald was turned out from Crovan's Gate Works in Prussian Blue livery with red and white lining, and unlike his counterparts, his name is painted on his side in the same tradition as the engines he is based upon.
The announcement of plans for a new MSHR engine initially worried former Mid Sodor No.4, (Now Skarloey Railway No.4) Peter Sam, as it was initially mooted that the new No.4 be a replica of himself, which led him into a minor identity crisis. This was soon settled when a more suitable new design was chosen.
Rognvald’s trials on the Skarloey Railway ruffled many feathers, because when delivered in February 2005 he was brash and argumentative. Many though the name he carried at the time, Thorfinn, to be extremely suitable, as the historic Thorfinn was described in epic poetry as being;
“…the tallest and strongest of men, ugly, black-haired, sharp-featured, and big-nosed, and with somewhat scowling brows. He was a mighty man of strife, and greedy both of money and honour…”
He particularly got right up-the-funnel of Ivo Hugh, who felt rather put out by the new engine’s strength and power, which both of whom take great pride in, and developed briefly into a rivalry between the two engines. Rognvald’s tests on the Skarloey Railway were initially unsuccessful as he was rough-riding on the track and finally derailed in the yard, The issue was discovered to be caused by poor springing on his trailing axle, and after this was put straight he was passed as fit for traffic and has been running regular services on the Mid Sodor since the opening of the Ulfstead Road extension in May 2005. His humiliating experience during his trials has brought him down a peg or two and kerbed his temper, but as a young engine, he does have a lot to learn, and although being guided by the other engines, particularly Edwin Richard, Rognvald is still keen to carve his own path. He does however get along very well with Buzz, and both treat the other as equals.
Rognvald is based on the two 0-6-2 Barclay built engines of the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Railway in Scotland. Built in 1906, these locos were the largest and strongest engines ever built to the 2ft 3in gauge, and named Argyll and Atlantic. Throughout their lifetime the engines were used to carry passengers as well as local goods such as coal, subsidised by two smaller machines throughout the lifetime of the railway.
The Railway closed in 1935, and the engines were scapped two years later in Coatbridge.
The railway also owns a 1985 Landrover Defender 127, nicknamed ‘Bottom’, who is used on extension work, transports volunteers, and at other times acts as the manager’s ‘company car’. Because of the nature of his work he frequently goes off-road into muddy environments, which makes cleaning him a pain. As such he was never given a MSHR paint-scheme and remains in the steel-grey he was built with, though he does carry a ‘Mid Sodor Heritage Railway’ transfer down both sides of his body, and a number of amusing and sometimes bizarre bumper stickers, such as ‘My Other Car’s A Garratt’.
Useful and versatile, Bottom is very much a member of the team. He loves his home, loves his work, and loves nothing more than driving through really deep and muddy puddles!