The Sodor & Mainland Railway (1853 - 1914) is a fictional railway that existed on the Island of Sodor in the The Railway Series books written by the Rev. W. Awdry. In the books it is known as the S&M. The railway line was supposedly built when railway-mania was still in force and was opened in 1853. The initial aim of the railway was to link Sodor with the British Mainland.
The Sodor & Mainland Railway ran from the docks at Kirk Ronan to the town of Ballahoo via Rolf's Castle and Crovan's Gate, but never actually reached the mainland due to lack of money and misfortunes. The plan to tunnel to the Mainland failed when early excavations through the Balahoo Ridge collapsed, and a scheme to build a bridge across the Walney Channel was halted by the Admiralty, (who ironically in WW1 became the driving force behind the unification of Sodor's railways and completion of the same link to the mainland that they hindered the S&M in building).
Many of the S&M staff originally came from Ireland or Scotland. It provided passenger services, but was primarily intended to be a goods line. Although plans were put in action to start a steamer ferry service from Kirk Ronan to Dublin, nothing much came of it.
The Sodor & Mainland Railway's finances collapsed in 1910 and finally the company amalgamated with other small railways on the island under military pressure in 1914, to form the The North Western Railway (NWR), now under the direction of its CEO, Sir Topham Hatt, better known as The Fat Controller.
The S&M's dreams of a link between Sodor and the Mainland did eventually come to pass under the reign of Sir Topham Hatt, who constructed a rail bridge across the Walney Channel.
Only a small length of the operational S&M became part of the NWR mainline: namely the section between Kellsthorpe Road and a point just east of Crovan's Gate. Ballahoo was bypassed by the main line but the S&M's line was used as a secondary route connecting the town with the rest of Sodor and the mainland, along with the later-built Norramby Branch. Following the closure of the Ballahoo Ridge Bypass due to an unstable tunnel roof, the route to Ballahoo was made the primary mainline. Further north the NWR main-line rejoins the Norramby Branch and with it the S&M's proposed route to Vicarstown. This section includes the S&M's unfinished tunnel under the Balahoo Ridge, though the collapse which stopped progress now means two tunnels exist separated by a cutting. The tunnels were closed in 1966 due to increasing instability, as well as the need for a tunnel to use for a failed pilot program to test the feasibility of a strategic steam reserve in the event of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The locomotive used in the test, Peter, was eventually found in 1996 and put back into service on the NWR.
The S&M did, at one time plan to build a western extension into Sodor's mountain country to connect the expanding industrial town of Peel Godred to the railway network. This plan, like the others, came to nothing and Peel Godred's first railway was the narrow gauge Mid Sodor Railway line, and then later still the NWR's electric Peel Godred Branch, which was built under the powers granted to the S&M to extend to Peel Godred by Parliament.
The Sodor & Mainland Railway had three engines (Clive, Neil and Matthew) that appeared in the books. It was unknown what other engines worked for the railway, but two had been scrapped by 1910. A third is preserved in operable condition at the Vicarstown Railway Museum.
Clive (S&M no. 1)
Clive is a small green tank engine with an unusual box shape and no cab. He is based on the early shunting engines seen in the 1860's around Northern England.
Neil (S&M no. 2)
Neil is a small green tank engine with an unusual box shape and no cab. He is based on the early shunting engines seen in the 1860's around Northern England. He has a Scottish accent.
Neil appears in the book Very Old Engines, helping Skarloey off his truck after the little engine first arrived on the Island by ship. (The story is told by Skarloey as a memory of 100 years previous). Skarloey said Neil was ugly but kind, and they soon became friends. Neil remains the best-known S&M engine, having had Ertl and Wooden Railway models of him. Today, Neil is the last surviving S&M Box Tank, preserved at the Vicarstown Railway Museum in operable condition, frequently pulling the demonstration train with ex-S&M carriages, as well as occasionally carriages that ran on the NWR until the advent of the BR Mark 1.
In Christopher Awdry's book Sodor: Reading Between the Lines, he states that Neil's class is unknown. However, he looks a lot like a Neilson "box tank". This was a simple and robust class of engine built in Glasgow and sold all over the world. This would explain both his name and his habit of headbutting people.
Matthew (S&M no. 3)
Matthew is a small green tank engine with an unusual box shape and no cab. He is based on the early shunting engines seen in the 1860's around Northern England. Unlike his brothers, Matthew had a trailing pony truck, since his boiler was slightly bigger. This trailing truck is on display at the Vicarstown Railway Museum.