The Ffarquhar Branch Line - Engines & Rolling Stock

Thomas The Tank Engine

Thomas

The longest standing resident on the Ffarquhar Branch, and a stalwart of the Fat Controller's Railway in general.  Thomas has been on the Island since 1915 and spent most of his working life there - working his way up from yard shunter to Branch Line Engine.

 

Thomas still runs the Branch Line passenger service on a regular basis between Knapford and Ulfstead, alongside Daisy, Brad and Rosie.

Important Information

 RAILWAY OF ORIGIN: London, Brighton & South Cost Railway

LOCO TYPE: E2 Billington Tank Engine

RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #2 - Thomas The Tank Engine
DATE OF ENTRY: 1915
BR POWER RATING: 2P3F
CURRENT STATUS: Operational
CURRENT LIVERY: NWR Blue / Red Lining
CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry

About the Character

Thomas first arrived on the Island in 1915 to help with construction of the amalgamated North Western Railway, and remained following completion.  Thomas was sold to the NWR for a nominal fee from the London Brighton & South Coast Railway, who had written the engine off as being ‘lost on war service’ and weren’t keen on dealing with the complications that would arise from altering their books. 

 

Initially, Thomas was the station pilot at Vicarstown for several years.  However following the NWR/LMS agreement of 1925, the preference was to move the NWR’s administrative headquarters to Tidmouth instead.  It was around this point that Sir Topham Hatt saw greater potential and capability in Thomas.  A near-miss with a goods train originally intended to be pulled by Edward, saw Thomas and his crew moved to Wellsworth yard temporarily with a view to allowing greater responsibility for the tank engine.  However, a diligent and well coordinated rescue following James’s accident gave Sir Topham Hatt confidence in Thomas’s ability, and as such – he was rewarded with the promotion of a move to the Knapford and Ffarquhar Branch Line.

 

For several years again, Thomas worked the bulk of the Branch Line’s services, both goods and passenger, supplemented by the ailing Coffee-Pot machines.  But following an embarrassing reminder of Ministry of Transport regulations from an overzealous policeman, he was joined by Toby in the 1950s.  After this, Thomas’s responsibilities largely fell to passenger services run between Knapford Junction and Ffarquhar.

 

Cosmetically, Thomas’s appearance changed in 1960 following an unfortunate incident where he crashed into the Station Master’s house at Ffarquhar.  Thomas’s front end was straightened following the incident.

 

Always a popular fixture on the railway, Thomas has seen two instances of being called away from the Island of Sodor.  The first was in 1990, when he was invited to the National Railway Museum as a representative guest, and the second in 2003, when he was invited to the Great Rail Festival of North America where he played the Sudrian representative on the advice of Stetson Hatt, CEO of Sodoil, whose contacts in America were especially keen on backing the idea.

 

In 2010, Thomas is still going strong and running services between Knapford and the new Branch Line terminus at Ulfstead.  Although approaching his centenary year, Thomas is showing no signs of giving up just yet.

Real Life Locomotive Basis

Thomas is based on the E2 Billinton 0-6-0T tanks built by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.  These engines were designed for shunting and short-haul goods trains.  Thomas belongs to the second batch of five, which were given extended sidetanks.
 
Despite the popularity of Thomas, this particular class of engine was relatively minor and none of them survived into preservation, being scrapped in the early 1960s.  Several replicas have been made of Thomas, however, no offical attempt has been made by any body to ressurect the class without the character association.

Percy the Small Engine

Percy the Small Engine

Percy is an industrial built saddle-tank locomotive, acquired by the Fat Controller to shunt in Tidmouth yard.  Having become inadequate for the purpose by 1956, he was transferred to the Ffarquhar Branch Line to help with improvements to Knapford Harbour.

 

Percy has remained there ever since and become the primary goods locomotive for the Branch Line.  He has since been joined in this role by two USA Tanks - Brad and Rosie.

Important Information

RAILWAY OF ORIGIN: Unknown (Likely to be industrial)

LOCO TYPE: Generic Avonside Saddletank

RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #5 - Troublesome Engines

DATE OF ENTRY: 1950
BR POWER RATING: 1P1F
CURRENT STATUS: Operational
CURRENT LIVERY: NWR Green / Red Lining
CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry

About the Character

Percy was bought third hand to tide over a locomotive crisis when Gordon, Henry and James went on strike and refused to shunt at Tidmouth yards.  Cheeky and mischievous, Percy ruffled the feathers of the big engines continually throughout his time at the Big Station.  But as the railway’s workload increased, it became apparent that Tidmouth had outgrown little Percy.

 

Sir Topham Hatt II had succeeded his father to the post of Fat Controller and began plans for the improvements to Knapford Harbour in 1956.  Percy was to play a pivotal role in the development of these and was reassigned to work on the Ffarquhar Branch following the acquisition of Duck.  Following the completion of the new Harbour and goods-only section of the Branch Line, Percy was retained on the Branch to become the primary goods locomotive – a role he has carried out ever since, running between Ffarquhar and Knapford with supplies of stone and local goods.

 

Between 1997 and 2000, the Branch Line saw further improvements.  Knapford Harbour expanded again to meet with the needs and demands of the island and the railway, which was set to reap the benefits of private enterprise.  Demand for Ffarquhar stone became so great in the post-privatisation era that new sidings had to be constructed downwind of the yard at a new site called Croarie Sidings, which Percy became responsible for.

 

In early 2003, with the extension to Ulfstead well underway, Percy was shifted to the Ulfstead end of the railway to help work at that end of the line.  However, on the way, the Driver didn’t account for a low bridge knocking Percy’s funnel off!  For the best part of a year, Percy and Rosie were cut off from other engines until St Finan’s Viaduct was completed.

 

Since 2004, Percy has returned to his normal duties and now shares the goods workload with Brad and Rosie, although still retains much responsibility for Croarie Sidings as their pilot.

Real Life Locomotive Basis

Percy’s origins are of great debate.  The locomotive was originally believed to have been built at Avonside of Bristol, however, fitters at Crovan’s Gate have found component parts that can be attributed to Hunslets of Leeds!  Researchers on The Real Lives of Thomas site liken the locomotive to that of Avonside locomotive 0-4-0ST 1340, Trojan – preserved at Didcot Railway Museum.

Toby the Tram Engine

Toby the Tram Engine

Toby is a small, sturdy Steam Tram who arrived on the railway to help Thomas run the Branch Line - particularly the Quarry Tramway, where health and safety regulations had come under question.  Toby's experience and know-how have proven invaluable throughout this time working on the Branch Line.  Although a kindly old soul at heart, he will be firm but fair with engines who step out of line, and will always use a firm, but fair approach when teaching new engines the ways of the Sodor Railway.

Important Information

RAILWAY OF ORIGIN: Great Eastern Railway

LOCO TYPE: LNER J70

RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #7 - Toby the Tram Engine

DATE OF ENTRY: 1951
BR POWER RATING: 1P1F
CURRENT STATUS: Operational
CURRENT LIVERY: Sideskirts (NWR Blue), main body wood finish.
CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry

About The Character

Toby’s arrival on the Island was something of serendipitous fortune. His own line was declining in both passenger and goods traffic, and closure was certain to follow. However, a Stout Gentleman and his family took a keen interest in Toby during a holiday to his region, becoming regular visitors on the route and befriending the crews. Shortly after this, the tramway closed and Toby was put away facing an uncertain future (RS #7).

However, matters of necessity were occurring on Sodor, which would turn Toby’s fortunes. Around 1951, Thomas was managing the bulk of services on the Ffarquhar Branch, supplemented by some of the smaller main line engines and the ailing ‘Coffee Pots’. Following an altercation with an overzealous police officer, Thomas was found to be completely unsuitable for the Anopha Quarry line, and legal requirements stipulated that engines travelling on the tramway must have cow-catchers and sideplates to prevent people and animals from being dragged under the wheels should they stray onto the line.

Thus, Toby was brought to the NWR as a matter of necessity, following the closure of his own line. Toby’s primary function was to run the Anopha route and the goods services, whilst allowing Thomas to concentrate upon passenger duties. Also acquired in the sale was Toby’s coach, Henrietta, who continues to serve as part of Toby’s Vintage Train, taking workmen to Anopha Quarry every morning and running as part of a supplementary passenger service on the branch line at off-peak times.

Toby’s role now sees him working alongside Percy and Mavis. Whilst Percy shoulders responsibility for the bulk of the goods traffic, Toby still plays an important part in supplementing him in delivering the stone to Knapford Harbour, as well as assisting Mavis with the shunting duties required in Anopha Quarry and delivery to Ffarquhar.

Largely, Toby has been unaffected by the extension to Ulfstead and is very rarely required to travel there, however, he did make an invaluable contribution to the construction at the Ulfstead end of the line (ERS #99 / ERS #100).

In 2005, Toby made a special guest appearance at the Bluebell Railway in Sussex, as part of an initiative to raise money for the extension through to East Grinstead (ERS #113).

Real Life Locomotive Basis

Toby is based on the J70 Steam Trams built for the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway, all of which were scrapped around the 1950s.

Daisy the Diesel Rail-Car

Daisy the Diesel Railcar

When Daisy first arrived on the Ffarquhar Branch, she was found to be rather lazy and stubborn.  However, a few notable incidents in her first few months brought her back down to earth, and made her realise that she would be working as part of a team.  Since then, she has been a credit to the Fat Controller, but can still have the odd delusion of grandeur, which can often find her, or other engines, ending up in some form of trouble...

Important Information

 RAILWAY OF ORIGIN: British Railways

LOCO TYPE: Metro Cammel (Special), Class 101

RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #16 - Branch Line Engines

DATE OF ENTRY: 1960

CURRENT STATUS: Operational

CURRENT LIVERY: BR Diesel Green with Yellow Lining

CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry



About the Character

Daisy was built for the Ffarquhar Branch Line in the early 1960, arriving shortly after Thomas’s accident at the Station Master’s house to run the passenger service in his absence.  However, it became very apparent early on that Daisy would not be quite as co-operative or capable with some of the Branch Line duties he ably performed.  However, after a somewhat chaotic settling-in period, and a stern talking to from Sir Topham Hatt II, she soon sobered up, much to everyone’s benefit.

 

Following Thomas’s return to the Branch Line, the two engines run the passenger services jointly, with Thomas handling the heavier traffic while Daisy (as a single unit) handles the lighter services.  Daisy’s services will often run the full length of the line from Knapford Junction all the way to Ulfstead Lockgate, these services are run for the benefit mainly of the employees of the textile mills in the area outside of the main town.

 

There was talk around 2006, following the Ulfstead extension and increased traffic that came with it, of rebuilding Daisy into a two-car unit, enabling for increased capacity.  These plans were quickly quashed by the Fat Controller, who felt it would be an unnecessary measure, given the arrangements in place with Brad running a supplementary service, and that it would ruin Daisy’s character.

Real Life Locomotive Basis

Daisy is based on the first generation design British Railways Class 101 DMU built by Metro-Cammell at Birmingham between 1956 and 1959, running on various branch lines throughout the UK.

Mavis the Quarry Diesel

Mavis

Mavis is a Diesel shunter owned by the Ffarquhar Quarry Company, used to shunt trucks at Anopha Fell, and move trucks down to the yards at Ffarquhar and Croarie Sidings.  When she first arrived, she was full of her own ideas and would not listen to Toby’s advice or guidance with regards to the arrangements for the shunting yard.  She did learn responsibility later on and has since gone on to become a really useful engine – and even passed on what she had learned to newcomer, Ted.

Important Information

 RAILWAY OF ORIGIN: British Railways

LOCO TYPE: Drewry Car Co. Class 04

RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #26 - Tramway Engines

DATE OF ENTRY: 1971

CURRENT STATUS: Operational

CURRENT LIVERY: Unlined Black, Yellow/Black Wasp stripes at front and rear

CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry


About the Character

Mavis’s origins and roots are very vague and not well documented by the official Awdry records, however, research suggests that she had spent a number of years working for British Railways on either the Wisbech & Upwell Tramway or Yarmouth Docks Complex, prior to their closure in the late 1960s.

 

With the growing demands for stone from the Anopha Quarry complex became too much for Toby to manage on his own, the Ffarquhar Quarry Co. decided to purchase a Diesel of their own to shunt the trucks for Toby, therefore reducing his workload and increasing efficiency.  Mavis arrived at the Quarry in 1971 and began work soon after.  However, early on, there were clashes between Mavis and Toby with regards to the shunting arrangements, which led to some heated debates and discussions.  One of these saw Toby abandoning the train he had come for due to Mavis’s unreliability, and she and her crew took the train on their own – stalling in the lane after being careless.

 

However, Mavis proved her worth when she saved Toby from certain disaster in the thaw of 1972, hauling him back from a collapsing bridge.  The incident was beneficial for both sides, and since then, through Toby’s guidance, Mavis has become a credit to the Quarry and the Branch Line as a whole, venturing down to Ffarquhar on frequent occasions to subsidise Toby.

 

In the mid-1990s, following the NWR’s privatisation, the demand for stone increased again as ambitious new plans from Sir Topham Hatt III and other parties mobilised the island’s building trade.  In 1996, Mavis was joined by Ted, a Class 14 Diesel, co-owned by the NWR and the Quarry Company.  Ted’s presence allowed for Mavis to be spared in 1999, when she was invited down to help run the new SodOil Refinery prior to its official opening in the Spring of 2000.

 

Mavis’s other great claim to fame is as the official mascot of the Ffarquhar Masons football team, who changed their kit to resemble her colour scheme in the mid-1970s.

Real Life Locomotive Basis

Mavis is based on British Railways Class 04 Diesel locomotives, similar to those that run on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway in the 1950s, and replaced Toby’s counterparts.  These engines were subject to a production period between 1952 and 1962, suggesting that Mavis may have been bought second-hand.  However, given British Railways’ plans for standardisation, the Class 04 Diesels were quickly phased out between 1968 and 1971, with a large number being sold to private industry, allowing many examples to be bought for preservation.  Mavis may well have been included in this number.

Brad The American Engine

Brad the American Engine

Brad was bought by the Fat Controller in 1965 from the Longmoor Military Railway, and became the subject of a long-term lease to a Heritage Railway, who overhauled him completely with salvaged parts from a previously scrapped USA Dock Tank.  He remained there for 30 years, however, became surplus to use and went into storage toward the end of the leasing period with no prospect of overhaul. 

 

The Fat Controller seized the opportunity to put Brad back to work, and overhauled him completely at Crovans Gate with a view to putting him to work on the expansion of Knapford Harbour.  Upon completion of the work, Brad returned to the Mainland, but returned shortly after when the volume of work at the Harbour necessitated his return to the Branch Line.  He was an invaluable assett to the building of the Ulfstead extension and now runs a third tier passenger service alongside the other USA Dock Tank, Rosie.

Important Information

 RAILWAY OF ORIGIN: UK War Department / Southern Railway

LOCO TYPE: USA Dock Tank

RWS/ERS VOLUME ENTRY: ERS #53 - Brad the American Engine

DATE OF ENTRY: 1997

CURRENT STATUS: Operational

CURRENT LIVERY: Dark Green with yellow and black lining

CREATOR: Martin Clutterbuck


About the Character

Cool, calm and collected – with a very slick attitude to boot, Brad was one of the first batch of USA S100 Dock Tanks built in 1943 for the impending British invasion of Mainland Europe.  He was initially requisitioned for use at Longmoor, but did not become property of the Military Railway.  It was here that he met Rosie, a fellow S100 Tank who would become a Longmoor resident, and later, a Sodor one through her affiliations with Charles Hatt.

 

Following the D Day Landings in 1944, Brad was shipped out to the European front, where he saw service, returning to Britain following the war he was acquired by the Longmoor Military Railway and given the name General Bradley Nelson Omar (Longmoor had a policy of naming engines after military leaders), which unknown to official sources was part of a good-natured scam by Matthew Kyndley to allow Brad and Rosie to retain ‘their’ names.

 

In 1965, Brad was sold off from Longmoor and bought by Sir Charles Topham Hatt (The 2nd Fat Controller), becoming one of the first engines in his ‘Hatt Steam Preservation Trust’.  He was placed on a long-term lease to a Heritage Railway, who overhauled him and put him in the green livery of a USA Dock Shunter.  He grew to like the colour and still retains it to this day.

 

After nearly 30 years of active service for the Heritage Railway, he was laid aside in the overhaul queue awaiting his turn.  However, as his lease was coming to an end in 1995, the Fat Controller seized the opportunity to bring Brad to Sodor, along with Jinty.  Initially, the plan involved sending one engine back to the Mainland – while at the same time, solving the problems of expanding Knapford Harbour and providing the Main Line engines with a reliable shunting engine.

 

Brad was chosen for the task of expanding the Harbour, and upon its completion in 1997, he was sent back to the Mainland.  However, Brad soon proved surplus to their needs and when the increasing goods work on the Branch Line became too much for Percy and Toby to manage alone, Brad was sent for and returned at once, this time becoming a permanent member of the Ffarquhar Branch Line.  And in 2000, Brad was reunited with Rosie after 35 years apart.  The two USA Tanks were to play a pivotal and important role in the Ulfstead extension by playing an active role in the construction.

 

Following construction at Ulfstead, Brad has seen service on the Little Western Branch, and has appeared in the Pemberton Films production – The Tidmouth Lightningbolt.

Real Life Locomotive Basis

Brad is based on the USATC (United States Army Transportation Corps) S100 0-6-0 steam locomotive, built in 1942-43 by Davenport Locomotive Works in Iowa, H K Porter Inc of Pittsburgh and Vulcan Iron Works of Pennsylvania. 
 
They were shipped to Great Britain in 1943 where they were stored until 1944, when they were shipped to Mainland Europe following the D Day landings.  Following the war, many of the class were bought by the Southern Railway for dock shunting use at Southampton.

Annie and Clarabel are two of the longest serving characters in the Railway Series, and despite numerous mentions in various volumes rarely take centre stage. But to overlook them and their importance in the series would be a travesty.

RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #2 - Thomas the Tank Engine*

DATE OF ENTRY: 1946
CURRENT STATUS: Operational
CURRENT LIVERY: Brown
CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry

*characters not named until RWS #4 – Tank Engine Thomas Again (1949)

Annie and Clarabel were presented to Thomas in 1946 as a reward for his sterling efforts in rescuing James from a field. The two coaches (who presumably had been resident on Sodor for some time before this date) were put to use on Thomas’s new Ffarquhar branch line. 


 Often acting as a calming influence and conscience for the young, often hot-headed engine, Annie and Clarabel are sensible, level-headed vehicles. With a respect for everyone, especially senior and important engines such as Gordon, Annie and Clarabel are never afraid to chastise Thomas when he over steps the mark. 


 Despite being secondary characters in the series, Annie and Clarabel have had their fair share of adventures. From races and chases with Thomas to floods and collapsing bridges with Percy, not to mention being part of the 1957 London cavalcade. 


The coaches have had their fair share of escapades in recent years too; on one memorable occasion children climbed aboard Clarabel and released her handbrake, causing the coaches to run away down the branch line! (ERS #32) 


Annie and Clarabel now share their Ffarquhar carriage shed with Henrietta, Victoria and several other coaches used on the line. Daisy also has a berth in this shed, making an ironic contrast to said engine’s first encounter with the veteran carriages!

The true life basis for Annie and Clarabel remains unclear. The Rev W Awdry built his model of Annie in 1927, with Clarabel coming in 1948. Annie is a non-corridor suburban composite carriage, while Clarabel is of similar design only a brake coach variant with space for luggage and a guard. Even attempting to work out a likely prototype for Annie and Clarabel is a minefield. 


 Given that Thomas is an E2 class locomotive of the LBSC Railway, it could be reasoned that Annie and Clarabel would follow suit and be of LBSC or SR origin themselves. Then again, at the time of Annie’s construction Awdry was a student at West Lavington in Wiltshire, so maybe the GWR provided some inspiration? 


In saying that, their livery of light brown lends itself more to the teak favoured by the LNER… The answer of course may be that Annie and Clarabel were never based on any particular carriages at all, although given Awdry’s keenness for detailing, this seems unlikely.

A true and loyal friend to Toby, Henrietta is happiest when being useful carrying quarrymen to work at the Anopha Quarry or running with Thomas, Annie and Clarabel along the branch line.

RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #7 - Toby the Tram Engine

DATE OF ENTRY: 1952
CURRENT STATUS: Operational
CURRENT LIVERY: Brown
CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry

Henrietta worked with Toby and Elsie the luggage van on a tramway on the Mainland for many years. She delighted in being useful and full of passengers, but the arrival of competition from the buses saw the tramway eventually close down. As luck had it the Fat Controller had need for a steam tram, and when Toby came to Sodor he insisted on bringing his faithful coach Henrietta with him, so the stationmaster couldn’t turn her into a hen house! 


 Henrietta is one of the quieter and less prominent characters of the series. She made only four further appearances in the Railway Series after her debut, although two of those were highly prestigious occasions; she was with Toby during the Royal Visit to Sodor in 1953 (RWS #8), visited London as the Fat Controller’s Private Coach in 1957 (RWS #12). 


In mid-2000, Henrietta took a trip away from Sodor to visit the Bluebell Railway alongside Toby, as part of a vintage vehicles event. In more recent years Henrietta has been joined by Victoria and subsequently reunited with old friend Elsie. The three friends now make up what has become known as ‘Toby’s Vintage Train’.

Henrietta is based on the 1880’s coaching stock used on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway in Cambridgeshire. They were built with verandas at each end, with special ‘gang plank’ sections for passengers to move from coach to coach. One of the original carriages from the tramway survives, a later 1884 variant than Henrietta with a longer body and frame and bogies for smoother running.

Victoria is an ex-Furness Railways composite carriage, who was discovered by Thomas living in an orchard by the branch line. Restored to as-new condition despite having no wheels and a leaky roof, she now works along the side Toby and Henrietta on the quarrymen’s trains as part of the ‘Vintage Train’.

RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #42 – Thomas and Victoria

DATE OF ENTRY: 2007*


CURRENT STATUS: Operational


CURRENT LIVERY: Blue and White


CREATOR: Christopher Awdry




*Volume 42 was published in 2007, although it is thought the volume is set several years before this date.

Victoria is a cheery, hard working carriage who once worked in Cumberland (now Cumbria) for the Furness Railway Company. Along with her friend Helena and their engine, Albert, the three ran along a branch line between Ulveston and Lakeside to the edge of Windermere; much of this line is now preserved as the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. 



They were kept busy with tourists in the summer months although freight was the main source of income to the line. Passengers services were suspended in 1938 for the winter, and then again at the outbreak of war in 1939. It is likely that Victoria (and Helena) were sold off around this time, Victoria becoming a summerhouse on Sodor. 



It was many years later that she was spotted by Thomas in the orchard by Hackenbeck station; at around this time there was a growing need for an extra carriage to accompany Toby and Henrietta with the quarrymen’s trains. Victoria was restored into as-new condition at Crovan’s Gate works and has proved a useful addition to the fleet ever since. Indeed, when the Vicarstown Railway Museum was looking to construct new carriages for its demonstration line, they used Victoria as a basis for their designs.

Victoria is based upon a mid/late 1800’s carriage of the North London Railway Company, which started live working London commuter services before moving north to Cumberland. This carriage has a similar back-story to Victoria herself, and has now been restored and preserved by the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. Incidentally, this is the first carriage to be completed for it’s own planned ‘Vintage Train’.

Else is Toby’s luggage van, who worked with Toby and Henrietta on their old line in East Anglia. She’s very quiet but kindly, and though she may be the smallest of the Ffarquhar stock, she knows that she’s just as useful to the tramway – though she doesn’t think very highly of herself.

RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: ERS #82 - Quarry Engines

DATE OF ENTRY: 2005
CURRENT STATUS: Operational
CURRENT LIVERY: Brown
CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry

In the old days, Elsie helped Henrietta to carry the luggage from the many passengers that travelled along Toby’s old line. She was especially handy during busier seasons in Summer and near Christmas time. 


But as the buses and lorries took over, there were fewer passengers to carry, which meant fewer luggage. Elsie was taken out of service long before Toby’s line finally closed – and before the Fat Controller had the chance to bring Toby and Henrietta to Sodor, Elsie had already been sold off to a local farm and converted into a small storage shed (This explains why poor Elsie wasn’t featured in Toby’s debut book!). Over the years, she became riddled with rust and rotting wood, convinced that she may never work again... 


However, when Victoria the coach was restored for service in 2007, Toby suggested to the Fat Controller of trying to find Elsie to make the ‘Vintage Train’ fully complete – “If Victoria can be saved, why not Elsie?” It took many months and enquiries, but finally the Fat Controller was able to track down the farm owned by the descendants of the original owner. And lo and behold, Elsie was still there! 


So Elsie was taken to the Fat Controller’s Works, and after many months she was given a happy reunion with her old friends Toby and Henrietta – and she has since made friends with Victoria and Mavis. Now she helps to carry the workmen’s tools along the quarry, and when she isn’t busy she is put on display on fine days at Ffarquhar yard so she can never feel lonely again.

Else is loosely based on a Wisbech and Upwell Tramway Luggage Van. The Rev. W. Awdry made a model of her for his Ffarquhar model railway layout, but curiously Elsie never appeared in any of the stories. However, she was mentioned in Sodor: Its History, People and Engines and the Railway Series: Surprise Packet release – in the former, she was also described as a Guard’s Van...