Peel Godred Branch Line (History)

The Peel Godred Branch Line

The line between Killdane (on the North Western Railway’s Mainline) north to the town of Peel Godred was opened in 1923 by the NWR, although permission had been granted to the S&M to do so as far back as 1853. The NWR paid for only half of this construction, the rest of the funding coming from the Peel Godred Power Company, who required the new line in order to transport equipment and materials to and from their new hydro-electric power station in the town.

Originally built as a light railway, owing to the nature of the terrain and cost of the building project, the PGPC and NWR agreed it sensible to use electric traction on the route, although lighter steam locomotives were permitted onto the route as and when required. During the 1960’s and 1970’s the elderly electric fleet was in dire need of replacement, and steam locomotives No. 9 & 10 Donald and Douglas could often be found assisting with lighter freight duties when electric traction was unavailable.

Owing to the increasing weight of the traction and trains on the route, it was heavily rebuilt in the early 1990’s (including the complete replacement of two road bridges), after which larger steam and diesel locomotives were permitted, height and gauge restricting. One of the first steam-hauled services was a special excursion hauled by No. 3 Henry, an event somewhat marred by a blowback caused by the helicopter filming the run.

Although various locomotives have worked the line throughout its history, increases in traffic have seen smaller, older and less powerful engines sold and replaced over the years. In consequence, none of the original locomotives remain in service on the line, and given that the ‘railway interest’ on the Island has centred largely on the steam fleet on the other lines, reference of them in history books is limited.

The oldest of the current fleet are a pair of ex-British Railways Class 86 of 1965 vintage that arrived on Sodor in the late 1970’s. In keeping with the tradition on the Peel Godred line, they are named after places and towns in the area; Abbey and Dane (as in Killdane). This pair of locomotives has been the mainstay of the railway for nearly forty years.

In 1987 a 3-car Class 303 Electric Multiple Unit arrived on the line for trials, having been withdrawn from its home depot in Glasgow. Despite the age and poor condition, the unit has proven useful for increasing commuter services on the line, and has seen careful restoration in recent years.
The most recent arrival to the fleet is a Class 87 locomotive given the name Kirk, after the village Kirk Machan which the railway serves.The same year that Kirk arrived, the Electric Rail Management decided that fuller establishment of their line should be presented, and quickly struck a deal with a popular publishing company to research and develop a book on their railway, which was celebrated some months later.