The Little Western - Engines & Rolling Stock

Duck The Great Western Engine


Practical, sensible and no nonsense with a heart of gold and a love of fun, Duck is an all round good guy on Sodor. He made waves on his first day as station pilot at Tidmouth, sticking up for Percy and putting the big engines firmly in their place! To this day, Duck is often the one to interrupt arguments between others in the shed. Proud of his heritage, Duck’s frequent talk of all things ‘Great Western’ has on occasion caused irritation amongst his friends.

Important Information

RAILWAY OF ORIGIN: Great Western Railway
LOCO TYPE: 57xx Class GWR Pannier Tank
RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #11- Percy the Small Engine
ORIGINAL NUMBER: 5741 (see text)
CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry

About the Character

In the early 1950’s the North Western railway saw an upsurge in traffic. This increase bought many changes, in particular a sharp rise in the amount of passenger and freight traffic coming through the yards at Tidmouth, and the decision to construct a new harbour at nearby Knapford.
No.6 Percy had been in the role of station pilot since 1949, but the great increase in traffic was too much for such a small engine. The Fat Controller knew a new engine was needed, but at the same time also needed an engine to assist No.1 Thomas and No.7 Toby with the harbour construction programme. Therefore in 1955 Percy was transferred to the Ffarquhar line and a new engine purchased from the Other Railway to take over as Station Pilot.

Although technically this locomotive is No.8 Montague, nobody ever uses either his official name or number! The Fat Controller, have worked at Swindon as a young man, had an affinity for all things Great Western, and permitted the new arrival to keep both his GWR livery and number, 5741. Whether this is the number he was allocated ex-Works remains a mystery, but it seems most unlikely as 5741 was in fact built in Glasgow, instead of Duck’s much beloved Swindon. As for the nickname, Duck claimed that bigger engines often said he waddled, and that he preferred Duck to Montague!

Greater in size and strength than Percy, Duck had no trouble keeping on top of the work at Tidmouth. Although popular, his frequent talk of all things Great Western did tire the big engines. This may have contributed to the events of 1958, when the Fat Controller agreed to trial a Class 08 diesel shunter named Diesel. Duck took an instant dislike and with the big engines fawning over him Diesel lost no time in attempting to get Duck sent away. Luckily the Fat Controller was wise to the game, and by sending Duck to Wellsworth for a while was able to give Diesel enough scope to cause his own downfall. Duck was returned to Tidmouth, but not before a nasty incident involving runaway trucks and a barbershop!

After this, life was much quieter for Duck for several years. Making all newcomers welcome from Donald and Douglas to Stepney and BoCo, Duck continued to do his work in the Great Western way; ‘without fuss’! So impressed was the Fat Controller with his work that when the branch line along the coast north to the town of Arlsburgh was reopened in 1967, Duck was given the honour of running it. Shortly joined by escapee Oliver, the line took on a true Great Western feel with auto coaches and specially decorated stations, helping the line earn its nickname ‘The Little Western’. Even with the arrival of ex-SDJR No.70 Blandford for freight duties, the line has retained its Western feel.

Occasionally Duck called away from his line duties elsewhere on the network. He has deputised as banking engine at Wellsworth at times when No.2 Edward is unavailable (RSW #27, ERS #98), and returned to the Brendam branch for a period following the closure of the Little Western for repairs (ERS #74).

Before arriving on Sodor, Duck worked as a Station Pilot at Paddington, shunting coaches and trucks and assisting the heavy expresses on their journeys to places far away. During this time he met many famous GW locomotives.

Real Life Locomotive Basis

A total of 863 57xx Pannier tanks were built to replace older, less powerful tank engines between 1929 and 1950, making the class the second most produced in Britain.
Although most were built by the GWR at their Swindon Works, 275 were constructed by private firms across the country, from Stafford to Stoke on Trent to York and Newcastle. Indeed, if 5741 were to be Duck’s original number, it would mean he was built in Glasgow!

Intended for local freight and branch line passenger services, the fleet were surpsinly strong and fleet footed, and members of the class found themselves scattered to all corners of the Great Western area. In 1954, it was claimed only 5 depots in the BR Western Region didn’t have at least one 57xx!
Some were modified for working on the London Underground, others dispatched for shunting and other miscellaneous duties across the country, most notably banking on the steeply graded Folkstone Harbour line.

Surviving to the end of steam on the WR, many were taken into private ownership; some were purchased by the National Coal Board, and more were taken on by London Transport for maintenance duties, who didn’t retire these versatile machines until 1971.

A total of 16 have survived into preservation (including the final three retired by LT) and can be found at railway centres across the Midlands, Wales and the South West of England.

Donald and Douglas

Donald and Douglas

Long Time members of the NWR fleet, Donald and Douglas have been making impressions within both their fellow engines and railway staff from the time they first arrived on sodor. In fact it was because they both arrived together that they caused such an impression! The Fat Controller of the time had only ordered one locomotive from BR.

At the time it was unclear which it was but they both saw it as an opportunity to escape the cutter's torch and conveniently “lost” their numbers on the way so neither locomotive could be identified as the one to be returned to BR to face their ultimate fate. Despite their true identities still being unclear, what Donald and Douglas proved, and continue to prove, is that they work together so well as a team that it simply doesn’t matter. The Fat controller arranged for the purchase of both locomotives and they continue to be the workhorses of the fleet to this day.

Important Information

RAILWAY OF ORIGIN: Caledonian Railway
LOCO TYPE: Caledonian Railway 812 class
RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #15 – The Twin Engines
ORIGINAL NUMBER: 57646 & 57647
CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry

About the Character

In 1959, the Fat Controller was faced with a motive power shortage, at a time when steam was being phased out over on the “Other Railway”. So he thought it a good enough time to order another locomotive exclusively for goods work – hailing from the Scottish region, the engine in question was a Caledonian Railway 812 class 0-6-0 tender engine numbered 57646.
However, the trouble really started when not one but two engines arrived instead – they looked completely identical, so no one could tell which was the engine that had been ordered.

In truth, Donald happened to be that engine, but both engines and their crews (who were also related) saw an opportunity to escape the cutter’s torch by taking Douglas with them and conveniently “losing” their numbers along the way so neither engine could be identified as the one to be returned to BR to face their ultimate fate.
The Fat Controller decided to make use of both engines until he could find out the “truant”. The twins soon proved their worth, showing that they were able to work with coaches or trucks quite easily. Their plan was to perform as good as the other in the hope that they could both stay.
However, several incidents occurred which made the Fat Controller’s decision difficult – involving a “Missing Coach”, an accident with a signalbox and the destruction of a spiteful brake van...

It wasn’t until the heavy snowfall later that year that made the Fat Controller realise that he had a pair of strong, reliable engines after their hard work in keeping the main line clear of snow. In the end, he decided to arrange for both locomotives to be kept on.

Their lives on Sodor to date have been very stable – they have also proved their worth by working on the branch lines as well as the main line, though they are more common sights along Duck and Oliver’s branch line. Over time, they became homesick for Scotland, so much so that the Fat Controller arranged for them to visit their old stomping ground in the form of the Strathspey Railway, where they met up with their old classmate #828 “Jumbo” (ERS #80). The trip revitalised both the railway and the twins, and they returned home refreshed and ready for action.

In recent years, the relationship between the two engines was tested when Donald started to show his age with shy steaming and worn parts, until it was decided for him to undergo an overhaul. But when the Works weren’t able to begin on his overhaul immediately, Donald was temporarily assigned to light shunting at the Works for several weeks to cover the duties of their resident shunting engine “Bad Bob”.

Douglas tried to manage on his own, though it is fair to say that he missed his twin very much. After his overhaul was finally finished, Donald returned to service some months later – however, not long afterwards, he and Douglas had a slight disagreement after an incident with a signal that had Donald sent back to the Works briefly (ERS #210). Thankfully, their argument was soon put right after the twins were forced to cover emergency passenger trains near Ballahoo. Since then, both engines continue to prove their worth as the ‘workhorses’ of the railway fleet to this day.

Real Life Locomotive Basis

Donald and Douglas are based on the Caledonian Railway 812 “Jumbo” class of locomotives. Designed by John F McIntosh in 1899. Donald and Douglas were originally numbered 57646 and 57647 respectively. These were never real locomotives but the numbers were next in the series for the class in the BR numbering system. Their original Caledonian Railway numbers are unknown. They were excellent reliable performers to the degree that only 3 had been withdrawn between 1899 and 1948. BR withdrew the last of the locomotives in 1963.

Oliver The Western Engine

Oliver the Western Engine

Oliver is best described as determined, brave and shrewd: an engine of infinite resource and sagacity. He is also known to get rather cocky and hard-headed, which has at times landed him in trouble – such as when he was pushed into the turntable-well by unruly trucks (RWS #24) and when he derailed outside of Tidmouth for overshooting a red signal (ERS #54) in a bid to meet his guaranteed connection!

Important Information

RAILWAY OF ORIGIN: Great Western Railway
LOCO TYPE: GWR 14xx Class GWR Tank Engine
RWS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #23 – Enterprising Engines
CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry

About the Character

The 1960's was a grim year for British Railways – Dr. Beeching's Modernisation Plan had a shattering effect on all concerned. Next to mass scrapping of steam engines, Branch Lines were also axed for cost efficiency. While many engine and station staff had long since given up hope, Oliver's crew had not...

Once Oliver had been in charge of his own Branch in the West Country, Devon, alongside his faithful rolling stock and comrades, Isabel the auto-coach and Toad the brake van. However, when his line was eventually shut down he was withdrawn into the scrap lines, and would have ended his days there had not his Driver and Fireman decided to make a run for it. Under cover of night, they mended and steamed Oliver before escaping across British Rails, along with Isabel and Toad, making a last desperate dash to Sodor to escape the cutter's torch.
Oliver encountered many adventures and near-misses during his escape, and just near Barrow-in-Furness he ran out of coal and water. It was with great luck that he encountered Douglas with the “Midnight Goods”, who helped Oliver and his little train over the boarder to Sodor and to safety.
The Fat Controller was pleased with Douglas, and soon had Oliver, Isabel and Toad mended and painted to their former glories, where to this day they help Duck run the Arlesburgh Branch Line – better known as “The Little Western”. It is also important to note that Oliver, at the time, was the last steam engine to be saved and preserved on Sodor, up until the Hatt Steam Trust Society was formed many years down the line.

His most famous incident was the decimation of S.C.Ruffy, a “private owner” wagon, who tried to cause trouble for Oliver following his turntable incident. But thanks to a plan from Toad, S.C.Ruffy's plans – along with himself – literally came apart. Oliver has learnt a lot since then as he settled down to become Really Useful indeed.

Real Life Locomotive Basis

A total of 75 14xx class tank engines were built for the Great Western Railway between 1932 and 1936 for Branch Line passenger work.  Four of the class have been preserved, with three based in Devon Heritage Railways (1420, 1442 & 1450) and the other, 1466, based at the Didcot Railway Centre in Oxfordshire.  The remainder of the class were withdrawn and scrapped between 1956 and 1965.  Two of these engines (GWR 1401 and GWR 1462) played prominent roles in the film The Titfield Thunderbolt, the first (1401) as the main locomotive of the Titfield–Mallingford branch, and the second (1462) as a stolen locomotive.

Blandford The Somerset Engine


With ballast re-laying on the NWR becoming a growing concern in the early 21st Century, the Little Western branch had become a hive of activity in conjunction with the Arlesdale Railway. However, Donald & Douglas were both in a run-down state when traffic was becoming heavy. And, with both engines also being used elsewhere on Sodor, there was demand for a bigger and more powerful resident on Duck’s branch.


In 2005, The Fat Controller began utilising such an engine in the form of Blandford; a former heavy goods engine from the Somerset & Dorset Railway, now in private ownership. His use on the Little Western’s mineral traffic proved to be unsurpassable. However, he and his railway had been in fierce rivalry resulting in controversial political actions with the Great Western ever since the opening of the S&D. And as a result, he bore a grudge against the Western engines to begin with.


An accident involving asphyxiating his crew in a tunnel soon set things straight, and all engines went on to become firm friends. With Blandford continuing on the branch as a full-time resident. Although helps out elsewhere on the NWR when the demand is called for, including the occasional mineral traffic to Killdane.

Important Information

RAILWAY OF ORIGIN: Somerset & Dorest Joint Railway
RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: ERS #108 - Blandford The Somerset Engine 
CURRENT LIVERY: SDJR Prussian Blue, Yellow Lining
CREATOR: Chris The Xelent

About The Character

None of the Somerset and Dorset engines were given official names. Instead, Blandford and his brothers referred to each other by local place names and locations along the route.


Although designed first and foremost for mineral traffic, the engines’ ability to conquer the steep Mendip Hills led to them being used on passenger trains; including The Pines Express. During which time, they proved to be more suitable to the task than the Southern Railway’s Bullied Pacifics which were trialed on the line in the early 1950s!

The Somerset & Dorset line was jointly run by the Midland and London & South Western Railways; latterly becoming LMS & SR after the 1923 grouping. However, it ran through Great Western territory from the outset. The GWR tried many attempts to buy out the S&D and until 1958, didn’t succeed. But when British Railways changed their Regional Boundaries, the Western Region finally gained control of the line. And began to rationalize services and replace many aging engines.


The old Midland locomotives were gradually withdrawn from BR use with the 7Fs going between 1959-64. However, Blandford was purchased privately by a rich farmer who intended to return him to service as soon as possible.

Sadly, due to legal problems regarding overdue rent, his new owner was forced to dismantle him immediately and hide him away with pieces scattered around the British Isles. His boiler and frames were dumped, minus wheelsets and tender, on the edge of a field and were abandoned for many years; without firm hope that he would steam again…


The story does have a happy ending though.

After many years of neglect, he was eventually restored at a Heritage site in the Midlands and brought to Sodor in 2005, initially on trial when the Little Western branch suffered a motive power crisis during heavy ballast traffic, and remained since on permanent loan to the Hatt Steam Preservation Trust.


He has since proven an invaluable asset to the Little Western’s operations, and is used elsewhere as and when required. Although, in-spite of learning the errors of his ways regarding anything bearing Great Western origin, he will still tend to stereotype and jump to conclusions regarding other engines.

Real Life Locomotive Basis

Blandford was the first of a batch of 6 Class 7F 2-8-0 heavy freight engines designed by Henry Fowler of the Midland Railway and built at Derby in 1914 (another batch of 5 delivered by Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn of Newcastle in 1925) for the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway; the biggest and most powerful engines to be built in quantity by the Midland Railway.


Two others were sent to Barry Scrapyard in South Wales upon withdrawal. And as such, have survived. No 53808 (‘Radstock’) now resides at Minehead on the West Somerset Railway and 53809 (‘Shepton’) is based at the Midland Railway-Butterley in Derbyshire.

Polite, kind, and willing to speak his mind, Toad has always remained a hard working member of the railway. Once working with Oliver, and since arriving on Sodor, Douglas, he’s remained the level-headed and resourceful brake van everyone knows him as. Sometimes helpful in tough situations, and sometimes there to allow karma to run its course, he’s always there to lend a buffer on Duck’s branch line.

RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #23 - Enterprising Engines
CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry

The GWR ‘Toad’ brake vans, as they were called, were unique in their design as they were drawn with an open veranda at one end and the Guard’s compartment at the other. They were a common sight across the region as they were so easy to spot. One of these ‘Toads’, allowing the name to stick, was the very same that escaped from scrap with Oliver and Isabel (RWS #23). 

Unlike most freight wagons who delight in causing trouble, Toad is far more virtuous and respectful to engines and trucks, addressing near everyone in turn as “Mr.” or “Miss.” Once restored for the NWR, Toad became Douglas’s brake van, and the pair worked “brawly together” on the branch’s goods trains. At the very least, it is said that Toad’s ways managed to change the Scottish Twins’ views on brake vans altogether, after their encounter in the past with a very “spiteful” character...! 

Toad is very protective of Oliver for, in spite of his resource and sagacity, he still has to look after his friend from time to time – such as the case when S.C.Ruffy tried to push Oliver around, until Toad came up with a plan to teach the trucks a lesson (RWS #24). He has since worked famously on the branch line, helping in situations such as locating a missing truck (ERS #111), and even managing to take some other trucks ‘under his wing’, so to learn how to be a proper truck, or in some cases, brake van (ERS #191).

Great Western ‘Toads’ are still as unique today as they once were, working on various heritage railways around the country.

Little Western Coaches

These four coaches, while often going unnoticed, play big roles in running the Arlesburgh branch in everyday passenger services. While not leading exciting lives, they work famously with Duck and Oliver, even if situations do get in their way.

RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: RWS #24 - Oliver the Western Engine
CURRENT LIVERY: Chocolate/Maroon and Cream
CREATOR: Rev. W. Awdry

Isabel, Oliver’s old auto-coach, led the more diverse life on BR compared to the other three coaches. Running away from the ‘Other Railway’ with Oliver and Toad, they were rescued by Douglas and finally made it to Sodor. Once the Fat Controller reopened the Arlesburgh branch, Isabel was put to work with Oliver and Dulcie, while Duck was given Alice and Mirabel. As with the nickname of the ‘Little Western’, the auto-coaches help that with their past lives on the Mainland, helping in force the uniqueness of the branch. 

While they mostly lead simple working careers, they do help when needed with the engines. They can often help calm the tank engines in calm situations down in the peak seasons (ERS #54), but are reluctant to other engines but the tank engines taking them out. Of course, that’s not saying the coaches always have quiet lives. Notable incidents are Mirabel derailing in the Tidmouth carriage shed thanks to the points (ERS #188), and Isabel catching a thief at Arlesburgh when side-lined in the yard (ERS #191).

Auto-coaches have always been useful on the Western Region branch lines over the years, and are found of various heritage railways nowadays.

'Young Turk'

Bought for restoration from a heritage railway on the Mainland, ‘Young Turk’, as he was nicknamed, was put to work around the branch lines - in particular the ‘Little Western’, and wasn’t shy about making a nuisance of himself. Thankfully, over the years he has gradually matured and now concentrates on trying to be Really Useful instead of Really Troublesome!

RWS/ERS ENTRY VOLUME: ERS #98 - Duck the Great Western Engine
CURRENT STATUS:  Operational
CREATOR: Christopher Signore

Amongst restoring steam locomotives for the NWR, the Fat Controller decided to purchase and restore a variety of brake vans as part of the Hatt Steam Trust, from various scrap yards and heritage lines on the Mainland. While some are still out on the ‘Out of Use’ lines and others sold back across the mainland, some, in good shape and fit condition, were refurbished and put to work on the railway. 

Although these elder designs are few and far on the Main Line with much more modern and up-to-date equipment and rolling stock, the Branch Lines still require these brake vans for regular goods trains, and make good use of them. But while brake vans are mostly quiet and helpful in the engines’ eyes, one proved himself to be troublesome. Years of mistreat and lack of respect made the brake van, named ‘Young Turk’ - as he was so difficult to control - more comfortable to the laid back and slow feel of his heritage railway, with him and his cousins simply running demonstrations and tours each day. 

However, since he arrived on the island, he constantly demanded to be used on passenger services, much to the surprise of the engines. He finally learned his lesson, when ending up stranded in the tunnel outside Tidmouth thanks to a loose coupling on Oliver’s train (ERS #98), and was more than grateful to Duck for rescuing him from his ‘prison’. Much to everyone's relief, he managed to prove his use over the years, with Toad as his mentor to leading him along a better path on the line. He eventually managed to prove himself to Duck once again when helping to suggest and assist in the emergency of replacing a rail on the branch line (ERS #191). Since then, he makes his way around the branch lines, working well wherever he goes - even if he still has a slight fear of tunnels!

Many brake vans in relation to Turk’s design are still in use at various heritage railways around the country.