Ffarquhar Branch, during the fledging years of the North Western Railway, was a
very simple one. It was the second standard gauge stretch of railway line on
the Island of Sodor (after the Sodor and Mainland), and was built as the
Knapford and Elsbridge Railway in 1885 as a horse-drawn stretch predominantly
carrying goods, branching off to the lead mining centre of Toryreck. My
great-grandfather (Simply known as Mr. Topham Hatt) was the first to act as
engineer to the line, coming into the position in 1908 as Head Engineer, whom
built a series of 0-4-0 'Coffee pot' vertical boiler engines to run the
services instead of horses.
majority of the line was destroyed by a storm in the same year, and work
immediately began to rebuild the railway - in 1910, a treasury grant was even
given to construct a tunnel - in the
same storm, the harbour at Suddery on the rival Wellsworth and Suddery line
failed, and both companies came together as the Tidmouth, Wellsworth, and
Suddery Railway. This lasted until 1914.
1914, as War broke out, the Government sponsored an amalgamation of the
island's standard gauge railways to increase their safety as a defence point.
This effectively made the Knapford to Elsbridge stretch a branch line - and
gave us the foundations for what would eventually become the Ffarquhar Branch.
1923, grouping on the Mainland had occurred and the NWR was suddenly home to a
series of 'oddities'. In 1925 an agreement was made with the LMS - prompting
our Vicarstown headquarters to move to Tidmouth instead. In the same year,
Toryreck's mines were 'ran down' and the branch line moved further north, until
it reached the bountiful stone quarries of Ffarquhar, leaving the Toryreck
stretch a freight line to Tidmouth docks.
Ffarquhar branch was finally in place - but issues were becoming clear with the
antiquated stock in use there.
Station Pilot from Vicarstown, an LBSCR E2 locomotive called 'Thomas', was
complaining he 'wanted to see the world' - and after a troublesome event with
trucks and attempting to pull Henry's morning train - was thus stationed at
Wellsworth - 'Edward's Station' for shunting and freight duties, something he
was doing admirably. He had always wanted to 'see the world' and we were
beginning to consider him for the growing Ffarquhar Branch, at the moment being
skeleton staffed by the 'coffee pots'. The line was not yet firmly established,
and for now, they were ample enough - but wouldn't be for long.
passenger demand grew and Ffarquhar was soon in need of a regular service. The
'Coffee Pots' were beginning to ail, to such an extent they were quite
literally falling apart.
James had an accident in his first year, Thomas was the first to the recovery
effort, and, having done the job with great effort and diligence the NWR moved
him permanently to the Ffarquhar Branch to run the passenger and goods
Thomas's transfer to Ffarquhar imminent, my great grandfather immediately
sought 'proper' passenger stock for the new branch line - he successfully
purchased two suburban, non-corridor coaches from the Mainland for a nominal
sum, the only catch being they were in need of refurbishing, particularly in
terms of paintwork and seats. The NWR couldn't afford, nor had the time, for
both, and thus the seats were replaced while Annie and Clarabel, as they were
named, were unveiled for the Ffarquhar line upon Thomas's arrival there - in
need of new paint.
the Ffarquhar Branch had used small four wheel coaches, originally from the
Sodor & Mainland. These were, like the 'coffee pots', looking their age,
and the fledging NWR was finding them insufficient. They (both engines and
carriages) were becoming disagreeable, awkward and causing a lot of trouble
both for crews and workmen trying to repair them. It wasn't long before the old
carriages and 'coffee pots' were put to pastures new - the pots were sold for
scrap, and the carriages sold off. Thomas, Annie and Clarabel were now the
staples of the Ffarquhar line, with James acting as a 'visitor' as and when
required, particularly with trains of stone that Thomas would bring him from
the early 1930s we greeted Percy to the NWR, and while our larger engines took
industrial action he assisted in running the Branch Line, while Thomas and
Edward took over mainline duties. When all of this was ironed out, the engines
went back to their haunts, and
Percy stayed at Ffarquhar, concentrating on dairy services from Toryreck. James
no longer visited, which meant Thomas would often take trains of stone from the
quarry to Ffarquhar, for Percy to take away.
arrived in 1951 to run the Quarry tramway after Thomas got into trouble with the
law. Thomas now works with Annie and Clarabel all day, every day and is rarely
needed for Goods work.
runs a very regular service with Annie and Clarabel, and the three of them have
an excellent working relationship. Thomas, however, is a stubborn, often rather
headstrong locomotive, and his coaches are often quite appalled by his behaviour
- they are quick to inform him just how rude he can be, something Thomas often
gets his comeuppance for!
and Clarabel are not, despite what the television series purports, four wheel
coaches from the LBSCR. (As neat a set up as this would be with an E2 pulling
them!) - they are in fact very standard bogie coaches from the Midland region
of the British Isles. They are of antiquated design, but well cared for, and
very popular with our passengers - and enthusiasts - as a throwback to the
older days of British Railway service (with the same convenience and
regularity, not that I am one to boast...!!)
and Clarabel's counterparts are commonly found in many Heritage Railway's
rosters, but those whom wish to see their television series counterpart may find
closure at the Llangollen Railway, whom own an ex-LNER 'Sunshine' coach - quite
the same to the LBSCR stock Thomas is commonly portrayed with.