I was contacted by Rowan of UKHeritageHub with an idea of the latest article in
my regular feature, I was naturally all ears. Imagine my surprise when he
suggested I write about myself instead of a member from my locomotive fleet!
People, it seems, wish to know more about myself, the man in control of Sodor's
extensive standard gauge network. So without further ado, let us begin...
was born in 1972 to Sir Stephen Topham Hatt and Lady Helen Hatt (Maiden name Margaret
) - The Hatt
Family, it would be fair to say, were (and still are) one of the most wealthy
of Sudrian families, thus, I lived in Hatt House, by Wellsworth. I was
immediately introduced to the family business, this, of course, being the North
as many young lads often are with steam locomotives, I was enraptured. At this
age, however, I had little knowledge of what my father actually did. I would
often see him talking to engines and their drivers and I knew his office was
inside the big station, but the true fact of the Hatt family's fortunes was
quite unknown to me.
was the first in the Hatt family not to be sent to the Mainland for schooling,
instead attending the Abbey School nearby Cronk. I 'lived' there regardless of
the proximity to Hatt House, spending a fair majority of my childhood there. When
I finished, I became an apprentice to many parts of the NWR's operation,
starting as a clerk and learning the ranks of firemanning, driving, engine
repairs, engine cleaning and eventually was introduced to the fronts of
controlling the railway, becoming a clerk to my father.
was most surprised to find I would, one day, be in charge of the Railway, and
became firm friends with everybody at Tidmouth station. I would often be the
one bringing flasks of cocoa to the engine drivers in winter or apologising
personally to any passengers should there be a delay. As time went on, my
seniority in the company grew and my knowledge of the railway's personal
1997, my grandfather, Sir Charles Topham Hatt (the second in the Hatt family to run
the NWR), passed away, some 83
years of age. Sir Charles was responsible for many parts of the island's
development, and was a popular (if
somewhat infamous!) gentleman. He had retired in 1984 with a career of
thirty years, in which he had developed the ballast consortium, reopened the
'Little Western' and had built the small railway (the Arlesdale Line) to ship
the ballast from the old lead mines. He
was an enterprising man, responsible for creating much of the modern work on
the NWR, and had kept the
railway powered by steam throughout the end of the age on the mainland. We were
all most upset by his death, and my grandmother, Amanda Crourie by maiden name,
continued to live at Hatt House until she herself died only two years later.
The engines, of course, always felt the death of a controller hard, and would
mourn his loss dreadfully.
1989, I met my dear wife over a glass of ale at the Old Tramway, the pub just
across the road from Tidmouth station. By 1991, we had married, and in the same
year gave birth to our children, my son of which will no doubt become my
successor (hopefully many years from now!) She is a wonderful, beautiful woman
with a heart of gold, and a loving mother indeed. My son has only recently
gotten married, and no doubt shall soon be giving us the joy of grandchildren,
ensuring the Hatt family continue as a railway family for many years to come.
father, by the latter half of the 20th century, was looking forward to his
retirement. The NWR had been brought to a stretch, with engine availability few
and far between. The antiquity of the railway was beginning to show with
cramped trains and aging locomotives. He had tried to source a new locomotive,
an austerity based upon the Dean Forest Railway's 'Wilbert' (whom had been
brought on trial and thoroughly impressed), but the deal fell through, leaving
Donald and Douglas very overworked as our 'utility' engines indeed, and the
delays in swopping locomotives for the express at Barrow-in-Furness was a
source of great contention. Our timetables were becoming too slow when compared
with those on the mainland.
NWR needed modernising, and in 2006, my father retired, his final additions to
the railway's roster being Victoria, an old Furness Railway coach, whom joined
Toby, Elsie and Henrietta as a vintage train for quarry staff. I near
immediately took over the reins of the network, and began immediately setting
out plans for improvements, having visited the mainland's railways for
2011, my plans were brought to a conclusion, as Pip and Emma - a HST 125 set
that had first come to Sodor in 1987 while Gordon ran a railtour to Carlisle,
were finally purchased for use on the NWR. Philippa - or 'Pip', for short, and
her twin power car, Emma, were to replace Gordon on the express service to the
express, the Wild Nor' Wester', travels from Tidmouth, to Knapford, to Crovan's
Gate, to Barrow-in-Furness on the mainland, from where it would typically
change locomotive to travel all the down to London. This was far too slow for
our passengers who
required, for lack of better term, a high speed route to London with the
minimum fuss - which, simply speaking, would mean Gordon was not a viable
a result, this modernisation of our flagship service has freed up the rest of our
stock quite sufficiently, rectifying the issues my father found so gruelling.
With Gordon now demoted to standard fast passenger services with our Hymek,
Bear, Henry could now work with both local passenger and heavy freight, whereas
James has become another utility engine like that of Donald and Douglas.
have now been the controller of the NWR for some seven years, and my
experimentations with our regular schedules, plus modernisation attempts, have
been very successful indeed. My father, now 71, remains at my side and takes
firm interest in the railway's affairs, but it cannot be denied that the NWR is
now going from strength to strength.
a personal aside, might I add, I am the only controller of the NWR to take time
on social networking! If you wish to get regular updates on the railway, myself
or my engines, follow my twitter - @SirTophamNWR. I'm a friendly enough chap so
don't be afraid to say hello!