“Whatever happened to Thomas, Gordon, Henry and the others had to have actually happened and have a railway-like explanation which fitted.”
~ Rev. W. Awdry

Taking the abovementioned quote to heart, we're pleased to showcase the Real Stories Database where our ongoing collective research brings to light several of the real life railway incidents that inspired the Railway Series stories.

The Rev. Awdry used to draw his ideas from a variety of sources, ranging from railway magazines, news articles, anecdotes related to him by railwaymen and many more. One source often mentioned is the Scrap Heap section of the British Railway Gazette, where unusual and often humorous railway anecdotes and incidents were compiled.

Railway Gazette
An example of the typical content found in the Scrap Heap Section of the Railway Gazette

The information sources and contributors to the Real Stories Database are credited where possible and identified by name and/or acronym. The source legend is as follows:

Acronym Name
RBTL Book: Reading Between the Lines, by Christopher Awdry (2005)
TTTTEM Book: The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, by Brian Sibley (1997)
SIF Sodor Island Forums, with members identified by name or alias
JG Site co-editor James Gratton
MC Site owner and chief-editor, Martin Clutterbuck

Other database entries for stories are sectioned as follows...
Additional Close Matches: More good candidates that may or could have been used as story inspirations.
Life Imitating Art Department: A few real-life parallels to the events described in the stories.

Disclaimer: The stories should not be all taken as definitive. Some merely match without being cited as the origin for a story, marked thus*.

And finally, a really BIG Thanks to all who contributed to the building of this database!

The Real Stories Database
Book Story Real-life Incident
01 1
As a railway gets new engines, these tend to take the main duties, but there comes a time when all the new engines are all unavailable for some reason and "Edward" gets taken out.*
A railwayman's story about the very steep Lickey incline, near King's Norton (RBTL), where the famous "Lickey Banker" Big Bertha was a massive 0-10-0 of Midland origins. A further connection may be made to to Awdry's childhood memories of the GW line at Box, Wiltshire, and the banking engines there which helped out long freight trains (TTTTEM).
In the 19th century, an American locomotive is supposed to have broken down in a tunnel and been abandoned (RBTL, TTTTEM)
4 Broken safety valves are a common occurrence on steam engines.
02 1
Station pilot failed to uncouple from departing train: Based on an incident that occurred at Liverpool Street, London on a Great Eastern Railway "Jazz" commuter train. (RBTL)
Loco moved off without being coupled to train: Also occurred on the GER "Jazz" service, and at other places and times (RBTL)
3 Typical dangers of bringing unbraked goods wagons down hills (RBTL)
Wooden brake blocks catching fire going down a hill: Happened to an LMS guard, Mr Willanbruch, on the Lickey Incline. (TTTTEM)
03 1 Water showered on a hat: Witnessed by the Rev Awdry at Ghent in Belgium (TTTTEM)
Newspaper and bootlaces used to mend a leaking brakepipe: Related in the Scrap Heap column of the Railway Gazette (TTTTEM). JG has located the clipping:
Jeremiah Jobling has been found at last!
From the 14 Nov. 1947 Railway Gazette
Origin for James and the Bootlace

Life Imitating Art Department
JG points out that this version is Jeremiah Jobling's revenge!
Life imitating art: Jobling's revenge!
click image above to read full article
Many instances of goods trains losing their tail on hills (RBTL)
Common occurrence of misdirected trains (RBTL)
04 1 Guard tripped up: at Eastbourne (RBTL), according to the Railway Gazette
Fish discovered in water tank: This story was inspired by a true account related in one of David L. Smith's books (TTTTEM, RBTL). JG has tracked down the source.
On the Glasgow and South Western Railway:
"A front coupling scoured clean and polished, and an eel in the tender tank were two of 133's specialities. The eel lived happily there a long time, till one day in an absent-minded moment the crew turned steam back into the tank to heat the feed-water and so boiled the eel.

Fish of various sorts were quite common in tender tanks. Drivers used to say that they ate up vegetable matter and so kept the sieves clean. Willie Craig had a big eel in the tank of 254, a rebuilt Stirling 0-4-2. 'A hungered-looking brute it was,' said Craig, 'a' grown to the heid. It had lugs on it like a horse.'" - from David Smith, Tales of the GSWR p 20 (JG)

Life Imitating Art Department
We often took on water from the lakes up north (somewhere in Northern Ontario). We'd throw in a big hose called a syphon. With the steam you could pump water right out of the lake. We've even found live fish swimming around in the water tank. the hoses had picked them up and put them in the tank! - from Great Canadian Railway Stories, Vol 2: an account from Bob Grant - former steam fitter with the CNR (JG)

Not impossible for snowed-in engine to be rescued by tractor but real instance unknown. See Book 15, story 4 for the story of a real-life snowed-in train.


Train races bus:
The race between a train and a bus is overtly fictional but read this taken from The Daily Mail Tuesday March 14th 2006, p64 'Answers to Correspondents' section.

The question was, "Has anybody been caught speeding while driving a bus?".This reply was sent in by a chap called Kenneth Johnson, from Exeter:

FURTHER to earlier answers, in the mid-forties my mum used to take my sister and myself to Exeter for shopping, fish and chips and a film. To get home to Crediton we had the choice of bus or train. We nearly always took the bus, which left the bus station just before the train left St David's station. Shortly after crossing the railway line at Cowley Bridge the road ran more or less parallel to the railway line and the race to be first into Crediton began.

Passengers on the bus shouted at the driver to go faster, complained when people wanted to get off at intermediate stops, and waved furiously at 'rival' passengers on the train as they waved furiously back. I was six years old, and it was the most exiting experience of my young life. The bus normally won.
- found by SiF member Bulker

Also see note on Book 11, story 3

05 1
Wild elephant in India blocked a tunnel as related to the Rev. Awdry by a former driver with Indian Railways. (TTTTEM, RBTL)

Engine sticks turntable: fairly common.
Engine spun by wind on turntable: This turntable now turns locomotives at the Keighly and Worth Valley Railway (RBTL)

This element of the story was actually inspired by an actual event at Hawes Junction, now Garsdale, on the Settle and Carlisle line of the Midland Railway. JG contacted Mr. Paul Kampen, Editor, Friends of the Settle and Carlisle Line who provided us with the wording of the original incident report with our many thanks.
December 21st 1900, from the Settle Inspector Mr Silcock: “As the Pilot Engine No 1310 was turning on the Turntable this morning the wind being so Strong the engine got beyond Control. The following are the Names of the men who was called out by Signalman Sutton 5.30 am till 6.30 am”
Apparently sandbags were used to stop the turntable spinning. As a result of this incident it was stockaded with a wall of sleepers, as happened to at least one other turntable on the Highland Railway.
Garsdale Turntable: inspiration for Tenders and Turntables
Above, 2-4-2T LMS No.10899 on Garsdale's famous turntable.
The sleepers protected the engines from the strong Pennine gales
From Life on the Settle-Carlisle Railway, WR Mitchel, Dalesman Books, 1984
3 Engines on strike: Not real for engines but common among their drivers in the 1950s!
Engine 'bumps' head-on into another engine causing it to 'run away': Similarities to the Hawes Junction accident of 1910(RBTL)
Additional Close Matches
Engine number 1466 of the Great Western Railway (an 0-4-2 14xx like Oliver) was once happily waiting on the main line for clearance from the signalman to leave. Unfortunately, the signalman wasn't aware of the engine's presence, and had an express routed on to the same line. When they saw the oncoming express, the fireman jumped clear and the driver tried to move the engine. The express hit 1466, knocking the driver out of the cab and setting the engine in motion. 1466 ran driverless down the main line for seven miles before it was deliberately derailed. The event is dated and located to Newton Abbot, in 1939.* (submitted by Tom Wright)

JG unearths another similar story on the old Somerset and Dorset Joint railway which can be read on Kevin Clapcott's website
“On the 29th of July 1936, an up freight train hauled by a 2-8-0 locomotive, had just passed signals at danger in the vicinity of Writhlington signal box, near Radstock. It came into slight collision with 0-6-0T locomotive No.7620, which was engaged in shunting duties at Braysdown Colliery.

The crew of the 2-8-0 engine had jumped off in anticipation of the collision. The driver of the 0-6-0T, also realizing what was about to happen, started to reverse his train and leaped off, his fireman did the same, leaving the regulator slightly open. The driver then managed to clamber aboard the now almost stationary 2-8-0 and brought it to a halt, The 0-6-0T rolled off towards Bath, minus its crew, propelling a rake of 8 wagons in front of it at ever increasing speed on the undulating gradients. By the time the runaway train reached Midford, some 5 mile away, most of the wagons had been pushed off the track on the sharp curves, causing considerable damage and partially wrecking the signal box and station buildings at Midford. Fortunately the eventual derailment of the last wagon brought the engine to a stand before it could foul the junction at Bath.”
06 1

Engine given higher-grade coal to improve performance:

Different calorific values of coal: From "Steam" locomotive simulator program by Bryan Attewell.

Colliery Location Calorific value (BTU/lb)
Bedwas Wales 13,900
South Kirby Yorkshire 13,800
Firbeck Midlands 13,000
Blidworth Midlands 12,700

Abbots Ripton accident, January 21st, 1876 which claimed 14 lives* (RBTL), Incident at Lincoln (TTTTEM)

Detail of the Abbots Ripton accident from Red for Danger by LTC Rolt:

It was indeed the case that Bray had been misled and Catley and Falkinder on the Scotsman lured to destruction by false and fatal ‘all clear’ signals. The great Northern signals of this date were of the slotted type in which, when pulled to clear, the arm fell into a slot in the signal post. This had become so clogged with snow, driven by the gale and then frozen solid, that the balance weights would not return the arms to danger, the latter not being balanced themselves. To make matters worse, some of the signal wires were covered with three inches of ice. Joshua Pallinder, a signal fitter, told at the inquiry how he had to hack ice off the Abbots Ripton signals to release the arms from the slotted posts, how he had to tie a 36-lb rail chair to the balance weight of the up distant before it would return. Even when he had freed the arm of the down distant at Wood Walton, it automatically dropped back to ‘all clear’ because of the weight of the frozen snow on the long signal wire.
Additional Close Matches
The Flying Kipper resembled an accident at Torre station in Devon on the 15th of December 1952 (a year after the book was published). The event described below was submitted by SiF's Bocodiseasel
It being a dull and drizzly day on Saturday 26 April 1950, (I) walked down to Torre station intending to catch a train to Exeter, only to discover that there had been an accident there that morning. The locomotive on the 8.55 AM Newton Abbot to Kingswear train, 4-6-0 No 7004 Eastnor Castle had run through adverse signals approaching Torre and collided with the rear of a two-wagon goods train hauled by 0-6-0T No 6998, which was standing on the down line. Fortunatly, the wooden wagon next to the break van took much of the force of the collision and no-one was hurt, although Eastnor Castle suffered a badly bent front end.
3 Whistle jams open: fairly frequent occurence

Engine collides with luggage: Inspired by an account in C. Hamilton Ellis's The Trains We Loved and cited in the Rev. Awdry's text.

"The little boy who was I saw and remembered another railway accident at Salisbury, a very jolly one for the heartless onlooker. The principal actors were a porter and an Adams 0-4-2 Jubilee engine. The porter was pushing a trolley, piled high with luggage, over the crossing at the eastern end of the station; the Jubilee was drifting in with the awful stealth of the light engine. Just as he had pushed the trolley so far, the porter saw the Jubilee. He was human. He fled.
LSWR Jubilee 0-4-2 (Adams)
LSWR "Jubilee" 0-4-2 (Adams)

Then the Jubilee took the trolley amidships. With one brief crunch it was gone. A buffer punched sweetly into the great trunk, a tuckbox exploded, a holdall ceased to hold and laid all before us. Neat suits, good jams and choice preserves, dainty millinery and masculine high boots rose in a swarm from that riven hive.

Into the station careened a vision of the Jubilee Adorned. A big picture hat crowned a lamp-iron; snowy lingerie blossomed in strange places, or danced a delicate rigadoon on a coupling rod.

There was a final tortured scream of brakes and wreckage in chorus, then all was still. Strong men, brows bent in horror, leaped down into that vale of tears and began to cram soiled and scattered finery back into split portemanteaux and scalped bandboxes. It was a great destruction. Doubtless much more followed, but at that point a Great Western train came clanking in. I had never before seen a locomotive with double frames and with so immense a brass dome, nor yet a train of carriages completely clerestoried. I turned my back on my first railway accident. Forgive me reader, for I was only five!" - Chapter 1 P.15

JG surmises the incident took place in 1914-1915.

Engine pays vandals out: Possibly an engine fitted with an ash ejector (RBTL).

Additional Close Matches
The following account found by JG in Chapter 7 of Michael Jackman's Thirty Years at Bricklayers Arms (1976) comes pretty close to describing the story's climax play-by-play. Since the incident is said to occur in the 1950's, is there a chance that the tale circulated amongst railwaymen, eventually reaching the Rev. Awdry? Here then, are the full details of the account:
In the early 1950's cases of hooliganism occurred in the usually respectable area of Petts Wood. The target was the 7.34 pm from Charing Cross, which had stones dropped on to the engine as it passed under a footbridge. By the time the train had made its first stop at Sevenoaks and a complaint made, the culprits had fled the scene long before the police eventually arrived at the footbridge. One evening a stone narrowly missed Driver Bill Snell, but he did not report the matter at Sevenoaks.

The following evening, however, he told his fireman to change places with him as they passed Elmstead Woods. Bill piled several shovelsful of slack coal under the door and told the fireman to shut the regulator when he gave the word. As the 7.34 approached the footbridge, the hooligans could be seen, perched ready to bomb the engine. Bill shut off the injector with the needle just above 220, the firehole doors were shut tight and the blower only on a touch; a few yards from the bridge Bill yelled 'now', with the regulator closed suddenly, thick, black smoke rolled out of the chimney and enveloped the boys aloft and with her injector off, steam roared from the engine's safety valves as the engine passed under the bridge. No more incidents occurred for Bill that week as he reckoned that 220lb of steam and lungfuls of smoke with a slight scalding was better than a talk from a policeman any day!*
The Awdrys saw their first J70 at Great Yarmouth fish quay on a holiday in August 1951 (RBTL)
Illegality of ordinary steam engine riding roadside tramway: From research of tramway regulations (TTTTEM)
3 Another train coming down a hill with unbraked wagons.
A real instance is not cited here, but warning an oncoming train of a landslide with a brightly coloured garment is a central plot feature of Edith Nesbit's classic The Railway Children (1904) (RBTL)
08 1 Engine runs off turntable: A newspaper cutting reported in TTTTEM that a youthful correspondent Richard sent to the Rev W. is reported in that book as follows:
Engine No 43132 takes the wrong turn at Lynn
The 43132, a 90-ton 4MT engine (a 2-6-0 Ivatt LMS "Mogul" from 1947), used for passenger and goods work, should have taken the 12.30 train from South Lynn to Yarmouth on Saturday. Driver B. Fisher and Fireman D. Hudson were operating the turntable and had the engine half-way round the turn when it began to move forward off the turntable and down a 7ft embankment, its nose becoming embedded in a ditch.

MC's local newspaper search in the British Library (Newspapers) at Colindale in North London yielded this:

Note: There are some inconsistencies between the two accounts - the loco's number (43142), depth of plunge (4-5 ft) and method of rescue (crane), but also some similarities - the 12.39 train from South Lynn to Yarmouth on a Saturday, besides the general freakishness of the event one might feel would not occur twice in the same location readily! Needless to say this was a front page story for the still-published Lynn News, which gives us a firm date for Gordon's plunge of Saturday 9th August, 1952. Rather poor quality photo but unmistakeably Ivatt's mogul!

1952-08-09: The inspiration for 'Off the Rails' !

Life Imitating Art Department

JG found this 'scaled-down' account of a similar incident that happened to Robin Hood, a 10¼" gauge model of an A1/A2 Pacific built by David Curwen, on the Weymouth Miniature Railway between 1947 and 1962. As recounted by David:
The loco was on the turntable with one of the helpers sitting on the tender whilst it was being turned by its driver. Just as the loco was half way round the helper accidentally nudged the regulator with his knee and at the time the loco was in full forward gear! The engine swiftly moved forward and due to the proximity of the turn table to the Radipole lake Robin Hood took a nose dive off the wall and straight into the water. After the panic the driver contacted a chum who was an officer in the local RAF base and he sent some of his men along with a mobile crane to rescue the stricken engine out of the lake. After careful examination of the engine for damage which happened to be so minor in fact that the loco was in-service the next day!

Train slipping on leaves: Bincombe Tunnel, cited in the story text, is still used on the line in Dorsetshire between Dorchester and Weymouth, a Channel port. Although the leaf-slip incident cannot be identified, the 1:50 Bincombe Bank is the steepest grade in the Southern region:

Bincombe Tunnel area map
Engine falls into a collapsed mine:MC found this account in The Furness Railway, by W. McGowan Gordon (1946), page 42:

On October (actually September) 22nd, 1892, about 8:16 a.m., a remarkable accident occurred on the Furness Railway at Lindal. The 0-6-0 tender engne No. 115 (a 16” “Sharpie”) was shunting some iron ore wagons into a siding in the yard when the ground suddenly caved in under the locomotive. The engine crew (Driver Postlethwaite and Fireman Robinson) jumped off the footplate and got away. Slowly but surely the engine sank into the cavity and by 2-15 p.m. she had disappeared from view. Only the tender was saved. The area around Lindal is honeycombed with iron ore workings, and this was evidently responsible for the subsidence. It is estimated the locomotive lies some 200 feet below the ground today. The cavity was filled up in due course and the line became quite safe for traffic. While ths was going on, goods for the area were worked round by Penrith, Keswick and Workington. For passengers, trains were worked to and from each side of the subsidence. A new engine was eventually built to replace 115, whose salvaged tender she received. This image of "No 115, an example of Mr Pettigrew's second reboilering of the 'Sharpies'", on page 87 would appear to be the lost locomotive.

The hole through which No. 115 fell into on 22 Sept. 1892 at Lindal-in-Furness
Aside from the engine, the only other material casualties were driver Thomas Postlethwaite's jacket and long-service gold watch that remained in the cab. Additional pictures and info can be found on the Lindal and Marton Community website.

Paint spilled on engine: A station painter was unsighted by locomotive smoke in Preston (RBTL)

Gladstone at the NRM, York. Photo by Martin Clutterbuck,  August 2010
Gladstone at the National Railway Museum, York.
Photo: © Martin Clutterbuck (August, 2010)

Royal Trains: At the National Railway Museum in York, William Stroudley's 0-4-2, No. 214 Gladstone (above), built for the LBSCR in 1882, bears the Royal Arms of Queen Victoria on its buffer-beam (click the image above for a detailed view of the crest). Also at the NRM, this photo (below) of HM Queen Elizabeth II arriving by train at Llandrindod Wells in 1952, the year she took the throne, is very reminiscent of the scenes in Sodor the following year, after her Coronation in 1953.

Queen Elisabeth II disembarking at Llandrindod Wells in 1952
Photo of HM QE II on display at the National Railway Museum, York.
Photo: © Martin Clutterbuck (August, 2010)

09 1

In South Africa, a herd of elephants charged and broke a train (RBTL)

These two items found by JG and obtained from 1952's Railway Gazette seem to match "Cows!" play by play. The story on the left from the Nov. 28, 1952 issue, and on the right, from Dec. 26, 1952.

Railway gazette: 1952-11-28
Railway Gazette: 1952-12-26

Life Imitating Art Department
A cow and her calf wandered onto the Tallylyn Railway's line in 1955 as recorded on this British Pathé newsreel whose preview is free for downloading from ITN Source Archives or by direct download. Although the disturbance was only slight, the engine is No.4 Edward Thomas. Image © British Pathe 1955.
British Pathe: Narrow Gauge Railway
2 Bus chases train with passengers: In Ireland (RBTL). Also see book 4, story 4.
Traction engine saved from scrap: Inspired by one owned by the Vicar of Magdalen, East Anglia. (TTTTEM p.191)

Circa 1954 - a runaway train in Alton, Illinois was rescued with a lasso. (RBTL)

Jim Gratton has followed-up and located the clipping from the Railway Gazette dated August 1st, 1947.
Inspiration for Old Iron - Railway Gazette: 1947-08-01
What is amazing is that several months before the original Railway Gazette source was located, JG managed to track down and contact who turned out to be a witness to the actual event! A lot of initial assumptions we had about fiction vs. fact were put to rest...
(JG Query) I'm looking for more information about the capture of a runaway locomotive that took place @ or before 1954, near Alton, Illinois. It was apparently noted in the 'Daily Express' and reprinted in the 'Railway Gazette' in the U.K. @1954.

The apparently driverless locomotive was captured when the pursuing engine caught up on the line aside, whereupon a railwayman stood on the pursuing engine's front plate, and managed to harness a loop of heavy rope around the fleeing engine's front buffers. The rescue engine then gradually applied the brakes until both were stopped.
(JG's retrospective note to self: Ha ha, a lot of assumptions for sure!)
In retrospect, ha ha, a lot of assumptions for sure! A reply was soon received from Bill Dunbar - retired GM&O - ICG train dispatcher. We gratefully thank Bill for his memories and Richard Leonard for passing the query along to him.

I do indeed remember that incident and must say the account cited above sounds as if a Hollywood screen writer reworked the details.

The runaway engine was a diesel switcher, one of the GM&O's Alco S2s. Northward freight train No. 28 had passed Godfrey, a junction north of Alton and part of the Alton switching district. I'm not sure at this late date but believe the switcher probably followed 28 up the hill from Wann, a rather commonplace move back then. It was left unattended for a short time within interlocking limits when, shortly before 3 p.m., it began to move and entered the northward main track. This was reported to Jim Simons, the first trick train dispatcher at Bloomington. Second trick dispatcher Elmer "Cooney" Lakin had just arrived to relieve him and Jim was only too happy to vacate the chair.

Elmer gave the telegrapher at Brighton tower a message for No. 28, telling them the runaway was following. When the wild engine passed Brighton it was possible to estimate its speed, which wasn't too terribly fast, and a message was hooped up to 28 at Shipman with the information. 28's engineer regulated his speed to a little less than that of the runaway, which then gradually narrowed the gap. When it came in sight, 28's conductor was able to advise his engineer by radio what was happening and in a short time the switcher tied into 28's caboose. The flagman jumped across and shut the runaway's throttle, 28's engineer stopped his train and the escapade was over.

No damage was done, except that Dispatcher Lakin soon came down with a case of shingles as a result of the stress involved. From that time it was mandatory that diesel engines could not be left idling unattended unless the reverser handle was removed from the control stand.

That was more than 60 years ago so my recollection may not be 100 per cent accurate, but it's a lot more so than that story from England!

(Martin Comment)
It's clear enough and if it was stressful enough to give a man shingles, let alone imagining the flagman climbing over a driverless train to the cab, Mr Dunbar is unlikely to have been mistaken.

One common theme between this tale and W Awdry's yarn is the heroism, quick reaction and level-headedness of the railwaymen to successfully prevent an accident, which was surely a big concern of his. But who knows what else there is in the literature to spice up the melange?

Epilogue: Bill's reaction to the discovery of the Railway Gazette article.

Thank you so much for the "runaway" article! I'm delighted to have it, and will share it with other old-timers who remember the incident. It was interesting to see Bob Tipple's name; I hadn't thought of him in years. If I remember correctly, he was an engineer whose train handling improved markedly after we dieselized. Conversely, there were some steam runners who didn't get along well with the new power.

As I believe I explained to you earlier, the account isn't very accurate. The yard engine ran away on the northward main track after freight train 28 has passed. 28 was notified by the dispatcher and using radios on the engine and caboose, regulated speed so the runaway caught up and coupled to the rear of the train. Flagman Bob Brown then crossed to the engine and closed the throttle. I don't remember how the yard engine got back to Alton but probably it was set out at Virden or Auburn and later picked up in tow by the next southward train performing local work.

What else there is in the literature to spice up the melange? This perhaps from SiF's Chris the Xelent about an incident from the early 1950's:

One early morning, at Workington MPD, Ivatt 4MT No 43007 was raising steam when the driver put the loco into full forward gear, left momentarily to get some more oil and when he came back the mogul was gone. Apparently, the night before when the fire was dropped, the crew had left the regulator slightly open.

Anyway, the engine was now heading to Whithaven without a crew. The Preston Street shunter 'Jinty' No 47601 was sent after the runaway engine. The two drew level near Whitehaven Brantsy and the fireman of the Jinty jumped aboard and took control.

Apparently, it wasn't worthwhile. Three weeks later, the same engine ran through the stores of Workington MPD, then later became derailed in Workington yard and finally, 3 weeks later, she was off the road again at Nuneaton MPD. What became of her after that, I don't know.
note: another of those Ivatts (see story 1, book 8), known unaffectionately as "flying pigs". One has survived.
10 1 Close parallel to the history of the Talyllyn Railway
In the early 1950s, Corris No 3's wheeltreads "were too narrow for the Talyllyn's rather liberal gauge" (RBTL)
The Rev Wilbert was the guard on a Talyllyn train hauled by No. 4 who left the Refreshment Lady, Mrs Davies (the driver, Bill Oliver's mother-in-law) behind. (TTTTEM, RBTL)
One occasion in which TR No 1 "struggled in the face of adversity" to keep trains running (RBTL)
11 1
Backing signals - these were signals which allowed the train to reverse; if a freight train could not make it up a hill, it would be allowed to reverse past regular signals set at "off" and either have another try or call for a banker. On the SD&J they looked like an openwork "bow-tie" while on the GWR they were a regular signal arm with two big holes in it as seen in the picture below.
backing signal
So the signal which Percy thinks is a "backing signal" is actually just an ordinary "upper quadrant" signal, (that goes up to show "clear"). One would thus assume a novel development for the NWR, perhaps after the Fat Controller decided that lower quadrant signals were in fact snow-vulnerable. (See note on book 6, story 2)
2 Duck: To explain the origin of the name, see the page on Duck.

Train races Helicopter: Helicopters were all the rage in the mid-1950s as a novel transportation alternative to railways. See Harold's page for additional insight.

Additional Close Matches
Racing stunts were popular in the 1930s such as this one between Flying Scotsman, a De Havilland Puss Moth and a speedboat in 1931*:
Racing stunt circa 1931
You can download a British Pathé newsreel clip of the event from ITN Source Archives

A train was stranded in five feet of water after a tidal wave near Hunstanton, Norfolk, and the crew got the train into Hunstanton by using the floorboards of the guard's van (RBTL).

JG followed this up with a query to the Norfolk Railway Society:

(JG Query) I am looking for information about an anecdote I read about a train being stranded in five feet of water near Hunstanton, Norfolk after a storm surge. The crew managed to relight the boiler fire by using floorboards taken from the guard's van. After a few hours, they were able to get the train back to Hunstanton. This incident would have taken place prior to 1956.

Mike Handscomb, Newsletter and Website Editor, Norfolk Railway Society replied (with our many thanks) with this information from A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain, Vol 5 Eastern Counties by D I Gordon (David & Charles 1968).

The Hunstanton line figured prominently in the railway dramas of the 1953 floods. On the evening of 31 January the 7.27 pm from Hunstanton was engulfed before it could reach Heacham; it was struck on the smoke box by a floating bungalow and, the vacuum brake having been damaged and the fire extinguished, stood for six hours while water rose to seat level. Eventually, making temporary repairs to the brakes and using the floor boards from the tender to restart the fire, the driver was able to raise sufficient steam to crawl back to Hunstanton. The line remained blocked between Snettisham and Heacham until 11 February, and between the latter and Hunstanton, where the wreckage of bungalows had been swept on to the line and part of the track washed away, until 23 February.

The Hunstanton story was also in the Railway Gazette of 13 Feb, 1953 (JG)
Source for Percy's Promise: Railway Gazette 1952-02-13

Life Imitating Art Department
* Picture below Taken from STEAM WORLD, Issue 231 (SIF - Christopher Signore, who says, "I knew the Great Westerners were daring, but I didn't think they'd go this far!")
Train in flood
12 1

At Burnham-on-Sea, a contractor's locomotive once ran off the end of a jetty* (RBTL)

Additional Close Matches
SiF's Stuart Davies shares this account of an incident taking place on the Alderney Railway (one of the Channel Islands)
In the winter of 1911/1912 a train drawn by a Pecket locomotive “No 2” ran off the end of the Breakwater into the sea. Both driver and fireman survived and the locomotive was eventually salvaged and repaired. All locomotives working on the breakwater then had to carry life belts!
We must also extend our many thanks to Elisabeth Gallienne of the Library of Guernsey for being most helpful for providing additional details about the incident.

I have discovered that the incident in Alderney took place on 28th November 1911. I did find some information in a book by N.R.P Bonsor which described the event. I quote from the book:

Locomotive No.2 arrived in Alderney in 1904 from Portland, Dorset. No. 2 was lucky to survive the winter months of 1911-1912. as on 28th November 1911. It was proceeding along the breakwater with a 'foreshoring' train when the driver, Mr. Cleal, discovered to his horror that the sea water and sea weed on the rails were preventing the brakes from gripping. The outcome was that the entire train went over the end, Mr. Cleal and the fireman Mr. Brookes, managed to jump clear in the nick of time. The engine lay submerged for several weeks, but was eventually recovered by a salvage company for a fee of £200. The chimney, dome and cab were lost and the smokebox and saddletank badly damaged, but the railway workshops were fully competent to undertake the necessary repairs and before long the engine was back in service again.

Which station is London? Unlike many other cities, each major line into London has its own terminus, roughly connected by the Circle Line, particularly the stations mentioned here: King's Cross (GNR-LNER), Euston (LNWR-LMS), Paddington (GWR) and St Pancras (Midland-LMS).
A J70 once had to be "helped" to the ex-GER works in Stratford for overhaul having been stranded without water. (RBTL)
Cavalcades and collisions with buffer stops have definitely occurred before (RBTL)
13 1

City of Truro, with distinctive GWR safety valve and top feed (but no dome) is the first real locomotive to visit Sodor.

Additional Close Matches
Engine loses its dome: SiF's Richard Marsden found this account which has very close parallels in RCTS Locomotives of the LNER vol 6A.
The real event happened to K3 2-6-0 No. 61809 in 1958. The Locomotive Inspector was onboard the 3-10am York to Woodford Class C Goods. The run was usually headed by a York V2, but this time had a Woodford K3 instead. When crossing the embankment near Staverton Road, the dome cover came loose and was lifted by the wind, to land at the foot of the embankment!*
Gresley K3 from 1924. From the 1955 Observer's Book of Trains
Gresley K3 from 1924. From the 1955 Observer's Book of Trains.
2 No doubt many engines have tried to move rusted-up trucks...
... but not so many indulge in malicious gossip: The "galloping sausage" was a nickname for Gresley's "Hush-Hush" No 10000. (SIF - Richard Marsden)
Galloping Sausage
Engine collides with building: A railway yard collision with a coal-merchant's hut* (RBTL). An event in Hull documented in the Railway Gazette (TTTTEM)
14 1
There was a watering point a short distance below the bottom incline on the Talyllyn Railway (RBTL)
Talyllyn No 1, arrived home after repairs. In 1958, No 6 Douglas arrived (RBTL)
No 6, with short wheelbase and small wheels, would tend to rock and roll on uneven track, and had to be rerailed by passengers. (RBTL)
A BBC television crew visited the Talyllyn Railway in 1956 (TTTTEM, RBTL)
15 1
Two engines of the same class would tend to look alike.
Engines of the same class often had their tenders swapped, and indeed every other component from boilers to safety valves.
3 Engine backs into signal box:

Additional Close Matches
SiF's Stuart Davies shares this account with us. Looks like the illustration in the book, doesn't it?! Even the year of the incident iswithin a reasonable timeline. Text from Trains In Trouble Volume 2 by Arthur Trevena.
Engine Rams Signal Box
On 20th July 1959, the driver of Jubilee no. 45730 'Ocean' was backing down from St. Pancras Station to the MPD at Kentish Town when he missed a signal at danger. To protect the mainline, the points had been set into a short dead end spur, resulting in the engine colliding tender-first into the signalbox. Handsignalling was in force into and out of St Pancras for several days until the signalbox could be repaired.
Dock Junction incident of 1959
Photo of the "Dock Junction Incident" by PN Townend.

According to Tom Wright, this also happened to a steam railmotor at Ealing Broadway in 1937.

Brake Van pulled apart: Yet to be identified
Engines challenged by large snow drifts choking the line: Snowy conditions resulting in severe drifts are common in Scotland.
Additional Close Matches
Meanwhile, harrowing accounts of a train snowed in on the Donner Pass in the High Sierras of Nevada, USA is documented in detail by Miles Post. Two rescuers died in the attempt to reach the City of San Francisco streamliner which became stuck on January 13, 1952. They were Southern Pacific rotary snowplough driver, Rolland Raymond, buried in an avalanche, and bulldozer driver Jay Gold, who suffered a heart attack from exertion. All 226 passengers and crew were rescued after a 4-day ordeal. (JG)
Snowbound train trapped at Donner Pass in 1952
Snow - silly soft stuff”, said Thomas
16 1 Runaway engine collides with a dwelling of some kind (RBTL)
Additional Close Matches
Stuart Davies once again presents us with a very compelling match to the story's events. It happened to an E3 0-6-2 Billinton Tank stationed at New Cross Shed, LBSCR during the 1910's. From LBSC Footplate Experiences by Curly Lawrence:

One evening, the washout-gang had been operating on one of the Billinton radial tanks and, after refilling the boiler, had left the regulator slightly open. This was not noticed by the firelighter, and the consequence was that as soon as the engine (no. 166 'Cliftonville' had made sufficient steam to move, she quietly slipped off. By rights, according to the rules, the reverse lever should have been in mid-gear but by the general cussedness of things, it wasn't. Neither was the handbrake screwed on, as the engine had been pushed into the shed by the yard pilot. She moved slowly out of the shed and proceeded down the yard, and nobody took the slightest notice, thinking she was being moved by the shed driver.

The particular line she was on went down to the end of the yard to a hoist, under which engines were lifted for spring adjustments and so forth. There were no buffer stops, only the boundary fence and beyond that was the stationmaster's house. The engine just pushed the fence out of the way, and made herself quite at home in the stationmaster's parlour. The wall of the house had to be propped up before she could be pulled out.

Billinton's E3 from 1894 looks rather Thomas-like! From the 1955 Observer Book of Trains.

Life Imitating Art Department
Folk singer Dave Goulder immortalized an event in song of an event in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. There were a few embellishments added to the lyrics to liven up the song, but Dave vouches that the core event did indeed happen and that it made the local paper which was called the 'Free Press'. It's successor appears to be the Newstead and Annesley Advertiser.With help from Dave's wife Mary, and local historian Sylvia Sinfield, I was put in touch with another local historian Frank Ashley. Frank, himself a descendant of footplatemen, mentions that the event actually took place in the 1950's. We'd like to thank Dave, Mary, Sylvia and especially Frank for the following detailed account of the 'Chip Shop Incident'.

The locomotive was parked in the shed yard. having been recently lit up from cold, ready for duty in the next few hours. The fire was banked up and left to burn through for steam pressure to build up in the boiler to the point where it would be ready for work. When a locomotive is moved by an 'in steam' shed shunter it is normal to open the regulator valve (by which steam is admitted to the cylinders when working). this valve is opened to reduce the 'drag' of the dead engine caused by the pistons creating a vaccuum in the cylinders as the locomotive moves.

There was some doubt as to whether the shed 'preparing' crew whose job it was to get locomotives ready for work had left the regulator open when the locomotive was left to raise steam or someone else opened it while the engine was unattended. Naturally, you could bet your life that at the enquiry into the incident the preparers would have been quite positive that they had firmly closed the valve!

After some time, the steam pressure in the boiler built up and before the locomotive was visited again by the preparing crew, reached the point at which it was high enough to overcome the inertia and started the engine rolling. The valve-gear was set so that the engine moved away from the shed and slowly made its way down the short, dead-end siding behind the signal box towards the buffer-stop at the end. The momentum of the engine, plus the small amount of steam still being delivered from the boiler were together sufficient to demolish the buffer-stop at the end of the siding and to take the whole through the flimsy 'post and rail' fencing on to the road which linked Low Moor Road to the level-crossing and Southwell Lane.

Once it arrived on the road surface the weight of the engine was sufficient to sink the wheel-flanges into the surface tarmac and to break up the road-bed. This generated sufficient drag during the trip across the road (which fortunately was empty of road traffic at this time) to bring the locomotive to a halt just short of the chip shop, but not soon enough to prevent one of the buffers punching a hole in the corrugated iron wall of the shop - much to the consternation of the owber who was frying chips inside (and that of his waiting customers!)

I have never seen any photos of this incident, and I doubt if any were taken as I understand that it took place in the hours of darkness and the locomotive was recovered to the shop without delay. That level crossing carried a lot of coal lorries and the road would not been have allowed to remain blocked for as long as the lorries would have had to make a long diversion through a residential area.

Site sketch of incident courtesy of Frank, again with out many thanks.

Diesel railcars were taking over rural branchlines by 1962 (RBTL)

A bull was chased off the line by a farmer and a policemen (RBTL) Also see Book 9, Story 1.

SiF's David Malinsky's sleuthing uncovered the likely source that inspired the story - from the 23 Dec. 1960 issue of the Railway Gazette:

Railway Gazette 1960-12-23
Engine ends up perched on truck: Following the lead from RBTL, JG came up with this...
Accident near Farnham Junction, April 13th, 1876
From Model Railway News, February 1958 p 31
Originally from an old sketchbook-notebook belonging to Dampier Shaw, one time chief draughtsman at the Loughedge works of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, who supplied this picture with the caption: Accident near Farnham Junction, April 13th, 1876. Engine mounted itself on Goods Trucks Apparently there was an end-on collision between two goods trains. The brake van of the stationary train collapsed. The engine of the colliding train, urged forward by the weight of the train behind her, climbed over the wreckage and came to rest, bolt upright, on top of two coal trucks. The engine was LCDR No 123 Phyllis, a double-framed 0-6-0 Class H goods engine, built by Robert Stephenson and Co in 1862 to a design by W Martley, then locomotive superintendent of the LCDR. Farnham Junction was replaced years later by the present Swanley Junction.
17 1
While on the Corris Railway, No 4 collided with a bridge and broke its funnel, the repair to be seen in the Corris railway Museum at Corris (RBTL). As Talyllyn no 4, Edward Thomas was fitted with a Giesl ejector (a flattened, rectangular section, wedge-shaped funnel) from 1958-1969.

Collision between steamroller and narrow-gauge train: Irish incident related in Narrow Gauge Album by PB Whitehouse, as cited in the story's text.

JG supplies us with the relevant text and image from that book:

Muskerry Tram 6th September, 1927
The Muskerry Tram made history in 1927, for on September 6th of that year, the 7.45 a.m passnger train from Donoughmore was proceeding peacefully along the side of the Carrigrohane road on its own right of way, when it either ran or was run into by a steamroller. The driver claimed that he blew his whistle when within forty yards of the steam roller and again when nearer to it, but on the other hand, the roller driver claimed that he signalled to the train to stop. The matter was never satisfactorily explained, but the story that the two were having a race took a long time to live down.
3 Talyllyn No 6 Douglas stalled on a viaduct (RBTL)
Talyllyn No 2 Dolgoch alone kept the railway running in the late 1940s, as related in Railway Adventure by LTC Rolt.
18 1

Stepney is the second real engine to visit Sodor.

From the Railway Gazette in June 1959: One night in 1905, a gentleman missed the midnight train to Aylesbury and ordered a Special, which shunted the earlier train at Chorleywood and thus overtook it. (RBTL)

At Stroud in 1960, a train at a signal was asked to move on because it was behind the bowler's arm at a cricket match. (RBTL)

Once again documented in the austere Scrap Heap section of the Railway Gazette for 10 June 1960, with many thanks to SiF's David Malinsky for tracking it down :)

Railway Gazette - 1960-06-10

In the Railway Gazette 1960-61: A new diesel had to be towed away by a steam engine after an inspector's bowler hat was sucked into the fan duct (RBTL)
19 1

An inspection of the Snowdon Mountain Railway, used no. 5 Moel Siabod and two coaches full of ballast and sand to simulate a loaded train. The automatic brake did indeed activate on the run when the speed exceeded 5mph. (Stuart Davies)


An accident on the Snowdon Mountain Railway on its opening day on April 6th 1896: Again, Stuart Davies provides us with the following account:

The engine it happened to was no. 1 'Ladas'. 'Enid' pushed the first train to the summit of one coach. 'Ladas' followed with two coaches a few minutes later. All went well on the up trip, but on the way down, subsidence in the trackbed caused by a thaw of frost earlier on caused 'Ladas' to mount the rails. As she did so, her pinion lifted clear of the rack, causing the engine to lose all her brakes. 'Ladas' gathered speed down the hill. Her driver and fireman jumped clear and the two coaches were halted by their automatic brakes, aided by the action of the handbrake, and stayed on the rails.

'Ladas' plummeted about 2000ft, landing in the valley far below, completely wrecked. The guard, as he applied the coaches' handbrake shouted for everyone to remain where they were, but two people jumped from the train, one of them, whose name was Ellis Roberts hitting his head on a rock and dying in hospital. However 'Ladas' damaged a telegraph pole on her fall, disabling all communication between Clogwyn (the last station before the summit) and the summit itself. 'Enid''s driver, having waited three quarters of an hour for a clear signal (which should have been given fifteen after 'Ladas' had left, but which couldn't be given thanks to the accident), started a cautious descent. However, he didn't see the people (due to mist) or hear their shouts to stop.

'Enid' (thankfully going at low speed) hit the two coaches of 'Ladas'' train, and sent them rolling into Clogwyn, where they were derailed in the loop by the signalman. Dr. Roberts of Dinorwic Quarries hospital arrived on the scene, and Ellis Roberts was carried down the mountain on a stretcher. People with lighter injuries went to the hospital. The engine crews and staff walked back down to Llanberis, leaving 'Enid' and the three coaches on the mountain. 'Ladas' was never replaced, nor was her number 1 used for any other engine. Services were suspended for another year till the track was repaired. The railway re-opened on April 16th 1897, and has since operated without major incident.

A rather demolished Ladas from Snowdon
Ladas in a situation usable only for a very few spares and scrap, from Volume 1 of Trains in Trouble by Arthur Trevena (SiF Truro)
No. 6 did derail on Snowdon Summit, but the taking away of names as a punishment didn't occur in the real accident. Though the engine was renamed from 'Sir Harmood' (the Snowdon Railway's chairman) to Padarn (after the lake near the railway). (Stuart Davies)
Snowdon Mountain Railway rescued stranded climbers near Clogwyn (inspiration for Devil's Back).(Stuart Davies)
20 1
At the Talyllyn railway when the first locomotive (Talyllyn) arrived and wouldn't budge from Wharf Station. The crews tried everything to make it work, but to no avail. Eventually Robert Bousted, a fitter from Fletcher, Jennings & Company came to try his hand and see if he could do anything. Hence the inspiration for the name, Mr Bobby. Bousted liked the place so much, he stayed for 18 years. (TTTTEM)
Eventually, when Captain Tyler came to inspect the line for passenger carrying, the engine rocked and rolled so much, he insisted that a new pair of trailing wheels be fitted to steady her. (TTTTEM)
When Dolgoch came to the Railway, Talyllyn was sent back to Whitehaven for modification and came back with a cab and trailing wheels. (TTTEM)
The Talyllyn celebrated its 100th birthday in 1965.
21 1
The China Clay operation is directly modelled on that of Por of Par, nr St Austell, Cornwall.

The Times related an incident at London Bridge station, when staff, passengers and even a train were driven away by six bees escaping from a damaged hive. (RBTL)

and here is the clipping in question thanks to the indefatigable research of Jim Gratton:

Inspiration for Buzz Buzz: Times of London 1956-08-13
3 Another common case of misdirected trains.
The cross-head assembly of an express near Settle in 1960 was damaged. (RBTL)
22 1
The 15" Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway used to carry a mineral product in the 1950s: granite.
The Rev Teddy Boston was indeed soaked by an R&ER train steaming up a forested rise (RBTL)
R&ER volunteer Eliot Andersen shares this incident taken from the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway Preservation Society Magazine, Sept 1999:
... With more than a little artistic licence, the story is based on Katie, who lost her whistle on a tough trip up the line." Katie is an 1896 0-4-0 originally from Sir Arthur Heywood's Eaton Hall Railway who was with the R&ER from 1916-1919 when the incident occurred. The engine is now back at the "Ratty"
Eliot Andersen also found this in the same Sept. 1999 issue of R&ERPS Magazine:
...In the early days of the 15 in. railway, there was a siding at Beckfoot used for coal wagons. One day, River Esk split the track and ended up off the rails, and in another incident there really was a bale of wool on the line!
23 1 Flying Scotsman is the third real engine to visit Sodor.
A steam locomotive rescued two diesel trains on the Waterloo line in April 1967, captured in photos by the Rev Wilbert's correspondent Richard, as cited in the foreword.
A waybill was deliberately altered by railwaymen so that No 71000 Duke of Gloucester was moved to Dai Woodham's Yard in Barry, from where it was possible to save the locomotive, rather than some other scrapyard where the engine would have immediately been cut up*. (RBTL).
Additional Close Matches
Tom Wright adds that the Great Western Society in Didcot was founded by enthusiasts who rescued 14xx No. 1466 (see Book 5, Story 4) and a GW autocoach.*
The new "Little Western" branchline is modelled on the Dart Valley Railway in Devonshire
24 1
A bird once nested in a tender (RBTL) and inspired from an account taken from the Railway Gazette (TTTTEM)
2 Engines have been pushed down turntable wells. (RBTL)
Additional Close Matches
Undated turntable accident from Steam World issue 229
A misjudgement had left a locomotive at a dramatic angle after plunging into the turntable pit at Bacup, Lancashire. Taken from STEAM WORLD, Issue 229. (SIF- Christopher Signore. He notes the coincidence that the 2-4-2 and 0-6-0 have the same shapes as Oliver and Douglas. Also, the two views are very similar to the book scenes.)
Turntable Accident at Bacup, Lancashire, date unknown.
Private owner wagons were often poorly maintained and liable to break. There must have been some incident of a sturdy brake van helping the process.

In late 1962, a trolley bus on a lowloader headed for the scrap yard became wedged under a bridge in Lewes, according to the London Evening Standard.(RBTL)

Life Imitating Art Department
JG came across this incident in the Shropshire Star having taken place 28 December, 2005.
Bus mishap - Shropshire Star: 2005-12-28
25 1 When The Rev Wilbert visited the Ffestiniog Railway in the 1960s, 1864 veteran Palmerston was being used as a stationary boiler (JG):
Palmerston's days as a stationary boiler
On 5 September, 1962, the Ffestiniog locomotive Linda, double-heading with Prince, became derailed at Squirrel Crossing:
Linda's Leap 1962-09-05
FR Heritage Group Wiki now has a page with rather good photos of what is now known as "Linda's Leap". Thanks for the link this way!

JG also found an additional fascinating reference to an illustration in the Bulldog story from a lead by Peter Johnson, Editor of Ffestiniog Railway Magazine. He relates that this picture was originally a colour slide, and more intriguingly, that "allegedly, the participants were sworn to secrecy by Allan Garraway, then GM." He also states that the picture is in fact a "mirror image" of the accident on the MSR. And to prove Peter's point, we've reproduced a comparison below:
Peter Edward's Bulldog illustration comparison to Linda's Leap photo

A human chain to provide water for an engine occurred on the Talyllyn Railway (RBTL)
No doubt many an engine needed rescuing, only for the rescuer to find out the "failed engine" still had a lot of puff.

Two sources may be cited for rescuing a "sleeping locomotive": The first source is mentioned in passing in the in this volume's foreword by the Rev. Awdry. SiF's Ben Pennock is credited for finding the original reference on a website, which we later found out to have originated from the 1935 magazine run of Railway Wonders of the World, Part 34 - Main Lines of Brazil.

The restored Colonel Church of the Madeira Mamore Railway in Brazil circa 1912
The engine concerned, Baldwin 1878 4-4-2 Coronel Church (pictured above) ran on the Estrada de Ferro Madeira-Mamore in Brazil. Details of its rediscovery by engineers rebuilding the line are reproduced below from the magazine. (JG)

In the jungle, abandoned thirty-four years previously by the pioneers of one of the earlier attempts, there was found a locomotive where the men had left it before they staggered away to die. The forest had the locomotive in its clutches; a tree grew from the funnel; vegetation sprouted from the firebox, and insects had made their home in the cab.

The discoverers had the derelict hauled to the new depot, where mechanics took it to hand and repaired it. Since then, up to the time of writing, it has been in regular service for nearly a quarter of a century, which is probably a record for a locomotive that was lost for more than thirty years.

Further digging by MC and JG traced the origin of the locomotive as being built by Baldwin Works in New York in 1878, delivered by steamship to the EFMM that same year, where on the 4th of July during the railway's inaugural opening, it is christened ‘Coronel Church’, in honor of the American Colonel Earl Church, who headed the construction of the railway. #12 was the first locomotive to operate on the railway in the Amazon.

In August 1879, the locomotive is abandoned after the EFFM line only managed to cover just over six kilometers before crews succumbed to malaria and the project abandoned. According to researcher Evandro Rocha Lopes, the locomotive was initially used by the villagers of Santo Antonio, as a hen house, bakery oven, and a water tank. After being recovered and restored, the locomotive was officially put back in operation, coincidentally on the 4th July, 1912.

The abandoned 'Colonel Church'

These photos were found on p.182 of Joseph F. Woodroffe's The Upper Reaches of the Amazon, Methuen & Co (1914).

(Left) The locomotive in its abandoned state. (Below) The restored engine in service.

The resored Colonel Church

The 2nd source that inspired Sleeping Beauty was the rescue of the Cadeby Light Railway's Pixie by the Rev Teddy Boston.(MC)

26 1 A railway collision involving lime (RBTL)
2 Cutting side hay was sold to farmers by many railways including the Talyllyn (RBTL)

Unidentified instance of engine coming to grief on frozen mud.

Update 2016-Jan-14: Dr. Rudi Newman PHD (with our many thanks), found the real-life inspiration for the story in the book: The Wisbech and Upwell Tramway by E. Gadsden, C. Whetmath & J. Stafford-Baker (1966). The incident in question was witnessed by the Rev. Awdry himself...

At the Blacksmith’s Arms corner, the tram crosses from one side of Elm High Road to the other. Between this spot and Elm Depot the track is ballasted up to rail level with earth and small stones… …In winter it gets very muddy, and hard frost, such as we had in 1962-3, causes this mud to swell and freeze solid leaving places where there is too little flangeway clearance on the inside of each rail. I was passing this spot when the afternoon tram lumbered across the road. I waited to see it go past – but it didn’t! Just as it reached me a patch of frozen ballast in the flangeways lifted the wheels just enough to destroy adhesion and the diesel came to a stop. They backed and tried again, getting very little further in the process. Spades were tried, but they made little impression on the frozen mud. So they had to try backing and rushing. Meanwhile with the tail of the train passing to and fro over the road, traffic began to pile up and in spite of the cold, the atmosphere began to get a trifle torrid! I was sorry I could not wait to see the end, but I left reflecting that the steam tram had its own built-in solution to this problem – namely, red-hot cinders from the firebox.

4 In America, a trestle disappeared before the driver's eyes (RBTL)
Life Imitating Art Department
From a news item in The Sun, Tues Oct 25, 2005 of this harrowing incident in Italy...
Please Mind the Gap
A packed train balances precariously over a raging torrent after bridge supports were washed away in a storm. Had the locomotive traveled just a few feet more, its weight would have pulled ten carriages over the edge to disaster. The Milan-bound express had been thundering through the darkness at 100mph towards the bridge near Bari, southern Italy. But luckily the heavy rain had loosened the tracks - causing it to derail and stop just in time.
27-41 -
Those seeking real-life examples for Christopher Awdry's stories are referred to his excellent Sodor: reading Between the Lines.