Ffarquhar I Layout
The Ffarquhar I Branch as featured in Railway Modeller,December 1959 with thanks to Mike Nickerson.
posted with permission © Railway Modeller

Introduction

The Rev W Awdry started his model railway experience with the Ampfield Model Railway (AMR), a Gauge 1 garden railway, powered by live steam, running between 1909 and 1917 on which the young Wilbert (b. 1911) was allowed to push coaches and watch steaming days. He started building his own layouts with brother George at the age of 16. When the Rev restarted modelling in 1948, the engines were the familiar locomotives of his books, at least partly because the models helped him to come up with stories. Although there were eventually several distinct layouts, in chronological order NWR, Ffarquhar I, Ffarqhuar II and Mid Sodor, parts and rolling stock were recycled from one to another, even from his teenage layout, and they may be viewed as a continuum. A subsidiary use for the layouts was to raise funds for the church, and Ffarquhar I was the first layout conceived with exhibition in mind. Ffarquhar II was a regular at model ralway exhibitions until the late 1980s. It has now been completely restored and continues to entertain visitors at the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn, Wales. There were also successfull attempts to model the Narrow Gauge. The Mid Sodor Railway, created in the late 60s, was previously in Cadeby as part of the Boston Collection. It is now in the personal care of Christopher Awdry, much to the relief of fans.

The Engines: The Rev Wilbert modelled a great many if not all he ever wrote about, and a good few more besides. In many cases, the model appeared before the engine did in books, or in some cases simultaneously, to function as an artist's model.

This website gratefully acknowledges permission from Pat Hammond to use images and text from his thorough history of the Rev's models compiled from extensive correspondence with the Reverend published in the BRM Annual 2006 as Letters from 'Thomas'.

MODEL RAILWAY TIMELINE

1927
George and Wilbert Awdry build "Ffarquhar" (from "Far Quarry"). Annie is acquired at this date.
1936
Ffarquhar is packed away in a crate.
1948
After marriage, ordination, WWII and the initial success of the first few RWS books, Rev Wilbert builds the first Tidmouth-Knapford layout with Thomas and Percy, both made by Stewart Reidpath, in an outhouse at Elsworth, Wilbert's first parish. Tidmouth Docks - Knapford modelled, Percy, James, Henry, Edward models.
1953
Move to Emneth, start of grand layout of NWR in attic, never completed.
1955 on
Ffarquhar branch Mark I created, a 6'x 4' oval, portable layout of Hackenbeck-Ffarquhar which is designed for exhibiting. Toby, Duck, Daisy, Mavis modelled. Gordon modelled for illustrator John T. Kenney
1959
Ffarquhar featured in the December issue of Railway Modeller.
1961
Toby Mk 1's onstruction described in the July issue of Railway Modeller
1963
Stepney modelled for illustrators Gunvor and Peter Edwards.
1965
Move to Rodborough, Stroud.
1966

The Rev announces plans in Railway Modeller for rebuilding Ffarquhar including a Skarloey Railway model. Only the engines appeared for this. Ffarquhar Mark II is, in the event, merely Mark I cut down to just the old Ffarquhar station and a fiddle yard.

Work starts on Ulfstead Road model (Mid Sodor Railway)- Duke, Falcon, Stuart, etc. modelled.

1970s-80s
Ffarquhar Mark II is widely exhibited at model railway exhibitions.
1997
Rev Wilbert passes away. Ffarquhar Mark II, and all models remaining from NWR bequeathed to Talyllyn Railway; Ulfstead Road bequeathed to Cadeby Light Railway.
2006
Restored Ffarqhar II is on show after opening the Awdry Study at the NGRM, Tywyn. Mid-Sodor is in the personal care of Christopher Awdry.

The NWR

The Rev. Awdry's Tidmouth Model Layout
"HENRY has been coupled to the FLYING KIPPER vans and stands (centre background) awaiting the ‘all clear’."
From a photograph in the Rev W Awdry's model ailway scrapbook which is part of the Awdry Study at the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn, Wales. With thanks to Secretary Chris White, Trustee Winston McCanna, Attendant Ron Whitaker and all other helpful TRPS members.

The original Thomas railway, staffed by the popular characters of the early books. This was first conceived at Elsworth in 1948 and relaid on a grand scale at Emneth in 1953. Finally dismantled in 1959, it donated scenery to...

Ffarquhar Mark I

Ffarquhar Mark I
Daisy waits at Ffarquar station in an image from 1965.
Photo by Michael Snape.
From a photgraph in the Rev W Awdry's model ailway scrapbook which is part of the Awdry Study at the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn, Wales.

This 6' by 4' portable layout was created by the Rev W Awdry in Emneth, starting in 1955:

Thanks to the publishers of Railway Modeller, the following articles written for RM by the Rev. Awdry are online: Ffarquhar I from the December 1959 issue and an article from January 1968 in which the Rev Awdry dicusses model railway plans that were only partly realised.

By 1965 the Reverend had moved to Stroud and in 1966, he cut down his branchline to a simpler layout known as Ffarquhar Mark II.

Ffarquhar Mark II

Duck at Goods Depot on Ffarqhar II
Duck at the Goods Depot of Ffarquhar at the Awdry Study of the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn, Wales.
Photograph © Martin Clutterbuck 2006

Link above also contains an account of the layout from the 1979 Thomas Annual, with many thanks to Ryan Healy. This layout has has been restored by the efforts of the North-Western Area Group of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society, and now resides in the Awdry Study of the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum. It has been restored and recentlly ran an Open Day on June 1, 2006 during the school half-term. By some planning (to avoid half-term rush) I arrived the week afterwards, in hindsight a mixed blessing! I was warmly welcomed to the museum by Attendent Ron Whitaker, and Trustee Winston McCanna related what I had missed. Luckily Secretary Chris White was there to capture the scenes:

Link to Awdry Family Website

The Narrow Gauge

Engines of the Skarloey Railway
Skarloey Railway engines No 1, No 2, No 4 and No 6 at the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn, Wales.
Photograph © Martin Clutterbuck 2006

In the January, 1968 article of Railway Modeller, Rev Awdry dicusses modelling the Skarloey Railway. Obviously connected with these plans were these models of the Skarloey engines which now reside at the NGRM in Tywyn, Wales. We can only speculate that layout for these engines was never actually built. However, in the 1966 a new narrow-gauge layout was started, sensibly self-contained in a surprisingly compact space with no connecting standard-gauge line as originally envisaged. In quite another part of Sodor, and set in a period considerably longer ago than most of the Skarloey stories, it was the Mid Sodor Railway, the basis for mythology behind the Rev's penultimate book, Duke the Lost Engine. Here is a page on the MSR mainly derived from a visit to Cadeby in September 2004. While the layout's future faced some uncertainty at the time, fans can be relieved that the layout is now in the personal care of Christopher Awdry.

The Mid Sodor Railway

Top view of Mid-Sodor Railway
Falcon and Jim on the Mid-Sodor Railway at Cadeby.
Photograph © Martin Clutterbuck 2004

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The Engines -

The Rev W Awdry's model versions of his immortal literary characters. Each picture links to the character's page and a full description of the models.

Thomas Gordon
Edward Henry
James
Percy
Toby
Duck (Montague)
City of Truro
Donald
Daisy
Stepney
Oliver
Mavis
Skarloey
Rheneas
Peter Sam
Duncan
Falcon
The Duke

Railway Modeller shares an article from the July 1961 issue which describes the history and construction of "Toby".

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The TV Series Models

1984 Television Series
From the Model Railway Constructor, December 1984

This refers to the 1984 Britt Allcroft series rather than the abortive 1955 series live on the BBC using Hornby Dublo models, of which no pictures appear to have survived. The Clearwater models deserve some mention as they were very special custom jobs which were widely praised for their charm. They were gauge 1 Marklin models, with heavily Anglicised chassis, and were controlled through conventional two-rail electrification with standard Marklin equipment, while the eyes were radio-controlled. One imagines these basic principles holding until the most recent series. This enhanced PDF of an article in Model Railway Constructor, December 1984, was published shortly after the first series appeared and interestingly describes the making of TV loco models and sets.

Commercial Models

Hornby Models of the characters

Mention may be made of the Hornby (OO), Bachmann (HO), Tomix (N), and Lionel (O) models which have appeared in the wake of the TV series. The Hornby range (above) is the closest to the Rev W Awdry's vision, being repaintings of real prototypes already made by Hornby, and may be seen on individual loco pages. A detailed summary of the R numbers involved by Robert Forsythe can be found in the September, 1995 issue of Model Railway Enthusiast.

Bachmann has created a range of moulds which better capture the TV model-makers' art. Of toy ranges, the principal ones are Tomy, ERTL (defunct), Take Along Thomas and Learning Curve.