A government-sponsored amalgamation of the standard gauge railways in the Island occurred in 1914 as a strategic railway for coastal defence. The railways concerned were:
• The Sodor & Mainland (1853-1914) Ballahoo - Kirkronan
• The Tidmouth Knapford & Elsbridge (1883-1914) Tidmouth - Elsbridge
(Knapford & Elsbridge till 1908 when line extended to Tidmouth)
• The Wellsworth and Suddery (1870-1914) Crosby - Brendam with extension from Crosby to Knapford in 1912 to amalgamate with TK&E. In 1948 it became the North Western Region of BR but this term is never used as the railway kept its operating independence and with privatisation in the early 1990s it is once again officially the North Western Railway! The track is not owned by a separate concern, but by the same company as on the Isle of Wight.
The NWR have had running powers into Barrow Central Station since the agreement with the LMS in 1925. For through trains, engines from the NWR are detached and BR engines take over. Since 1925 the NWR has also had its own loco shed, turntable and servicing facility here. There is also a joint goods yard for exchange traffic.
THE BRIDGE OVER THE WALNEY CHANNEL
There is a Schertzer Rolling lift Bridge of 120ft Span and double track, designed by Mr Topham Hatt and erected in 1915. Until the construction of the Jubilee Road Bridge in 1977 The NWR had rights of car-ferry and worked an intensive and profitable service.
BR have running powers over the Bridge to operate the joint NWR/BR suburban Service to Norramby as agreed with LMS in 1925.
In 1915 the NWR built their Headquarters here; but in after the 1925 agreement there was no longer need of it and in 1927/8 it was closed and a much smaller replacement was built for the locomotives operating the car ferry service. The turntable was relocated at Barrow.
THE BALLAHOO TUNNELS
The NWR was built as a strategic Railway in time of emergency (1915). Speed and cheapness of construction were important and so a single bore was cut . During construction a mid section collapsed leaving 2 tunnels (the western 1 mile and the Eastern 450 yards). In 1922 a second bore was cut to provide a double track.
In 1915 the NWR established repair shops here. They have been expanded since 1925 and are now able to tackle any locomotive rebuilding or overhaul.
Junction for Kirkronan Branch
Junction For Peel Godred Branch. Since the building of the railway, Killdane is virtually a suburb of Cronk. An hourly (half hourly at peak times) service is provided. Four passenger trains a day continue along the Peel Godred Branch, hauled by electric locomotives. In 1967 a ballast processing plant and distribution centre was set up by the Arlesdale Ballast & Granite Co. A Motorail Terminal was opened here in 1977.
The station is a compulsory stop for all Down, loose coupled and unfitted goods trains for brakes to be pinned down. Banking engines use the station cross over for the run back to Wellsworth.
Cronk and Maron are 280ft above Suddery Junction and so there are 5 miles with a ruling gradient of 1 in 75. A new loco named Gordon stalled here in 1922 and thus the name.
Gordon's Hill linked the two main standard gauge lines in the area. The Sodor & Mainland (S&M) and the Tidmouth Wellsworth and Suddery (TW&S).
The TW&S was a coastal line, often no more than 20 ft above sea level.
The signal box here controls entry to and from the Branch to Suddery and Brendam.
Village; Pop 550. St Tibba's Nunnery, 1150. Large modern hospital which serves whole Island, a pleasant Seaside town .
Similar to Wellsworth, a quiet seaside town.
One mile in length. Opened in 1912 following the agreement made in that year to amalgamate the Tidmouth Knapford and Elsbridge Railway (TK&E) to form the Tidmouth Wellsworth and Suddery Railway. Doubled in 1915 for opening of the NWR
Small Town; Pop 2,000 Farming, fishing, fowling. Former lead mines. Now Junction for Ffarquhar, extensive Stone Traffic by Ffarquhar Quarry Company. Dormitory For Tidmouth.
The present station is the third on the site and dates from 1956 when the Knapford Harbour development scheme was launched after congestion at Tidmouth. There are two stations - Knapford Junction and Knapford Harbour. There have been two others, the previous ones were south of the river.
Knapford is a useful supplementary harbour but not an ideal one which is why the Arlesburgh Branch reopened in 1966 as another alternative.
Borough Pop 35,000 Port for I.o.M. & N.Ireland. H.Q. of NWR Royal Charter 1918. Shipbuilding, factories, kippers, heavy industry. The railway reached Tidmouth in 1905 by means of a road-side tramway from Knapford; however a gale in the autumn of 1908 destroyed it. In 1910 a treasury grant was obtained and a single tunnel was built by the TK&E light railway. In 1916 the NWR completed a double track tunnel and Tidmouth's usefulness as a harbour started to be exploited.
The passenger station has four terminal roads and one through road spanned by a glass roof. The through road leads to the Arlesburgh Branch.
There is a locomotive shed, and turntable and also the Headquarters of The NWR are here
THE NORRAMBY BRANCH
Barrow dormitory town served by Joint BR NWR Service from Barrow (Hourly, half-hourly at peak times).
Attractive Seaside town, terminus of suburban Service.
KIRK RONAN BRANCH
Rolf's castle began as merely a fortified church, and a curtain wall is a relatively late addition.
Castle of Bishop of Sodor and Man 1070-79
In 1865 the Sodor and Mainland (S&M) reached this fishing port. They hoped to start a steamer service to Dublin. This failed but ore from Crovan's Gate began to be transported for shipment. Dublin sailings ran daily 1920-1925, which worried LMS, but part of the agreement of 1925 meant that they would run on Tuesdays & Fridays only.
PEEL GODRED BRANCH
Act of 1853 by S&M obtained powers but never built. These powers passed to the NWR. In 1923 the Peel Godred Power Company was formed to build a hydro-electric power station; the line was built to transport equipment and they paid for half the cost. It leaves the main line at Killdane and there is electric traction with power supplied from the power station. Traffic is mainly freight. There are eight trains a day to Killdane, four of which continue (by steam) to Cronk.
Opened as private Station in 1923 serving Cronk Abbey School. Normally unstaffed except at beginning and end of school terms.
Property of Culdee Fell Railway and opened in 1900. The Peel Branch Trains call at the eastern face of the platform and must pay rent. Unstaffed in winter when mountain Railway does not operate. There is a passing loop and exchange siding with CFR
The station is reached after the line has passed through a tunnel. A mile beyond the town is The Sodor Aluminium Works where there are a fan of sidings. Alumna is carried from Tidmouth to Peel Godred and the ingots to Barrow & England.
THE BRENDAM BRANCH
This branch was originally part of the main line of the Wellsworth & Suddery (W&S) opened in 1870, running from Crosby to Brendam. The eastern end was demoted to a branch line in 1915 when the NWR opened.
There is extensive china clay traffic from Brendam. There are peak through trains to and from Tidmouth, at other times there is a local service from Wellsworth to Brendam.
As Suddery , the ancient capital, was once the seat of a Bishop, it still claims to be a city. It was also a fortified town, but the castle was relatively late. This is the only Norman castle and was always held by the city and not by a Baron. The site was refortified in Napoleonic times, but the batteries built then have not spoilt its appearance.
The port originally had a rail connection but as the harbour was too poor they have now been removed. There were three Bishops of Sodor during the twelfth century but due to disputes between the Bishop of Trondheim, Argyll and the Archbishop of York as to who should chose him, it was decided that a Bishop would be shared with the Isle of Man.
Home of The Sodor China clay company since the discovery of the beds in 1948. There is a private railway from the Station and Harbour to the China Clay works
THE FFARQUHAR BRANCH
There are seven passenger trains daily between Knapford and Ffarquhar
The Harbour line from Elsbridge to Knapford was opened in 1885 and used horse traction. In 1905 the firm of A W Dry and Co. extended the line to the better port of Tidmouth as means of a road side tramway with "coffee pot" engines. This line was destroyed in 1908 and a new tunnel made in 1910. Amalgamation came in 1912 with the Wellsworth and Suddery Railway and the connection line built from Knapford to Crosby. When the NWR opened the Coffee pot engines remained in service but a bay platform was used at Knapford. Toryreck mines closed in 1925 but there was possibilities of new stone traffic from Ffarquhar and the line was extended. In 1956 the Knapford Harbour improvement scheme was started. The branch was rebuilt on an easier gradient and the stations moved to the North side of the river. The original line is now only used as freight.
Dryaw has two stations; the original one on the harbour line is now only a freight depot, the new one being used for passengers, even though it is less convenient for the Village.
There were originally lead mines here but these closed in 1930. The main branch joins the harbour line just to the west of the station. There is a little used passing loop but only one platform. There is a goods shed and cattle dock too.
Village; Pop 500. Ancient Church and bridge. Market farming, fishing, boating.
From 1910 to 1925 Elsbridge was the terminus of the branch but when the Ffarquhar quarry opened the line was extended. The Quarry company supplied stone and half the cost of the Hackenbeck Tunnel
The railhead for Ulfstead after further extension to Ulfstead was abandoned.
There is one passenger platform, milk dock, cattle dock, and an oil depot.
There are ten trains a day and these connect with Sodor Roadway bus services which run from the Station Forecourt.
THE QUARRY TRAMWAY
There are four passenger trains a day from Ffarquhar for workers at the quarry and freight trains when required. At the quarry there is a shunting loco owned by the Ffarquhar Quarry Company and sidings. There is only a platform and waiting shelter at the quarry. The stone is used widely on Sodor and on the mainland for buildings because of its hardness.
Ulfstead was established as a fortress, but once the Scots were out it fell into decay. Archaeologists find it especially interesting as it is all of one period.
THE ARLESBURGH BRANCH
Single line extension of the mainline built in 1916 after a Government order, originally intended to reach Harwick, but by the time Arlesburgh was reached there was no longer a need for further extension. Material from the Arlesdale mines was needed for the war effort, but when the mines closed in 1947 there was not enough traffic. Permission was requested to close the line, but this being refused, a minimal service only was operated.
In 1964/5 There was need for a new harbour and the line was reinstated. There is an hourly passenger service to Tidmouth with ballast from the Arlesdale mines also being carried.
Intermediate station on branch with an island platform allowing passing of trains.
An Ancient Port, stockaded by King Orry. The Mid Sodor Railway operated a steamer service to Douglas but the Mid Sodor Railway ceased its passenger service in 1936 and closed completely in 1947.
A small town, Pop 5869 (1981). There is a light house, lifeboat, and coastguard. It remains a fishing port and there is a ferry service to Ramsey. It attracts tourists who want peace and quiet.
It began as a plate way from Ward Fell to Balladswail and was worked by gravity. It opened in 1806. It carried mineral traffic that was shipped from Balladswail. Following the Festiniog's lead in 1863 James Spooner was engaged to survey a narrow-gauge line for steam locomotives. It was also planned to develop passenger traffic for tourists to the Springs at Skarloey where there would be hotels and guest houses. Two steam locomotives were ordered in joint batch with the Tallylyn Railway from Fletcher Jennings of Whitehaven and carriages from Brown Marshall. The summer visitor numbers fell, with signs that the copper in the mines was beginning to wear thin when slate was found, giving a new source of traffic. After World War II things were in a dreadful state, and the old mines had become ammunition dumps. After the War tourist traffic increased and two replacement engines were bought second hand. This was due to the discovery of The Book of Sir Harold at Ulfstead Castle which revealed that Skarloey was his secret sanctuary and archaeological evidence backed this. Also the slate was pure and free from metallic impurities which meant it was in demand as other slate demand fell.
In 1963 a new lake loop line was opened around Skarloey lake for tourists and to celebrate the centenary. This was paid for mainly by the sale of the mines at Ward Fell to the Ministry of Defence in 1960.
THE CULDEE FELL RAILWAY
This was the brainchild of the tourist Mid Sodor Railway. It is a rack and pinion railway that climbs to the summit of Culdee Fell. It was began in 1897 on the success of the Snowdon Mountain Railway opened shortly before. The line was inspected in March 1900 and opened to the public on Whit Monday, but after just a month one of the locomotives fell down the hill side and the line remained closed until the following season whilst improvements were made. The locomotives are Swiss, and although the first were built in 1900, several more have been built since. It is popular with tourists and runs from Easter to Michaelmas, maintenance being undertaken in the winter.
THE ARLESDALE RAILWAY
This is a 15 inch gauge railway running from Arlesburgh along the route of the Mid Sodor Railway to Arlesdale. It opened in Easter 1967. As well as the conveyance of tourists by 1/3 scale replica steam locomotives, the intention of the line was also for the movement of waste materials from some of the abandoned mines in the Arlesdale area for use as ballast. For information on the route of the Line see Mid Sodor Notes.