Skarloey Railway - (Fictional) History

(Fictional) History

The Rev. W Awdry based all his stories on real incidents on the real railways. In order to ensure consistency and accuracy, Awdry developed a 'history' for the Island of Sodor and its railways, which was published to accompany the series. The history was set in context, and dates were determined to be consistent with the real world.

In the case of the Skarloey Railway, its history closely parallels that of the Talyllyn Railway in Wales. According to the "research" by the Rev. Awdry, the line began as a plateway and was opened in 1806 to collect slate from the local quarries. It was worked by gravity and carried mineral traffic that was shipped from Balladswail. Following the Ffestiniog Railway's lead in 1863 James Spooner was engaged to survey a 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.

It was later realised that the line could carry visitors to the local landmarks of Skarloey (which means 'Lake in the Woods') and Rheneas ('Divided Waterfall'). Like all railways at this time, it was powered by horses, but by 1865 the railway's owners decided they needed steam engines to help out. They ordered two engines from the locomotive builders Fletcher Jennings Ltd in Whitehaven, England. These engines were Skarloey and Rheneas.

Skarloey and Rheneas worked hard for many years, but eventually the demand for slate decreased due to cheaper slate being imported from Italy. After World War II the railway was in a poor state, and the old mines had become ammunition dumps. The owner, Sir Handel Brown, thought he would have to sell the railway. At this point, the railway was taken over by Mr Peter Sam, who became the Thin Controller. With the help of Mr Ivo Hugh and a number of volunteers, they managed to keep the railway going. The railway's main source of income was now tourist traffic.

Eventually, Skarloey failed and Rheneas was left to manage alone, which he did admirably until Peter Sam and Sir Handel were bought from the Mid Sodor Railway to help out. Later they purchased Rusty and Duncan.

It was around this time that the slate quarries were reopened. The slate from these quarries was pure and free from metallic impurities, which meant it was in demand as other slate demand fell.

In 1965 (the year that Very Old Engines was published) the railway celebrated the 100th birthday of Skarloey and Rheneas with the opening of a new branch line to Lakeside. A second triumph came when Duke was saved and brought to the railway, where he was repaired and now works the passenger trains.

Since the centenary celebrations of 1965 the railway has purchased a new diesel, Fred, and built a new steam engine Ivo Hugh.

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    ... the history of the race, from infancy through its stages of barbarism, heathenism, civilization, and Christianity, is a process of suffering, as the lower principles of humanity are gradually subjected to the higher.
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