The Island of Sodor – Its People, History and Railways
Sodor is a fictional island in the Irish Sea, near Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. It is 62 miles wide east to west, and 51 miles long north to south. The island is separated from the Isle of Man by a sea strait. There are many shipping docks on the island. Away from the sea, there are a number of settlements. They include Tidmouth, Ffarquhar, and Knapford.
Thomas the Tank Engine stories were inspired by the fictional island of Sodor. In these books, the main railway on Sodor is the North Western Railway. Several branch lines operate on the island. Many are narrow gauge, but some are standard gauge. This is a much different picture than that seen in the Thomas & Friends television series.
Sodor is also the setting for the Railway Series books, written by the Anglican clergyman Rev W. Awdry and his brother George. Their books are a scholarly look at the history of the railways, and give the background on the engines and people of Sodor.
Sodor is a diamond-shaped island, 62 miles wide from east to west. The northern part of the island is separated from the Isle of Man by the sea strait. The main line of the North Western Railway runs from Barrow-in-Furness to Tidmouth. From Tidmouth, the railway crosses the island at Vicarstown. Another line, the Wild Nor’ Wester’, runs from Tidmouth to Walney.
As well as the mainline of the North Western Railway, Sodor is home to the Arlesdale Railway, a miniature railway, and the Culdee Fell Railway, which is based on the Snowdon Mountain Railway in Wales. In addition, there are several other narrow and 15-inch gauge lines that run on the island. These railways serve several mines and shipping docks.
Most of the railways of Sodor are non-standard gauge, which is the same as real life railways. However, some of the non-standard lines are based on real life railways. For example, the former branch line of Toby’s train was based on the Wisbech and Upwell tramway. This line operated until the 1950s.
One of the first things that Awdry did when he set out to write the Railway Series books was to create a map of the fictional island of Sodor. His map is a very detailed and coloured illustration of the island, and is encased in a linen-backed folding map. Moreover, he included a key, which listed notable events from the Thomas stories.
After the creation of the imaginary island of Sodor, Awdry and his brother George worked out the details of the island, its people, and its industry. They wrote a book about the island, which is also the source book for the Railway Series books.
In this book, the characters of the Island of Sodor are described, along with the engineering works that were done to clear the island and make it ready for the magical railway. There is also an account of the rebellion against Cromwell’s Roundheads. Lastly, there are descriptions of other settlements on the island.