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Sodor (fictional island)

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Island of Sodor
Thomas & Friends location
A map of the Island of Sodor showing the railway system
First appearanceThe Three Railway Engines (The Railway Series)
"Thomas & Gordon" (Thomas & Friends)
Last appearanceThomas and his Friends (The Railway Series)"Thomas & The Royal Engine" (Thomas & Friends)
Created byWilbert Awdry
In-universe information
LocationBetween the Isle of Man and Barrow-in-Furness
CharactersThomas the Tank Engine
The Fat Controller
The flag of Sodor, as depicted in Thomas & Friends: The Great Race (2016)

The Island of Sodor is a fictional island that is the setting for The Railway Series books by the Rev. Wilbert Awdry (and his son Christopher). It is also the setting of the Thomas & Friends television series, though it is significantly different from the island in the books. Sodor lies in the Irish Sea between Cumbria and the Isle of Man.

Inspiration and creation[edit]

Awdry wanted a consistent set of locations for The Railway Series. He wanted them to be in Great Britain,[note 1] but sufficiently isolated from British Railways to allow him to write the stories he wanted. He was inspired during a 1950 visit to the Isle of Man, which forms the Diocese of Sodor and Man.[1] Awdry, a Church of England cleric, noted that while there was an Isle of Man, there was no island of Sodor.[note 2] He decided to create a fictional island of "Sodor" as the setting for his books. Sodor would be between England and the Isle of Man, isolated from the British railway system, but somewhere that readers could easily imagine.

Awdry and his younger brother George worked out Sodor's history, geography, industry and language ("Sudric"). Inspiration came from various sources. Dryaw was an anagram of Awdry. Elsbridge was named after Wilbert's parish of Elsworth in Cambridgeshire. Some place-names were Sudric equivalents or near-equivalents of those in the real world (for instance, Skarloey was a rough Sudric equivalent of the Welsh Talyllyn: logh and llyn mean "lake" in Manx and Welsh respectively). They created more details of Sodor than would ever be used in The Railway Series stories.

Their abridged notes were published in 1987 in a book titled: The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways (republished with some minor modifications by Christopher Awdry in 1992 under the title Sodor: Reading Between the Lines).


The fictional native language of Sodor is "Sudric" or "Sudrian", a Goidelic language similar to Manx.[3]

Many of the place names are based on Manx words, but often conforming to English word order, e.g. Killdane, which comes from "Keeill-y-Deighan" (Church of the Devil),[4] and the hills, called Knock and Cronk.[citation needed] The names of some of the "historical" characters – used in the background but not appearing in the stories – were taken from locations on the Isle of Man, such as Sir Crosby Marown (Crosby is a village in the parish of Marown) and Harold Regaby (Regaby is a tiny hamlet on the parish boundary between Andreas and Bride).[5]

Below are some words and phrases, and place-names translated into English:

Sudric English
Nagh Beurla I do not speak English[3]
Keeill-y-Deighan Church of the Devil
Cronk-ny-Braaid Hill in the Valley
Croshbyr Cross Farm
Ballahoo The Farm on the River Hoo
Traugh Sandy Beach
Gob-y-Deighan Devil's Mouth
Wick Inlet/Creek
Gleih Blue
Knock Hill
Rheneas Divided Waterfall
Scaca Wooded Hillside
Skarloey Lake in the Woods
Hawin River
Faarkey Sea
Sudragh Sodor
Crosh Cross
Bry Croft/Farm
Cros-ny-Cuirn Ford of the Mountain Ash
Faarkey-y-Sudragh Sudrian Sea
Culdee Companion of God
Loey Lake
Dreeym-y-Deighan Devil's Back
Deighan Devil
Kirk Machan Machan's Church
Culdee Fell The Mountain of the Companion of God
Fell Mountain
Shane Dooiney The Old Man
Shen Venn The Old Woman
Glennock Blue Hill
Peel Godred Godred's Fort


Map of Sodor depicted (in red) within the British Isles

Sodor is usually shown as much larger than the Isle of Man. The island is roughly diamond-shaped, 62 miles (100 km) wide east to west and 51 miles (82 km) long north to south. Its north-west coast is separated from the Isle of Man by a strait called the Sudrian Sea (Faarkey-y-Sudragh), four miles (6 km) wide. In the north-east, it overrides and replaces the real Walney Island. Its highest mountain is Culdee Fell, which was modelled on Snowdon: the ridge of Devil's Back copies the Clogwyn ridge on Snowdon. The summit is reached by the Culdee Fell Railway, which is based on the Snowdon Mountain Railway in Wales.

The capital and administrative centre of Sodor is the city of Suddery; Tidmouth is the largest town on the island. One of the more famous settlements on Sodor is Ffarquhar, the terminus of Thomas's branch line.


The railways of Sodor include standard and narrow gauge railways, a rack railway and a 15-inch gauge railway. The first few stories concerned standard-gauge engines (including Thomas the Tank Engine). Stories set around the narrow gauge railways soon followed.

The standard-gauge railway system consists of a mainline and several branch lines. They are linked to and interoperable with each other and with the mainland system, so that the standard-gauge engines can visit locations in Britain under their own power. In Gordon Goes Foreign, several of the engines recount working in London when they were younger, and later in the same story Gordon pulls the Wild Nor’ Wester to London. In the story The Fat Controller's Engines, eight of the famous engines visit London.

There are three narrow-gauge railways: the Skarloey Railway, the rack-and-pinion Culdee Fell Mountain Railway, and the Arlesdale Railway. On the west side of the island, the 15 in (381 mm) gauge Arlesdale Railway runs from Arlesdale West along the trackbed of the abandoned Mid-Sodor Railway. In the center of the island, the Culdee Fell Mountain Railway runs west from Kirk Machan to the summit of Culdee Fell. On the eastern side of the island, the Skarloey Railway runs northwest from Crovan's Gate up the valley to its namesake, Skarloey Lake. Rolling stock is moved to and from the narrow-gauge railways on flatbed wagons on the standard-gauge system; for example, Rheneas is sent away for repairs in Skarloey Remembers and returns in Gallant Old Engine.

Each of the narrow-gauge railways links to the standard-gauge system at an interchange station:

  • the Skarloey Railway at Crovan's Gate
  • the Culdee Fell Railway at Kirk Machan
  • the Arlesdale Railway at Arlesburgh West

Description of lines[edit]

  • The North Western Railway is the main railway company featured in the books. It controls the mainline railway and many of the branch lines on the island and is often referred to as "the Fat Controller's Railway".
    • The Main Line runs from Barrow-in-Furness on the mainland, joining the island at Vicarstown and transversing the island to Tidmouth. Its main traffic is the Wild Nor' Wester, an express train from Tidmouth to London, a stopping passenger service dubbed "The Local" and freight traffic.
    • The Ffarquhar Branch Line runs from Knapford to Ffarquhar. It is operated by Thomas' push-pull train and Daisy the diesel railcar. 8 trains a day are provided each way.
    • The Brendam Branch Line goes all the way to Brendam from Wellsworth. It links the china-clay works at Brendam to the mainline. It is run by Edward, who manages passenger traffic and possibly more locomotives. At peak hours there is an extended commuter service, during which trains run all the way to Tidmouth.
    • The Little Western, also known as Duck's Branch Line, runs along the coast from Tidmouth to Arlesburgh. It has an hourly service operated by Duck and Oliver with their GWR-style auto-trains.
    • The Peel Godred Branch runs from Kildane to Peel Godred and connects with the Culdee Fell Railway. There are 8 trains both ways hauled by electric locomotives, being the only line on Sodor that is electrified. 4 of these trains, presumably the ones in peak hours, continue to Cronk. The line also serves the Aluminium Works at Peel Godred, and has to handle heavy freight traffic of bauxite and aluminium products. The line is technically a Light railway, which means trains on it are limited to 25 mph.
    • Four other North Western Railway branch lines detailed on the maps of Sodor have not featured in The Railway Series. They run from:
      • Vicarstown to Norramby, via Ballahoo. This line has hourly trains as well as a half-hourly suburban service at peak hours. The suburban trains are operated as a joint service between the NWR and The Other Railway (which was originally the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, later British Rail and currently Northern Trains.
      • Kellsthorpe Road to Kirk Ronan
  • The Arlesdale Railway (also known as Small Railway), a 15 inch gauge railway, takes waste from the mines in the hills to Arlesburgh where it could be distributed to the rest of the island. It also carries tourists.
  • The Culdee Fell Railway, a narrow-gauge rack-and-pinion mountain railway, runs from the summit of Culdee Fell down to Kirk Machan where it links to the standard-gauge line from Kildane to Peel Godred.
  • The Mid Sodor Railway, a narrow-gauge railway, closed in 1947. It ran from Arlesburgh to King 'Orry's Bridge. Part of its route is now on the 15-inch gauge Arlesdale Railway.[6]
  • "The Other Railway" refers to the nationalised British Rail company that ran the railway system in the United Kingdom until 1997, and later simply the National Rail.
  • The Skarloey Railway, a narrow-gauge railway, runs from Crovan's Gate (where it links to the North Western Railway) up to Skarloey, with a loop line from Rheneas to Skarloey.

On-screen portrayal[edit]

The Island of Sodor in the Thomas & Friends television series differs significantly from that in the books. Wilbert and Christopher Awdry's notes have been largely overlooked. The television version of Sodor appears quite larger and has more industry. The connection to the British mainland was not acknowledged until the 2013 feature-length film special King of the Railway, which introduces "The Vicarstown Rolling Bridge", connecting Sodor to mainland Britain. The connection was further acknowledged in that special (though perhaps indirectly), by having King Godred's crown hidden secretly below Ulfstead Castle in a chest.


  1. ^ In The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways, Awdry explained that Sodor was politically part of the United Kingdom. While the Isle of Man had retained home rule, since the 15th century Sodor had been attached to the Duchy of Lancaster and is therefore part of England, although this has not been allowed to disturb the Sudrians' independent lives.
  2. ^ "Sodor" is in fact an anglicization of Suðreyjar ("southern isles"), a Norse name for the Hebrides. The Hebrides belonged to the Diocese of Sodor and Man until the 14th century, when the two parts of the see were disjointed.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sibley, Brian (1995). The Thomas the Tank Engine Man. Heinemann. p. 154. ISBN 0-434-96909-5.
  2. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sodor and Man" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ a b The Rev. W. Awdry; G. Awdry (1987). The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways. Kaye & Ward. p. 5. ISBN 0-434-92762-7.
  4. ^ The Rev. W. Awdry; G. Awdry (1987). The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways. Kaye & Ward. p. 12. ISBN 0-434-92762-7.
  5. ^ Sibley, Brian (1995). The Thomas the Tank Engine Man. Heinemann. p. 159. ISBN 0-434-96909-5.
  6. ^ "The History of the Mid-Sodor Railway (the Awdry model line)". Pegnsean. Archived from the original on 20 December 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]