The Other Railway

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In the children's books The Railway Series, by the Rev. W. Awdry, The Other Railway refers to British Railways (later British Rail), the UK nationalised rail organisation that existed from 1948 until 1997.

Several of the characters in the books have visited the Other Railway or used it to travel from place to place. Many of the Fat Controller's engines came from the Other Railway originally. There have been several visitors from the Other Railway.

Although the fictional North Western Railway or Fat Controller's Railway was part of the nationalised railway network it kept most of its operating independence from British Railways on the mainland. This is why it escaped the infamous Beeching Report in the 1960s.

The NWR and the Other Railway meet at Barrow-in-Furness and the fictional Island of Sodor is connected to the mainland by a rolling lift bridge between Barrow and Vicarstown.

BR ran an hourly suburban train service from Barrow to Ballahoo and Norramby on Sodor.

There have been at times direct services from Tidmouth to London Euston or London St. Pancras with Other Railway engines taking over at Barrow.

The Big City Engine, Gordon and Duck were involved in an argument over the confusion between the mainline stations in London. Gordon the Big Engine boasted about going to London, and believed that London was restricted to Kings Cross (served by the London and North Eastern Railway). Duck the Great Western Engine thought that London was Paddington, as he had once worked there as a station pilot (Great Western Railway). The Big City Engine thought that London was Euston (London Midland and Scottish Railway). Unbeknownst to them, they were all correct, but they did not realize, due to being on their own isolated lines before coming to Sodor, that there were a number of stations in London, and that these were merely three of them. Gordon was disappointed to discover when he visited London that the station he visited was St. Pancras.


The locomotives that have been featured in The Railway Series are detailed below, although others have been seen in various illustrations.

The Foreign Engine/The Big City Engine[edit]

The "Foreign Engine", also known as the "Big City Engine", appears in the story 'Gordon Goes Foreign' in The Eight Famous Engines in which he debates with Gordon and Duck over the name of the terminus station in London. Gordon claims the station is King's Cross, Duck claims it is Paddington and the Foreign Engine claims it is Euston (Gordon later brings the Express to London and is disappointed to arrive at St. Pancras).

The Big City Engine is a former London Midland and Scottish Railway locomotive used mainly on the Euston–Glasgow route. The one illustration in which he appears does not make his class clear, but he may be either a Patriot class or one of the larger Royal Scot class. He is portrayed in the standard British Railways express passenger locomotive livery of lined green.

The locomotive is never named in his one appearance. The name "Foreign Engine" was applied by Martin Clutterbuck and is derived from the fact that in the Railway Series, engines not from the Island of Sodor are described as "foreign". The name "Big City Engine" was applied by Learning Curve when they produced the character for their range of wooden toys.


Diesel was the first diesel engine to arrive on the Island of Sodor. He visited on a trial from The Other Railway in the book Duck and the Diesel Engine (Vol. 13 in The Railway Series). He is based on the 0-6-0 BR Class 08 diesel shunter and is painted in the all-over plain black livery used by British Railways for shunting engines in the 1950s, although he has no number nor BR crest in the illustrations.

Diesel is the Railway Series' first real villain (who turns out as a scheming, oily trickster with a foul temper that likes to cause trouble wherever he goes). He was supposed to help Duck with his shunting, but after humiliating himself in front of the trucks, he spread such mean-spirited rumours about Duck and the other engines that the Fat Controller was compelled to send him away, though Duck being sent away was part of a plan by the Fat Controller, who never trusted Diesel.

Diesel made a brief return in the one-off story Thomas and the Evil Diesel, where he showed that perhaps he did have a good streak buried somewhere deep inside. One of Diesel's brothers appeared in one of the illustrations for Thomas and the Great Railway Show helping to shunt Thomas onto a lorry.

The character Devious Diesel in the Thomas and Friends television series was based on Diesel.

The Diesel/D4711[edit]

For the TV series character, see: D261

The Diesel/D4711 came to Sodor to help out whilst Stepney was on the railway. He did not make a good impression on his arrival, as he told the engines that they should be scrapped and replaced by diesels like him. He soon got his comeuppance when he accidentally sucked a Railway Inspector’s bowler hat into his air intake during a maintenance check, causing him to break down as soon as he started moving towards the train he was supposed to take. He left soon afterwards, saying goodbye to no-one and years later in 1984 was cut up for scrap at Crewe. Carrying his tops number 40061 and in bright blue color. He also had a cameo appearance in the television series episode "Rusty to the Rescue".

The Diesel is based on a Class 40 diesel locomotive. His number is entirely fictitious and does not correspond to the numbering sequences used for any class of diesel locomotive on British Railways. The television series used the number D261, which would have been correct for a Class 40. It is said that his real number was D261 in The Railway Series also.

He made his one and only appearance in Stepney the "Bluebell" Engine. In that story, he was referred to as "Diesel", but the television series revised this to "The Class 40" to avoid confusion with an earlier character by that name (although he is still sometimes referred to as the "Big Diesel").


D199/"The Spamcan" is a Diesel engine who only appeared in the book Enterprising Engines.

He visited Sodor on a trial with D7101 (later known as Bear) and talked about taking over the railway. He and Bear argued, and the other engines took an instant dislike to D199. One afternoon, Henry the Green Engine found D199 moaning near a signal box because he had engine trouble, and the signalman called him the Spamcan. Henry rescued both the engine and his train, and D199 was soon sent away in disgrace by the Fat Controller. Donald hauled him and the goods train he was taking back to the western region where he and Bear came from.

Although he does not appear in the television series, D199 also appears in the magazine story Diesel Day!, which was published on 16 May 2001.

D199 is a 1Co-Co1 diesel locomotive based on the British Rail Class 46 . The number D199 is fictional but would have been correct if another 6 had been built. They were numbered D138 to D193.

D7101/The "Bear"[edit]

Old Stuck-Up[edit]

Old Stuck-Up is a class 40 diesel who once visited the island. He possibly arrived in 1981 or under, if he's the same diesel as 40125. When he arrived after being shown around by BoCo, he was disgusted to see steam engines in the shed and showed his disdain by calling them "Dirty, Smoky, Slow Things," and causing trouble. In return, the steam engines gave him his unflattering nickname. In the end, as Henry put it, "Old Stuck-Up came unstuck" when he slipped on a patch of oil left by BoCo and Bear and crashed through the back wall of the engine shed. He was sent home soon after ending his 6-month trial, never to disturb the steam engines again. It is hard to say where he ended up, but he might have been scrapped eventually once he returned to the other railway. Despite his assumed number, his real number was never given.

Old Stuck-Up only appeared in one story, "Old Stuck-Up", in the book James and the Diesel Engines. He is based on a British Rail Class 40 1Co-Co1 diesel; D261 is also a member of this class.

The "Works Diesel"[edit]

The "Works Diesel" is an unnamed character who once rescued James after a breakdown, and almost single-handedly changed James' opinion on diesels. He is a friendly sort who lives at Crovan's Gate and works odd jobs around the railway. His first appearance was in James and the Diesel Engines, with his next confirmed one in Thomas and the Missing Christmas Tree as the engine who collected the tree from The Other Railway. He also makes a cameo in Henry and the Express, at Barrow. At first it was unclear if they were one and the same, but Christopher Awdry revealed that the diesel seen in all three books is the "Works Diesel".

He is loaned from British Rail, and is based on a Class 47 diesel. It is suggested in James and the Diesel Engines that he is one of a number of new diesels on the railway.

"Works Diesel" is a reader-applied name; he carries no identifying number and is unnamed throughout the stories.

Pip & Emma[edit]

On television[edit]

In the television series Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, "the Other Railway" is a term used for the railway lines serving the Sodor Ironworks and the China Clay Quarry. It was here that Rusty the Diesel rescued Stepney from being broken up for scrap, as did Douglas with Oliver the Western Engine. It is described as "a far-off part of the Island where only the diesels work". These days, 'Arry and Bert, the ironworks diesels, work around there. Its scrapyard has been seen in seasons 6-7 known as the Smelters Yard.


Despite having never appeared in the Thomas & Friends television series, the characters Bear and the Big City Engine have nevertheless been included in commercial merchandising lines based on the series, alongside other Other Railway characters. In the case of the Big City Engine, the character was not known by this name until Learning Curve released the model in their wooden railway range.

Commercial models of Other Railway characters
Model range Type Characters
Ertl die-cast metal Diesel, The Diesel, D199, Bear/D7101
Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway wood Diesel, The Diesel, D199, The Big City Engine
Hornby electric OO gauge models Diesel, The Diesel, Bear/D7101
Take Along die-cast Diesel, D199
Take 'n' Play die-cast Diesel, D199, The Diesel, The Big City Engine