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“The engines on the other railway aren't safe, now. Their controllers are cruel. They don't like engines anymore.”

British Railways, later known as British Rail and on Sodor as "the Other Railway" or "the Mainland Railway", was the railway company owned by the Government of the United Kingdom following the nationalisation of the "Big Four" railway companies (the LMS, LNER, SR, and GWR) in 1948. This company lasted from 1948 to 1997 when it was privatised and divided up into different companies. On the Island of Sodor, the North Western Railway became part of British Railways and was known as the "North Western Region". However, it managed to keep much of its operating independence, which allowed it to avoid the effects of total dieselisation and the Beeching Axe. The only other Sudrian railway company operational at the time, the Skarloey Railway, was not absorbed into British Railways, although some other British narrow gauge lines did become part of it. 


A report was published in December 1954 to bring the railway into the 20th century. Early action was the building of "Standard" classes of steam engines to replace aging, pre-grouping era engines. In 1956 another report stated that modernisation would help reduce British Railways's budget problems. In this plan was the requirement to remove steam engines and replace them with diesel and electric engines; this led to the demise of British Mainline Steam by 1968. Only two parts of the BR network retained steam working after 1968, the North Western Region and the narrow gauge Vale of Rheidol Railway, the latter becoming privatised in 1989.

The introduction of "Rail Blue" brought in the introduction of the new logo.

In The Railway Series

British Railways' biggest appearance in the series is in the form of diesel engines who come on trial, some of which misbehaved, got embarrassed, failed, or were rude. This was not always the case however, as helpful diesels have also arrived over the years. These include Daisy, BoCo, Bear, the Works Diesel, and Pip and Emma, all of which are now owned by the North Western Railway.

Steam engines from other regions of British Railways have also appeared or transferred to Sodor over the years. Toby and Henrietta arrived from the Eastern Region in 1951, Duck from the Western Region in 1955, and Donald and Douglas transferring from the Scottish Region in 1959. The latter rescued Oliver, Isabel and Toad after being withdrawn by the Western Region in 1967, who were still in their former British Railways livery. On occasion steam engines from other regions of British Railways made guest appearances, such as Jinty, Pug, and the Big City Engine.

The first mention of British Railways was in The Eight Famous Engines, when Gordon, Duck, and the Big City Engine got into an argument over which station serves London (Each having never been on the other companies' lines, thought that theirs was the only station; when, in fact, there are over ten, thus leading to an argument over which station was in London; King's Cross, Paddington, or Euston).

The North Western Railway's main line connects with a line from British Railways just over the Vicarstown Bridge to the Mainland. For many years the Express was hauled by British Railways engines from Barrow to London, but in recent years it has been worked by the North Western Railway owned Pip and Emma throughout its journey.

In Stepney the "Bluebell" Engine, Percy thought that British Railways was being cruel to steam engines, as on the Mainland they were being scrapped to make way for diesels. The Rev. W. Awdry noted this in the foreword, and cleared up the confusion that the controllers of British Railways actually supported the burgeoning preservation movement.

In the Television Series

In the classic series, the Other Railway is a term used for the railway lines serving the Sodor Ironworks, China Clay Pits and the Ffarquhar Quarry. It was here that Douglas rescued Oliver from being broken up for scrap, as did Rusty with Stepney. It is described as a faraway part of the Island where only the diesels work, but it can be presumed as being near the Mainland. These days, 'Arry and Bert, the ironworks diesels, work around there. Its scrapyard has been seen in the fifth to seventh series (known as the Smelters Yard).

In the CGI series, it often suggests that a few steam engines, such as Spencer and Samson still worked there, and the threat of efficient and modern diesel engines (and electric engines) taking over is rarely (if ever) mentioned. A few steam engines and diesel engines from Sodor still travel to and around the Mainland, such as Gordon, Henry, Hiro, James, Thomas, Diesel, Paxton, and Sidney.

However, since the seventeeth series (as well as King of the Railway), Connor and Caitlin work on the Mainland (presumably close to Barrow), and regularly visit Sodor, along with Spencer (who also visits Sodor), Samson, Flying Scotsman, The Mainland Diesels, Merlin, Theo, Lexi, Hurricane, and Frankie.

It is also on the Mainland where Thomas met Duchess in the twenty-fourth series.


British Rail was privatised in 1997, and divided into over twenty different companies; none of these have ever been mentioned in the series. In most cases, the infrastructure (track, stations, etc.) was placed under the control of Railtrack, until Network Rail took over, with a few exceptions, such as Island Line on the Isle of Wight and the North Western Railway on the Island of Sodor. In both cases, the respective companies are responsible for both infrastructure and services.


  • The names "British Rail", "BR" or "British Railways" were not used in The Railway Series until the two final books. This was most likely done to prevent trademark infringement since BR still existed at the time. However, BR crests and logos were accurately illustrated on engines from "The Other Railway" such as Jinty and Pug.
  • A station called Angerton from this railway was the basis for Killaban, Tidmouth Bay and Maithwaite.
  • The Taplow Station, on the Great Western Railway that became British Railways, Duck's original home, was the basis for Kellsthorpe Road in the Television Series.

* RWS only | ** T&F only