The Ffarquhar Branch Line, originally the Elsbridge Branch Line and commonly known as Thomas' Branch Line, runs between Knapford and Ffarquhar and was awarded to Thomas after recovering James from an accident. The section between Knapford and Elsbridge was the original route of the Tidmouth, Knapford and Elsbridge Railway.
A harbour line from Elsbridge to Knapford was opened in 1885 and used horse-pulled wagons. Later, after (or before) the Tidmouth, Wellsworth and Suddery Railway and the Sodor and Mainland Railway were joined into the North Western Railway, horses were replaced by steam engines. In 1915 a bay platform was opened at Knapford and was connected via a branch. After 1923, Thomas was sent to run the line. The run down of the lead mines at Toryreck began in 1925, but opportunities of stone traffic from Ffarquhar opened and the line to Elsbridge was extended. The lead mines at Toryreck closed in 1930. In 1956, the improvement scheme of the harbour at Knapford was started, the branch to the harbour was rebuilt on an easier gradient and the stations were moved north of the river. The harbour line is now used for goods.
Stations and Route
The Passenger Line crosses over the harbour line and the River Els by a stone bridge. Later it passes the level crossing where Bertie and Thomas met, and Daisy jammed her brakes with a traffic cone. This is around the place where Thomas found out that the guard was not on his train.
After that, the line crosses the harbour line, passes by the airfield, and it then calls at Dryaw. After that it climbs and crosses down a road bridge with some special points where Clarabel's wheels came off the rails, and Diesel came to the rescue.
The line continues to climb and after that, the line arrives at the harbour line junction, and later at Toryreck. Here, engines need to exchange Tablets in order to proceed on to the next section. After that the line comes to the place where Percy nearly had an accident with floods caused by the river Els. Later comes the curve where snow blocked Daisy's air-intake and she was left stranded for a week until the snow melted enough to allow her to be rescued.
Later comes the Elsbridge Cricket Field, and the line calls at Elsbridge. The line crosses the River Els, a road bridge, and then passes the place where Daisy met Champion. The line later passes the signal box where Thomas' crew threw the fireman's lunch box, with a note inside, to a signalman.
The line comes side by side by River Callan and the road. It curves and climbs and arrives at Mrs. Kyndley's Cottage and Hackenbeck Tunnel. Going out of the tunnel, the line arrives at Hackenbeck. Later, crosses down a road bridge, passes Terence's field and a level crossing until it finally arrives at Ffarquhar.
The Harbour Line leaves the harbour below the junction. It goes alongside the river, it reaches the Airfield at Dryaw, passes below the passenger line, then goes along a steep climb, passing the cutting where hay is cut in summer. The line reaches Dryaw Goods Station, passes under a road bridge, arriving at the junction to the Lead Mines, over Crowe's Farm Crossing, and into the junction of the passenger line at Toryreck.
The Old Passenger Line begins at the old Knapford Junction (south of the river), follows a stretch until it reaches a signal and level crossing, where it crosses the new passenger line, both lines divert again, and the old line connects just before Dryaw Goods Station, where it now follows the normal harbour line route.
The branch carries passengers, quarry stone, farm produce, dairy products from St. Pedroc's Dairy in Elsbridge, general goods and uranium from the mines. Some passenger trains work into Tidmouth to pick up a through coach from the Wild Nor' Wester. Thomas and sometimes Daisy run passenger duties with Annie and Clarabel. Toby, with Henrietta, Victoria and Elsie, run trains to Anopha Quarry.
The branch also has a goods-line from Toryreck to Knapford Harbour, worked by Percy, who is in charge of goods duties, although when Thomas is absent he takes over passenger duties. He and Toby also appear to share the workload of stone trains to Knapford Harbour. Stepney, Duck, Wilbert, James and Emily have also worked on the branch at various points. Edward once made a trip to the quarry before the policeman stopped Thomas for being "unsafe".
This line also has a connection to the Dryaw mines, formerly used for mining lead but now being worked for deposits of uranium. The Quarry Tramroad extends five miles from Ffarquhar, through the streets of the village, then into the hills to the private sidings of Anopha Quarry. This tramway is property of the North Western Railway and was formerly worked by Toby, but more recent arrangements have allowed for Mavis to operate trains on it.
Railway Series Only
- The branchline was created during the writing of Tank Engine Thomas Again when Christopher Awdry, Hilary Fortnam, and Veronica Chambers claimed the race between Thomas and Bertie in the book’s fourth story ‘Thomas and Bertie’ was unfair. So Wilbert Awdry drew up the branchline to show that Thomas and Bertie had the same amount of obstacles to overcome in order to win the race. As a result, the children deemed the race 'fair'.
- The branchline was the first part of Sodor to be mapped.
- According to a magazine fact file, Rosie is said to be working on the branchline, however, she has yet to be seen doing so in the television series.