Mike draws into Ravenglass on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway
Photo by Eliot Andersen
Mike draws into Ravenglass on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway on a Day out with Thomas event in May 2005. Bert's train is about to leave on Platform 3 and Doris (Lady Wakefield) is stabled on Platform 2. This view of Ravenglass has dramatically changed over the past 60-70 years, and the old Arlesburgh layout is based on the revision of the layout around 1930.

The Fat and Thin Clergymen visited the Arlesdale Railway in Small Railway Engines in 1967, after they'd visited the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, most likely the year before. The railway was saved from extinction for the second time in 1960, when the Keswick Granite Company had put it up for sale at an auction, after the closure of Beckfoot Quarry and Murthwaite Crushing Plant. The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway Preservation Society Ltd. was formed and quickly raised funds to rescue the railway. Notable names from the early days of the Society are Douglas Ferreira, the first General Manager, from 1961 to 1994 (the real-life counterpart of Fergus Duncan but likely namesake of Ivan Farrier); Douglas Robinson, chair of Muncaster Parish Council, who placed the winning bid; Colin Gilbert, the original chairman of the R&ER Co. Ltd (seperate from the R&ER Preservation Society) and Lord Wavell Wakefield, the chairman after Gilbert passed away. Ivan Farrier, the Arlesdale Railway's CME, is the fictional counterpart of Ian Smith, who was the CME at the time of Northern Rock and Lady Wakefield's constructions.

The four steam engines of the Arlesdale Railway are based on the four primary steam engines at Ravenglass. River Irt is Bert, River Esk is Rex, River Mite is Mike and Northern Rock is Jock. The Rivers Irt, Esk and Mite are three which run into the estuary at Ravenglass from the vales of Wasdale, Miterdale and Eskdale in the Lake District, all from the foot of the Scafells, highest mountains in England. Northern Rock's name, however, comes from a donor to the fund for its construction - Northern Rock, the building society!

'River Irt'
'River Esk' at Ravenglass Station
Photo by Eliot Andersen
Photo by Eliot Andersen
"River Irt", in Mid Green with yellow and black lining, beside the engine shed at Ravenglass.
"River Esk" in LNWR Blackberry Black passes the bungalow on Ravenglass station, while returning to shed.
River 'Irt' as 'Bert' steams into Ravenglass
'River Esk' as 'Rex'
Photo by Eliot Andersen
Photo by Eliot Andersen
"River Irt" steams into Ravenglass in the 1990s on a "Friends of Thomas" weekend, masquerading as "Bert".
"River Esk" as "Rex" arrives at Ravenglass in the 1990s and pulls onto the sector table.
'River Irt' in the 1940s
'River Esk'
Photo Source: Unknown
Photo by Eliot Andersen
"River Irt" at Irton Road in the 1940s, showing the pre-1972 shape of the loco.
"River Esk" on the bridge over the road into Ravenglass, waiting for the signal allowing it to reverse onto its train in Platform 1 in July 2006.

River Irt, R&ER No. 3, was designed and built by Sir Arthur Heywood at his home of Duffield Bank, in Derbyshire in 1894, as Muriel, a 0-8-0 tank engine. Heywood was a pioneer in 15" gauge railways and had many unique patents to his name. After he died in 1916, two engines from Duffield Bank, Muriel and Ella, first were requisitioned by the MoD for use at Gretna Munitions Factory and then came to Ravenglass in 1917, joining another Heywood locomotive, Katie. In 1927, Muriel was rebuilt at Murthwaite into a 0-8-2 tender engine named River Irt, and ran as the flagship of the fleet for many years, even when River Esk was out of service. In 1972, it was aesthetically rebuilt, with a taller chimney, dome and cab, to narrow gauge proportions, improving the look of the locomotive.

River Esk, R&ER No. 7, was designed by Henry Greenly and built by Davey Paxman & Co. of Colchester in 1923. It was intended to be used on the heavy granite trains, but instead was used as a passenger locomotive, alongside the weaker scale locomotives of Bassett-Lowke origins. It was returned to service in the 1950s, after more than a decade out of service, and is now a mainstay of the team. It has experienced rebuilds and improvements over the years, but looks very much the same as it did 80 years ago.

The two newer locomotives of the main fleet, River Mite and Northern Rock, were both built during "preservation". River Mite was built using the chassis of the old steam tender that had once been on River Esk. This went to Clarksons of York, and arrived completed in Ravenglass in December 1966, and was commissioned the following May. It was funded and is owned by the Preservation Society, although is on permanent loan to the Railway Company. Like River Esk, which it is generally an improvement and enhancement on, it is a 2-8-2 tender engine. Its number is R&ER No. 9.

Northern Rock was the first locomotive to be built at Ravenglass by the new company. It was commissioned at the 100th anniversary of passenger trains in 1976, and has performed sterling service for the thirty years since. It was designed by Ian Smith, the CME at the time, and is a 2-6-2 tender engine. This engine's number is R&ER No. 10.

'River Mite' at Irton Road
'Northern Rock' at Miteside Loop
Photo by Eliot Andersen
Photo by Eliot Andersen
"River Mite" was an Up train at Irton Road, the Eskdale version of Marthwaite, in August 2006.
"Northern Rock" with a Down train at Miteside Loop in August 2006.
'River Mite' at Fisherground Halt
'Northern Rock' at Dalegarth
Photo by Eliot Andersen
Photo by Eliot Andersen
Passing Fisherground Halt is "River Mite" in July 2006. MIKE rendered by Anthony Walker
In May 2006, "Northern Rock" sits at Dalegarth before leaving with the 1.10 departure. JOCK rendered by Anthony Walker

The four main steam engines are not the only forms of motive power on the railway. Aside from the four other steam locomotives, which are more for static display and gala work than timetabled service, there is a fleet of petrol and diesel engines, some of which feature in the Awdry stories and books. ICL (Internal Combustion Loco) No. 4, Perkins, arrived at Ravenglass in 1929 as a Muir-Hill Fordson tractor, for granite traffic. In 1931, it was converted to a 0-4-4 with a fake steam outline, for relief passenger work. It remained in service as a reliable engine until 1975, when its Fordson engine was replaced by a Perkins one, exchanging its fake smokebox from with a diesel engine's grille. In 1984, it was converted into a full diesel shunter outline and named "Perkins" the following year. It is now mainly used on permanent way trains and for shunting stock. In Jock the New Engine, this engine was introduced as "Frank", taking the first name of Mr Perkins.

Shelagh of Eskdale, on the other hand, is ICL No. 7, and could be classed as the oldest 15" gauge locomotive in the world. Parts of its chassis come from Ella, a sister of Muriel, and that engine dated from 1881, and was another Heywood product. It arrived in 1917 and was converted into a petrol engine with an odd hut-like cab and a 2-6-2 wheel arrangement, and was named ICL No. 2. It met its demise in 1928 after a collision, and the remains were left lying around at Murthwaite for many years. Before the line was sold in 1960, plans had been drawn up for a new diesel, incorporating some parts of ICL No. 2, and this was eventually completed by Severn-Lamb of Stratford-on-Avon in 1969. The finished product, Shelagh, was named after a local heroine in Eskdale folklore, and was powered by a Ford diesel engine. Oddly, in The Island of Sodor, Sigrid of Arlesdale, Shelagh's Sudrian counterpart, is described as having a Perkins engine, something which Shelagh has never had. However, Lady Wakefield, another Ravenglass diesel engine, does have a Perkins engine, as does the new diesel locomotive, Douglas Ferreira.

'Shelagh of Eskdale'
Photo by Eliot Andersen
Photo by Eliot Andersen
"Perkins" with a permanent way train on the engine shed headshunt at Ravenglass in August 2006.
Instructions are relayed from the Controller via an assistant, the R&ERPS chairman, to the driver of "Shelagh of Eskdale" after an incident in May 2006.
'Perkins' as 'Frank'
'Shelagh of Eskdale' as 'BoCoBo'
Photo by Eliot Andersen
Photo by Eliot Andersen
Outside the carriage workshop, "Perkins", carrying the nameplate of "Frank", stands on display.
Standing on the old centre road at Ravenglass, "Shelagh of Eskdale", as "BoCoBo", named after the wheel arrangement, is stabled on display.
'River Irt' and 'Perkins'
Photo by Eliot Andersen
Photo bycorrespondent
"Perkins" shunting stock at Ravenglass in July 2006.
A kind correspondent visited the R&ER and sent in his fab snap of River Irt and Perkins (also adding the art to make Bert and Frank).

In The Island of Sodor, there are two more engines that are mentioned as working on the Arlesdale Railway, Blister 1 and Blister 2, and they are described as two Lister diesel locomotives. There is a 0-4-0 Lister shunter on the Ratty, named "Cyril", and it seems that this must be the prototype for the final two Sudrian 15" gauge engines. Cyril was built in 1932, and came to the railway in 1985. It is owned by the Murthwaite Locomotive Group and named after a former company employee, Cyril Holland, who used to be the driver of River Esk. Its R&ER number is ICL No. 9.

'Cyril' with water tank
'Cyril' shunting coaching stock
Photo by Eliot Andersen
Photo by Eliot Andersen
"Cyril" stands on display while on fire-train duties with the mess van and the water-carrying tank wagon at Muncaster Mill in the 1990s.
Cyril" in December 2005, after shunting coaching stock in Ravenglass.

Finally, Arlesdale Railway rolling stock.

16-seat bogie open coaches: The Teaks There were six of these built by the railway in 1927, and more built throughout the 1930s and 1950s. One, 6-27 (6th coach of 1927) survives as a member of the museum collection today.

8-seat 4-wheel semi-open coaches: Locally-built 4-wheelers Six of these were built minus roofs in 1923, to similar designs to the Bassett-Lowke opens. They were given roofs in 1962 and formed a wet-weather set, usually pulled by a diesel. They were withdrawn in 1968. One survives in the museum collection, another was converted into a stores van and a third's frames were used to carry the Santa Sleigh.

20-seat bogie semi-open coaches: The Parrot-Vans These are mentioned in The Island of Sodor, as replacing the 8-seat semi-opens. They are identical to the R&ER's current semi-open coaches, which date from 1971-1982. There are 11 in the Ratty's fleet, and there are usually several on each train.

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Visit the La'al Ratty!

The Railway is the oldest surviving public 15" gauge railway in the world, and originally dates from 1875, with the opening of the 3 foot gauge line to Boot and Nab Gill iron mines. The line travels from Ravenglass, the Lake District's sole coastal village, up Miterdale along the base of Muncaster Fell, through Eskdale Green village and across to Eskdale. It then ascends below Hollin Head Crag towards Boot, and terminates at Dalegarth, not far west of the village, and on the main valley road. It can be reached by rail via the Cumbrian Coast Line from Carlisle to Lancaster, or by various routes by road, including over the spectacular Lakeland passes of Hardknott and Wrynose.

The engines (including Shelagh/Sigrid) are dressed up for four days per year at Day out with Thomas events, when the Bure Valley Railway's Wroxham Broad comes as Thomas. The next event is the 30th of September and 1st of October 2006, with the following one in mid-May, 2007.

For more information on the railway, visit the basic Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway official website.

For details on how to join the R&ER Preservation Society, visit the R&ERPS website.

There are many photographic galleries of the railway located at Fotopic's R&ER Community!

Arlesdale Railway books:

Small Railway Engines (1967)
Jock the New Engine (1990)

With many thanks for the text above (and most of the pictures) to Eliot Anderson, a volunteer on the Ratty. Visit his website here. A stock list is here

From Tony Grigg's notes on "The Island of Sodor":
15in Gauge Railway
Mike, Bert and Rex
These are 15 inch gauge locomotives, tender locomotives originally built for the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway in Cumbria. They operate on the Arlesdale Railway, which carries ballast from the hills to Arlesburgh as well as passengers in the tourist season.
Jock was built new in 1976 at Arlesburgh to a design of Ivan Farrier, the line's Chief Engineer. His name is due to his green colour, which is very similar to that used on the former Highland Railway.

Tom Wright adds:
- Two of the Small Engines, namely Jock and Frank, both have their counterparts on the R&ER. Jock is "Northern Rock" and Frank is one of the maintenance diesels.
Tom says there are further characters who exist but have never actually appeared in stories:
Blister I and II: Lister diesel tractors from the Small Railway.
Sigrid of Arlesdale: The Small Railway equivalent of Shelagh of Eskdale.

Correspondent Jake gave us this information on Frank, obtained through the kindness of R&ER Stations Manager David Jenner: "Frank (known as "Perkins" on our railway) is an 0-4-4 diesel locomotive with four powered wheels driven by a chain drive and a 4 wheeled trailing bogie. The loco was built during the early 1920's as an 0-4-0 loco using a tractor engine and was one of three locos introduced to carry the heavy granite trains on our line."

Thanks to all contributors.

Models: ERTL and Learning Curve but nothing to scale!!!

Testbedford Junction has recently aquired a 19" gauge miniature railway.

Duke and the MSR <----

----> Culdee Fell Railway