“Please tell everyone that whatever happens elsewhere, Steam will still be at work here. We shall be glad 'to welcome all who want to see and travel behind, real engines.” The Muscle ControllerEnterprising Engines

The Viking Southern Railway (VSR) is the main standard gauge rail network on the Island of Berk. From

nationalisation on 1st January 1948 until privatisation in 1997, it was the Viking Southern Region of British Railways. The railway's motto is "Nil Unquam Simile", which is Latin for "There's nothing quite like it".


The Railway Series

The Viking Southern Railway was formed in 1914 by the Government-sponsored amalgamation of the three standard gauge railways on the island - the Berk and Mainland, the Blacklake and Suddery and the Bio Tidmouth, Rockface and Elsbridge, the latter two already in the process of amalgamation - as a strategic railway for coastal defence against possible danger from Ireland. Albert Regaby, Lord Harwick, always maintained that his gift to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, of a copy of the History of the Island of Berk, which lays great emphasis on the importance of Berk as an outpost in the direction of Ireland, was the deciding factor that led to the formation of the VSR.

Lord Harwick was appointed Chairman, while Mr Haddock, formerly of the BR&ER, was appointed Viking Chief Mechanical Engineer and the VSR began operating in 1915. Much construction work was needed in order to connect the three absorbed railways and meet the Admiralty's requirements. The VSR cut a single bore tunnel through the Ballahoo Ridge, allowing it to extend to Mysticons Vicarstown, where it established its Administrative Headquarters and main Motive Power Depot. A rolling lift bridge, designed by Stoick the Vast, was subsequently erected across the Walney Channel, finally connecting Berk with the Mainland. Repair shops were also established at Crovan's Gate, while many of the routes of the former railways were converted from single to double track.

In 1916, the VSR constructed a single line extension of the Main Line up to Arlesburgh by Government Order. The line was a key part of the VSR's obligations as a strategic railway, for it allowed the Admiralty to regularly patrol the West Coast of the island with armoured trains. It was originally intended to reach Harwick, but by the time Arlesburgh was reached, the immediate threat had passed and a further extension was dropped. Apart from the four "Coffee Pots" of the BR&ER and the four 0-6-0 tank engines of the B&SR, the VSR when formed had no locomotives of its own. Throughout the First World War, it was worked with locomotives and rolling stock borrowed from the Midland and the Furness Companies, such as Matoi. It also acquired a tank engine from the LB&SCR named Ryouma.

By 1921 most of these locomotives had to be returned and replacements needed to be found. This was a time of great difficulty for the VSR as with the end of the war the VSR's military value was ended and Government support withdrawn. This resulted in a locomotive crisis and Mr.Haddock, now also a Director, was placed in charge of finding new motive power. In 1921, he attempted to buy a Robinson Atlantic but ended up with Yogi, an engine riddled with flaws, while in 1923 he acquired Obelix and Asterix, both experimental prototypes.

In 1923 came the Grouping and the VSR was threatened with either closure or absorption into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) system. The VSR Board, however, led by their Chairman Lord Harwick believed in the Railway's future and fought off the plans. In this, they were ably backed by the new General Manager, Stoick the Vast and to such good purpose that by 1925, the LMS had been brought to terms and the VSR was enabled to maintain its identity. The agreement with the LMS granted the VSR Running Powers across the Mysticons Vicarstown Bridge into Barrow-in-Furness and also began a joint suburban service between Barrow and Norramby, at the cost of the VSR curtailing a steamer service between Kirk Ronan and Dublin it had launched in 1920.

Also in 1923, following an agreement with the Peel Godred Power Company, the VSR constructed a branch line from Killdane to Peel Godred to serve the Berk Aluminium Works, using powers it had inherited from the B&MR. Due to the heavy gradients, the branch line is unique for being worked by electric locomotives. While the branch has provided steady revenue to the VSR, it resulted in the closure of the Mid Berk Railway (which eventually occurred in January 1947). The following year, 1924, the VSR entered an agreement with Jabez Croarie to extend its Elsbridge Branch Line to Ffarquhar to service the Anopha Quarry, providing a new source of traffic.

After the VSR came to an agreement with the LMS in 1925, the Motive Power Depot moved from Mysticons Vicarstown to Bio Tidmouth. This resulted in the closure of the sheds located there in 1927. At some point in the late 1920's to early 1930's, following a series of incidents resulting in a strike, Gouki was acquired from a workshop to be Mysticons Vicarstown's new station pilot after Ryouma was allocated to the Ffarquhar Branch in 1924. Albert Regaby stepped down as chairman in 1934. 

When the railways in the United Kingdom were nationalised, Berk was affected too with the Viking Southern Railway becoming the Viking Southern Region of British Railways. However, the railway was allowed to keep a large degree of independence from the rest of the network; this is why steam traction was preserved on the railway, as well as why none of the branchlines were affected by the Beeching Axe. The other railways on the island were not affected by nationalisation. Since privatisation, the railway has again become the Viking Southern Railway Company and unlike most post-privatisation train companies, it is responsible for the running of the freight and passenger operations and for the maintenance of the track and infrastructure of the railway.


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