The Little Western - A History

A History of the Arlesburgh Branch

During the First World War, the Arlesdale Branch originally started out as an extension of the Main Line from Tidmouth, built in 1916 by Government Order. The plan was to extend the line as far as Harwick in order to build a small navel base there and patrol the area with armoured trains; but by the time they reached as far as Arlesburgh, the danger had passed and there was no longer a need for further extension.

The line paid its way for the War Effort, making great use of the lead mines at Arlesdale; but traffic quickly subsided in 1947 following the closure of the mines. However, the branch line was reinstated in 1964 when a new harbour was built near Arlesburgh, allowing passenger services and ballast trains to be carried out from the Small Railway.

As a reward for his hard work in the yard, the Fat Controller gave Duck the line as his own, which he now runs alongside Oliver, and their own Great Western carriage stock (Alice, Mirabel, Isabel and Dulcie), with Donald and Douglas helping during busy periods – the other engines have come to call their branch “The Little Western”.

However, without a permanent shunting engine based at Tidmouth, Duck, Oliver, Donald and Douglas were forced to work on a rotary service, taking turns to shunt the yard and run the branch. This soon came to a head when Oliver had an accident after overrunning a red signal (D,O&TLW), leaving Duck to run the line solo. To solve this problem, the Fat Controller brought Jinty to look after the Big Station yard, giving Duck and Oliver more time and steam to run their line again.

Life has since gone on as normal for the Little Western – without the odd spanner in the works. The line suffered severe erosion one Spring, which saw it closed for several weeks (OJE) with a strong breakwater to prevent history repeating.
Despite being popular for its historic appearance, Arlesburgh Harbour has undergone renovation to keep up with the times (DTGWE), including several factories to handle modern shipping (TTE) and its own transport museum which, while not as vast as the one based at Norramby, still offers plenty of historic omnibus and maritime exhibitions (D,O&TLW). Brad was spared from Thomas's Branch Line to help with the factory work, which wasn't smooth riding when some spiteful trucks caused trouble between him and the Western Tank Engines...

The line has seen some new faces over the years. The Fat Controller's proposed engine to help on the Branch Lines (WTFE) finally arrived in the form of Warrior, the ex-colliery saddletank, who proved his worth for the first few years. But when maintenance problems started to show, it was clear more motive power was needed. Thus the Fat Controller brought Blandford and Winston respectively to help Duck and Oliver run regular goods / passenger traffic should the Scottish Twins be occupied elsewhere...and which also saw Warrior eventually moved to the Vicarstown Railway Museum for a much needed rest!

The Little Western has still proven to be as popular and useful to this day – Duck and Oliver running hourly passenger trains, allowing Donald, Douglas, Blandford and Winston to take care of the ballast trains, which have since been upgraded with ballast hoppers in contrast to the usual five-plank wagons in the 1960's (T&HF). The line has even been blessed with the visit of the “Greatest of Western Engines” himself, City of Truro, during another visit to Sodor (TGOWE). And like everything else, Duck has made sure that things are handled “the Great Western Way!