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
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!”