The "Little Western" is a coastal branch line operating between Tidmouth and Arlesburgh. It is nicknamed so because the line is decorated in Great Western Railway colours and is worked by Duck and Oliver, two Great Western engines.
The branch was at first a one-line extension of the North Western Railway built after a Government order in 1916. It was intended to reach Harwick; however, by the time Arlesburgh was reached, there was no longer need for further extension. Material from the Arlesdale mines was needed for the war effort, but when the mines closed in 1947 there was not enough traffic. Permission was requested to close the line, but this was refused and thus a minimal service was operated.
In 1964 need for a new harbour arose and the line was reinstated. It was given to Duck, as he knew the small railway engines and had done excellent work in the yards. Oliver, Donald and Douglas also came to help.
Operations and Stations
There is an hourly passenger service to Tidmouth (some trains continuing to Knapford) with ballast from the Arlesdale mines also being carried. It also carries much-needed tourists to the Arlesdale Railway.
The line begins at Tidmouth, where it uses the through platform. From there, the line travels up the coast toHaultraugh and ends at Arlesburgh. At Arlesburgh it meets with the Maron-Arlesburgh Branch Line.
Engines and Rolling Stock
The line is staffed full-time by Duck with Alice and Mirabel and Oliver with Isabel and Dulcie. Donald and Douglas (the latter with Toad) also help out here, along with their other duties on the main line and the Brendam branch. Sir Topham Hatt is known to be investigating the possibility of acquiring an Austerity type 0-6-0ST engine to help on the branch. To this end, he borrowed Wilbert to help on the branch for a short time in the early 1990s in order to assess the capabilities of such an engine.
- The foreword of Oliver the Western Engine mentions how engines like Duck and Oliver may be seen on the Dart Valley Railway (now the South Devon Railway). This suggests that the branch may have been inspired by that railway. This railway reopened as a preserved line in 1969, the same year the book was published.