Everything you read on these pages is my imagination running riot – my need to justify! Some of the pages have links to reality. Please enjoy this site and only believe what you want!
The Candlebridge Tramway is the culmination of my railway modelling experiences since the 1970s, what you read on these pages is the justification (in my mind) for a collection of railway aspects that appeals to me! The quaint, quintessentially English Tramway is one that I love, these are my excuses for its continued existence in today’s modern world!
AN UNLIKELY HISTORY
The little town of Candlebridge lies deep in the heart of Oxfordshire and from where a short narrow-gauge Tramway connects the neighbouring village of Buckleberry on the Oxford Road.
There has been a Tramway at Candlebridge since 1865 when a horse-drawn standard-gauge “plate-way” was laid to access Folly Mill on the outskirts of Candlebridge. The route follows the gentle contour of the land as it rises away from the river at Boot Lane, then drops slowly back towards Folly Mill. In 1882 the Candlebridge Tramway Company was formed, and the track re-laid for steam traction. The small engine would clatter its way with a train in tow, along the line to Folly Mill once or twice a day.
In 1885 the Tramway was extended a further one and half miles to Brittlebury. The route from Folly Mill to Buckleberry is far from easy and required extensive civil engineering to negotiate. And although a relatively shallow climb to Brittlebury, this section of railway has no less than twelve bridges (under, over & culverts), three embankments & four cuttings.
Unfortunately, the extension was never really a viable proposition, relying entirely on business from Folly Mill. Clinging to a precarious existence, the railway survived until 1888 when the failer of the locomotive and mounting debts forced the closure of the line.
There followed legal action as ownership of the Tramway was disputed, and creditors tried to retrieve their investments. However, most of the Company’s finance was a mess, and eventually, possession of the Tramway passed to Candlebridge Parrish Council!
And that probably would have been the end of this story, had it not been for a local businessman, Joshua Merryweather. Who, having purchased Folly Mill in 1995, set about reinstating the Tramway between Boot Lane & the Mill. Using cheap two-foot gauge stock, he rebuilt the Tramway as a narrow-gauge railway, and by 1897, trains were once again running between Boot Lane & Folly Mill.
Merryweather closed the line during WWI and sold the Tramway in 1921, to Francis Butler who sought to bring the railway back to life with the aid of cheap ex-WD stock. However, the ex-WD locomotives proved challenging to start and uneconomical in use. But Butler pressed on with his plans, eventually reopened the railway through to Buckleberry, now Oxford Road in 1923. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Tramway started to generate an income, mostly from the tourist traffic from nearby Oxford, and during the 1930s the Tramway saw somewhat of a boom period!
Surviving WWII, the line was in bad condition by the 1950s, and Butler’s death in 1957, nearly spelt the end of the railway for the second time? However, a small group of enthusiasts, inspired by the actions of those at the Talyllyn & Ffestiniog railway’s, formed the Candlebridge Tramway Association intending to keep the railway open. Following a protracted legal dispute over ownership of the Tramway that dated back to Merryweather, the Association finally established possession of the Company in 1965.
In 1967 the Association reopened the Tramway between Boot Lane & Folly Mill, and to Oxford Road in 1972.
In the late 1970s, the Association began to attract the attention of local authorities, who were promoting “year-round” tourism in the south of the county and wanted to include support for the Tramway. Funding was made available for the building of more rolling-stock, the Association grasped the opportunity, and by 1988 the Tramway was maintaining a two-train summer schedule with the first of the new carriages.
1995 finally saw the introduction of the “year-round” timetable, together with the commissioning of a brand new locomotive built entirely at Boot Lane Workshops. The Association now operates approximately three thousand trains to Brittlebury every year and is one of several major tourist attractions in Oxfordshire.