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
Deep in the heart of Oxfordshire lies the Candlebridge Tramway, a tiny railway that survived against all the odds.
There has been a railway near Candlebridge since 1857 when a short horse-drawn standard gauge line was laid to access Folly Mill on the outskirts of the town. The route follows the gentle contour of the roadway from Candlebridge towards the mill. In 1882 the Tramway Company was formed, and the track re-laid for steam traction. The small engine would clatter a train, the half-mile to Folly Mill once or twice a day.
In 1888, the failure of the locomotive and mounting debts forced the sale of the mill & railway, and a young entrepreneur, Joshua Merryweather, purchased the whole concern.
Merryweather not only re-laid the track between Candlebridge & Folly Mill to two-foot gauge, but he also extended the railway a further one & a half miles to the wharf at Boot lane. Cheap second-hand equipment sourced and against the odds, the railway survived until the outbreak of the first war.
Merryweather attempted to revitalize the railway after the war with ex-MOD stock, but this did not prove very successful, and by 1936 he sold the railway to William Butler.
Butler reinvested in the railway, including the purchase of a petrol railbus which eased operations and enabled the railway to operate trains on a casual basis through the second war and into the 60s. However, the railway was in an appalling condition when he died at the end of 1964. Closure of the tramway seemed inevitable; but, a small group of enthusiasts, inspired by the actions of those at the Talyllyn & Ffestiniog railway’s, formed the Candlebridge Trust, intending to save the tramway company. Following a short legal dispute over ownership of the mill & railway that dated back to before Butler, the Trust established possession of the company in July 1965 and managed to operate a few trains by September that year. During the next few years, the Trust was able to source several items of stock from a few railways & industry, while 1967 saw considerable redevelopment at Boot Lane with a new yard layout & workshops.
In the early 1980s, the Company & Trust began to attract the attention of local authorities, who were promoting “year-round” tourism in the county and wanted to include support for the railway. Funding was made available to assist the Trust, and by 1988 the company was maintaining a full summer timetable.
1995 finally saw the introduction of “year-round” operations, and the company now operates approximately fifteen hundred trains to Candlebridge every year and is one of several tourist attractions in Oxfordshire.