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 to the neighbouring village of Buckleberry.
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 the town. The route follows the gentle contour of the land and climbs away from the canal towards Boot Lane and then the 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 two miles to Folly Mill once or twice a day.
In 1885 the Tramway was extended a further two miles to Buckleberry. The route from Folly Mill drops down to Four Candles before rising again to Oxford Road and requires extensive civil engineering to negotiate. With no less than twelve bridges (under, over & culverts), three embankments & four cuttings, the cost of the extension quickly exceeded original estimates.
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 failure of the locomotive and mounting debts forced the closure of the mill & railway.
Legal action followed, and ownership of the Tramway Company disputed, while creditors attempted to retrieve their investments. The saviour of the railway was a local businessman, Joshua Merryweather, who purchased Folly Mill in 1892. The railway between Folly Mill & Canal Wharf was used by a couple of mill employees, propelling a wagon along the line once or twice a day. In 1895, Merryweather borrowed some two-foot gauge rolling-stock, and the track to Folly Mill relaid to narrow-gauge.
Trains continued to operate on an ad-hoc basis until 1923 when Merryweather sold the business to Francis Butler, who made a few small investments in both the mill and railway.
Surviving the second war, both the mill & railway were in an appalling condition, 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 Trust, intending to save the Tramway Company. Following a protracted legal dispute over ownership of the Mill & Tramway that dated back to Merryweather, the Trust finally established possession of the Company in 1965. The partnership between the Company & Trust is subtle, yet workable and has enabled the Company to reopen the Tramway to Buckleberry as a passenger-carrying railway.
In 1965 passengers were carried first between Canal Wharf & Boot Lane, and to Folly Mill by 1967. The restoration of the remaining railway took much longer to accomplish, trains not running into Buckleberry (now Oxford Road) until 1975.
In the early 1980s, the Company began to attract the attention of local authorities, who were promoting “year-round” tourism in the county and wanted to include support for the Tramway. 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 the “year-round” operations, celebrating the one-hundredth anniversary of the reopening of the Candlebridge Tramway. The Company now operates approximately fifteen hundred trains to Buckleberry every year and is one of several tourist attractions in Oxfordshire.