What you read on these pages is my imagination running riot – my need to justify! Some of the pages have links to reality; a link page to the model and what it is, how it was acquired or built. 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 Brittlebury 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 first rises away from the river at Boot Lane and then drops slowly back down 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 with the one & a half miles to Folly Mill a couple of times a day.
In 1885 the Tramway was extended to Brittlebury, a further one & a half miles. The route between Folly Mill & Brittlebury is far from easy and required extensive civil engineering to negotiate. Although a relatively shallow climb to Brittlebury, this section railway has no less than twelve bridges (under, over & culverts), three embankments & four cuttings.
Unfortunately, the extension was never 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 granted to Candlebridge Parrish!
And that probably would have been the end of this story, had it not been for a local businessman, Francis Butler. Who, having discovered the little abandoned railway in the spring of 1895, became convinced that there was a passenger market for the Tramway, in the growing tourist trade from nearby Oxford. He quickly made steps towards acquiring the line, planning to relay it as a narrow-gauge railway. He ordered two tram engines from Thomas Green & Son Limited while purchasing carriages from Brown, Marshalls & Company. By the end of the year, the Tramway was back in business.
As Butler predicted, the Tramway soon began to generate a small profit. Encouraged by this, both stations & yards Boot Lane & Brittlebury (now, Four Candles) were re-built in 1897.
Closing during WWI, the Tramway was brought back to life in 1921 with the aid of cheap ex-WD stock. Although the Baldwin petrol tractor was challenging to start and uneconomical in use, it did allow breathing space to enable overhaul of the Thomas Green engines. And, although the railway ran on a “shoestring”, it somehow managed to turn a small profit and cling to existence.
Surviving WWII, the line was in bad condition by the 1950s, and Butler’s death in 1957 at the age of ninety-six, 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, the Association were finally able to establish ownership of the Candlebridge Tramway Company in 1965.
The Association arranged to hire two locomotives from the nearby Door Valley Quarry Company which allowed the Association to restore the Tramway and begin train operations. By 1967, the Association were able to reopen the Tramway between Boot Lane & Folly Mill, and in 1972 the line was opened to Four Candles. The two engines were donated to the Association in 1975, along with a third that had remained at Door.
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, and Association grasped the opportunity.
There were further locomotive acquisitions in 1988 when the Door Valley Quarries disposed of their two Hunslets, both engines proving to be a great addition to the Tramways fleet. And by 1992 the Association were 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 restoration of a Thomas Green engine by Boot Lane Workshops. The Candlebridge Tramway Association now operates approximately two thousand trains to Brittlebury every year and is one of many major tourist attractions in Oxfordshire.