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 steeply rises away from the river at Boot Lane, then dropping 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 two miles to Folly Mill once or twice a day.
In 1885 the Tramway was extended a further two miles to Brittlebury. The route from Folly Mill to Brittlebury is far from easy and requires extensive civil engineering to negotiate. And although it is 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 politician & businessman, Francis Butler. Who, having discovered the little abandoned railway during the autumn of 1895, became convinced that there was a passenger market for the Tramway, in the growing tourist trade from nearby Oxford. He took steps to acquire the line and rebuild as a narrow-gauge railway, initially hiring a Hunslet locomotive from the nearby Door Valley Quarry Company. By early 1997, the Tramway was back in business and later that year, Butler managed to acquire a 1995 built Thomas Green & Son Limited tram engine from Isaac Boulton.
As Butler predicted, the Tramway soon began to generate a small profit and encouraged by this; he rebuilt both stations & yards at Boot Lane & Brittlebury (now, Four Candles).
Closing during WWI, the Tramway was brought back to life in 1921 with the aid of cheap ex-WD stock. Unfortunately, the Baldwin petrol tractor proved challenging to start and uneconomical in use, and once again the Door Valley Quarry company came to Butlers assistance with the loan of the Hunslet in 1923. Two years later Butler reached an agreement with the Quarry Company and the Hunslet remained at Candlebridge.
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.
In an extraordinary gesture of generosity, the Door Valley Quarry Company donated its two remaining Hunslets to the Association in 1965. By 1967, the Association reopened the Tramway between Boot Lane & Folly Mill, and in 1972 the line was opened to Four Candles.
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, and by 1988 the Association 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 restoration of the Thomas Green locomotive by Boot Lane Workshops. In 2012 a partnership was forged with the Ffestiniog Railway when the American Locomotive Company built “MOUNTAINEER” moved to the Tramway. The Association now operates approximately two thousand trains to Brittlebury every year and is one of several major tourist attractions in Oxfordshire.