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 has survived against all the odds.
The first Candlebridge railway appeared in 1857 when a short horse-drawn standard gauge line was laid to access Folly Mill on the outskirts of the town. The route followed the gentle contours of the roadway from Candlebridge towards the mill.
In 1882 the track re-laid for steam traction. The small engine would clatter a train, the one & a half miles once or twice a day. In 1888 the then owner of the mill, Joshua Merryweather extended the railway at both ends, into Candlebridge and Boot Lane and the line continued to operate until 1895 when the failure of the locomotive and mounting debts forced the closure of the railway.
With no cash, the railway & mill were abandoned, and everything left to rot where it lay.
The railway’s salvation started two hundred & fifty miles north in Cumbria, where the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway had undergone a rebirth as a miniature fifteen-inch gauge attraction in 1914.
One of the many people to visit Ravenglass and marvel at the line was Mr William Butler. He mused over the attraction of the little railway and speculated if he could create the same concept elsewhere?
Butler’s idea was to create an English Countryside Tramway, and he immediately commissioned a locomotive from Bassett-Lowke Limited. In 1921 he found the Candlebridge railway swiftly purchasing it, along with the mill. Buying a few items of ex- War Department stock, he ultimately sourced second-hand stock from numerous locations.
Butler opened the Candlebridge Tramway in May 1923, following a great deal more work than had been originally anticipated! However, the venture was a success, and Butler ideas proved correct.
The Tramway operated through the 20s & 30s, turning a tidy profit, and although it closed during the second war, it swiftly reopened in 1945. However, the railway struggled for resources in the post-war years and was pretty run-down when Butler died in July 1965. But he had the foresight to create a Candlebridge Trust in 1957 to ensure the tramways survival after his death. The Trust took possession of the company and continued to operate trains for the rest of the year. During the next few years, the Trust was able to source several items of stock, while 1967 saw considerable redevelopment at Boot Lane with a new yard layout & workshop.
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.