What you read on these pages is my imagination running riot! Most of it is my particular form of OCD coming to the fore! 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 down to access Folly Mill on the outskirts of Candlebridge. The route between Boot Lane and Folly Mill follows the gentle contour of the area and has changed little over the years. In 1882 the Candlebridge Tramway Company was formed, the track re-laid for steam traction, and the tiny engine would clatter its way along the 1.8 miles to Folly Mill a couple of times a day.
In 1885 the mill owner proposed a scheme to extend the trackbed to Brittlebury, a further 2.4 miles. The project must have been the most ill-conceived in railway history! The route between Folly Mill & Brittlebury is far from gentle and requires extensive civil engineering to negotiate, with no less than twelve bridges along with seven embankments, five cuttings & a new terminus.
Massively underestimating the costs involved, the extension soon became a financial nightmare with the Tramway Company put at considerable risk. Eventually, the mill owner was forced to abandon the project and announce the closure of the railway!
With money still owing to creditors and political temperatures running high, the Tramway & Mill were put up for sale, but unfortunately, there were no takers, and the railway slipped into disuse.
In 1895, a new political character moved into Candlebridge. A respected dignitary & land-owner, Sir Francis Butler, purchased the Tramway & Mill and set about finishing the extension to Brittlebury. By converting the line to two-foot gauge and along with better project management, he was able to minimise the cost of the work,
Sir Francis’ investment included locomotives, carriages, new stations and a complete rebuild of Boot Lane, the first passenger train eventually ran into Brittlebury (Oxford Road) in 1897.
The railway ran successfully until the outbreak of WWI when like many other small railway companies it ceased operations. The reinstatement of services after the war with the use of ex-WD railway equipment, saw traffic increased in the novel form of tourist traffic! Ultimately Sir Francis was forced, in 1921, to find more motive power to cope with the traffic demand!
Unfortunately, Sir Francis passed way in 1936, leaving behind him a robust little railway, that continued to operate throughout WWII. Tourist passenger numbers continued to increase during the 1950s & 60s taking the Tramway to the next chapter in its history.
In 1965, a small group of railway enthusiasts approached the Tramway Company with a proposal to support the Company in much the same way as the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society had done in 1951. A relationship quickly formed between the Company & enthusiasts. The very first act of confidence being the purchase by the enthusiasts of a relatively new working diesel locomotive for the Tramway.
Indeed, 1965 proved to be a pivotal year for the Tramway, with the donation of two further steam locomotives from a prominent industry, providing the Tramway Company with some degree of stability.
The enthusiasts created the Candlebridge Tramway Association (CTA), with the aim of supporting the Tramway Company. The CTA took a nurturing involvement in the Company and began to provide funding for locomotive restoration and the lineside infrastructure. After a long haul, the Company & CTA eventually restored the Tramway to its current glorious condition, and the CTA now support the Company with volunteers and financial security, offering both vision and historical context to the management of the Candlebridge Tramway.
By 1982 the Company was maintaining (two-train) summer timetable with the dedicated support of the CTA. There was also a push by local authorities to promote “year-round” tourism in the county which included increased support for the Tramway. With funding available for the building of more rolling-stock, the Company & CTA grasped the opportunity, and the first of the carriages rolled from Boot Lane in 1988.
The “year-round” timetable was finally introduced in 1995 on the one-hundredth anniversary of Sir Francis’ purchase of the Tramway, alongside the commissioning of a brand new diesel locomotive built entirely at Boot Lane Workshops.
The Candlebridge Tramway now operates almost two thousand trains to Brittlebury every year and has become one of several tourist attractions in Oxfordshire.
In 2018 another new diesel locomotive was commissioned at Boot Lane, and in 2012 the Tramway forged a new & productive relationship with the Ffestiniog Railway when one of their engines is re-homed at Candlebridge.