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 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 1888 the Candlebridge Tramway Company was formed, the track re-laid for steam traction, and the tiny engine would clatter its way along the 1.75 miles to Folly Mill a couple of times a day.
In 1895 the Tramway was extended to Brittlebury, another 1.5 miles. The route between Candlebridge & Brittlebury is far from gentle and requires extensive civil engineering to negotiate, with no less than seven bridges & embankments, five cuttings and a new terminus.
The Tramway was never a genuinely viable proposition, relying on business from the mill and residents. However, it somehow managed to survive until the start of WWI, when like so many other small privately owned Railways, it closed.
In 1921, a new character moved on to the scene at Candlebridge. A respected businessman, politician & land-owner, Sir Francis Butler.
Butler soon developed an interest in the Tramway, and together with his friend, Bassett-Lowke they devised a scheme to reopen the line purchased the Tramway & Mill and set about finishing the extension to Brittlebury. By converting the railway to serve a growing tourist industry in the area. Bassett-Lowke proposed to rebuild the Tramway to two-foot gauge, and Butler undertook to underwrite the investment.
Butler’s contribution included locomotives, carriages, new stations and a complete rebuild of Boot Lane, the first passenger train eventually ran into Brittlebury (Oxford Road) at the end of 1923.
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 and their first show of commitment being the purchase of a large diesel locomotive.
In 1967 the enthusiasts created the Candlebridge Tramway Association (CTA), with the aim of supporting the Tramway Company.
The CTA takes a nurturing involvement in the Company, providing funding for locomotive restoration and the lineside infrastructure. After a long haul, the Company & CTA have 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.
In 1975 the CTA was able to purchase a third steam locomotive to support the fleet, and by 1982 the Company was maintaining (two-train) summer timetable with dedicated support from 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. Funding was made 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 1985.
1995 saw the introduction of the “year-round” timetable, and along with further funding, Boot Lane Works commissioned another steam locomotive. In 2012 the Tramway forged a new & productive relationship with the Ffestiniog Railway when one of their engines was re-homed at Candlebridge.
The Candlebridge Tramway now operates approximately two thousand trains to Brittlebury every year and has become one of several tourist attractions in Oxfordshire.