A Potted History

 

Of all the British narrow-gauge railway survivours, the Candlebridge Tramway is the most unlikely. It is not only one of the oldest English narrow-gauge railways, at only two miles long it is also one of the shortest.
The Tramways Act of 1870 authorised local boroughs to grant 21-year concessions to private tramway operators and entrepreneurs exploited the Act to build short railways without parliamentary permission.
One such individual was Sir Francis Rose, who built a two-foot gauge Tramway from his home town of Dudcott to the tiny hamlet of Candlebridge on the River Thames, between Abingdon & Wallingford. Surveyed by the local engineer, N.A. Dadd, construction started in mid-1886, and the railway opened in the April of 1888. The 1870 Act stipulated numerous operating conditions, maximum speed, etc. and although described as a Tramway, the line did not cross or follow any roads when built!
Much to everyone’s surprise, the railway became a local tourist attraction and began to prosper, Rose even seeing a small return from his investment. He died in 1911 and parish councillor, Jack Butler acquired the line in 1912.
Its popularity continued during the 1920s & 30s, but fortunes started to decline following the Second World War and Butler died in 1965, leaving the fate of the Tramway hanging in the balance until the Candlebridge Tramway Trust was formed in 1967.
The trust invested in the railway and supported by a preservation society has ensured a secure future for the railway. Over the years, the tramway & village have retained an unaltered charm that has endeared them to enthusiasts & visitors alike.

Passengers usually begin their journey at Dudcott where the tramway’s shed & workshop facilities are situated. A balloon loop was installed at Boot Lane in 1967, trains now depart clockwise from this loop. Leaving the tiny station, the railway joins Moor Brook and together they dive under the road bridge (built in 1975). With the Brook on the left, the line continues to The Folly, where trains stop and pass others coming from Candlebridge. Immediately upon leaving The Folly, the railway crosses Peartree Road and carries alongside the Brook before bearing right and leaving it behind. For the final quarter-mile, the railway drops through a tree-lined cutting before arriving at Candlebridge. Here the locomotive is turned on the turntable (also installed in 1967), before running around its train and returning to Dudcott.


Dudcott