Of all the British narrow-gauge railways to endure till preservation, the Candlebridge Tramway is the most unlikely of survivors.
The Tramways Act of 1870 authorised local boroughs to grant 21-year concessions to private tramway operators and railway engineers exploited the Act to build a short railway without parliamentary permission.
One such man was N.A. Dadd, who was part of a collaboration to build the Door Valley Railway. Unfortunately, the line at Door failed long before completion and Dadd decided to build a railway at Candlebridge. Along with his son, they constructed a two-foot gauge line from their home town of Dudcott to the tiny hamlet of Candlebridge that lies on the River Thames, between Abingdon & Wallingford. Utilising stock from the abortive Door Valley, the Candlebridge Tramway opened for business in 1888.
The Tramways Act stipulated numerous operating conditions, maximum speed, etc. But these were not issues for a line just two & a half miles in length. Dadd passed away unexpectedly in 1909 and local politician, Jack Butler acquired the railway.
And although it experienced an increase in popularity during the 1920s & 30s, its fortunes declined following the second world war and Butler took proactive steps to safeguard the railways future, creating a trust that took control of the tramway on his death in 1965.
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 small station, the railway joins Moor Ditch and together they dive under the road bridge built in 1975. With the ditch on the left, the line continues to Peartree. Pausing here and allowing trains to pass each other, the railway crosses the road and carries on alongside the ditch before bearing right and leaving it behind. For the last half mile, the railway drops through a tree-lined cutting before arriving at Candlebridge. Here the locomotive runs around its train before returning back along the line to Dudcott.