Of all the British narrow-gauge railways to endure till preservation, the Candlebridge Tramway is the most unlikely. From humble beginnings, this tiny railway is an improbable survivor.
The Tramways Act of 1870 authorised local boroughs to grant 21-year concessions to private tramway operators, which gave a Mr N.A. Dadd the opportunity to exploit the Act and build a short railway without parliamentary permission.
An extraordinary gentleman, Dadd appears to have built the railway for no reason other than he could prove a point. Along with his son, he constructed a two-foot gauge line from Dudcott to the tiny hamlet of Candlebridge and lays on the River Thames, between Abingdon & Wallingford, the Tramway opening for business in 1888.
The Act stipulated numerous operating procedures, maximum speed, etc. But these were not issues for a line just two & a half miles in length. Dadd passed away unexpectedly in 1912 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 before his death in 1965.
Over the years, the tramway & village have retained an unaltered charm that has endeared them to enthusiasts & visitors alike.
Passengers 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 Boot Lane, 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 quarter mile, the railway drops through a tree-lined cutting before arriving at Candlebridge. Here the locomotive runs around its train before returning along the line to Dudcott.