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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 16 - June 1973

The Wotton Tramway: Rise and Fall Part 3 - Steam Comes to Brill

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Courtesy London Transport - One of the Aveling and Porter Geared Locomotives - The Wotton Tramway

In 1870 two four wheeled geared locomotives for the Wotton Tramway were ordered by the Duke of Buckingham from Aveling and Porter's works at Rochester, Kent. The makers tendered at £435 for each locomotive although they were prepared to drop to £385 if necessary to obtain the order. The actual cost price was £309; thus the profit margin was most reasonable. The first engine which was Makers No. 807 may have been delivered as early as March, 1871, as this is the date in A & P's order book, although January, 1872 is the date usually quoted. June 1872 is the date for the second locomotive which was Maker's No. 846. Neither engine ever appears to have carried a name or a number which is rather curious considering the practice of naming all subsequent locomotives which came to the line in pre-Metropolitan days.

The significance of these two engines was fortunately realised by the Industrial Locomotive Society and one was rescued, restored and preserved. It now rests in the London Transport Museum at Syon House [Note 1], Brentford and it is very similar to the first design of geared locomotive made by Aveling for railway traction in 1866.

Thomas Aveling was a brilliant engineer who established himself as a manufacturer at Rochester in 1861. His road engines and agricultural engines quickly earned him an excellent reputation and he soon adapted one of the road locomotives for a tramway. In 1865/6 he had built three engines for the Grays Quarries Co. Ltd. in Essex, a standard gauge line which connected the works with a wharf on the Thames. These were Makers Nos. 151/67 and 212. Another engine, Makers No. 508, followed in 1869. One of the Grays engines, is illustrated in the book The Last Drop, produced by London Transport in 1971 and the photograph purports to show a Wotton Tramway engine. Isaac W. Boulton was another engine maker who produced geared locomotives and he designed and built an 0-4-0 with the cylinder and motion mounted on the boiler, a flywheel and a chain drive in the early 1860's.

The choice of the A & P design for the Wotton Tramway was, therefore, in keeping with the contemporary state of development of steam motive power for lightly laid branch lines. The general layout was very similar to the Aveling traction engines and the engines were rated at 6 H.P. and weighed about 10 tons. The single cylinder, 7¼in bore and 10in. stroke was a flanged casting bolted on top of the first ring of the boiler and incorporated Aveling's patent steam jacket. In this design the jacket steam is admitted through holes in the boiler top which coincide with similar holes in the cylinder flange and the regulator valve and steam chest are within the jacket. The valve gear was Stephenson's link. The crank shaft drove a counter-shaft through spur gearing and these shafts were supported by bearings carried by a robust cast frame mounted over the firebox. At the left end of the countershaft there was a flywheel 3ft 6in in diameter and at the other end a pinion for the pitched chain driving the carrying axles. The tension of the chain could be adjusted by movement of the bearings in slots in the brackets so that the shaft could be raised to tighten the chain. The driving chain passed round the pinion and round the chain wheels on the two axles, thereby coupling the axles and transmitting the drive on to all four wheels. The carrying wheels were 3ft in diameter and of the disc type.

The boiler was made of best Staffordshire plate and the firebox of Low Moor iron. There were two water tanks for boiler feed and the supply was taken by a feed pump worked by an eccentric on the crank shaft. One water tank was carried under the smokebox and the other in the conventional road engine position behind the rear axle.

The engine had no springs and must have given its crew an intimate knowledge of the state of the track! Although the cylinder was small in diameter, the gearing enhanced the power that was available and there was always some play in the chain which could make for jumpy starts. The Wotton engines had the same facility as a traction engine for running out of gear and the countershaft and flywheel could be driven without the engine moving along the track. In service on the tramway a number of modifications were made and the illustration shows some of these additions. They include running boards which are retained on the preserved engine, a form of spark arrestor or deflector, a shelter over the cylinder and motion, a crude sort of cab and guard irons.

From 1872 to 1894 these two engines worked the Tramway economically and efficiently but traffic requirements exceeded their limited capacity and they were at first joined by two other small tank engines and then displaced by larger six coupled locomotives.

In November 1929 the "Railway Magazine" published a letter from a Mr A G J Mosley, who wrote as follows :- "On December 26th, 1894, I happened to visit Brill (Bucks), and being, like most boys of my age, interested in railways, my father took me after lunch down the hill (for which I believe that Brill is well known) to the station to see the arrival of the train from Waddesdon at about 2.30 p.m. Of this event, although now 35 years ago, I have two distinct recollections. The train (I think of two carriages) duly arrived, drawn by an 0-6-0ST painted in Midland red livery, bearing the name Earl Temple. In a siding at the station were two four wheeled geared locomotives, identical with a traction engine, except that, of course, they had flanged wheels, and no weatherboards, which I believe, we were informed by the official in charge of the station were formerly used in working the line."

This letter brought a reply from a Mr L D Willoughby in March 1930 who reported that one of these old engines was still at work in a brick yard near Weedon (Northants.). He said that he had been to see the engine about seven years before and had a long talk with the driver who was apparently used to dealing with curious sightseers and to facetious remarks from main line drivers on the adjacent LNWR! All this interest was a half a century ago!

It is likely that the two A & P's were sold when the first two 0-6-0ST's arrived in 1894/5. They went to George King & Son for their brickworks at Nether Heyford, on the down side of the main line, about a mile south of Weedon station. This became the Blisworth & Stowe Brick and Tile Co. Ltd. and in March, 1923, the ownership passed to Henry Martin Ltd.

The report of Mr. Willoughby suggests that only one of the geared engines was in use in 1923. The boiler of No. 846 failed to pass its test and according to the Industrial Locomotive Society the policy of cannibalising 846 to keep 807 in action was followed until the brickworks closed in 1940.

Fate stepped in and the abandoned engine was not scrapped although the brickyard was used as an ammunition store by the War Department. In 1950 the Industrial Locomotive Society began their rescue bid for the Wotton Tramway veteran and on 29th March, 1951 the future of this wonderful relic with its close association with our own Society, was assured. On that day, No. 807 was delivered by road to the Neasden Works of London Transport Executive for storage, eventual renovation and permanent exhibition.

The work of restoring the engine was carried out by craftsmen of the locomotive works and Aveling-Barford Ltd., of Grantham, the successors of Aveling & Porter, Rochester, provided drawings and information. They also presented a Kentish Horse and "Invicta" scroll for the smokebox door and a new makers name plate. The finish was a pleasant green livery with boiler bands picked out in black and it was a memorable day when an informal ceremony was held at Neasden sheds on 19th January 1957. On this Saturday morning Mr A W Manser, Chief Mechanical Engineer (Railways), LTE accepted the locomotive from the Industrial Locomotive Society on behalf of the British Transport Commission.

No. 807 found an honourable resting place in the Clapham Museum until it was moved to it's present home at Syon House on 8th March, 1973. [Note 1]

1 - This A & P locomotive now is in the ownership of the London Transport Museum, Covent Garden and is on loan to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1973 and so does not reflect events in the 40+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

The Wotton Tramway: Rise and Fall - Part 3 - Steam Comes to Brill - Quainton News No. 16 - June 1973

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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