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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 17 - September 1973

The Wotton Tramway: Rise and Fall Part 4 - Operation In The Seventies

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Photomatic Ltd - A & P Locomotive, Neasden, 1957

The operation of a passenger service between Wotton and Quainton Road station on the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway started in January 1872 and it was provided by the firm, Chaplin and Horne, who were employed by the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos as agents for managing and working the traffic on the Tramway. The association between Messrs Chaplin and Horne, the London and North Western Railway and the Duke had extended over a period of many years. In the days of the London and Birmingham Railway, William J Chaplin and Benjamin W Horne had gone into partnership to maintain their business position during the difficult period of change from the reign of the horse drawn passenger and mail coach to the era of the railway. Both men had been job masters with large and lucrative undertakings. They both had their headquarters in London and together they operated extensive coach routes requiring more than 2000 horses. When the railways killed the stage coaches Chaplin became a leading power on the London and South Western Railway while the partnership operated horse-drawn feeder services to stations in London and elsewhere for parcels and goods. The proven ability would have been attractive to the Duke who would have wanted competent management for his tramway.

It is unlikely that Chaplin and Horne continued as agents for more than five years but it is not certain when the Duke appointed his own manager. On one document the agents name is crossed out and replaced by 'R A Jones, Manager, Brill, March 1873'. On the other hand an 0-4-0T engine was supplied in December 1876 to Chaplin and Horne and hired by them to the Tramway.

The locomotives used for the first services were the two Aveling & Porter's described in Part 3, but the carriage which was hired from the agents was interesting. It was a four wheeled vehicle of a design reminiscent of a horse tramcar of the period. The similarity was emphasised by the provision of open platforms at both ends of the body and the extension of the roof as canopies over these platforms. The screw down hand brake columns were mounted on the platforms and the guard could operate the wooden brake blocks as required for train purposes. The body was divided into three sections by two partitions. The centre section accommodated luggage and goods and was flanked by the passenger compartments, one being a smoker and one a non smoker. A noticeable feature was the provision of footboards extending the full length of the carriage to facilitate access from ground level or from the very low platforms of the earlier years of the tramway. After thirty years in service this veteran carriage was taken out of service by the Metropolitan Railway in 1900 but the body survived at Brill, in use as a store for engineer's materials until the line closed in 1935. It had been built by Ashbury's.

In June 1872 the extension of the Wotton Tramway was completed to the new terminus at Brill at the foot of the hill. The extension left the Brill brickworks branch a short distance from its end and thereby created another branch or siding. Accommodation was provided at Brill which became the headquarters of the railway. One shed was built 60 feet long by 25 feet wide and another was 25 feet square. A workshop for rolling stock maintenance and other mechanical work was provided in one shed while the other gave covered shelter for the engines.

The agents were very business-like in their operation of the Tramway and this is exemplified by the production, in March 1873, of a book of 'Rules and Regulations for the conduct of the traffic and for the Guidance of the Officers and Men engaged on the Tramway'. This remarkable book was reproduced in facsimile form in 1961 by the Abbey Press, Abingdon and we are indebted to the 'author', Mr J H Pearce Higgins, for the opportunity of quoting from its pages. The regulations provide a unique picture of the way the railway was operated and the attitude of the management to their employees, a century ago. Perhaps significantly the men are called 'servants' and their role in the affairs of their employer is summed up by Rule 1. This states, 'Each servant is to devote himself exclusively to the service, attending regularly during the appointed hours, and whenever required in any emergency; to obey promptly all instructions received from persons in authority over him; and to use his best endeavours for the protection and maintenance of the Tramway, and the forwarding of the business thereon.' General regulations prohibited smoking during hours of duty and required the men to appear as clean as circumstances would allow!

Part 3 of the book is concerned with signals and refers to the use of fixed semaphores at the points and to the use of flags; lights and detonators. It is interesting to read that staples were provided on the telegraph posts to carry a red flag or a red light if such a warning was necessary on the discovery of a 'defect in the road'. The display was to be shown when the employee had gone away for assistance to repair it! The engine whistle signals were also listed and included One 'short' to require the guard to apply the breaks(!). and two shorts to release them. A long whistle blast was the standard warning but everybody was expected to go into action if they heard 'three prolonged screams' because this signified a fire in the train or amongst crops on adjoining land, or a derailment. Rule 69, in fact, states that all road men must proceed immediately in the direction of the sound, although it may be beyond their district. Road men were the employees on track maintenance, upkeep of fences, drains, and the like. Oiling of points and turntables on the main line was a job for Wednesdays and Saturdays while inspection was a daily task. On the branch line to Kingswood Wharf the inspection and oiling was only done once a week. Wotton was, in 1873 the permanent way yard and materials of all kinds were stored there. One reference under the section dealing with the 'road men' is rather a mystery. Rule 58 states that no lorry must be used in a fog and Rule 59 requires that the wheels of lorries must always be locked when not in use. Presumably a 'lorry' was the 1873 version of a permanent-way trolley.

Safe working of trains on the Brill line was promoted by operating with a train staff. One painted blue was used for the length from Quainton Road to Wotton and one painted red for the section thence to Brill. There were strict regulations concerning the handling of the staffs and the guard of a train was required to see that his engineman had the appropriate staff in his possession before giving him permission to start. One feature was mentioned in the rules concerning the locking of carriage doors, those on the platform or north side had to be kept unlocked while the other side had to be kept locked.

In working the trains there was a compulsory stop for eastbound trains at Church Siding Platform and it was emphasised in the regulations that the engine break was only for emergency use; the guard's duty was to apply sufficient breaks on the train to keep the wagons and the carriage from pressing forward onto the engine on a down grade. This explains the need for the whistle code mentioned earlier. Engine drivers were expected, under Rule 117 to have steam up, a full supply of coal and water and the engine ready in all respects for fifteen minutes before the appointed starting time of the train. Casual footplate trips for unauthorised persons were strictly forbidden in the rules although the available room on the footplate of one of the Aveling engines would, surely, have made this a difficult feat. The tools and stores required on the engine make a fascinating collection of items rather like the proverbial contents of a schoolboys' pocket. In addition to the oil can, shovels, hammers and the like, two plugs for tubes were standard issue and some flax and twine had to be in the kit!

No eventuality was overlooked in the framing of the Rules. It was even made clear what to do if the engine got off the rails or couldn't be moved or had low water level while the boiler pressure was more than 80 psi. Firstly the damper should be closed, then the smokebox door opened and finally the fire should be extinguished with ballast or soil! Try that on Bodmin!

An amusing picture can be conjured up when reading Rule 134 which states, 'Should any part of a train become detached when in motion, the engine driver must not stop the leading portion until he is certain that the following portion has been brought to a stand'. Bad luck, if in the heat of the moment you forgot this rule!

Devotion to duty was the order of the day in 1873. If, for example, a fire should occur in a wagon load of hay or straw, the train had to be brought to a stand, the engine whistle sounded for assistance, the burning vehicle separated, the load thrown or pushed off and the burning trusses beaten or trampled on until the fire was out. Phew!

The descent from Brill was considered a hazardous operation and Rule 149 requires the Driver's Assistant, (just like today's second man) to ride on a wagon near the engine to apply an additional break if the train was of more than three wagons. On this descent the breaks of two or more wagons had to be let down until the train arrived near the Broad Riding, and again they had to be applied after passing the pond at the top of Wotton incline and be kept down until the train arrived at the upper cow house!

These names, which identify locations on the railway, are supplemented in Part IX, Fog Regulations. In this part we learn that the tramway was divided into three sections - called the Brill, the middle, and the Quainton districts respectively. In fog in the Quainton district a man was posted on the allotments to see that the road was clear at the occupation gates on the incline (sic) to Waddesdon road and in the middle district an extra brake man would accompany a train of more than four wagons down to the foot of Bluebottle incline. Finally, in the Brill district foggy conditions required an extra brake man on all trains in either direction between Wotton and Brill and a second man would be on duty to attend to the crossing at Wood Siding.

Under Chaplin and Horne's management, the Wotton Tramway made a modest profit in the first years of operation. The goods traffic consisted principally of coal, chalk, agricultural products and timber from the estates. The passenger receipts were scanty, a situation which is not surprising considering the journey time was not much quicker than walking! - and there were only two trains each way a day. Nevertheless the Duke was making arrangements for through traffic to the main lines and on 12th November 1872, the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway announced jointly with the Tramway that bookings could be accepted to stations on the other company's line.

In 1874 a major event took place in the district. This was the purchase of the Waddesdon Manor estate from the Duchess of Marlborough by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. The estate comprised 2700 acres and at the time it was bought the greater part was arable land. A mansion was built on the top of Lodge Hill, ½ mile south west of Waddesdon village and the architect adopted the style of a 16th Century French chateau for the building. Bricks for its walls and Bath stone for the facings were brought to the site by rail and the years 1874 to 1883 were busy times on the Tramway. In order to meet the demand two more locomotives were obtained both from W G Bagnall Ltd. of Stafford. These will be described in the next instalment.

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Courtesy London Transport - Clapham Museum, 4th June 1970

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 4 - Operation In The Seventies - Quainton News No. 17 - September 1973

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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Page Updated: 21 October 2017