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Quainton News archive - Quainton News No. 35 - Summer 1978

The Wotton Tramway: Rise and Fall Part 12 - Into the Twentieth Century

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J G Barnes (?) - Brill Station, circa 1910

In Part 11 the story of the way the Metropolitan Railway took over the administration and daily operation of the Oxford and Aylesbury Tramroad was told. From 1st December 1899 the four daily weekday return journeys between Quainton Road and Brill were worked by the Manning, Wardle 0-6-0ST's, Wotton No. 2 or Brill No. 1 with the rigid eight-wheeled third class Metropolitan carriage and a typical train is pictured above in Brill station. Notice the locomotive now carries the letters MR on the front buffer beam. Before many years had passed two men who had played such an important part in the history of the Tramway departed from the scene. In March 1902 Earl Temple died and in 1903 Mr R A Jones retired and relinquished his positions as General Manager and Secretary. At this date, January 1903, the Metropolitan Railway can truly be said to have taken the reins.

Within two months new motive power arrived to displace, gradually, the saddle tanks and these were disposed of as explained in Part 10, in 'Quainton News' No. 27. The engines supplied by the Metropolitan for the Brill branch were no strangers to Quainton because for eight years they had been stopping there on the Aylesbury and Verney Junction locals.

They were 2-4-0 side tanks introduced in 1895 specifically for these trains and they were built by Sharp Stewart & Co. Ltd., at their Atlas Works, Glasgow in two series, firstly Metropolitan Nos 71 and 72, Works Nos 4055/6, followed by 73 to 76, Works Nos 4075 to 4078 all constructed in 1895. Ken Jones, in his history of the Brill branch recounts the failure of Wotton No. 2 in traffic in March 1903 and the introduction of one of these D Class 2-4-0T's which promptly damaged the track so badly in Brill yard that complete relaying was deemed necessary. Further locomotive failures in 1904 which led to complaints about the reliability of the railway for its milk traffic appears to have led to the transfer of Nos 71 and 72 from main line use to the Tramway. It is particularly interesting to note that one of the first references to the O & A Tramroad after the Metropolitan & Great Central Joint Committee was established in August 1905 was to rolling stock. At the meeting of the Committee on 3rd May 1906 reference was made to the requirement of the Board of Trade that power brakes should be substituted on the engines working the Tramroad and the Metropolitan Railway representatives were asked whether any information could be given by the Great Central Company as to the probable future working of the line. The G.C.R's representatives stated that they were not yet in a position to make any definite statements on the subject and it was decided to ask the Board of Trade not to press their requirement for the present under the circumstances.

Before the story of the Tramroad is taken into the Met & GC era, reference should be made to an article by a Mr F Goodman of the Great Northern Railway in the Railway Magazine for November 1899 titled 'The Oxford and Aylesbury Tram Road', because it describes the branch so well as seen through the eyes of a contemporary observer.

After quoting the timetable he says, 'None of the trains are timed to stop at the intermediate stations except Wotton, unless required. Passengers and goods are conveyed by all trains, which are thus 'mixed' and their 'make-up' would certainly provoke a smile when seen for the first time, especially if the observer is connected with one of the great railways. At one end of the train is a four-wheel carriage and luggage-van combined, which has been in the service since the tram road was opened; next is a long car - sometimes two on two four wheel bogies, the interior of which is open like a street tramcar, and the opposite end is a 'low-sided' goods wagon, on which is generally to be seen one or more milk churns, full or empty according to the direction the train is travelling.

The proprietors of the tram road are no respecters of persons, no distinction being made between first and third classes, and all passengers are conveyed at a uniform rate of one penny per mile. According to 'Bradshaw', this line is probably the only one in the country which introduces the inconvenient farthing into its fare list, for the authority quoted gives the fare from Quainton Road to Wood Siding as 5¾d, but the writer is unable to vouch for the accuracy of the statement.

Although the line is single, none of the systems adopted by the majority of railway companies for the safe operation of trams when on such lines are in operation, as the services is only a shuttlecock one.

Signals, too, are conspicuous by their absence, except one or two which are worked by level crossing gates, standing at danger when the gates are open across the line and at 'all right' when the gates are in their normal position. A light wire fence separates the line from the roads and various landowners' property.

The head offices of the tram road are at Brill, as are also the engine sheds. The station is not by any means an imposing structure. A small edifice on a low platform affords ample accommodation for the passenger traffic. Just before the passenger station is reached stands the engine shed, and further on are two or three sidings for dealing with the goods traffic and terminal station work. The station itself occupies a somewhat isolated position about a mile or so from the town whose name it bears.

Naturally enough in the course of construction of an undertaking of such a light character as the tramway - which would be much better described as a light railway - no engineering difficulties to speak of were encountered, the land surface of north-west Buckinghamshire being of a gently undulating nature.

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J R F Collection - Brill No.1 at Brill, circa 1908

The tram road is a party to the Railway Clearing House so far as goods and parcels traffic is concerned; in other words, parcels and goods can be accepted at, and forwarded from any station on the Oxford and Aylesbury Tram Road to stations on the lines of those companies which are parties to that institution which has its headquarters at Seymour Street, London.

Incidentally it may be observed that railway clerks in particular would be benefited if the management of the tramroad adopted a more original style in the printing of their stationary, their waybills especially are identical with those of the London and North Western, with the obvious exception of the heading, and there have been known cases where Oxford and Aylesbury traffic has been abstracted and accounted for as London and North Western owing to the similarity in the ruling and printing of the two companies' waybills. Through bookings of passengers with other railways are not in operation; in fact, the neighbouring companies completely ignore the existence of the tram road in their timetables, and some omit to show it on their maps, but when the extension to Oxford is opened it will necessarily assume a position of more importance.

The main source of revenue is derived from the conveyance of agricultural produce, and unlike the Corris and Southwold Railways, the Oxford and Aylesbury Tram Road is not dependent on the tourist for any of its income, as it is entirely a 'creature of circumstances'. The surrounding district is such that the average pleasure seeker is not tempted to while away his time therein. The attractions, if any, are few; amongst them is Waddesdon Manor, the lordly home of the Rothschilds, which is near to Waddesdon Station. Brill itself is a quaint old town, and boasts of a mineral spring as well as an ancient church surrounded by old fashioned houses,

"Its priestliness
Lending itself to hide their beastliness."

We do not wish to infer that Brill is a dirty town - rather the opposite; but nobody requires to be told that old buildings have a grimy appearance, and many a jaded health seeker might do worse than spend a week or two in this pleasant town. Within easy distance is Brill Hill, from the top of which it is said the Welsh mountains can be seen on a clear day, together with a number of churches varying according to whatever guidebook may happen to be consulted.


Mr Goodman concludes by conceding there is a distinct charm in a ride on this tram road, which partakes more of the nature of a country drive. The slow rate of travelling in the light, roomy cars, now through woodland, now past fields and country homes, renders it possible to give the passenger a glimpse of rural England unattainable in ordinary railway travelling.

(to be continued)

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1978 and so does not reflect events in the 36+ 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 12 - Into the Twentieth Century - Quainton News No. 35 - Summer 1978

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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Page Updated: 17 November 2017