Wycombe Railway

The Wycombe Railway was a British railway between Maidenhead and Oxford that connected with the Great Western Railway at both ends; there was one branch, to Aylesbury.

History

The Wycombe Railway Company was incorporated by an act of Parliament passed in 1846. The act authorised the construction of a single line railway from the Great Western Railway's Maidenhead railway station, then located close to the site of the current Taplow railway station. In 1852 construction started; the first section to be built was between Maidenhead and High Wycombe, and opened for passenger services on 1 August 1854.[1] It linked the town of High Wycombe with the Great Western Main Line, and the Great Western Railway operated the services for the Wycombe Railway company. The GWR had been built to Isambard Kingdom Brunel's broad gauge of 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm), so the Wycombe Railway was also built to this gauge.

In 1862, the Wycombe Railway opened an extension from High Wycombe via Princes Risborough to Thame. In 1863, it opened a branch line from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury. In 1864, it opened an extension from Thame to Kennington Junction on the GWR line between Didcot and Oxford, thus finally completing its route to Oxford.[2]

The GWR took over the Wycombe Railway company in 1867.[3] The GWR converted the entire line to standard gauge in one week, between 23 August and 1 September 1870.[4] The Risborough to Aylesbury section was converted to standard gauge two years earlier in 1868, the first line in England to be converted.

The Great Marlow Railway Company opened the branch between Bourne End and Marlow in 1873. As with the Wycombe Railway, it was a separate company but the GWR provided the train service.[3] The GWR took over this company in 1897.

On 15 March 1899, the Great Western and Great Central Joint Railway opened between High Wycombe and Northolt Junction, giving the GWR a shorter route between High Wycombe and London Paddington. As a consequence the Wycombe Railway lost a proportion of its traffic.

Later developments

In 1963, British Railways closed the section between Princes Risborough and Kennington Junction to passenger traffic. The part of this section between Thame and Morris Cowley was closed to all traffic in 1968. BR closed the section between Bourne End and High Wycombe to freight traffic on 18 July 1966 and to passenger traffic on 4 May 1970. In 1991, BR closed the section between Princes Risborough and Thame, which hitherto had remained open for freight traffic to an oil depot at Thame.[5] The section from the B4009 underbridge west of Princes Risborough to the A329 level crossing west of Thame was subsequently converted into a footpath and cycle track, the Phoenix Trail.

Three sections of the Wycombe Railway remain open. The line between Maidenhead and Bourne End carries GWR passenger trains as part of the Marlow Branch Line. The line between High Wycombe and Princes Risborough carries Chiltern Railways services as part of the Chiltern Main Line. The line between Kennington Junction and the former Morris Cowley station is open for freight traffic to and from the Mini (BMW) factory.

The route between Maidenhead and High Wycombe

The route starts at Maidenhead, branching off the Great Western Main Line just to the west of Maidenhead's current station. The line turns north, and soon reaches the first intermediate stop, which was Maidenhead (Wycombe Junction), later renamed Maidenhead Boyne Hill. This station was situated on the Bath Road halfway up Castle Hill. The station closed in 1871 when the present Maidenhead railway station was opened. The entrance to Boyne Hill station can still be seen, though it is totally bricked up and thus inaccessible. Further intermediate stops - which are still open - are at Furze Platt and Cookham.

River Thames - Bourne End railway bridge - geograph.org.uk - 82793
River Thames - Bourne End railway bridge

The railway originally crossed the Thames at Bourne End on a 12-span wooden bridge but this was replaced in 1895 by a 3-span steel structure. Bourne End, the next station after Cookham, was also an intermediate station, but is now terminus for this section of the line. The Great Marlow Railway branches westwards at Bourne End to Marlow. The original locomotive on this branch was nicknamed "The Marlow Donkey".

Before the closure of the line to High Wycombe it continued through Bourne End station, over the current Station Road and through the current RAC industrial estate. It approached Cores End, crossed the A4094 road and entered the agricultural areas of Wooburn Green. It then crossed several fields, behind land that is now occupied by Stratford Drive.

The line then reached Wooburn Green. Wooburn Green railway station had a single platform as the line was single track. From the early 1960s, the station was unstaffed.

From Wooburn Green, the trackbed followed the north end of Flackwell Heath Golf Course. Just before the line entered Loudwater, it went under the current M40 motorway to Birmingham. Although the M40 was built after the dismantling of the track, the alignment was preserved with an overbridge, which can be viewed today from the A4094 past The Dreams Store, towards Wycombe Marsh.

At Loudwater railway station, as at Wooburn Green, the original layout was a single platform. The station was at the bottom of Treadaway Hill just after the M40 bridge. The railway conservation footpath is on one side of the road which follows the original path of the railway.

The line crossed Treadaway Hill on a level crossing and entered a wooded area. Here it passed over its first underbridge of the route, Spring Lane, which has since been removed. Then it passed under the first overbridge of the route, the Abbey Barn Road bridge. The line then progressed towards the rye area, and at what is now the Willow Court housing estate, turned sharply northwest towards Oxford Road. Here the second underbridge of the route passed over Bowden Lane, onto an embankment, towards London Road. It continued northwest until a steel girder bridge took it over A40 road, onto another embankment that took the line to what is now the Chiltern Line. Here it joins the Great Western and Great Central Joint Railway from Northolt Junction, which ran alongside it into High Wycombe railway station.

In 2008, Parliament passed the Crossrail Act to build a new cross-London line with its services terminating at Maidenhead. The preservation of the alignment of the former Wycombe Railway from property development is being considered, in order to keep viable the option to reopen this part of the Wycombe Railway to enhance north - south communications in south Buckinghamshire.

In 2017, High Wycombe council approved a two-year study into the feasibility of the route. £100,000 is to be spent assessing the route which had previously been earmarked as a light rail corridor. With Crossrail reaching Maidenhead by December 2019, a heavy rail option is being explored.[6]

In January 2019, Campaign for Better Transport released a report identifying the line was listed as Priority 2 for reopening. Priority 2 is for those lines which require further development or a change in circumstances (such as housing developments).[7]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Oppitz 2000, p. 14
  2. ^ Broad Gauge Society Archived 23 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b Oppitz 2000, p. 15
  4. ^ Oppitz 2000, p. 18
  5. ^ Disused Railways website
  6. ^ Webb, Jonathan; Comfort, Nick (May 2017). "Council to finance study into re-instating High Wycombe - Bourne End route". Today's Railways UK. No. 185. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing. p. 17. ISSN 1475-9713.
  7. ^ [1] p.42

References

  • Oppitz, Leslie (2000). Lost Railways of the Chilterns. Newbury: Countryside Books. ISBN 1-85306-643-5.

External links

Aylesbury–Princes Risborough line

The Aylesbury–Princes Risborough line is a rural branch line between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, England. The line is single track throughout with a maximum speed of 40 mph.

Bledlow railway station

Bledlow railway station was an intermediate station on the Wycombe Railway which served the Buckinghamshire village of Bledlow from 1862 to 1963. It was one of two stations to serve the village, the other being Bledlow Bridge Halt on the Watlington and Princes Risborough Railway, which was 0.75 miles (1.21 km) to the south and closer to the village. The possibility of reopening the line through Bledlow, which is now part of a long-distance footpath, has been explored by Chiltern Railways, the franchise holder for the Chiltern Main Line which runs through Princes Risborough.

Cookham railway station

Cookham railway station serves the village of Cookham, Berkshire, England. Great Western Railway trains between Maidenhead and Marlow serve the station, but through services to and from London Paddington in peak hours Monday to Friday no longer run. It is 2 miles 73 chains (4.7 km) down the line from Maidenhead and 27 miles 12 chains (43.7 km) measured from Paddington.

Cookham station was opened by the Wycombe Railway in 1854. The station now has a single platform. A second platform survives but is disused. The former Station House is now let to private occupants.

High Wycombe railway station

High Wycombe railway station is a railway station in the town of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England. The station is on the Chiltern Main Line between Beaconsfield and Saunderton stations. It is served by Chiltern Railways.

Horspath

Horspath is a village and civil parish in South Oxfordshire about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) east of the centre of Oxford, England. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 1,378.

Horspath Halt railway station

Horspath Halt was an intermediate station on the Wycombe Railway which served the Oxfordshire village of Horspath from 1908 to 1915, and then from 1933 to 1963. The opening of the halt was part of an attempt by the Great Western Railway to encourage more passengers on the line at a time when competition from bus services was drawing away patronage. The possibility of reopening the line through Horspath Halt has been explored by Chiltern Railways, the franchise holder for the Chiltern Main Line which runs through Princes Risborough.

Iffley Halt railway station

Iffley Halt railway station was built by the Great Western Railway to serve Iffley, a suburb of Oxford; it was actually in Kennington, and not in Iffley.

The station was situated at the western end of Kennington Railway Bridge, which crosses the River Thames. Access from Iffley was via the River Thames towpath, which has a footbridge over Hinksey Stream close to this point.

It was opened on 1 February 1908 along with four other halts on the former Wycombe Railway route between Oxford and Wheatley.Services were provided by steam railmotors based at Oxford, which was also the western terminus; the eastern terminus of these services was Wheatley, Thame or Princes Risborough. When the railmotor services were withdrawn on 22 March 1915, the halt closed. The line remained open for through passenger services, but these did not call at Iffley Halt.

Littlemore railway station

Littlemore railway station was on the Wycombe Railway and served Littlemore in Oxfordshire. Littlemore was then a village but is now a suburb of Oxford.

The Wycombe Railway opened the station in 1864 as part of its extension from Thame to Oxford.

In 1963 British Railways withdrew passenger services between Princes Risborough and Oxford and closed all intermediate stations including Littlemore. The line through Littlemore remains open for freight traffic between the Didcot - Oxford main line at Kennington Junction and the BMW Mini factory at Cowley.

In November 2014 Chiltern Railways ran a train filled with investors and local businessmen along the track to a temporary station at Oxford Science Park, signalling the possibility of a station in Littlemore by 2020.

Loudwater railway station

Loudwater railway station was a railway station which served Loudwater, Buckinghamshire and Flackwell Heath, on the Wycombe Railway.

Maidenhead Boyne Hill railway station

Maidenhead Boyne Hill railway station was built by the Wycombe Railway to serve the western part of Maidenhead. It was opened in 1854 and closed in 1871.

Marlow branch line

The Marlow branch line is a single track railway line in England, between Maidenhead in Berkshire and Bourne End and Marlow in Buckinghamshire. It is 7 miles 10 chains (11.5 km) in length. Passenger services are operated by Great Western Railway using Class 165 and Class 166 diesel trains. The line connects to the Great Western Main Line at Maidenhead station, and uses a section of the former Wycombe Railway line to High Wycombe together with the former Great Marlow Railway.

The train that runs on the branch line is known as The Marlow Donkey although the exact derivation of the term is unclear. Karau and Turner say "the trains of pack horses, mules and donkeys carrying goods to the riverside prompted the local people to christen the train on the Great Marlow Railway, the 'Marlow Donkey', a name which survives to this day". However, Anthony Wethered, great-grandson of the first chairman of the company, suggests that it is the name of the line. A third tradition identifies a particular locomotive.

A pub in Marlow is named after it.

Morris Cowley railway station

Morris Cowley was an intermediate station on the Wycombe Railway which served the small town of Cowley, just outside Oxford, from 1908 to 1915, and again from 1928 to 1963. The station originally opened as part of an attempt by the Great Western Railway to enable to have more passengers access to the line, at a time when competition from bus services was drawing away patronage. The line through Morris Cowley remains open for the purposes of serving the BMW Mini factory, although the possibility of reinstating passenger services has been explored by Chiltern Railways, the franchise holder for the Chiltern Main Line which runs through Princes Risborough.

Princes Risborough railway station

Princes Risborough station is a railway station on the Chiltern Main Line that serves the town of Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire, England. It is operated by Chiltern Railways.

Thame railway station

Thame railway station was a station on the Wycombe Railway serving the town of Thame in Oxfordshire. It was opened in 1862 as the terminus of an extension from High Wycombe via Princes Risborough The cost of construction of the station building was £2201 1S 5d additional general works were £2137 8S 8d. In 1864 the line was extended from Thame to Oxford. The station was built with a train shed over its platforms.

Tiddington railway station

Tiddington railway station was on the Wycombe Railway and served the village of Tiddington, Oxfordshire.

On 24 October 1864 the Wycombe Railway opened an extension from Thame to Oxford. The line passed just south of Tiddington, although Tiddington was not provided at first with a station, the station being opened and appearing on timetables for the first time on 1 June 1866. The station building being constructed in timber with a small canopy over part of the platform. A signal box was provided in 1892 but was downgraded to a ground frame by 1907.

On 7 January 1963 British Railways withdrew passenger services between Princes Risborough and Oxford, closed all intermediate stations including Tiddington, and dismantled the track between Thame and Morris Cowley.

Towersey Halt railway station

Towersey Halt railway station was an intermediate station on the Wycombe Railway which served the Oxfordshire village of Towersey from 1933 to 1963. The opening of the halt was part of an attempt by the Great Western Railway to encourage more passengers on the line at a time when competition from bus services was drawing away patronage. The possibility of reopening the line through Towersey Halt, which is now part of a long-distance footpath, has been explored by Chiltern Railways, the franchise holder for the Chiltern Main Line which runs through Princes Risborough.

West Wycombe railway station

West Wycombe railway station was a railway station that served the village of West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire Situated about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) east of the village the station opened in 1862 and closed in 1958. Minutes of the Wycombe Railway state that construction of West Wycombe station in 1862 cost £430 8s 8d, equivalent to £39,413 in 2018, with additional general works at £417 8s 8d, equivalent to £38,222 in 2018.

In the late 1980s, the then operator of the Chiltern Lines Network SouthEast suggested reopening West Wycombe station in order to ease the peak hour congestion at the main High Wycombe station. However, no detailed plans were ever published, and there has been no further suggestion of reopening the station by the current operator, the Arriva owned Chiltern Railway. Chiltern Railway has invested heavily in both infrastructure and rolling stock for the Chiltern group of lines.

Wheatley railway station

Wheatley railway station was on the Wycombe Railway and served the village of Wheatley in Oxfordshire.

It was opened in 1864 as part of an extension from Thame to Oxford. The railway crossed the steep road of Ladder Hill by a bridge. The station was on the east side of Ladder Hill.

In January 1963 British Railways withdrew passenger services between Princes Risborough and Oxford, and closed all intermediate stations including Wheatley. The station and route were included in the 1963 Beeching Report, even though passenger services had already ended. Some goods services and diverted passenger trains continued along the line until the track was closed between Thame and Morris Cowley in 1968.

Kelham Hall Drive and Kimber Close have been built on the site of Wheatley station. One of the pub's bars is decorated with many items of railway memorabilia, some of which relate to the former railway through Wheatley station.

Wooburn Green railway station

Wooburn Green railway station was a railway station which served Wooburn Green, Buckinghamshire, England, on the Wycombe Railway. It was opened in 1854, with the station located near the bottom of Whitepit lane. The station became a halt in 1968 because of a decreased service on the line.

The station and line were closed in 1970. Unlike Loudwater station (demolished in the mid 1970s for development), the station platform and building remained in situ as a private dwelling, until the late 1980s. The station was demolished to make way for the Old Station Way development, built around 1990. A railway conservation path follows the route of the former railway towards Bourne End.

Wycombe Railway
(Left arrow Didcot – Oxford Right arrow)
Abingdon Road Halt
and Kennington Jn
Iffley Halt
Littlemore
Morris Cowley
Plant Oxford (BMW Mini factory)
Horspath Halt
Horspath Tunnel
Wheatley
Tiddington
Thame
Towersey Halt
Bledlow
Aylesbury
South Aylesbury Halt
Marsh Crossing
Little Kimble
Monks Risborough
Princes Risborough
Saunderton Tunnel
Saunderton
West Wycombe
High Wycombe
GW & GC Joint Railway to Northolt Junction
Treadaway Hill Crossing
Loudwater
Wooburn Green
Bourne End
Marlow
B4447 road
Cookham
Furze Platt
Maidenhead Boyne Hill
Maidenhead
(Left arrow Reading – London Right arrow)
Road
Rail
Air
Waterways
Footpaths
Cycle paths
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