Brill Tramway | oxford extension schemes

Oxford extension schemes

Oxford, Aylesbury and Metropolitan Junction Railway Company

Euston railway station opened in 1837, the first railway station connecting London with the industrial heartlands of the West Midlands and Lancashire.[82] Railways were banned by a Parliamentary commission from operating in London itself and the station was built on the northern boundary.[83] Other termini north of London followed at Paddington (1838), Bishopsgate (1840), Fenchurch Street (1841), King's Cross (1852) and St Pancras (1868). All were outside the built-up area, making them inconvenient.[83][note 9]

Charles Pearson (1793–1862) had proposed an underground railway connecting the City of London with the main line rail termini in around 1840.[84] In 1854 he commissioned the first traffic survey, determining that each day 200,000 walked into the City, 44,000 travelled by omnibus, and 26,000 in private carriages.[86] A Parliamentary Commission backed Pearson's proposal over other schemes.[86] Despite concerns about vibration causing subsidence of buildings,[87] the problems of compensating the many thousands whose homes were destroyed during digging of the tunnel,[88] and fears that the tunnelling might break into Hell,[89][note 10] construction began in 1860.[90] On 9 January 1863 the line opened as the Metropolitan Railway (MR), the world's first underground passenger railway.[91]

The MR grew steadily, extending its own services and acquiring other local railways north and west of London. In 1872 Edward Watkin (1819–1901) was appointed Chairman.[92] A director of many railway companies, he wanted to unify a string of companies to create a single line from Manchester via London to an intended Channel Tunnel and on to France.[93] In 1873 Watkin negotiated to take control of the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway and the section of the former Buckinghamshire Railway north from Verney Junction to Buckingham.[94] He planned to extend the MR north from London to Aylesbury and extend the Tramway southwest to Oxford, creating a route from London to Oxford.[94] Rail services between Oxford and London were poor, and although still roundabout, the scheme would have formed the shortest route from London to Oxford, Aylesbury, Buckingham and Stratford-upon-Avon.[95] The Duke of Buckingham was enthusiastic and authorisation was sought from Parliament. Parliament did not share the enthusiasm and in 1875 the Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire Union Railway Bill was rejected.[95] Watkin did receive consent in 1881 to extend the MR to Aylesbury.[95]

With extension to Aylesbury approved, the Duke of Buckingham in March 1883 announced his own scheme to extend the Brill Tramway to Oxford.[95] The turntable at Quainton Road would be replaced with a junction to the south of the existing turntable to allow through running of trains.[96] The stretch from Quainton Road to Brill would be straightened and improved to main line standards, and Waddesdon Road and Wood Siding stations would close. From Brill, the line would pass in a 1,650-yard (1,510 m) tunnel through Muswell Hill to the south of Brill, and on via Boarstall before crossing from Buckinghamshire into Oxfordshire at Stanton St. John. From Stanton St. John the line would stop on the outskirts of Oxford at Headington, terminating at a station to be built in the back garden of 12 High Street, St Clement's, near Magdalen Bridge.[95] The proposal included a separate set of rails to be provided where the old and new routes ran together, to allow the existing Wotton Tramway to continue to operate independently if it saw fit, but given the Duke's involvement in the new scheme it is unlikely he intended to use this option.[97]

At 23 miles (37 km) the line would have been by far the shortest route between Oxford and Aylesbury, compared with 28 miles (45 km) via the GWR (which had absorbed the Wycombe Railway), and 34 miles (55 km) via the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway and the LNWR.[95] The Act authorising the scheme received Royal Assent on 20 August 1883, and the new Oxford, Aylesbury and Metropolitan Junction Railway Company was created, including the Duke of Buckingham, Ferdinand de Rothschild and Harry Verney among its directors.[98] The scheme caught the attention of the expansionist Metropolitan Railway, who paid for the survey.[44] Despite powerful backers, the expensive Muswell Hill tunnel deterred investors.[26] Ferdinand de Rothschild promised to lend money in return for guarantees that the rebuilt line would include a passenger station at Westcott, and that the Duke would press the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway to open a station at the nearest point to Waddesdon Manor.[99] Waddesdon Manor railway station opened on 1 January 1897.[99]

Oxford & Aylesbury Tramroad

Railways in and around the Aylesbury Vale, 1894. The proposed new route from Aylesbury to Oxford via Brill was significantly shorter than the existing route via Verney Junction.[note 3]

Despite cash from Rothschild, the company could not raise sufficient investment to begin construction of the Oxford extension, and had only been given a five-year window by Parliament in which to build it.[100] On 7 August 1888, less than two weeks before the authorisation was to expire, the directors of the Oxford, Aylesbury and Metropolitan Junction Railway Company received Royal Assent for a revised and cheaper version. To be called the Oxford & Aylesbury Tramroad (O&AT), the new scheme envisaged the extension's being built to the same light specifications as the existing tramway.[100] To avoid expensive earthworks and tunnelling, the line would parallel a road out of Brill, despite the considerable gradients involved.[26] The entire route would be single track, other than passing places,[101] and the Oxford terminus was to be in George Street, nearer the edge of the city.[97] Jones was sceptical and felt that it unlikely to recoup its construction costs.[100]

On 26 March 1889 the 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos died, aged 65.[15] A special train brought his body from London to Quainton Road, and from Quainton he was taken to Stowe for the service, and on to the family vault at Wotton.[102] Five carriages provided by the London and North Western Railway carried mourners to Church Siding, near Wotton Underwood's church.[102] Another carried a company of the Royal Buckinghamshire Yeomanry,[102] associated with the Grenville family and the upkeep of which had helped bankrupt the second duke.[10] (This second train was delayed on the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway, arriving late to the burial.[103])

The Dukedom was inherited only in the male line. As the 3rd Duke had three daughters but no son, the title became extinct. The 1st Duke was also Earl Temple of Stowe, a title which descended through heirs of his relatives should the male line become extinct. Consequently, on the 3rd Duke's death this title, with most of the Wotton estate, passed to his nephew William Temple-Gore-Langton who became the 4th Earl Temple.[100][note 11]

By this time construction of the MR extension from London to Aylesbury was underway, and on 1 July 1891 the MR absorbed the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway.[100] Sir Harry Verney died on 12 February 1894,[104] and on 31 March 1894 the MR took over services on the A&BR from the GWR. On 1 July 1894 the MR extension to Aylesbury was completed, giving the MR a unified route from London to Verney Junction.[100] The MR embarked on upgrading and rebuilding stations along the line.[100]

Construction of the route from Brill to Oxford had not begun. Further Acts of Parliament were granted in 1892 and 1894 varying the route slightly and allowing electrification,[105] but no building was carried out other than surveying.[106] On 1 April 1894, the proposed extension to Oxford still intended, the O&AT exercised a clause of the 1888 Act and took over the Wotton Tramway. Jones was retained as general Manager and work began on upgrading the line for the extension.[2]

Rebuilding and re-equipping by the O&AT

The track from Quainton Road to Brill was relaid with improved rails on standard transverse sleepers.[2] The former longitudinal sleepers were used as fence posts and guard rails.[107] The stations, little more than earth banks, were replaced with wooden platforms. Waddesdon, Westcott, Wotton and Brill were fitted with buildings housing a booking office, waiting rooms and toilets, while Wood Siding station had a small waiting room "with shelf and drawer".[2] Church Siding was not included and was removed from the timetable.[108]

The Kingswood branch was not included in the rebuilding, and retained its original 1871 track.[109] Two Manning Wardle locomotives, Huddersfield and Earl Temple,[110] came into use on the line at around this time.[2][note 12] Huddersfield had been built in 1876 and originally named Prestwich; Earl Temple was identical to Huddersfield other than having a covered cab.[111] The Oxford & Aylesbury Tramroad could not afford the price when Earl Temple was delivered and the Earl bought it with his own money and rented it to the O&AT.[111] In 1895 two new passenger carriages, each accommodating 40 passengers, were bought from the Bristol Wagon and Carriage Company.[112] In 1896 Huddersfield was withdrawn,[113] and in 1899 replaced with a new Manning Wardle locomotive named Wotton No. 2, at which time Earl Temple was renamed Brill No. 1.[111]

Curving concrete station platform. There is a small wooden hut on the platform.
The Brill platform of the second Quainton Road station, sited on the curve between the O&AT and MR lines. The short stretch of rail at the platform is the only surviving part of the route.

The rebuilding reduced journeys between Quainton Road and Brill to between 35 and 43 minutes.[114] From 1895 the Tramway ran four passenger services in each direction on weekdays.[114][note 13] The population of the area remained low, and in 1901 Brill had a population of only 1206.[115] Passenger traffic remained insignificant and in 1898 passenger receipts were only £24 per month (about £2,500 in 2018).[13][114]

Meanwhile, the MR were rebuilding and resiting Quainton Road station, freeing space for a direct link between the former Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway and the O&AT to be built. A curve between the lines opened on 1 January 1897, allowing through running between the two lines.[111]

With through running between the lines in place, in June 1899 the MR inspected the O&AT's carriages and locomotives, and had serious concerns. The original passenger carriage began as a horse tram and was shabby internally, and unsafe as part of a longer train. The passenger carriage from the 1870s was in a poor condition.[116] The 1895 Bristol passenger carriages were unfit owing to their light construction.[116] Eight of the O&AT's nine goods wagons did not comply with Railway Clearing House standards and could not be used on other lines.[116] On 4 October 1899 the MR loaned the O&AT an eight-wheeled 70 seat passenger carriage.[117] As this had been built for the MR's standard height platforms rather than the O&AT's low platforms, 80–100 ft (24–30 m) of each platform on the Tramway was raised to standard height to accommodate the MR carriage.[117]

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