The last train from Watlington 1st July 1957
Originally known as the Watlington and Princes Risborough Railway Company, the railway was largely promoted by local land owners following the failure of the planned extension of the Wallingford branch through to Watlington. Construction of the branch was authorised by an Act of Parliament dated 26th July, 1869.
This authorised the construction of the branch as a Light Railway, commencing from the Great Western Railway Station at Princes Risborough and running for a distance of 8 miles 66 chains to a terminus at Pyrton just outside Watlington.
The Branch was opened on 15th August, 1872 and had two intermediate stations at Chinnor and Aston Rowant. After opening, the company immediately ran into difficulties and for a period of time the company directors ran the line at their own expense. Finally after being offered the branch on more than one occasion the Great Western Railway acquired it on 1st July, 1883 for the sum of £ 23,000, which was less than half the cost of its construction. Under the ownership of the Great Western Railway, track on the branch was re-laid, the original being in very poor condition laid directly on the chalk. Rail level halts were opened at Bledlow Bridge, Kingston Crossing and Lewknor Bridge in 1906 and Wainhill Crossing in 1925. After the Second World War the passenger traffic on the branch started to fall and by the mid 1950s had fallen to such a level that on 1st July, 1957 the line was closed to passenger traffic.
The last train from Watlington was due to leave at 9:00 pm, however it was nearly 10 minutes late leaving with a number of local dignitaries present. As had become the custom, the train left to the sound of detonators exploding on its last journey. The train finally arrived at Princes Risborough some 25 minutes late and so brought to an end the 85 year history of passenger carrying on the branch.
The various halts at Lewknor, Kingston Crossing, Wainhill and Bledlow Bridge were closed immediately, but the stations remained open for goods and parcel traffic, until 2nd January, 1961 after which the section from Chinnor to Watlington was closed completely and the track lifted. The section from Chinnor to Princes Risborough was retained to serve the cement works and the wood yard in the village. The wood yard ceased to use freight by the beginning of 1961 and in the early 1970s the station building at Chinnor was demolished and the platform broken up. In 1989 British Rail declared the hopper wagons used to carry the cement works fuel obsolete. Set against the cost of new wagons and unloading system and given the effectiveness of having coal delivered by road, the service was declared non operational.
On 20th December, 1989, a class 47 diesel (No. 47258) together with 35 hopper wagons made the final journey into Chinnor cement works, with the locomotive sporting a headboard with the legend “Last BR Train on the Watlington Branch”. Maintenance of the branch from Chinnor to the junction with the Thame branch near Princes Risborough was given to the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway Association from January, 1990.
The Chinnor and Princes Railway was granted a Transport and Works Order under section 6 of the Transport and Works Act 1992 on 4th July 1994, the order coming into force on 26th July 1994. Thus the legal of the C&PRR status was assured and passenger services could recommence.
To view this document click here: Transport and Works Order 19941803
A new platform suitable for two coaches was completed in May 1994 and the restoration of operational passenger and goods stock was also completed that year. 1994 was an historic year with the freehold of the branch purchased by the Association in August for £125,000, and the first public service since 1957 ran on 20th August with round trips to Wainhill Halt. In April 1995 the passenger carrying line was extended some 2 miles to Horsenden Lane. A further extension to Thame Junction opened at the start of the 1996 season, where a run round loop has been constructed.
To view this document click here: Transport and Works Order 19952458