Our driver waits in eager anticipation. The signal clangs, the guard shows a green flag and with the all clear given, our driver gently eases the regulator open and almost imperceptibly, we are off! We now settle down to enjoy the seven and a half mile round trip and as the engine strains to its task, the outskirts of Chinnor are soon reached. At Keens Lane Crossing our driver may give a warning when walkers are waiting to cross the line. This crossing is known locally as Donkey Lane, the name of which harks back to when the furniture industry was in full swing and chair legs, fashioned by Bodgers on the beechwood slopes above, would be brought down from the hills by pack animals, for onward conveyance by train to High Wycombe.
Sights to see....
Views now begin to open up on both sides of the line. To the right a footpath parallels the ancient Upper Icknield Way, whose green route almost certainly predates the Romans: William the Conqueror purportedly travelled along it on his way to London and you can follow in his footsteps. See details of self-guided walks here. If you have the time before or after your journey then why not take a stroll to see a different perspective of Gods Wonderful Railway (as the GWR was sometimes called) and observe how the line blends so very naturally into the landscape. We next descend the 1 in 68 bank to the restored Wainhill Crossing Halt (often pronounced Winn'all by locals). Although no longer open to passengers, we either stop to let a member of staff open the crossing gates to allow our passage, or, if the 'gateman' is already waiting for us, we will slow down and then be shown the green flag so that we can proceed.
Our Stewards will most likely come by at some point during your journey selling tea, coffee and snacks, all served at your seat.
We cross the road at a sedate pace. You will next see a farm immediately to the right and further on, to your left, some poplar trees and a small pond indicate where a Romano-British Villa once stood. The train continues to descend through a cutting, with Bledlow Cricket Club on your left, where matches often take place on lazy summer Sunday afternoons. Give a wave if you see them, as they are good friends of the railway. (The urge to wave to people on a train and for them to wave back, well, it is just something we naturally do!). After crossing West Lane Bridge, if you look carefully to your right, you may discern the densely packed and now overgrown Watercress beds. Sadly, due to modern methods of hygienic cultivation, they are no longer in productive use; the railway once carted many boxes of watercress away to the London markets.
Whiteleaf Cross comes into view....
Then we go over Perry Lane Bridge. After which you will see the closed Bledlow Bridge Halt on the left and there are now good views across open fields on both sides of the train. On the right you can see in the middle distance Whiteleaf Cross, etched into the chalk hillside: its origins are believed to date back to the Middle Ages or earlier, and it is thought to have been intended to act as a marker for the old salt route from Droitwich to London. The train next arrives at Horsenden Lane Crossing and here we cross over the Phoenix Trail, which is owned and managed by Sustrans and which provides a popular footpath and cycle route between Princes Risborough and Thame. Passing over the crossing, we bear sharply to the right and descend to Thame Junction.
It's at this point when the onboard toilets in the carriages will be locked out of use by our stewards, and we won't be able to open them until we reach the same point on the way back - so do arrange any comfort breaks before or afterwards please!
At Thame Junction our train gently proceeds through the open gate marking the boundary point between the heritage line and Network Rail for the additional journey towards our recently restored Platform 4 at Princes Risborough. Along the way you will glimpse more views of Whiteleaf Cross and, on the right hand side of the carriages in the direction of travel, you will see some of the remains of the original Watlington branch running line - the Association has secured a 99-year lease on this long strip of land and intends to fully restore the original track formation (once another half-a-million pounds or more can be raised to begin the work!).
Your train now slows on the approach to Platform 4 at Princes Risborough and we gently curve to the right as the Chiltern Railways tracks come into view and we glide gently past Princes Risborough North signalbox and come to rest at Platform 4 - here you can change for suburban and mainline trains, or perhaps take a walk into Princes Risborough town.
Alternatively, you may just want to get out and stretch your legs etc before returning to Chinnor - but do take good note of the time of departure as we have to go when the guard blows the whistle and shows our enginemen the green flag!
We return to Chinnor station.... Will you be joining us soon to follow along on the train?