The COVID-19 virus has brough a halt to the Volunteer operated Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway (C&PRR) running passenger trains for the first time in its 30-year history.
The Princes Risborough to Watlington line opened in 1872 costing The Watlington and Princes Risborough Railway Company £46,000 to construct. In July 1883, The Great Western Railway purchased it for £23,000 indicating a lack of an initial financial success.
The GWR relaid the track and added three wayside halts in an attempt to generate income. It is understood that between 1920 and 1940 the line at best broke even - then losses led to passenger services being withdrawn in 1957.
The Watlington station 'cash book' has been donated to the C&PRR by Winchester Antiquarian Books and it shows that in March 1952 the station at the end of the line was taking just two or three pounds a day. The rise of the motor car had defeated the line and the last scheduled passenger train ran on 29 June 1957.
The line remained in use for goods trains until January 1961 but was then cut back from Watlington to serve the Chinnor Cement Works. From March 1963 the line from there to Watlington was lifted and buildings demolished. This activity was based at Aston Rowant, the track was cut into 20-foot lengths by contractors and taken away by lorries.
Chinnor station was demolished a decade after Aston Rowant but some of Watlington station and its associated buildings still exist as part of a private residence.
The C&PRR’s Volunteers built a replica award winning station at Chinnor and tens of thousands of passengers a year now use the line - far more than the line ever did in its history!
And the volunteers are now planning to undo more history by extending the Railway from Chinnor to Aston Rowant, probably in two stages. The line already exists and is used for non-passenger trains for half a mile towards Aston Rowant. Beyond that lies Kingston Crossing and the trackbed to there is being assessed for an initial cost estimate.
This planning is being carried out by Volunteers so costs the Railway nothing. But before any thought can be had about relaying the track towards Aston Rowant, the C&PRR has to ensure survival while not being able to generate any income by running passenger trains.
Because of Covid-19, the line only sees engineering, test and inspection trains operating with volunteers working to Government guidelines but we are unable to operate passenger trains.
The Volunteers at The Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway need your support in these challenging and uncertain times. No matter how large or small, every donation will be welcomed and it's easy to contribute on our donations page - not only will it help us maintain the Railway, but to reopen it as soon as we are allowed and the safety checks have been completed.
We'll be here to help you plan a trip and to welcome you with open arms when the time is right.
Thank you for your support.