The Railway from Princes Risborough to Oxford was authorised in 1861 and construction of the Broad Gauge Line was started by the Wycombe Railway immediately. The Line reached Thame the following year and a direct Service from Thame to Paddington via High Wycombe & Maidenhead was started immediately. Trains took nearly 3hrs, calling at all Stations on Route, including the new Station at Bledlow and (by request) the Halt at Towersey. Construction onwards to Oxford took more time, not least because a 520-yard Tunnel had to be constructed at Horspath. The Tunnel is single-Track with a double curve in it, the centre being out of sight of both Entrances. Nevertheless, the line to Oxford was completed in October 1864, with new Stations at Tiddington, Wheatley, Morris Cowley & Littlemore before reaching the GWR Main Line, South of Oxford at Kennington Junction.
In 1867 the Wycombe Railway was absorbed into the Great Western Railway and 3-yrs later work started on converting the whole Line to Standard Gauge, necessitating the closure of the entire Line for just over a week. The decline in Traffic started in the 1930s and apart from a brief spell of increased activity during WW2, the gradual rundown of the Line continued through to the end of the 1950s. In January 1963 the final Passenger Train ran on the Line and the central Section of the Track was lifted, end Sections being retained for Goods Traffic to the Oil Depot at Thame and as a connection to the British Leyland, now BMW, Car Factory at Cowley.
The Bledlow Station building survives and had been extended as a B&B run by the granddaughter of Percy Smith, Bledlow’s 3rd Stationmaster who worked at the Station between 1918 & 1950. The Signal Box has been demolished and the Trackbed is now part of the Phoenix Trail, a long-distance footpath & cycleway.
The Wycombe Railway was a British Railway between Maidenhead & Oxford that connected with the Great Western Railway at both ends. The Wycombe Railway Co 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 located close to the Site of the current Taplow Railway Station. In 1852 construction started, it linked the town of High Wycombe with the Great Western Main Line, the Great Western Railway operated the Services for the Wycombe Railway company. The GWR had been built to the Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Broad Gauge of 72¼ins, so the Wycombe Railway was built to this Gauge. In 1862, the Wycombe Railway opened an extension from High Wycombe via Princes Risborough to Thame. In 1864, it opened an extension from Thame to Kennington Junction on the GWR line between Didcot & Oxford, thus completing its route to Oxford.
The GWR took over the Wycombe Railway Company in 1867. The GWR converted the entire line to standard Gauge in one week, between 23rd August & 1st September 1870; the Risborough to Aylesbury section was converted to standard Gauge 2 years earlier in 1868, the first line in England to be converted. The Great Marlow Railway Company opened the branch between Bourne End & Marlow in 1873; as with the Wycombe Railway, it was a separate Company but the GWR provided the Train Service. The GWR took over this Company in 1897. On 15th March 1899, the Great Western & Great Central Joint Railway opened between High Wycombe & Northolt Junction, giving the GWR a shorter route between High Wycombe & London Paddington; as a consequence, the Wycombe Railway lost a proportion of its Traffic.
In 1991, BR closed the section between Princes Risborough & Thame, which hitherto had remained open for Freight Traffic to an Oil Depot at Thame. The Section from the B4009 Underbridge West of Princes Risborough to the A329 level crossing West of Thame was subsequently converted into a Footpath & Cycle track, the Phoenix Trail.
Wheatley Tunnel Construction 1883
The Wheatley or Horspath Tunnel which formerly carried the Oxford to Princes Risborough Railway Line through the Eastern end of Shotover Hill. The Tunnel was (and still is) 475 metres (520 yards) long. The Railway was finally closed to all Traffic in 1968, and the abandoned Tunnel subsequently proved a favourite roost for Bats. However in 2002 the Tunnel was taken over by Oxfordshire County Council, and formally turned into a Bat Hibernaculum, or winter hibernating refuge. Five species of Bats, Daubenton’s, Brown Long-Eared, Natterer’s, Brandt’s, & Whiskered, are said to use the Tunnel.
Horspath Halt 1963
In 1963, British Railways closed the Section between Princes Risborough & Kennington Junction to Passenger Traffic; the part of this Section between Thame & Morris Cowley was closed to All Traffic in 1968.
The line remained open for Goods Services, but the poor state of Horspath Tunnel brought an end to through Services
Iffley Halt railway station was built by GWR 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 1st February 1908 along with 4 other Halts on the former Wycombe Railway Route between Oxford & 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 rail motor services were withdrawn on 22nd March 1915, the Halt closed, The steam railmotors (SRM) were self-propelled carriages operated by the GWR from 1903 to 1935. They incorporated a steam locomotive within the body of the carriage. The line remained open for through Passenger Services, but these did not call at Iffley Halt.
The Steam railmotors (SRM) were self-propelled carriages operated by the GWR from 1903 to 1935. They incorporated a Steam Locomotive within the body of the Carriage