On 15 June 1839 entrepreneur and former Member of Parliament for Buckingham, Sir Harry Verney, 2nd Baronet, opened the Aylesbury Railway. Built under the direction of Robert Stephenson, it connected the London and Birmingham Railway's Cheddington railway station, on the West Coast Main Line, to Aylesbury High Street railway station in eastern Aylesbury, the first station in the Aylesbury Vale. On 1 October 1863 the Wycombe Railway opened a branch line from Princes Risborough railway station to Aylesbury railway station on the western side of Aylesbury, making Aylesbury the terminus of two small and unconnected branch lines.
Meanwhile, to the north of Aylesbury, the Buckinghamshire Railway was being built by Sir Harry Verney. The scheme consisted of a line running roughly south-west to north-east from Oxford to Bletchley, and a line running south-east from Brackley via Buckingham, joining roughly halfway along the Oxford–Bletchley line. The first section opened on 1 May 1850, and the rest opened on 20 May 1851. The Buckinghamshire Railway intended to extend the line southwards to connect to its station at Aylesbury, but this extension was not built.
Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville (10 September 1823 – 26 March 1889), the only son of Richard Plantagenet Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, was in serious financial difficulties by the middle of the 19th century. The 2nd Duke had spent heavily on artworks, womanising, and attempting to influence elections, and by 1847 he was nicknamed "the Greatest Debtor in the World". Over 40,000 acres (16,000 ha) of the family's 55,000-acre (22,000 ha) estates, and their London home at
Buckingham House, were sold to meet debts, and the family seat of Stowe House was seized by bailiffs as security and its contents sold. The only property remaining in the control of the Grenville family was the family's relatively small ancestral home of Wotton House, and its associated lands around Wotton Underwood in Buckinghamshire. Deeply in debt, the Grenvilles began to look for ways to maximise profits from their remaining farmland around Wotton, and to seek business opportunities in the emerging fields of heavy industry and engineering. Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, who became the Marquess of Chandos on the death of his grandfather Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos in 1839, was appointed chairman of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) on 27 May 1857. On the death of his father on 29 July 1861 he became the 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, and resigned from the chairmanship of the LNWR, returning to Wotton House to manage the family's remaining estates.