Wotton railway station (Brill Tramway)

A single railway track curves sharply past a short platform with a small wooden hut behind it. A lone person stands on the platform. In front of the hut is a small shed with a very large overhanging roof, with another railway track terminating under the roof. An overgrown railway track diverges from the other two tracks, terminating at a set of buffers near another wooden hut surrounded by farming machinery and an apparently derelict horsecart. The tracks and buildings are all sited in a small triangular clearing, which is completely surrounded by trees.
Wotton is located in Buckinghamshire
Location of Wotton in Buckinghamshire
LocationWotton Underwood, Buckinghamshire
Local authorityAylesbury Vale
OwnerWotton Tramway
Number of platforms1
Key dates
1871Opened for freight
1872Opened for passengers
1899Leased by Metropolitan Railway
1935Closed by London Transport
Other information
Lists of stations
WGS8451°50′00″N 0°59′33″W / 51°50′00″N 0°59′33″W / 51.8333; -0.9926
Underground sign at Westminster.jpg London transport portal

Wotton railway station was a small station in Buckinghamshire, England, built by the Duke of Buckingham in 1871. Part of a private horse-drawn tramway designed to carry freight from and around his lands in Buckinghamshire, Wotton station was intended to serve the Duke's home at Wotton House and the nearby village of Wotton Underwood. In 1872 the line was extended to the nearby village of Brill, converted to passenger use, equipped with steam locomotives, and renamed the Brill Tramway. In the 1880s, it was proposed to extend the line to Oxford, but the operation of the line was instead taken over by London's Metropolitan Railway.

Although situated in an unpopulated area, Wotton station was relatively well used. It saw the highest passenger numbers of any station on the line other than the terminus at Brill railway station and the junction with the main line to London at Quainton Road railway station, and it also carried large quantities of milk from the area's dairy farms. In 1906 the Great Western and Great Central Joint Railway (commonly known as the Alternative Route) was opened, crossing the Brill Tramway at Wotton. Although the lines were not connected, a station (also named Wotton) was built on the new line very near the existing Wotton station; the two stations shared a stationmaster.[1]

In 1933 the Metropolitan Railway, which leased the line, was taken into public ownership and became the Metropolitan line of London Transport. Despite being a small rural station 49 miles (79 km) by train from the City of London, Wotton became a station on the London Underground. Frank Pick, the Chief Executive of the London Passenger Transport Board, aimed to abandon freight operations on the London Underground network, and saw no way in which the more distant parts of the former Metropolitan Railway could ever become viable passenger routes. As a result, all passenger services north of Aylesbury were withdrawn between 1935 and 1936; the last trains on the Brill Tramway ran on 30 November 1935. The line then reverted to the descendants of the Duke of Buckingham, but having no funds and no rolling stock they were unable to operate it. On 2 April 1936, the line's entire infrastructure, including Wotton station, was sold for scrap at auction. Except for a small building which once housed the Brill Tramway's forge, all the station buildings at Wotton have been demolished.

Wotton Tramway

Portrait of a heavily bearded and smartly dressed man
The Duke of Buckingham, founder of the Brill Tramway

On 23 September 1868, the small Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway (A&BR) opened, linking the Great Western Railway's station at Aylesbury to the London and North Western Railway's Oxford to Bletchley line at Verney Junction.[2] On 1 September 1894, London's Metropolitan Railway (MR) reached Aylesbury,[2] and shortly afterwards connected to the A&BR line, with local MR services running to Verney Junction from 1 April 1894.[2] Through trains from the MR's London terminus at Baker Street began on 1 January 1897.[2]

Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, had long had an interest in railways, and had served as Chairman of the London and North Western Railway from 1852 until 1861. In the early 1870s, he decided to build a light railway to transport freight from his estates in Buckinghamshire to the A&BR's line at Quainton Road.[3] As the proposed line was to run on land owned by the Duke and by the Winwood Charity Trust, who consented to its construction,[4] the line did not need Parliamentary approval and construction could begin immediately.[3][5]

The first stage of the route, known as the Wotton Tramway, was a 4-mile (6.4 km) line from Quainton Road via Wotton to a coal siding at Kingswood,[6] opened on 1 April 1871.[3][7] Intended for use by horse trams only, the line was built with longitudinal sleepers, to reduce the risk of horses tripping.[6][8]

Extension to Brill and conversion to passenger use

Residents of the nearby town of Brill lobbied the Duke for the introduction of passenger services on the line. This led to an upgrading and extension of the line from Wotton, via the original terminus of the tramway system at Wood Siding, to a new terminus at the foot of Brill Hill, north of the hilltop town of Brill itself.[6] The new Brill railway station opened in March 1872.[7] In addition to freight trains which ran as and when required, two mixed trains per day ran in each direction.[9][10] The Duke bought two Aveling and Porter traction engines modified to work as locomotives, each with a top speed of 8 miles per hour (13 km/h),[9][11] although a speed limit of 5 miles per hour (8 km/h) was enforced.[11] With the extension to Brill opened, the line began to be referred to as the Brill Tramway.[9]

In 1889 the Duke of Buckingham died, and in 1894 the trustees of his estate set up the Oxford & Aylesbury Tramroad Company (O&ATC) with the intention of extending the line from Brill to Oxford, but the extension beyond Brill was never built.[12] Rail services from London to Oxford were very poor at this time; despite being an extremely roundabout route, had the connection from Quainton Road to Oxford been built it would have been the shortest route between Oxford and the City of London.[6]

Map of a railway line running roughly southwest to northeast. Long sidings run off the railway line at various places. Two other north-south railway lines cross the line, but do not connect with it. At the northeastern terminus of the line, marked "Quainton Road", the line meets three other lines running to Rugby & Leicester, Verney Junction, and Aylesbury & London respectively. The southwestern terminus, marked "Brill", is some distance north of the town of Brill, which is the only town on the map. A station on one of the other lines, marked "Brill and Ludgersall", is even further from the town of Brill.
The full extent of the Brill Tramway system. The Alternative Route crosses, but does not join, the Brill Tramway at Wotton. Not all lines and stations shown on this diagram were open contemporaneously.

The Metropolitan Railway leased the Brill Tramway from 1 December 1899,[2] and from then on the MR (the Metropolitan line of the London Underground from July 1933) operated all services on the line, although the line continued to be owned by the O&ATC.[13] Throughout the operation of the Brill Tramway the track and stations remained in the ownership of the Oxford & Aylesbury Tramroad Company;[13] the MR had an option to purchase the line outright, but it was never taken up.[14]

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