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. On 1 September 1894, London's Metropolitan Railway (MR) reached Aylesbury, and shortly afterwards connected to the A&BR line, with local MR services running to Verney Junction from 1 April 1894. Through trains from the MR's London terminus at Baker Street began on 1 January 1897.
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. As the proposed line was to run on land owned by the Duke and by the Winwood Charity Trust, who consented to its construction, the line did not need Parliamentary approval and construction could begin immediately.
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, opened on 1 April 1871. Intended for use by horse trams only, the line was built with longitudinal sleepers, to reduce the risk of horses tripping.
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. The new Brill railway station opened in March 1872. In addition to freight trains which ran as and when required, two mixed trains per day ran in each direction. 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), although a speed limit of 5 miles per hour (8 km/h) was enforced. With the extension to Brill opened, the line began to be referred to as the Brill Tramway.
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. 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.
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, 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. Throughout the operation of the Brill Tramway the track and stations remained in the ownership of the Oxford & Aylesbury Tramroad Company; the MR had an option to purchase the line outright, but it was never taken up.