Once upon a time Princes Risborough Station was a major railway junction with branches going off to Aylesbury, Oxford and Watlington. Today the grand brick built signal box remains along with the line to Aylesbury. The line to Watlington survived to Chinnor as a freight line carrying cement products from the Chinnor Cement Works until a few years back. Today it is still connected to the main line but the line itself is now home to the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway. Just recently though Chiltern Railways set the points and ran a through service to the rebuilt Chinnor Station from Aylesbury the first arriving 5th October 2013 as part of the 60th birthday celebrations for Chinnor Railways’ shunter ‘Haversham’ a BR Class 08. Why ‘Haversham’? Well obviously it came from the old Railway Works at Wolverton and Haversham is the village down the road! Our Old & Rusty mate Rob the Rambler was there to witness this historic moment and sent us this report.
Discovering old and half-forgotten remnants of the great railway expansion schemes of the 19th Century can be a fascinating exercise using local history sources and the odd O.S. maps. One of our local heritage lines running below the Bledlow Ridge came into the local news recently when it was temporarily reconnected to the main line at Princes Risborough and for three Saturdays in October offered the first scheduled through service to Chinnor since 1957, courtesy of Chiltern Rail egged on by the local Town Council. A bit more publicity might have been in order, but as it was well supported as the plans had leaked out by that mysterious osmotic process known only to railway enthusiasts. At least one of whom came all the way from Leeds to see it.
The original plan was for the Great Western branch line from Cholsey to Wallingford to be extended but this never happened. Building from Princes Risborough and running to Pirton (ie not-quite-Watlington), it survived in truncated form by virtue of carrying Rugby Cement products from Chinnor: the scar of the abandoned cement plant now softened by a large new housing project being familiar to balloon crews overflying the ridge before deciding which side of the M40 is going to get landed upon. The rusty railset disappearing into the bushes at Princes Risborough station each side of the original disused Great Western signal box is also the junction of another abandoned line running to Oxford via Thame, Wheatley and Horspath, where the tracks restart and help export Minis by rail from the BMW factory. A lot of this line is given over to footpaths and cycleways again sponsored by a forward thinking council determined to bring in visitors even if they have to walk there.
The staff at Chinnor station are fairly upbeat about future plans and talk happily of re-laying the line to the West, apparently regarding the M40 in the way at Lewknor as “a bit of a challenge” rather than the “game over” that we lesser mortals might imagine. It’s not only in ballooning you can still find blind optimism and a jolly good thing too.
Knowing that the Old & Rusties of this world are partial to beer in all its micro brewery forms and to celebrate this event and the 60th birthday of their Class 08 diesel shunter “Haversham” D3018 and the other visiting locos representing the Wolverton and Bletchley yards, the Railway has commissioned three special beers from the Vale Brewery in Brill. Recommended. Here’s some that may have been drunk earlier.
Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway’s website along with loads of further information is at www.chinnorrailway.co.uk/