The Watlington Pages

Compiled by Mikkel Kjartan

 

Introduction

These pages are dedicated to the Watlington branch, a well-known and much-loved line of which many fine models have been built. This includes Graeme Tyrer's 4mm layout, which you can see in the GWR layouts section. Many thanks to Graeme for also providing the photos on the following pages, to Jon Cumming for the history below, and to Lasse Tegenborg for info on the 4mm card kits.

Brief history of the line

The branch line to Watlington, which was less than 9 miles long, started at Princes Risborough. It was opened on 15th August 1872 by the Watlington and Princes Risborough Railway Company. It soon ran into financial difficulties, and the directors found that they were running the line at their own expense. After lengthy negotiations the Great Western Railway finally acquired the branch for a fraction of the construction costs on 1st July 1883.

The line was lightly constructed following the contours of the land with a ruling gradient of 1 in 60. It was a single line, worked by train staff and one engine in steam, or two coupled together, and had a speed restriction of 30mph. Under GWR ownership there was little improvement, although there were additional rail halts opened between 1906 and 1925.

Passenger services were curtailed on 1st July 1957, the line remaining open for goods traffic until 2nd January 1961. The section between Princes Risborough and Chinnor remained open until 1989, serving the local cement works. Fortunately part of the line survives in preservation: Since 1990, the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway Association has maintained and (since 1994) operated the section from Chinnor to the junction with the Thame branch near Princes Risborough. You can read more about the history of the line at the CPRRA website.



A 7mm scratchbuilt model of the station building at Watlington, built by Peter Smith of Kirtley Models. You can see more of Peter's work in the GWR Showcase section.

 



The 2021 class were well-known on the Watlington branch. This 7mm model was built by Cor de Jong from an ABS kit. You can see more of Cor's modelling here.

 

Traffic

As on many other rural branches traffic was relatively modest, but not entirely without interest for the modeller. As an example, 1925 saw 6 passenger trips each daily, and two goods workings.

The main goods traffic on the line was farm produce of various kinds, especially milk, while lime and cement also featured prominently in goods traffic. Livestock traffic was, compared to many other rural branches, more limited.

Loco allocation was quintessentially Great Western: The mainstay of services was made of a single 0-6-0T allocated to Watlington shed- usually of the 2021 class, with especially 57xx/8750 panniers taking over in later years. Passenger stock followed similar well-known lines, although the early 1920s saw an interesting combination of a 60' trailer and a 6-wheeled van 3rd in passenger services. In the 1950s, autotrains on the Watlington branch were run with 8750s not fitted for push-pull working, thus requriring a loco run-round at the terminus.

 

Goods traffic, Watlington branch 1925
Average daily no. of Coal & Mineral wagons
Average daily no. of General goods wagons
No. of milk cans per annum
No. of livestock trucks per annum
Forwarded
6
Received
17
Forwarded
15
Received
8

29,087

150

Source: "S. Williams: "Great Western branch Line Modelling Part 2", Wild Swan 1991