Bayly's Brickworks and the Buccabury Light Railway
The original Mr. Ephraim Bayly was an industrialist from the Midlands who moved south into Buckinghamshire
in 1811. The brickworks at that time was a small business producing materials for the local area. Mr. Bayly,
using his industrial background bought into the company bringing with him the promise of expanding the
undertaking by mechanising some of the processes. This he did and within comparatively few years the company
was in a position to justify its own private wharf on the Bicester Canal. This canal had been opened in 1795
by the Bicester Canal Company as a connecting link from the Grand Junction Canal (Buckingham Arm), through
Bicester to the Southern Oxford Canal at Hampton Gay. In 1836, following the retirement of the original owner
Ephraim Bayly bought out the company and the name changed to Bayly's Brickworks although locally it has always
been known as the Buccabury Brickworks.
The London & North Western Railway's Oxford to Cambridge line was a mere three and a half miles distant
but it was not until after the First World War that the idea of building a tramway to a private siding on that
railway was first raised. Building materials were required to repair air raid damage; the extensive rebuilding
of The British Scientific Foundation for Astronomical Research headquarters in Upper Walpole Street in
London was repaired using Buccabury Bricks. The brickworks also replaced all of the fine terra-cotta decorations
on the face of the building. The increased speed of despatch would benefit the brickworks and extra revenue could
be generated by public carriage. The company was aware that there was a great number of ex-servicemen and pledged
to grant employment for any in the Buccabury/Fringford/Stratton Audley area in whom the Government had no further
interest. Later that year the company bought land and donated materials and labour for the construction of the
Buccabury Ex-servicemen's Club, most of the labour being provided by company employees working in company time.
The building still stands today as part of the British Legion.
The Buccabury Light Railway was incorporated by Act of Parliament on 1st March 1919 and opened on a miserable
day on October 25th that year. Part of the original clay pit tramway had been upgraded for passenger and general
goods traffic and a new station, Buccabury Town, was built near the river, to the west of the town. The new
railway ran from this station to connect with the L&NWR Oxford to Cambridge line at Charndon. Here, transfer
sidings were built and a halt provided on the larger railway.
From the station at Buccabury the tramway ran straight and fairly level to the clay pit; the main line peeled
off left to circumnavigate the town. At first the gradient rose in a cutting but then fell for half a mile at 1
in 50 as the line ran down towards the river. This presented little problem to trains returning empty but loaded
trains from Buccabury could run away if unchecked! At the bottom of the hill at Godington was the first passing
loop and here a ground level platform was provided for passengers. The line then ran through a shallow cutting
before striking off towards the siding at Twyford Mill. Here was another loop, and short siding serving the mill,
the loop was used as a runaround & holding siding for wagons for the mill. The line then turned right and ran
almost due south to Twyford, Here was the railway's second loop and a ground level platform, crossing the road at
the end of the village and skirting around the grounds of Twyford Lodge. There followed a fairly straight and
gradual climb towards the connection with the L&NWR at Charndon. Here there was a passing loop, following
which the line split along two legs of a triangle. The left hand leg fanned out into the transfer sidings whilst
the right hand leg gave access to Charndon Station, served by a raised platform interchange and a run round loop
on which was a shallow pit and water facilities. The third side of the triangle ran parallel to the L&NWR
line and joined the southernmost transfer siding to the station. This provided a third means of running around a
train or reversing the locomotive although steam locomotives were normally worked chimney first towards Buccabury.
To commence operations in 1919 the company purchased secondhand two Baldwin 4-6-0 and two protected Simplex locomotives
from the War Department. Over the years these were supplemented or replaced by other secondhand locomotives and
by the 1950's none of the original machines had survived. Goods traffic was provided for using ex-War
Department 'D' type bogie open wagons with a number of closed vans and, surprisingly, cattle wagons. For the
passengers, two tramway type saloon coaches with straight matchboard sides were built onto WD type bogies, as used
under the 'D' type wagons, by the Metropolitan Carriage & Wagon Works. They were fitted with continuous vacuum
brake equipment. A brake handwheel was provided in one end of each coach, acting on brakes on the bogie at that
end of the coach. The guard would normally travel in the saloon, taking on the role of conductor. To move the
clay from the pit the company used a fleet of standard 'V' tipper wagons, usually hauled by the Simplexes.
Finished products, mainly bricks, were moved from the brickworks to Charndon in standard WD 'D' type wagons.
Increased use of road transport (the main Bicester to Buckingham road is nearby) and the loss of much of the
passenger traffic brought about the complete closure of the railway at the end of 1964. The tramway survived but
most of the remaining equipment was broken up on site with a few items being sold on. Following closure the track
was lifted by a Bicester scrap merchant and the land quickly reverted to agricultural use. The wooden station
building at Buccabury was sold but it collapsed whilst attempts were being made to dismantle it. The L&NWR
halt at Charndon was demolished and only remnants of the platforms now remain. The wooden BLR building was removed
and the platform left for nature to reclaim. The water tank was removed and the ash pit was filled in. The
L&NWR sidings were lifted in 1965. One coach was kept by the brickworks which boarded up the windows and used it
as a mobile store until it was destroyed in a fire caused by a leaking gas cylinder. The one surviving BLR coach
had been removed to Steeple Claydon where, now devoid of running gear, it serves as a summer house.