London Underground’s lost line where early trains were so slow it took 40 minutes to travel 2 miles


Hidden in the dark corners and lost spaces of London, some 40 disused London Underground stations are waiting to be rediscovered.

Some are spooky, some carry nostalgic memorabilia from World War II or the 1960s, and some are far out in the verdant countryside miles from the city center.

This is certainly the case with the little-known Brill Tram, which was actually part of a section of the London Underground that no longer exists.

So what was so great about it? !

READ MORE: Forgotten London Underground stations in Buckinghamshire that no longer exist

Well, for starters, it was built by the 3rd Duke of Buckingham.

His full title was actually (deep breath) Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos.

This old aristocrat had about as many famous titles as possible, including Colonial Secretary, Colonel in the British Army and Lord of the Treasury.

He was obviously a very important guy, but especially for us he became chairman of the London and North West Railways.

The Duke was in fact so important that he decided to build his own six mile long private railway – just like you do.

In fact, his family were facing serious financial difficulties and were looking to make the most of their only remaining estate at Wotton House.

A tram photographed in 1925 similar to one that would have run on the Brill Tramway (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

He set up the horse-drawn Brill Tramway to transport goods between its lands around Wotton House in leafy Buckinghamshire and the national rail network.

The little tram carriages were literally pulled along the line by horses rather than trains, and the carriages would have been filled with crops, fruit, vegetables and probably also sheep and chickens!

Stations were literally sheds raised on earth embankments supported by planks of wood.

At the opening ceremony in 1871, the first goods vehicle to arrive in Wotton distributed coal to the poor.

But villagers in the nearby village of Brill, Buckinghamshire, liked the idea so much that they asked for it to be extended to the village and used by passengers – which it was in 1872.

At this point two steam engines were purchased to replace the horses as the loads on the track were becoming too heavy and the wagons were often derailing.

The locomotives had to be very light and small due to the primitive nature of the track.

Brill station at the beginning of the 20th century

Two converted traction motors were purchased, which used chains to drive flywheels, and so were nicknamed “Old Chainey” by locals.

They were painfully slow.

On February 6, 1872, it was clocked that it took 41 minutes to travel approximately two miles from Quainton Road to Wotton.

But we quickly realized that the line would have to be modernized to cope.

New, more reliable locomotives called Buckingham and Wotton soon entered service.

But it was still a rural railway.

The locomotives occasionally ran over stray sheep, and on September 12, 1888, sparks from one of the Aveling and Porter engines fell into one of the train’s cattle cars, igniting the straw bedding and badly burning two cows.

More and more passenger trains began to run, but they were still often horse-drawn as steam locomotives were used to haul goods.

When Waddesdon Manor was built it generated huge tram business with its small station at Waddesdon.

A large number of bricks from Poore’s Brickworks in Brill were shipped there. By July 1877, the entire production of the brickworks would supply the works at Waddesdon Manor, with 25,000 bricks being used per week.

On March 26, 1889, the 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos died aged 65.

A special train brought his body from London to Quainton Road, and from Quainton it was taken to Stowe for service and then to the family vault at Wotton.

He had passed without realizing his dream of linking his railway to Oxford.

Instead it became a quaint little passenger line with stations dotted across the Buckinghamshire hills – starting at Quainton on the main line to London, the line then stopped at Waddesdon, Westcott, Wotton, Church Siding, Wood Siding and Brill.

The rebuilt Quainton Road station as it now appears as part of the Buckinnghamshire Railway Museum

From 1895, the streetcar provided four passenger services in each direction on weekdays.

But the line was soon taken over by the London Metropolitan Railway, making it for a brief time in history part of what is now the Metropolitan line.

The Metropolitan set update upgrades the primitive railroad to a much higher level with new locomotives reducing journey times.

Brill itself became one of two outpost stations serving Buckinghamshire at the end of the line – the other being at Verney Junction – while today the terminus stations are at Chesham and Amersham.

In 1933 it briefly became part of the full London Underground network, but was soon closed by operators in 1935 who simply did not see how it would be financially viable.

At this time the road from Quainton Road to Brill was in decline.

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Competition from new lines and improved road transport had removed much of the tram custom, and trains often ran without a single passenger.

Little trace of the line now remains.

Today, Quainton Road station has been beautifully preserved in Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, where you can still see the tram platform, giving a good idea of ​​what the small branch line once looked like.

You can also try walking along the old line to trace where it went by following in the footsteps of this gentleman.

Finally, you can read a much more comprehensive history of the line here and see some of the locomotives used on the line at the London Transport Museum.

Whatever you do, we hope it’s Brill!

Do you have a nostalgia or story you think we should cover? Email to [email protected]


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