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Local History

The Wycombe Railway Company

The Wycombe Railway Company was incorporated by an Act of Parliament passed in July 1846. The Act authorised the construction of a single line broad gauge railway from the original Great Western Railway's (GWR's) Maidenhead Station, a quarter of a mile west of the present Taplow station. The powers of this Act lapsed before the work commenced, but were revived in 1852 whereupon construction began. Although there were some delays during construction, the line opened as far as High Wycombe on 1st August 1854.

Boyn Hill entranceThe Wycombe branch left the GWR line on the site of the present Maidenhead station. The first stop was Maidenhead (Wycombe Junction), renamed Boyne Hill in the 1860s. This station was situated on the Bath Road at the top of Castle Hill, which was regarded at the time to be the best site for attracting passengers. This station closed on 1st November 1871 upon the opening of the present Maidenhead station. To this day the bricked-up entrance to Boyne Hill Station can still be seen on the south side of the A4 Castle Hill (click on photo to enlarge).

Bourne End bridgeThe railway then continued to Cookham. Furze Platt Halt opened in 1937 to cater for the growing population in the North Town and Furze Platt areas of Maidenhead. Following the building of Cookham station there was a delay in the further extension of the line. Before it could reach Bourne End, Cock Marsh and the River Thames had to be crossed. A wooden viaduct was built across Cock Marsh to be superseded by an earth embankment, and a wooden bridge erected over the Thames, which was later replaced by a steel bridge (see photo).

The line then continued to Marlow Road station. The name of the town, Bourne End, was not adopted as the station name until 1874. From here the line ran to a temporary terminus at High Wycombe, with intermediate stations at Wooburn Green and Loudwater. The Wycombe Railway was taken over by the GWR on 1st February, 1867.

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The Great Marlow Railway

It was not until August 1867 that the businessmen of Great Marlow (thus named in those days to avoid confusion with Little Marlow) attended a meeting to discuss a proposal for a railway linking Great Marlow to the GWR Wycombe branch at Marlow Road. From this beginning, and with much wrangling and discussion, the Great Marlow Railway was born, and opened to traffic on 28th June 1873. Pressure had been put on the builders to get the line open in time for the local regatta which proved exceedingly popular. 1,700 tickets were sold in the first week and extra trains were run. An early locomotive on the line was no. 522, an 0-4-2 saddle tank built at Wolverhampton in 1868 and affectionately known as the Marlow Donkey, a name which has stuck to this day. 522 was rebuilt at Swindon Works in 1884 and lasted until 1935! The GWR acquired the capital and operated the line from 1897.

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The Post-Beeching Era

Up until the time of Beeching the railway ran relatively smoothly without any incidents of real historical interest. However, the warning signs began to show in 1960 when services on the Wycombe line began to decline. In July 1962 the Marlow branch lost its steam push-pull service to the ubiquitous diesel multiple unit.

In May 1968 the through service from Maidenhead to Aylesbury was severely cut back, and in the same year both Loudwater and Wooburn Green were reduced to pay-train halts. Loudwater became a single track halt. Marlow station was demolished and a new station was established on the far south coal siding. A new building was erected (since demolished) and was open for business in the morning rush hour on weekdays only. The site of the original station was sold to a local timber merchant.

Things unfortunately got even worse! From 5th May 1969 the Maidenhead - Aylesbury service was withdrawn and the Bourne End to High Wycombe service was considerably reduced. The passing loop at Cookham was removed in spite of public outcry. The Minister of Transport at the time refused to grant the British Railways Board £60,000 to keep the line open from Bourne End to High Wycombe. After little public opposition, this stretch of the Wycombe Railway with its five level crossings closed to passenger services on 2nd May 1970.

The line between High Wycombe and roughly midway between Loudwater and Wooburn Green remained in use for the training of permanent way staff on new tamping machines for about two years, after which the track was lifted.

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The Marlow - Maidenhead Passengers' Association

Closure of the line from Bourne End to High Wycombe in 1970 naturally gave rise to concern locally about the future of the remaining service between Marlow and Maidenhead.

In 1972 three local councillors called a public meeting in Bourne End which was well supported by the local community. The chief outcome of this meeting was the formation of the Marlow - Maidenhead Railway Passengers' Association with the primary objective of keeping open and promoting use of the line for the benefit of the community.

British Rail in its various local guises, followed by Thames Trains on privatisation, First Great Weatern Link, First Great Western and now Great Western Railway, has continued to recognise the value of the Association as a passenger action group. We have frequent meetings with local management, pointing out various shortcomings in their services and discussing ways of trying to make improvements. We are not always successful, but we hope we have been able to make positive contributions to travellers' journeys. In the current economic and cultural environment this is not an easy task. However, after continuous pressure a Sunday service has been restored to the branch in stages: first summer only, then with a trial Christmas period and finally an all year round service.

When local bus services reached a low point of reliability in the 1970s and early 1980s the objectives of the Association were amended to include development of local transport in general, and the word "Railway" was dropped from the Association's title.

More recently we have participated in the Railway Passengers' Committee's (RPC's) initiatives to maintain contacts with, and foster liaison between, various local rail-user action groups. Although the future of the branch looks secure now, it certainly did not in the early days of the Association. It is only by continually applying pressure can we continue to make things work. The old adage is still true today - Use it or lose it!

Since its formation the Association has organised many rail and coach excursions - mainly to coastal destinations. Due to cost and operating difficulties we have reluctantly stopped running rail excursions but continue to arrange occasional visits to places of interest. We have been involved with several exhibitions and film shows, helping to promote both the Association and local transport.

We owe our continued existence to the support of the general public. If you are not already a member please join us now and help us to achieve a regular, efficient and punctual public transport system that serves the needs of the community.

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Last updated 15th June, 2019