Monday, March 6, 2017

The Wolverton and Stony Stratford Tram

I have just realised that I have never written anything about the tram that once shuttled its way from Wolverton station to Stony Stratford.

By 1880 the carriage works had a large workforce. Wolverton continued to expand, as did the Wolverton end of Stony Stratford. While New Bradwell workers had a walk of only 1 mile to work, the extra mile to Stony Stratford made a difference. Demad for an easier way to get to and from work was high.

The first proposal was to build a branch railway line from Wolverton Station to Stony Stratford in 1869.  This actually got as far as a bill through Parliament but it was never built. Its route can be seen in the map below. The branch turned off just south of Green Lane and arrived at the London Road to the south of Stony Stratford. At this time this part of Stony Stratford was completely undeveloped apart from the Hayes Works.

The less expensive option was to lay tram rails on the road from Wolverton to Stony Stratford and, because steam-powered road vehicles had developed, this became an option.
The first proposal came forward in 1882 and, driven largely by Stony Stratford businessmen, a permit was awarded to Frederick Winby in 1883 to lay tramlines. The line would run from the north end of the High Street at Stony to Wolverton Station, a distance of slightly over two miles. This project did not get much further, probably due to lack of finance. However, in 1886 Charle Wilkinson came forward with a proposal to build the track for £13,325 and this time there were sufficient resources to see it through and the tramline was quickly in operation.

It started out successfully. Workers used it to get to and from work and Wolverton people were tempted to shop in Stony Stratford. Stony Stratford pubs were fuller than usual on saturday night because, in the days before national licensing laws, the Stony stratford pubs remained one an hour later than in Wolverton. The tram leaving after 11 pm on Saturday night was known as the "drunken car" because of the large number of rowdy drunks who clambered on board.

The corner building served as the office for the tram company when it opened in 1886

One of the trams, fully restored at MK Museum.

Success went to the company's head and the following year they got permission to extend the line to Deanshanger, a further two miles to the west. Construction began almost immediately and the extension opened in 1888. There was some merit in the idea. The E H Roberts ironworks had been growing since 1820 and there was by this time an actual village at Deanshanger. However, the extension proved to be a loss making effort and the company went bankrupt in 1889.
This photo shows the tram at Deanshanger, probably in 1888.

Sir Herbert Leon was a London financier and he had lately purchasedBletchley Park. He took an interest in the`Tram company and in 1891 he put together a consortium of businessmen based in Bedford and they purchased the dormant company. The Deanshanger section was never re-opened, but the Staraford -Wolverton line did make money and proved to be a good investment. The Deanshanger tracks were eventually pulled up and used as pavement edging in Stratford's market square.

The tracks were laid to a gauge of 3'6" which meant that the vehicles were very narrow, as can be seen in the accompanying pictures.

Some tram company worker c. 1902

The Wolverton-Stony Stratford tram flourished for close to 20 years but during WWI got into financial difficulties. The invention and availability of the bicycle meant that many workmen could use this cheaper option to travel at no great loss of time and by 1915 motorised bicycles were becoming common, The LNWR agreed to take over the company in 1919 on more-or-less the same loss-making terms that they had assumed when taking on the Newport branch line some years earlier. The tram ran regularly until the General Strike of 1926, when the LMS, (successor company to the LNWR) decided not to resume the service.

An early motorised bus, which replaced the tram.

After the business closed down, everything was doisposed of. Several old trams ended up in gardens or allotments like the one below.


Ken Daniels said...

quality stuff, as always. Ken

ivor deering said...

One of my neighbours has one of the trams in his garden, with a train set running through it ( Least that's what i believe to be the case)

Bryan Dunleavy said...

Quite a few ended up this way. I have added a photo of one example.