Relive history as Watlington Donkey steam train returns to heritage railway near Aylesbury

Book tickets now to enjoy great family day out this weekend

By Olga Norford
Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 2:48 pm

Travel back in time to the 1940s and 50s and enjoy a rare chance to ride the famous Watlington Donkey, the carriage which once ploughed its way from Watlington's old station to Princes Risborough.

Passengers are being invited to take an unusual ‘time-warp’ trip on the Chinnor-Princes Risborough heritage railway on Saturday, September 25, with the return of the line’s once celebrated Watlington Donkey to run services throughout the day.

The unique coach – known as an auto-trailer - once trundled between Watlington and Princes Risborough stopping at halts and stations along the line. Built over 90 years ago, it was a feature on the line for over 30 years until services ended in 1957.

Travel back in time on the Watlington Donkey carriage on Saturday

Richard Robinson, commercial manager of the heritage railway said: "We hope lots of people will want to see just what travel was like for local villages back in the mid-20th century.

“The auto-trailer was officially called the Watlington Flyer, but became affectionately known as the Watlington Donkey. And it certainly helped to keep this tiny rural branch line alive giving many years of service.”

The type of carriage had been designed to allow a driver to operate the locomotive remotely from the front of the coach using a series of levers and handles. If used, it meant the driver did not need to uncouple the engine and change ends for a return journey back up the line.

For some local people the return of the Watlington Donkey will be a nostalgic sight. Cuxham resident Nick Nixey fondly remembers the much-loved coach.

Train ride will export you back to the 40s and 50s

She said: “I remember it wasn’t really very fast at all. That’s how it got its nickname. In fact, some of the girls used to ride their horses along the Icknield Way and they’d outrun the train. When the last service ran, our whole family took the trip, just so we could say we travelled on the last service.”

The Watlington Flyer coach will depart from Chinnor at regular intervals for the 50-minute return journey to Princes Risborough on Saturday September 25., For the trip back in time the auto-trailer will be pushed and pulled by a Great Western Railways pannier tank steam locomotive (no. 6412).

“We expect the return of this much-loved character to the line will make the day very busy, so we recommend everyone books in advance,” added Richard Robinson.

Children under four travel free and there is a flat fare of just £3 for accompanied five-15 year olds. Seniors get discounts and local residents can travel half price.

The timetable and details of how to book are online at

For general enquiries, call 07979 055366. The line is open daily from 10am-4pm.