PASSENGERS are being invited to take an unusual ‘time-warp’ trip on a restored heritage railway line with the return of a once-familiar automated carriage – affectionately known as a ‘donkey’.

The unique Watlington Donkey 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.

This Saturday, the engine returns home for a day of runs along the preserved Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway.

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. It certainly helped to keep this tiny rural branch line alive giving many years of service.”

Oxford Mail: Watlington Donkey comes to Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway

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 villager Nick Nixey fondly remembers the much-loved coach, saying: “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 branch line has been a feature of the local area for nearly 150 years and the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway Association has been running heritage steam and vintage diesel trains for education and pleasure purposes from Chinnor for almost 30 years with the help of its team of volunteers.

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

Oxford Mail: Watlington Donkey comes to Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway

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

Mr Robinson adds: “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.”

For timetable and details of how to book, see or call 07979 055366 (The line is open daily from 10am-16pm).