derby station to matlock
North from Derby - Part 1
(Derby - Matlock)

A glorious summers day, July 1997 finds a pair of Class 56's heading south across the River Derwent. This view was not possible until the road bridge connecting the town center with Pride Park was built. Between here and Matlock the railway would bridge the River Derwent eleven times.

The former Midland line north from Derby followed the valley of the River Derwent as far as Rowsley. From here the route switched to the more north-westerly direction of the River Wye, however between Bakewell and Monsal Dale the route veered north of the river, climbing to higher ground before dramatically rejoining the River Wye at Monsal Dale.

In contrast to the above view this is the scene looking towards Derby station from Pride Parkway overbridge. One presumes that the crowds congregating on the platforms have not come just to see 58010 and its merry-go-round train, the date is March 8th 1997.
Photograph courtesy John Glynn.

Five Arches/River Derwent

In a 1974 view an un-identified Class 25 with a long string of coal wagons drifts south across the River Derwent. This view is now considerably changed, the Gas Holders are long gone, Pride Parkway and its bridge have completely altered the south bank, whilst the river is now bordered by a fine collection of trees (see view of the Class 56's).
Photo courtesy L H Hills.
Nottingham Road, Derby

Its Valentine's Day 1979 and a winter's storm has descended upon Derby. A job in nearby St Peter's St allows a lunch time dash to the line at Nottingham Road. Out of the gloom comes 25267 heading north, just visible in the background murk is the Derby Evening Telegraph building. Like a number of stations in the area Derby, Nottingham Road closed on March 6th 1967.
St Mary's (Chester Green)

The principal freight yard north of Derby was at St Mary's. Here in August 1976 45014 crosses over the fast lines, either preparing to enter the yard or heading back south towards Derby station.
From the Mansfield Road bridge a panoramic view southwards of St Mary's yard and warehouses, April 15th 1983.
Photograph courtesy Russell Saxton.
Ford Lane (Breadsall Crossing)

Ford Lane crossing was probably the location of one of my earliest introductions to railways. Once a week my grandfather, who lived in Little Eaton would catch the Ripley - Derby Trent bus to Ford Lane to come visit us for the afternoon. Meanwhile my mother had walked us down from Allestree and we would wait by the level crossing for my grandfather to arrive. Which of course meant watching the trains goes by, a task that was marred by the heavy road traffic which used Ford Lane as a link between the A6 & A61. The signal box was delight with the sound of its bells indicating approaching trains. And watching the signalman move to the large wheel that closed the crossing gates to the road traffic meant the trains were nearby!

Its now hard to believe just how much traffic Ford Lane carried, all that changed when the Abbey Hill link road was built. This reduced Ford Lane to a quiet country lane, which became even quieter when it became a dead end after the level crossing was removed. The embankments built to carry the new road across the railway provided a new panoramic view of the line. In this grainy 1973 view looking northwards up the Derwent Valley a green Class 47, believed to be 1999 reaches the northern approaches of Derby, with about another five minutes journey time before reaching Derby Midland Station. Ford Lane crossed the tracks at the point between the first and second coaches, the signalbox was located behind the locomotive, replaced by the rather non-descript off-white structure seen in the above view.

The Denby Branch

A little way north of Ford Lane the mainline curved gently to stay close to the River Derwent whilst a single line branched off to the north east at Little Eaton Junction headed towards Ripley. The passenger service to Ripley had ceased in June 1930, but coal trains for the washery at Denby allowed the line to remain open for many years. My grandparents lived on The Leys in Little Eaton, the street overlooked the line, but our regular Sunday afternoon visits of course never witnessed any trains running! Family walks up Drum Hill meant crossing the line, which usually showed signs of activity during the previous week. Some midweek visits on my pushbike during the school holidays witnessed trains coal trains working up and down the branch but regrettably those early photographs were not very successful. It was only in the mid 1970's that we had some photographs turn out OK.

This first view shows 20176 & 20005 on April 8th 1977 crossing Duffield Road and easing past the former signal box and approach the signal controlling access to the main line.
Another view from April 8th 1977 of 20176 & 20005, this time in the heart of downtown Little Eaton, slowing down for the level crossing for Duffield Road. The photograph shows the site of the former Little Eaton station.
On a gloriously wet February 25th 1980 Class 20's 20081 & 20072 head north towards Denby and pass the remains of the platform of Coxbench station. The first two wagons are MEO's then the remainder that are visible are HUO's.
On the north side of Coxbench station 20176 & 20005 head south towards Derby with a trainload of washed coal on April 8th 1977. All the crossing gates were opened and closed by the train crew.
On January 29th 1994 Pathfinder Railtours ran their 'Ivanhoe' charter, part of the journey included the Denby branch. Seen here almost at the end of the line is 47823 apparently heading away from the photographer, believed to be at the other end of the train was 56009. Passenger traffic on this branch ceased in June 1930.
Photograph courtesy Adrian Healey.
An SLS Railtour travelled the Denby branch on June 14th 1969 and is seen here pretty much at the end of the line.
Photograph courtesy the RCTS Archives, file ref FAI 2276.

On a trip back to the UK in April 2004 a visit was made to Little Eaton to see what remained of the branch line through here. The left view shows the level crossing, the signal cabin has long since gone. The right hand view is the best I can do in light of a house having been built on part of the land that was in the foreground of one of the views above. The middle view taken just north of the crossing shows the vast growth of lineside trees and bushes, the new house is on the left and from the view above the Class 20's would have been located somewhere behind the dark green bush.

Coming back to Little Eaton Juncton to rejoin the mainline the next location northwards is Duffield.


Just before Duffield a length of the Up goods line became the test bed for the Research Department investigating the possibilities of a solid trackbed made of reinforced concrete rather than wood or concrete sleepers resting on a base of stone ballast. This type of trackbed had advantages in places where access was restricted, such as in tunnels, or locations where drainage might be a problem. After the concrete paved track was laid the Up fast line was slewed over to connect with the experimental track and was traversed by all types of passenger & goods trains. The view of the HST below is taken on this experimental track.

A BR publicity shot finds the first production HST set posed on the concrete bedded track south of Duffield, presumably taken in winter. Although not the immediate haunt of the HST's the NE/SW route would eventually succumb to these train sets.
November 23 1978 find's Thornaby based 37015 heading north past Duffield church with a train of 100ton oil tankers.
In the opposite direction 20130 & 20214 hurries south on November 28th 1978 with a mixed freight.
An ex-works 46022 accelerates northward with a mixed freight containing a delightful variety of goods wagons. Its November 23rd 1978 and 46022 has another three and a half years left in service.
Bad weather further north has disrupted services, leaving 47142 with a shortened NE/SW passenger working on December 30 1978. This was probably one half of the Bradford/Newcastle - Poole service which would normally combine at Sheffield.
As a youngster it was always fun to peer over the railway bridge and see what might be coming, knowing my luck it would be just a mundane railcar, but this view captures a brand new Class 20, not long out of the Workshops and no doubt on its way to Derby for acceptance.
Photograph courtesy David Happs.
On the very gloomy afternoon of September 01, 1985 58018 with its excursion train approaches Duffield. The presence of the Chevin in the background required the boring of a double track tunnel, which required the ending of the four tracks at this point which had run uninterrupted northwards from Derby.
Photo courtesy Adrian Healey.
The experimental Fell locomotive heads north through Duffield, date unknown. Judging by the heads hanging out of the windows in the first coach this is either a test run or several enthusiasts appreciate the cacophony of its four Davey Paxman V12's.
Ecclesbourne Grammar School in Duffield was my house of learning from 1968 - 1975. Of interest was our daily commute by ancient Trent Bus from Allestree to Duffield each morning and afternoon. And where the A6 ran close to the railway line we lived in hope of a train sighting. On entering the 6th form we were allowed to leave the school grounds and go into Duffield village at lunchtimes. Which on days when the weather was reasonable meant a brisk walk down to Duffield station. Invariably we were able to watch a couple of services run through, however the station amenities were little more than a couple of seats and a bus shelter.

The school's games classes included rugby and long distance running. The rugby field was a short distance from the school and was in sight of the branch line to Wirksworth, so frequently my attention was distracted from the rugby game to the railway line as the stone trains made their way up and down the branch. I detested rugby, and much preferred the long distance running up the Chevin. We had to cross the line twice on the run, and it was visible for quite awhile as we trudged through the Derbyshire countryside. So it makes sense now to take a brief look at the Wirksworth branch.

The Wirksworth Branch

The Wirksworth branch was a little out of the range of my bicycle trips so it was not until we were motorised that the possibility of photographing trains on the branch became reality. And usually these occurred when we were coming back from somewhere else, so all the views took place at the Wirksworth end of the line! And it seems that most visits were on extremely dull days.

This branch's passenger service survived slightly longer than that of the Ripley branch, Wirksworth's passenger services were withdrawn from January 1st 1949.

20136 & 20139 arrive at Wirksworth with a train of empty hoppers, November 23rd 1978. To the left of the train is the weighbridge.
Busy in the yard on November 23rd 1978 are 20136 & 20139 with 25271 awaiting alongside the disused platform whilst the Class 20's marshall their train.
On the same date as the above two views 25271 marshalls a train alongside the weighbridge. See below for a 2004 view of this scene.
20020 & 20091 stand at the site of the former Wirksworth station, June 21st 1977.
Proving that nothing was too big for the Wirksworth branch, and probably to the horror of the civil engineer, a Class 45 & Class 47 marshall loaded limestone trains in the yard, sometime in the mid 1970's. As two quarry workers look on the Class 47 draws its train out whilst the Class 45 awaits its turn, no doubt to well & truly test the trackwork being completed by the track gang.
Photograph courtesy Mr L H Hills.
25294 marshalls its train at Wirksworth on April 15th 1976.
Photographer unknown.
Its May 26th 1985 and 150002 (55201) stands at the long closed Wirksworth station.
Photograph courtesy Adrian Healey.

Also visited during April 2004 was Wirksworth as seen in the above three views, where although the stone trains have long since stopped rolling, the station and yard are undergoing a new lease of life.

On returning to Duffield the mainline continued northwards following the River Derwent and encountering the first tunnel since since leaving Derby, as the line burrowed though the Chevin in Milford Tunnel which is 855 yards long. On exiting the tunnel the railway quickly ran alongside the meandering River Derwent, the route taken by the railway builders required three large bridges in the Belper area.


For much of its run through Belper the railway runs in a cutting, as can be seen in the two views below.

Black Five 45445 drifts south through Belper station on an unknown date, but probably in the early 1960's, and judging by the shadows its probably about noon.
Photographer not known.
Electro-Diesel E6039 is seen en-route from Vulcan Foundry to the Southern Region, presumably have just been released into traffic.
Photographer not known.
The view below (to the best of my knowledge) is taken north of the station, the overbridge in the distance is that of the A6 trunk road. After passing under the road bridge the railway was forced to build two bridges to cross over a meander in the River Derwent.

Somewhere near Belper 61131 drifts south, date unknown.
Photographer not known.
Keeping the line relatively straight required another crossing of the Derwent prior to entering a large cutting followed by another bridge which crossed both the River Derwent and the A6 trunk road at Ambergate. After crossing the road the railway routes diverged, to the right went the line to Chesterfield, to the left the route entered Ambergate station, which at one time was triangular with platforms on three faces. North of Ambergate the route kept very close to the River Derwent and the A6.

Crich Chase

The views below are taken midway between Ambergate and Whatstandwell, alongside the Crich Chase nature reserve. Just visible in the first view above the locomotives is the Cromford Canal, which was mostly made redundant by the arrival of the railways.

On March 18th 1978 a railtour from Paddington to Matlock brought a pair of Class 50's to Derby. For the run up the Matlock branch 20050 & 20172 did the honours.
Whatstandwell lies north of Ambergate, where the Midland line to Chesterfield diverges from the line to Matlock. Since the closure of the through route to Manchester the branch north of Ambergate has been singled. Here the above mentioned railtour returns south now with 20050 (D8000) leading.
North of Whatstandwell the railway crosses the River Derwent twice in a short space of time, then plunges through Leawood Tunnel before becoming sandwiched between the Cromford Canal and the River Derwent. Shortly after leaving Leawood Tunnel was High Peak Junction which provided a connection to the High peak railway, which literally scaled the steep valley side to escape the Derwent valley. This very steep climb was easily visible to northbound travellers on the A6.

Cromford & High Peak

The Cromford & High Peak railway originally ran from Cromford Goods Yard in a generally north westerly direction to Whaley Bridge, a distance of 33 miles. It was later cut back eleven miles from Whaley Bride to Harpurhill. The line contained some remarkable operating features which included four inclines: Sheep Pasture and Cromford (later combined), Middleton and Hopton. Between Longcliffe & Friden were some unusually sharp curves, the curve at Gotham had a radius of 55 yards and turned the line through 85 degrees. These curves permitted only four wheel wagons to be used on the line and at a speed limit of 5mph on the sharpest of curves.

The gradients on the inclines were so steep that cable working was required on two of them. To lift the line out of the Derwent valley the 1,320 yard Sheep Pastures incline commenced at 1 in 9 and then steepened to 1 in 8. The shorter Middleton incline covered 770 yards at 1 in 8.25. The Hopton incline was at 1 in 14 for 200 yards, this however had been adhesion worked since 1877! Trains were normally double headed over this incline. It was necessary to get a run at the incline, the speed limit was 30mph, but a sharp curve at the base of the incline would not permit a no holds barred attack on this gradient.

Locomotives were primarily sourced from Rowsley shed (17D), but there were subsheds at Cromford, Middleton & Sheep Pasture which provided accommodation and routine minor maintenance for the locomotives. These sheds provided for the High Peak Junction - Friden section of the line. Beyond Friden the Ashbourne - Buxton was joined, with Buxton providing locomotives for this section.

Since the line ran through that part of Derbyshire which was scarcely populated the online traffic was limited to mostly stone and water. Quarries were serviced at Hopton, Hoptonwood, Middleton Top & Longcliffe, and traffic was also generated at the Harboro Brick Works, Longliffe and the Derbyshire Firebrick Company at Friden. Water was also transported in converted LNWR tenders and left in sidings along the route. This was for use by the isolated homes in the area as well as for use by the locomotives.

An SLS/MLS railtour on the High Peak, date unknown, 58856 is the locomotive.
Photographer unknown.
No doubt this is a railtour, date & location not known, but there's no mistaking those Derbyshire drystone walls and those brooding clouds.
Photographer unknown.

Returning now to the Derwent Valley the mainline crossed the Derwent yet again prior to reaching Cromford station, before plunging into another tunnel. Once clear of this tunnel Matlock Bath station was reached before entering High Tor tunnel.

Matlock Bath

DMU 142001 (55542 & 55592) stops at Matlock Bath for a photo opportunity whilst on a publicity working, May 17 1985. Following closure of the through route to Manchester in 1968, the branch was singled north of Ambergate. The DMU looks a little out of place against the lengthy platform, and ironically the destination blind shows Manchester.
Photograph courtesy Adrian Healey.
Once clear of High Tor tunnel the railway required yet another bridge to cross both the Derwent and the A6. Another short tunnel followed and Matlock station was reached.


58018 runs round its train at Matlock, September 1st 1985. The branch from Ambergate to Matlock was operated by DMU's which did not require a runround lump, however a loop was maintained at Matlock to allow locomotive hauled passenger trains to still reach the end of the line.
Photograph courtesy Adrian Healey.
47468 waits to depart from Matlock with an excursion on May 29th 1989.
Photograph courtesy Peter Ryan.

The northbound departure from Matlock required yet another long bridge to cross the River Derwent, the confines of the gorge in the Matlock area was left behind and the valley broadened out, enough to provide ample space for the now long removed yards and shed at Rowsley. At Rowsley the railway crossed the River Derwent for the last time, the railway continued its journey northwards confined to the valley created by the River Wye. Beyond Bakewell the railway climbed away from the Wye valley and cut across the familiar Derbyshire drystone wall country to rejoin the River Wye by means of a lengthy tunnel followed by the use of Monsal Head Viaduct.

Page added May 15th 2001.
Page updated October 16th 2010

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