Peak Rail is a steam-railway project with a huge future.
The present is relatively modest. Trains operate along a four-mile stretch of the Derbyshire Derwent valley. Most of the resident locomotives are diesel, though trains are often steam-hauled. The catering staff do an excellent line in Sunday lunch, afternoon tea and cream tea. There is a regular roster of events to bring in special-interest groups.
The next major development will be running trains into the Network Rail station at Matlock. For a long time the Peak Rail line terminated at a temporary station, Matlock Riverside, which is within walking distance of the town centre. Now that Peak Rail trains stand on the adjacent track to the railcars from Nottingham and Derby, it’s easier for passengers to make use of the line, and a restored direct rail link enables steam tours from afar to travel up to Rowsley, and for Peak Rail excursions to head south on to the national network.
But the big agenda is the vision that started the whole project in 1975. When the main line through Matlock to Manchester closed in 1968 the trackbed remained largely intact and much of it eventually passed to the respective local authorities, Derbyshire County Council and the Peak Park Planning Board. The Peak Railway Association exists to support Peak Rail with proposals to restore train services up the Wye valley west of Rowsley, bringing visitors to Bakewell, Monsal Dale, Miller’s Dale and eventually Buxton.
The practical impediments are, apparently, replacement of an overbridge at Rowsley and “difficulties” with Haddon Tunnel [http://www.forgottenrelics.co.uk/tunnels/haddon.html]. Otherwise the obstacles are primarily economic: http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/images/derby-mancester-rail_main_report_full_tcm44-21359.pdf. Repeated examinations of the plan have so far ruled out reinstatement, though the attractions of routing freight by rail across Derbyshire, relieving the heavily-used Hope Valley line from Dore to Chinley, may become more attractive in the years to come.
Details of Peak Rail’s services and events are at http://www.peakrail.co.uk/index.htm.
The 56-page, A4 handbook for the 2010 Waterways & Railways across the Derbyshire Peak tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To view sample pages click here. Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.