The little railway with the long name

Matlock Railway Station, Derbyshire (1977)
Matlock Railway Station, Derbyshire (2016)

Though I’ve driven from home in Sheffield to Matlock more times than I can number, on a whim I decided to travel by train when I needed to visit the Derbyshire Record Office recently.

I told myself it’s difficult to park in Matlock during the day, but actually I like riding on trains and if you’re a certain age you can get a Derbyshire Wayfarer ticket that lasts all day and costs only £7.70:  Derbyshire Wayfarer | National Rail.

It’s a very long time since I set off northwards out of Derby on a train that takes the left branch at Ambergate Junction and stops at the sad little platform which is all that’s left of the triangular Ambergate station.

While passengers climb aboard the driver unlocks the signalling for the line up to Matlock, which is a fascinating piece of transport history as well as an enjoyable piece of Derbyshire countryside.

There’s a point shortly before Whatstandwell station where the Derwent valley narrows so that the Cromford Canal, the railway, the A6 trunk road and the river are practically side by side.

Further north, canal, river and railway change places as the railway plunges through Leawood Tunnel (309 yards) while the canal follows the contour to cross the river at the Wigwell Aqueduct.

The next station, Cromford, is exceptionally pretty.  An expensive essay in French chateau style, it was designed by George Henry Stokes (1826-1876), who had married Emily, daughter of Sir Joseph Paxton, the Duke of Devonshire’s gardener, designer of the Crystal Palace and a director of the Ambergate-Rowsley railway.  The up waiting room is a self-catering holiday let:  The Waiting Room Holiday Cottage – Cromford – Railway Station Cottages.

At the north end of the Cromford platform the line enters Willersley Tunnel (765 yards) and emerges at the approach to the Swiss-style Matlock Bath station.

The stretch north of Matlock Bath was much more fun when diesel railcars allowed you to look forward over the driver’s shoulder.  There are two tunnels, High Tor No 1 (321 yards) and High Tor No 2 (379 yards), separated by a flash of daylight and a glimpse of the River Derwent.  If you blink you miss it.

You can, thanks to years of effort by volunteers, now cross platforms at Matlock and carry on to Rowsley when the Peakrail service is running.

Taking the train from Sheffield to Matlock via Derby is potentially quicker (under 1¼ hours) than the X17 bus service (just over 1½ hours) – and less effort than driving.

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