Category Archives: Transports of Delight

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.

Triangular station

Ambergate Station, Derbyshire (1965)

I remember Ambergate station in the 1960s when it had six platforms, though not all of them were in use. Indeed, I photographed it by chance while on a bike ride when I was sixteen [Buyers’ remorse: British Railways Class 17 | Mike Higginbottom Interesting Times], and I went back a couple of years later when a sunset provided appropriate lighting for a station in rapid decline.

In 1972-73 I was coming to the end of my time teaching at Bilborough Grammar School in Nottingham and beginning a long career of part-time adult-education lecturing for the University of Nottingham.

Through that winter and spring I left school promptly, took a bus to Nottingham station and caught a diesel rail-set that trundled over some of the oldest railway lines in the north Midlands – the original Midland Counties Railway (1839) to Derby, then north over the North Midland Railway (1840) to Ambergate, and from there on the little railway with the long name, the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock & Midland Junction Railway (1849) to Matlock.

The ponderous title of the company indicates an intention to connect the East Midlands with Manchester, but it only reached Rowsley on the doorstep of two ducal estates before running out of cash in 1849. 

The title also indicates that the three railways which met at Derby had amalgamated in 1844 as the Midland Railway.

In the midst of the frantic competition between railway companies after the investment bubble known as the “Railway Mania”, the MBM&MJR became jointly leased by the Midland and its rival, the London & North Western Railway, which operated what we now call the West Coast Main Line from London to Scotland.

The L&NWR gave up its share of the lease after the Midland gained powers to build a competing line from its branch to Wirksworth.

Eventually, after the 6th Duke of Devonshire died and his successor didn’t want a railway running through his Chatsworth estate, the 8th Duke of Rutland was persuaded to allow a line tunnelling behind the back garden of Haddon Hall, and the railway was extended from Rowsley up the Wye Valley, first to New Mills and eventually on to Manchester.

The southern “Midland Junction” at Ambergate developed, in fits and starts, into a key connection for trains between Derby, Manchester and Sheffield. 

An informative Wikipedia map [Ambergate junction – Ambergate railway station – Wikipedia] shows how the 1849 junction was west-to-north, and the south/north-west link was opened later, in 1863.  A further south/north-east link, to allow expresses to overtake stopping trains, followed in 1876.

Another service began in 1875, providing passenger trains to Pye Bridge on the Erewash Valley line, part of which now operates as a heritage railway, Midland Railway (Butterley).  (The MBM&MJRroute north of Matlock to south of Rowsley is also a heritage line, Peakrail.)

In the course of the nineteenth-century operational changes the station buildings were shifted around, until the triangular junction was provided with six platforms on a high embankment.  The buildings were, of necessity, constructed of timber.

The station remained intact until all passenger services except the shuttle service to Matlock ended in 1968.  Then, in 1970, the redundant platforms and all the timber buildings were taken down, and Ambergate passengers wait on the former up platform with the benefit of a bus shelter.

Ambergate had, along with Queensbury (closed 1955) and Shipley in West Yorkshire and Earlestown in Lancashire, the distinction of being a triangular station with six platforms. 

The prettiest bridge in Berlin

Oberbaumbrücke, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Berlin

The Oberbaum Bridge [Oberbaumbrücke], which links two Berlin suburbs, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, across the River Spree, is engagingly weird. 

Lonely Planet describes it as “Berlin’s prettiest bridge”, while the Berlin Historical Walks website suggests “its strutting proud form reflects the confidence and swagger” of imperial Germany.

In fact, its chequered history touches every aspect of the growth and resilience of this fascinating city.

The crossing was established at the boundary of early eighteenth-century Berlin as part of a customs wall to collect tolls.  The name literally translates as “Upper beam bridge”, indicating the tree-trunk barrier that was lowered overnight to discourage smugglers.  There was a lower (ie, downstream) beam at Unterbaumstraße.

The original wooden bridge was replaced by the present brick, double-deck structure in 1894-96, to overcome a bottleneck for road vehicles and pedestrians and to accommodate elevated tracks for the city’s first subway trains.  Services on the U-bahn from Stralauer Tor on the eastern side of the bridge to Potsdamer Platz began in 1902.

To mask the bare structure the architect Otto Stahn (1859–1930) dressed it in the distinctive Brick Gothic style, with two entirely decorative towers flanking the central span, indicating that this had been a historic gate into the city.

In the final weeks of the Second World War the Wehrmacht blew up the central section in a vain attempt to impede the advancing Red Army, and Allied air raids damaged the Stralauer Tor station so severely that it was never rebuilt.

The Oberbaumbrücke came to symbolise the division of Berlin, first into four sectors administered by the Allies, and then into the two separate enclaves of East and West Berlin.

In the early post-war years West Berliners could exercise the right to travel across to the East, but East Berliners were strictly forbidden to set foot on the bridge, and the U-bahn service was cut back to Schlesisches Tor in West Berlin. 

The boundary between East and West was the western bank of the Spree, so the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 turned the river waters into no-man’s land. 

On October 5th 1961 25-year-old Udo Düllick got himself sacked by his East German Railways [Deutsche Reichsbahn] supervisor, took a taxi to the Oberbaumbrücke and tried to swim across the river to reunite with his older brother in West Germany.  The East German guards fired warning shots and then took direct aim.  West Berliners watching daren’t enter the water to rescue him for fear of being shot themselves. 

The East Germans failed to hit Düllick but he drowned and his body was recovered from the west bank the following day.  2,500 people attended his funeral.  He was the first, but by no means the last, to die in the waters of the Spree at this place.

A permanent arrangement to open the bridge for pedestrians was agreed in 1972, and three years later a formal emergency plan to rescue people – often children who climbed through gaps in the parapet – from the river waters.

The Oberbaumbrücke came to symbolise the sadness and separation of the city’s inhabitants.  The subway viaduct was partly dismantled and the ornamental towers were demolished in 1974.

The reunification of Germany in 1990 has been celebrated by the restoration of the crossing. 

The gap in the viaduct was filled by a tactful, elegant steel structure by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava (b1951), and the distinctive towers were rebuilt.  The bridge reopened to pedestrians and motor traffic in 1994 on the fifth anniversary of the fall of the Wall, and the U-bahn service was restored to Warschauer Straße station the following year.

Now the Oberbaumbrüke is a celebrated tourist spot in its own right, enjoyed and loved by Berliners and foreigners alike.

The pedestrian walk beneath the U-bahn tracks is remarkable: it was designed as a prestige project by Otto Stahn in medieval style, with castellated towers, gothic arches, polychrome brick, heraldry – very St Pancras. 

The Watercress Line

Mid-Hants Railway, Ropley Station, Hampshire

You might not think that such an insubstantial commodity as watercress would generate sufficient trade to keep a railway line busy for decades from 1865 until the middle of the twentieth century.

In fact, watercress thrives best in fast-flowing chalk streams, and it remains fresh after picking for only two or three days.

The Mid-Hants Railway opened in 1865 to provide a link between two important London & South Western Railway routes at Winchester and Alton. It also enabled Alresford on the Hampshire Downs to become the centre of the watercress trade in Britain.

The line had other purposes.  It was a useful alternative route for passenger services from London to Southampton and Portsmouth and as such, with its proximity to the militarised area of Salisbury Plain, it was strategically significant in both World Wars.

The Southern Railway, successor to the L&SWR, electrified the line from London Waterloo as far as Alton in 1937, severing through passenger services by obliging passengers to change trains to travel further west.  When the entire London-to-Southampton main line was electrified thirty years later, leaving the Alton service as a lengthy branch line, the Mid-Hants Railway practically lost its remaining importance.

After British Rail closed the service from Alton to Winchester in 1973, an enthusiast group bought the section between Alton and Alresford and developed it as a heritage railway, branded by its popular name, the Watercress Line, between 1975 and 1985.

It’s a popular tourist feature in a pretty area of Hampshire, catering for a broad clientele, from children crawling over a full-size climbing-frame mock-up of a steam locomotive to devotees of fine dining, paying a three-figure sum to glide through the countryside tickling their palates. 

There’s much to interest rail enthusiasts along the ten-mile route, and casual visitors can find amusement and refreshments at each of the four beautifully restored stations. 

Alresford is the best place to park a car;  Ropley has excellent viewing facilities for passing trains and rolling stock stabled in and around the workshops;  Medstead & Four Marks has an exhibition ‘Delivering the Goods’ about freight operations in the age of steam.

Best of all, if you’re a Londoner, a seventy-minute journey, running a half-hour service most of the week, will take you from Waterloo to Alton, where you simply cross the platform from a swish South Western Railway electric multiple unit to a rake of 1950s Mark I carriages in Southern malachite green, complete with buffet car, that transports you back seventy or more years in an instant.

For everything you need to know about the Watercress Line, go to Watercress Line Enjoy A Trip At The Watercress Line.

41241

Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, Keighley, West Yorkshire: British Railways loco 41241 (1975)

Among the locomotives to be seen at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in West Yorkshire a post-war British Railways tank engine, no: 41241, has a unique significance in the history of the K&WVR.

These compact, efficient and easily maintained 2-6-2T engines were designed by George Ivatt (1886-1972), Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London Midland & Scottish Railway, in 1946.  The LMS built ten before nationalisation, and British Railways produced a further 120 by 1952.  No: 41241, one of four survivors in preservation, was built in 1949.

41241 is immediately noticeable because of its red livery.  The exact shade of red is variously described – maroon, crimson lake, or carmine red derived from the early BR passenger-coach livery that was nicknamed “Blood and Custard”.

When British Railways ceased using steam traction, its managers firmly turned their backs on the past.  From 1966 to 1972, the years of the so-called “Steam Ban”, the only steam locomotive that had freedom to roam was Flying Scotsman, because of a clause in its unique sale contract.

When the nascent preservation groups bought locomotives from BR and scrap dealers they were forbidden to run them in BR identities.  This is the reason for 41241’s inauthentic livery.  Though the fleet numbers on the smokebox and the bunker are BR standard, the initials on the tank sides read “K&WVR”. 

41241 drew the Reopening Special passenger-carrying service out of Keighley in red, along with Southern Railway USA tank 72 in a different livery, on June 29th 1968, and it still bore the anomalous livery at the Shildon celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1975.

In 1980 it was repainted in the authentic lined black that it wore throughout its BR service, until it reverted to the 1968 red livery in preparation for the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Reopening Special:  55th Anniversary of Re-opening Special – Keighley & Worth Valley Railway (kwvr.co.uk).

There’s another less well-known story about 41241 that I owe to a sharp-eyed researcher in the compendious Preserved British Steam Locomotives website.

Apparently, 41241 was relocated from Llandudno Junction depot to Skipton specifically to work the Worth Valley branch goods trains after passenger service ended in 1961.  When the necessity of this manoeuvre was questioned by a Euston manager in a memo, someone added the comment “send in any case; will employ at least two men and use some coal”.

Fortunately, a K&WVR supporter was at school within sight of the railway and regularly observed 41241 arrive at Keighley from Skipton about noon, wait near the site of the demolished goods shed for 3½ hours and then return to Skipton.

Mr David Pearson, referring to the memo, comments,–

It did this utterly pointless exercise for at least two years, presumably employing at least two men and burning lots of coal; a remarkable comment on the objectives of a nationalised industry.

[Steam Memories: Ivatt Tank 41241 in BR days]

The current chorus of disapproval about our privatised railways is well deserved, but we must remember that British Railways was anything but streamlined.

There are accounts of 41241’s career at 41241 LMS Ivatt Class 2MT 2-6-2T – Keighley & Worth Valley Railway (kwvr.co.uk) and 41241 – Preserved British Steam Locomotives.

The most perfect of all station houses 3

Wingfield Station, South Wingfield, Derbyshire (2023)
Wingfield Station, South Wingfield, Derbyshire (2023)

One summer’s evening in 1965 I caught a train from Wingfield Station to my home in Belper.  I’d no idea of the timetable and I was lucky that a steam-hauled passenger train showed up promptly.  It’s a long walk from South Wingfield to Belper.

The station closed to passengers in 1967, and by the time I photographed it in 1976 it looked distinctly neglected.  A succession of private owners allowed it to become a wreck until the South Wingfield Local History Group successfully campaigned to lift its listing from Grade II to Grade II* in 2015, and prompted Amber Valley Borough Council and the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust (DHBT) to plan a thorough, practical restoration.

I visited the site in 2021 when work was about to begin, and returned in late October 2023 when the Trust ran a series of public events to celebrate the completion of their work. 

The result is impressive:  the building is at last not only weatherproof and structurally sound but restored to the highest standard – a remarkable achievement on a site that stands a few feet from a busy main-line railway.

The new lessees will be grateful for the underfloor heating beneath the stone flagstones.  Visitors will be fascinated by the detailed recreation of the ladies’ waiting room based on the discovery and salvage of original wallpaper. 

When the building begins to earn its keep as office accommodation, public visits will be arranged six times a year.

The DHBT website points out that “Whilst Wingfield Station is not the earliest pioneer railway station to survive, it is one of the least altered surviving examples worldwide”. 

As such it has national and international significance, and local volunteers and historians are building a significant resource that will be useful to online visitors:  Our Project | dhbt-live (derbyshirehistoricbuildingstrust.org.uk).

Exciting new discoveries about the context of the station in the development of travel, coal-mining and the growth of neighbouring towns and villages and personal stories of people who worked there are already uploaded and the site has considerable potential for further development.

Already the website offers – as far as I know for the first time – images of all of Francis Thompson’s stations for the North Midland Railway at the end of the 1830s, drawn by Samuel Russell.

Without the DHBT and its partners, on the ground and online, almost all of Francis Thompson’s work for the North Midland Railway would have disappeared, and the talent of a young, pioneering architect of the early railway age could not be fully appreciated.

Derby Roundhouse

Derby Roundhouse

While the architect Francis Thompson was designing the Trijunct Station in Derby and all the other stations up the North Midland line to Normanton in the late 1830s, the engineer Robert Stephenson was laying out repair and storage facilities alongside.

This was the beginning of the “Works”, where locomotives were built and maintained, and the “Carriage & Wagon Works” (1873-76) on Litchurch Lane, a complex of which vestiges survive under the aegis of the rolling-stock manufacturer Bombardier Transportation.

The singular monument of the Works is the Derby Roundhouse, a sixteen-sided locomotive shed built around a turntable within a prestige building by Francis Thompson.  (There were other roundhouse buildings at the Works, all now demolished.)

Francis Whishaw, in The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland practically described and illustrated (2nd ed, 1840), gave this description:

The engine-house is a polygon of sixteen sides, and 190 feet in diameter, lighted from a dome-shaped roof, of the height of 50 feet.  It contains sixteen lines of rails, radiating from a single turn-table in the centre:  the engines, on their arrival, are taken in there, placed upon the turn-table, and wheeled into any stall that may be vacant.  Each of the sixteen stalls will hold two, or perhaps more, engines.

This innovative structure served its original purpose past the age of steam, but eventually became derelict and was threatened with demolition until Derby City Council acquired it in 1994.  Its Grade II listing dating from 1977 didn’t reflect its importance as the oldest surviving locomotive roundhouse in Britain.  It was subsequently regraded to Grade II*.

Maber Architects skilfully refurbished the Roundhouse as part of a flagship campus for Derby College, preserving the track layout, the elegant supporting columns and the complex roof structure. 

Opened in 2009, it now forms a well-used facility for students and conferences, referencing the significance of the rail industry in Derby’s nineteenth- and twentieth-century growth.

The earliest locomotive roundhouse is thought to have been at Curzon Street, Birmingham, dated 1837;  the better-known Camden Roundhouse in north London dates from 1847.  The Barrow Hill Roundhouse (1870), north of Chesterfield, continues to function as a heritage operation where locomotives and rolling stock are stored and repaired.

Trijunct Station

Derby Midland Station (1978)
Derby Station (2016)

Derby railway station’s three-way junction forms a hinge in the national railway network, not as extensive or complex as Crewe or York, but pivotal on the north-east/south-west axis and the route from South Yorkshire to London.

The railway came to Derby because the town was chosen as the meeting point of three independent railways, the Midland Counties Railway between Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and Rugby (opened June 4th 1839), the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway (opened August 12th 1839) and the North Midland Railway between Derby, Chesterfield, Rotherham and Normanton (opened May 11th 1840).

Passenger services for these three companies were provided at the Trijunct Station (1839-41), owned by the North Midland, at Litchurch, just outside the Derby boundary, because the only available nearer site for a single station, at the Holmes, was prone to flooding and would have required a more complicated track layout.

In 1844 the three companies amalgamated to form the Midland Railway, which grew to become an important main-line railway with services to London, Manchester and Carlisle.

The original joint station had a single platform, 1,050 feet long, with terminal bays for trains to Birmingham southwards and for the Midland Counties trains that departed northwards and headed east towards Spondon. 

The equally long Italianate station building was designed by the North Midland Railway architect, Francis Thompson (1808-1895), behind which was a cast-iron train shed by Robert Stephenson (1803-1859). 

Both of these structures are long gone.  An island platform was installed in 1858, along with further offices and a porte-cochère on the street frontage, designed by the Midland Railway architect, John Holloway Sanders (1825-1884).  A second island platform, with a footbridge, followed in 1881.  The front buildings were largely replaced by Sanders’ successor, Charles Trubshaw (1840-1917) c1892.

Following extensive bomb damage in January 1941 which destroyed the train shed and the buildings on Platform 6, all three sets of platform buildings, together with the footbridge and main signal box, were replaced in 1952-54.

The signal box was decommissioned in 1969 when a modern power box was constructed south of the station, and the Victorian front buildings were demolished, despite objections from conservationists, in 1985. 

All that remains of these buildings is the clock and the carved coat of arms of the borough of Derby from the porte-cochère, incongruously located in the station car park.

The replacement building in red brick is uninspiring.  Behind it, the 1950s concrete was found to be weakening.  The concrete footbridge was replaced in 2005, and new platform buildings followed in 2007-2009.  An additional platform was added during 2018 along with comprehensive remodelling of track and signalling to improve freight and passenger flows and to future-proof the station for decades to come.

Peter Stanton, describing the complex construction and engineering that took place over seventy-nine days of service disruption in Rail Engineer (November 15th 2018), remarked that there was “very little heritage to concern designers who could have a free reign to produce the most modern facilities”. 

The original Trijunct Station has been remodelled so frequently – 1858, 1881, 1892, 1952-54, 2005, 2007-09, apart from being bombed in 1941 – that it’s now a 21st-century passenger station. 

But the modern trains gliding in and out of Derby follow the same tracks and routes as the early steam locos that trundled into the Trijunct Station in 1839-40.

Tram tracks revealed

Tram tracks, Fargate and Leopold Street, Sheffield (2023) © John Binns

When Sheffield City Council abandoned its first-generation tram system in the 1950s, most of the redundant trackwork was simply covered with tarmac and forgotten.  At that time there was no value in uprooting the rails for scrap.

Ever since, workmen digging holes in main roads across the city have been repeatedly confronted by heavy steel girders blocking their way.

There was a recent flurry of media interest in Sheffield when most of the delta junction which connected the tracks along Fargate, Pinstone Street and Leopold Street came to light in the course of alterations to the pedestrianised area around the Town Hall.

People queued up to take photographs of the rusting rails, and BBC Look North and the Sheffield Star ran features on this 63-year-old piece of urban archaeology. 

Interviewees were sorry to see the tracks cut up, and wondered why they couldn’t be preserved for their heritage value:  Calls to preserve heritage as historic Sheffield tram tracks torn out for Fargate development (thestar.co.uk).

Actually, that’s already happened.  Tram tracks found in the course of pedestrianising The Moor at the start of the 1980s were included in the landscaping, with immediately recognisable planters representing the lower-deck fronts of two standard Sheffield double deckers:  Searching Picture Sheffield.  These have now vanished.

In Firth Park, when a roundabout was constructed in the 1950s at the bottom of Bellhouse Road and Sicey Avenue, the trams continued to run directly through the road junction for the few years that remained before buses took over.  The tram tracks still slice through the roundabout after six decades’ disuse.

Firth Park, Sheffield: roundabout and tram tracks (2023)

This isn’t simply a Sheffield eccentricity.  Stretches of recovered track, and often the associated stone setts, are preserved in such cities as Birmingham, Bristol and Chester.

The Fargate discovery is old news.  A history forum stream dated 2008-2011 reported numerous excavated tracks across the city:  Tram Tracks on the Moor – Sheffield Buses, Trams and Trains – Sheffield History – Sheffield Memories.

Sheffield was one of the last British cities to eliminate tram services, yet though you have to be pushing seventy years of age even to remember these tracks being used, the nostalgia for the city’s cream and blue four-wheelers is powerful and, it seems, inheritable by younger generations.

It’s tempting to ask why there can’t be tram-tracks in use along Fargate, Pinstone Street and The Moor, heading to the south of the city, now that city-centre bus services are diverted several hundred yards from the city’s pedestrian thoroughfares.

Castlefield Viaduct

Castlefield Viaduct, Manchester (2023)

Castlefield, the site of Manchester’s first known settlement, the Roman Mamucium, is a cat’s cradle of canals and railways.

The Cheshire Lines Committee, a consortium of three separate railway companies, ran four tracks into the city centre, leading to its Manchester Central passenger station and the vast Great Northern Warehouse, both of which were reborn in recent times, respectively as a conference centre and a leisure complex.

The southern CLC viaduct was adapted to carry Metrolink trams in 1992, but the parallel viaduct has had no practical transport function since the track was lifted in the early 1970s. 

In 2021 the National Trust announced a scheme to use the viaduct to create a sky park – an elevated green space in an urban environment ~ by making use of the abandoned transport infrastructure.

The original linear sky park was the Coulée verte [green belt] René-Dumont (alternatively called the Promenade plantée [planted walkway] René-Dumont) in Paris, opened in 1993.  René Dumont (1904-2001) was a professor of agricultural sciences who began his career advocating the use of chemical fertilizers and eventually became an ecologist and an inspiration to the French Green Party.

The most famous sky park is the New York City High Line, a stretch of the New York Central Railroad’s abandoned West Side Line that was rescued from demolition and redevelopment by the Friends of the High Line.  It was opened in sections between 2009 and 2014.

These and other examples have demonstrated that it’s often cheaper and more profitable to make redundant rail infrastructure an amenity than to scrap it.  It’s well known that developers and property owners are attracted to inland waterways for sound commercial reasons, and it’s apparent that the effort to rejuvenate rail structures can similarly invigorate the surrounding area.

The Castlefield Viaduct is very much a temporary pilot project which is well worth visiting, a thousand-foot stretch accessible from the Deansgate/Castlefield tram stop:  A fly-though of Castlefield Viaduct – YouTube.  Funding for future development seems uncertain at present, and it would be a pity if the project had to be abandoned:  Castlefield Viaduct | Manchester | National Trust.

Other British cities have derelict railway structures that could be potential sky parks. 

Leeds has two such projects, the Monk Bridge Viaduct, built in 1846, closed in 1967 and now adapted as an urban garden, and the 1½-mile Holbeck Viaduct, built in 1882 and abandoned since 1987, for which ambitious plans exist.

Birmingham has the Duddeston Viaduct which, because of a disagreement between competing railway companies, was built and left incomplete in the late 1840s and has never carried a train.  

It would be satisfying to see it eventually find a useful purpose.