Peak Rail

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Peak Rail
Commercial operations
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Preserved operations
Operated by Peak Rail
Stations 3
Length 3.25 miles (5.23 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Commercial history
Opened 1863
Closed 1968
Preservation history
1987 Peak Rail acquires Darley Dale and Track Relay work begins
1991 Peak Rail, Granted Light Railway Order
1992 Peak Rail Re-opens, Train Rides officially begin
1997 Rowsley South reached, PR extended
2 July
Peak Rail reaches Matlock (Platform 2),
Services extended,
First ever steam through service since 1968
Headquarters Matlock

Peak Rail is a preserved railway in Derbyshire, Central England, which operates a steam and heritage diesel service for tourists and visitors to both the Peak District and the Derbyshire Dales.

The preserved railway line is over three and a half miles in length and, as of March 2013, operates train services from Matlock station (shared with Derwent Valley Line services from Derby via Ambergate) via the site of Matlock Riverside and Darley Dale to Rowsley South.

However Peak Rail intends to extend its operational services northward to Bakewell when resources allow. The first stage of this extension is to relay track to the site of Rowsley Station (serving the nearby village of Rowsley itself), extending to a total of 4¼ miles in length once the first stage is complete.

The Bakewell extension project would also include full restoration of both the Haddon tunnel and Coombs Road viaduct as well as the reinstatement of numerous bridges along the way. Bakewell station remains largely intact (though it may require reducing platform levels back to their former condition for preserved trains to pull in once again).

Beyond Bakewell the railway trackbed is used by the Monsal Trail but a restored line could operate single track alongside (as is done by the Heritage Avon Valley Railway in Gloucestershire) once safety issues are resolved.


Peak Rail
Monsal Trail
(proposed extension from Bakewell)
Rowsley Yard - Rowsley South
148.29 Rowsley South
147.47 Church Lane Crossing - Darley Dale
147.15 Darley Dale
Station Road Crossing - Darley Dale
South Yard - Darley Dale
146.75 Bridge 40 over Warney Brook
Old Road - Darley Dale
145.39 Bridge 35 over River Derwent
145.32 Matlock Riverside
Network RailPeak Rail boundary
Cawdor Way - Matlock
Network Rail run-around loop
Matlock National Rail
Derwent Valley Line

First preservation attempts with the Buxton Steam Centre[edit]

In 1975, the Peak Railway Preservation Society was established and opened a site at the now closed Buxton Steam Centre with restoration facilities and a 300-yard operating line. They also operated a successful restaurant ("The Palatine") in two railway carriages on site. Proposals were put forward to extend the operating line onto the single track freight line towards Peak Forest, but were not met with success.

Closure of the Buxton Steam Centre and relocation to Darley Dale[edit]

In the 1980s Peak Rail relocated its headquarters to Darley Dale and by 1991 the railway had reopened the section of line between Matlock Riverside and Darley Dale.

In 1997, the line was extended within a half-mile south of the Derbyshire village of Rowsley itself. A new station was constructed next to the site of the former loco shed at Rowsley South. The station was capable of holding long incoming charter trains and had a car park to accommodate a large number of cars and other vehicles. The station at Rowsley South has also been utilised for local charity events and cycle races, as well as steam and vintage vehicle rallies. With its location on the edge of the Peak District the railway joins other attractions in the area, including Bakewell, Haddon Hall, Chatsworth House, the Rowsley shopping village, the village of Rowsley and the Cauldwell's Mill museum.

Extension to Matlock (Network Rail) station[edit]

With the construction of Matlock by-pass and the new Sainsburys supermarket in the former Cawdor Quarry a new track alignment and track layout was installed between Matlock Riverside and Matlock (Network Rail) station to provide a new connection to the national network.

Discussions regarding access to the Matlock down platform have resulted in an agreed 50-year lease, including the re-connection of the Network Rail and Peak Rail metals. The rails were originally disconnected due to a rearrangement of Network Rail track as a part of other redevelopments in the area south of the present Matlock Riverside station.

The extension to Matlock (NR) was finally re-opened on 2 July 2011.

Future developments[edit]

In 2004, Derbyshire County Council published a study which concluded that reopening the former line for a local service was technically feasible and that the track bed should remain clear of development, but it was not an economic possibility in the near future.

Expansion towards Bakewell[edit]

An extension towards Bakewell would include moving Rowsley station into the village, with full restoration of the former Rowsley Station site to its former condition, and expansion towards Bakewell via Haddon Halt:

  • Phase 1 would restore and re-lay track to the site of Rowsley station in Rowsley itself, plus replacement of one or two bridges.
  • Phase 2 would be reinstating a bridge joining up to Rowsley viaduct above a nearby road, followed by restoration of both the viaduct and trackbed as far as a proposed Haddon Halt.
  • Phase 3 would then be restoring both the old Haddon Tunnel and Coombes Road viaduct to former use before relaying track to a few metres from the edge of the Bakewell station site itself.
  • Phase 4 would remove infill between the platforms, then relaying track into the old station site and then restoring the site to its former use.

Negotiations for the lease of the mile of trackbed to the north have resulted in the offer of a 99-year lease, from Rowsley South to Rowsley village. However, the extension is unlikely to happen before 2016–17 or until finance becomes available.

Monsal Trail[edit]

Derbyshire County Council and the Peak Planning Board support a scheme to develop the trackbed from Bakewell to Blackwell Mill as a cycle track, the Monsal Trail. With a stated aim to extend to Matlock in the long term, this part of the plan is currently subject to a planning application showing a cycle path broadly following the trackbed as far south as Darley Dale.[1][2] These plans acknowledge the existing railway as well as phase one of the extension project but make no mention of the proposed extension beyond Rowsley village toward Bakewell.

Special events[edit]

The railway operates special events as well as the normal timetabled services. These include "Santa Specials" for children and families, and the "Warring Forties" event, with battle re-enactments of World War Two skirmishes involving military vehicles and re-enactors on the site; Diesel Galas; and local music festivals.

A restaurant service called "The Palatine" operates on given days throughout the season, whilst at Darley Dale there is a museum of the line's local history.

Operating groups at the railway[edit]

Several railway preservation groups are based at the railway, often working in support of and cooperation with Peak Rail. These include:

For further details see Rowsley South.

Motive power[edit]

Steam locomotives[edit]

No. 68013 'Royal Pioneer' in service in 2012


Undergoing overhaul[edit]

  • RSH No. 7136 built in 1944. (Carries No. 68013 "Royal Pioneer". Previously No.WD150)


Diesel locomotives[edit]


  • BR 0-4-0 Class 01 no. D2953 [1] BR Green. built in 1956.
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 03 nos. 03099 BR Blue. built in 1960 and D2199 BR Green. built in 1961.
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 04 no. D2284 BR Green. built in 1960.
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 05 no. D2587 BR Green. built in 1959.
  • BR 0-6-0DH Class 14 no 14 901 (D9524) BR Blue. built in 1964.
  • BR 0-6-0DH Class 14 no. D9525 BR Green. built in 1965.
  • BR A1A-A1A Class 31 no. 31270 Regional Railways livery. built in 1961.
  • BR Co-Co Class 37 no. 37152 BR Railfreight livery. built in 1963.
  • BR 1Co-Co1 Class 44 no. D8 "Penyghent" [2] BR Green. built in 1959.
  • BR 0-6-0DE Class 97/6 no. 97654 built in 1959.
  • Thomas Hill Vanguard 4wDH "Charlie" (No. 265V of 1976) regular works train loco.
  • Thomas Hill Vanguard 4wDH "Cheedale" (No.284V of 1979)
  • Drewry/Vulcan Foundry 0-4-0DM WD72229 of 1945
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0DM "Ashdown" (D1186 of 1959)
  • Yorkshire Engine Co 0-4-0DH "James" (2675 of 1961)

Undergoing overhaul/restoration[edit]

  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 03 nos. D2118, BR Blue. built in 1959. 03113 BR Blue. built in 1960. and D2139 BR Green. built in 1960.
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 04 no. D2229 built in 1955. and D2237 built in 1956.
  • BR Co-Co Class 37 no. 37188 built in 1964.
  • BR Co-Co Class 50 no. 50030 "Repulse" BR large logo blue. built in 1968.
  • Yorkshire Engine Co 0-6-0DH no. 2940 of 1965 "Libby"


  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 03 no. 03027
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 04 nos. D2272 and D2324
  • BR 0-6-0DH Class 14 no. D9500
  • BR Co-Co Class 50 no. 50029 "Renown" br large logo blue. built in 1968.
  • North British 0-6-0DH 27932 of 1962
  • North British 0-4-0DH 27097 of 1953 (oldest s.g. diesel hydraulic in the UK)
  • Brush Traction 0-6-0DE BT803 of 1979 (formerly with Tyne & Wear Metro and Channel Tunnel construction)
  • Yorkshire 0-4-0DH (2679 of 1961)

Diesel Multiple Units[edit]

Undergoing overhaul/restoration[edit]

  • BR Class 117 nos. 51354 and 51396 built in 1959.

Signalling on the railway[edit]

Signalling diagram for the Darley Dale and Church Lane area
Ex-Luffenham signalbox at Matlock Riverside
Redundant signal box being recovered from the old Buxton Steam Centre

There are four signal boxes on the route. Two boxes control the only two level crossings on the old Midland Railway main line route from Manchester to London St Pancras. The crossings are both in the Darley Dale area on the Peak Rail line. The third signal box is out of use, and came from Bamford in the Hope Valley. There are plans to move this structure to Rowsley South railway station for refurbishment and future operational use. The fourth is also being commissioned and came from Luffenham. It will control the Matlock area.

  • Church Lane Crossing: controls the section from Darley Dale to Rowsley South under the no signaller token block method, as well as the traditionally gated level crossing at Churchtown. Originally, this signal box came from Gorsey Bank level crossing on the nearby Wirksworth branch, the signals here are Midland Railway lower quadrant examples on wooden posts dating from 1927. The signal box operates the only current example of a preserved "Josslock" motor point, an electro-hydraulically worked electro-pneumatic point machine, whereby a standard electro-pneumatic point is driven by a hydraulic power pack.
  • Darley Dale Crossing: controls the section from Darley Dale to Matlock Riverside under the one train staff key, as well as the other gated level crossing at Station Road. Based on an L.M.S. ground level design, it was erected in 2007 to replace the older Midland style replica cabin which had become life-expired.
  • Darley Dale station: the passing loop at Darley Dale is worked using the Absolute Block method, with the signal box at the other end releasing the signal of the opposite signal box to allow trains to enter the applicable up or down loop line.
  • Matlock Riverside: an original BR cabin, formerly located at Luffenham junction. The restored cabin is mounted on a non prototypical stone-block base due to its exposed position. An internal staircase has also been fitted in the same manner to protect against vandalism. The 19-lever frame was recovered from Glendon North Junction. Mechanical interlocking allows the signals exiting and entering the loop via the Darley Dale end to be cleared in opposing directions when the cabin is switched out via the King lever locking.
  • Rowsley South: unused at present. Cabin was originally located at Bamford, it was moved to the up platform at Darley Dale initially but unused for many years. Eventually it was moved to Rowsley in January 2014, whereafter restoration began, it be used to control the loco shed sidings and yard exits as a shunt frame using a unique now in the UK though still widely used in europe -wire driven point operation using the ex Barrow Hill sidings turnover style lever frame and point operating gear which has now been installed at Rowsley awaiting the cabin to be erected.

Two train running[edit]

In late February 2007, the railway's 'Two-Train Running' project was completed and approved by the HM Railway Inspectorate. Through improvements to infrastructure and signalling, this project allows two trains in steam on the line, utilising a refurbished and extended passing loop at Darley Dale. Each section of the railway is worked by a train staff, each with a key to operate the ground frames and electrical signal releases at the signal boxes and the ground frames at Rowsley South, Rowsley North, Darley South Yard sidings and Matlock Riverside.

Darley Dale footbridge[edit]

In mid-2009, the original ex-Midland Railway Darley Dale footbridge was purchased from the Midland Railway - Butterley with an aim towards restoration and eventual repositioning at its original location at Darley Dale. Part of this project requires the removal of the unused signal box structure to facilitate the erection of the footbridge. Fundraising for this ambitious project began in late 2009 and remains continuously.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "DerbyshireCC: Monsal Trail - Bakewell to Rowsley" (PDF). 
  2. ^ "DerbyshireCC: Monsal Trail - Rowsley to Darley Dale" (PDF). 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°09′37″N 1°35′39″W / 53.1603°N 1.5941°W / 53.1603; -1.5941