Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midland Junction Railway


Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midland Junction Railway

London Midland & Scotish Railway








The first section of this line opened in 1849 after parliamentary assent was granted in 1846. Running from a junction with the Midland Railway at Ambergate to Rowsley north of Maltlock, the company having run out of money by the time it reached this point.


The Midland Railway had held shares in the line since it had been first proposed in 1845, its interest being an extension onto its route to London. The Manchester and Birmingham had for some time been looking for a route of its own, and had considered a line through the Churnet Valley (later built by the North Staffordshire Railway), but had instead supported the alternative Matlock route with a substantial shareholding. However, in 1846 it had merged with other lines to become the LNWR, which clearly could not contemplate a competing London line. In 1852 the two companies agreed to lease the line jointly for 19 years, In addition, the Midland would work the line and pay a rent on it, and also take over the Cromford Canal.


In 1853, a junction was made to the southern end of the Cromford and High Peak Railway now LNWR-owned, at High Peak Junction, and with the latter's support, the Stockport, Disley and Whaley Bridge Railway connected Manchester to the northern end. In 1857, with the LNWR's barely concealed support, the SD&WBR then gained permission to extend to Buxton. It did so by a roundabout route along a massive escarpment to the east of the Goyt Valley, such that it could never become a through express route. Despite an LNWR petition against the Bill and opposition from the SD&WBR, the Midland Railway (Rowsley & Buxton) Act of 25 May 1860 authorised a 15 miles (24 km) line from Rowsley to meet the SD&WBR at Buxton.


It was the first time the Midland had built in such difficult terrain, with steep hills and deep valleys, Buxton itself being some 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level. The line followed the River Wye as far as Bakewell, with the complication of the cut and cover Haddon Tunnel, and reached Hassop in 1862 There then followed two viaducts - at Millers Dale and Monsal Dale - and eight tunnels, reaching Buxton in 1863[2] at almost the same time as the LNWR reached it from Whaley Bridge. In 1884 John Ruskin complained of the effect on the dales, saying, "your railway drags its close clinging damnation".

All this time passengers were having to change at Ambergate, but in the same year, the Midland added a south-facing junction and moved the station to allow through travel from Derby and the south. However, there was still the problem of the joint control of the line.


For many years, the town of Wirksworth had been campaigning for a branch line from Duffield. The CH&PR was interested, but had insufficient funds. The Midland was initially unenthusiastic, but then realised that the branch could be extended to Rowsley, avoiding the section to Ambergate, being unsure about what might occur when joint lease expired in 1871.


However, the LNWR gave up its share of the line when the lease expired. It was, after all, remote and isolated from the company's main system. The Midland was therefore relieved of the necessity of extending from Wirksworth over a very difficult piece of terrain. The branch opened to Wirksworth in 1867 but was not carried further.


It seemed the Midland's only chance was a circuitous route with the help of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, except that it transpired that latter had an agreement with the LNWR not to handle other companies' trains. In 1861, the Midland sent their manager James Allport and some of the directors on a scouting trip around the area, and came by chance upon a party of MS&LR directors riding in a dog cart. The upshot was that Allport who had previously worked for the latter company should arrange a deal. Since it was clear that the Midland was determined to go ahead, it would be better not to have two lines running side by side.


On 7 November 1861 it was formally agreed therefore that the Midland would join the MS&LR partner's Marple, New Mills and Hayfield Junction line at New Mills,[4] an agreement which was put into statutes, later including the Sheffield and Midland Railway Companies' Committee in the "Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Act" of 6 August 1872.[10]


To do this, it built a junction at Millers Dale, which effectively left Buxton on a branch. Thus railway politics deprived what was (particularly at that time) the largest town in the Peak District of a through main-line station. The Midland's line proceeded to the east of, but parallel to, the LNWR's line until it reached a summit at Peak Forest. It then plunged under the LNWR through Dove Holes Tunnel with stations at Chapel-en-le-Frith, Buxworth and Chinley joining the MS&LR at New Mills to run into Manchester London Road, opening in 1867.


The Midland at last had its route into Manchester from London.


The line from Matlock to Buxton was closed in 1968 by the Labour Minister for Transport, Barbara Castle, not as it is often thought by the Beeching reforms. Continuing support is being given by a heritage group Peak Rail who have restored the section from Matlock to Rowsley. The line from Matlock to Ambergate, plus the section of the Midland Main Line to Derby, are now referred to as the Derwent Valley Line.


Today the track has been lifted between Rowsley and Buxton now forming part of the Monsal Trail. Plans to re-open it are still proposed from time to time, and the Derbyshire County Council has pledged to keep the trackbed free of development.


Part of the line has been re-opened by the heritage railway organisation Peak Rail who run services from Matlock to Rowsley, at a current distance of 4 miles (6.4 km) in length.


There are plans to extend to Bakewell via the site of Rowsley railway station and a Proposed Haddon halt as part of the Buxton extension project. It will involve reinstating the whole section and Bakewell railway station to their former use once planning permission has been granted, plus full restoration of the old Haddon Tunnel and both Coombs Road and Rowsley Viaducts (along the way between both Bakewell and Rowsley themselves).


Four tunnels (Headstone, Cressbrook, Litton and Chee Tor) between Great Longstone and Peak Forest and Blackwell Mill were re-opened to walkers and cyclists in May 2011.


More information and excelent historic pictures of the line can be reached by clicking the following links:-

David Hays Collection





Eversince the closure of the section between Matlock and Buxton by Barbara Castle in 1868, not Dr Beeching as most assume. All councils having an interest along the section have agreed to keep the alignment protected from development and periodically look at the feasibility of reopening it to both freaight and passenger services.


At the same time the remaining southern section from Matlock to the main line at Ambergate was reduced to single line working, often with only a two hourly service with just a single carriage train.


In the last feasibility study of 2004, so little was understood about the development of light rail that it was assumed to be the most expensive option due to the necessary instalation of overhead wires for electrical feed.


Local Press articles from January 5th 2015 indicate that this line, and its reopening, is again at the forefront of local attention.


The success of the 'Stourbridge Shuttle' has show that this is far from the case. The trains, with cutting edge regenerative braking and flywheel energy storage mean that they can run with a family saloon car engine rather than the 7 - 14 litres of traditional heavy rail options.


One does not need to be Einstein to work out the cost savings. The company that built thoase small trains specifically for the branch line they run on are currently developing the next generation, a similar size as a Class 153 single car train for just such a line as this. Equally other companies are now catching up with their own lightweight railcars. So one is forced to conclude that with such development money being poured into these vehicles, the notion and projected savings cannot be folly as detractor would have us believe.