Derwent Valley Line

History of the Derwent Valley Line

The Derwent Valley Line running from Derby to Matlock, is all that remains of the original Midland Railway line which ran from Derby to Manchester, through the heart of the Peak District.

The remaining 17 mile line till passes through beautiful scenery, and visits destinations which cover not only Britain’s industrial heritage, but also Victorian spa resort.

The line was built in stages, the Derby to Ambergate section was opened in 1839. Ambergate was a busy station primarily with tourists alighting for Matlock Bath, and travelling onwards by coach. By 1849 the line had reached Rowsley, and finally in 1867 nearly thirty years later it reached Manchester. This had proved to be an amazing feat of engineering, as the line passed through the centre of what is now the ‘Peak District’ with numerous tunnels, and bridges, including the picturesque MonsalHead viaduct.

There had been objections to the route, as the Duke of Devonshire did not want the line running through Chatsworth Park. The Duke of Rutland with the ancestral home of Haddon Hall, also initially refused permission for the line to pass through his estate. Eventually he relented when an artificial tunnel 1058 yards long was created to hide the passing locomotives as well as the smoke and steam. When fully open, the line was very busy with textiles being carried to and from the various mills, coal traffic from Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire to Manchester, and also with the limestone from the quarries.

In January 1923 the railways of England were grouped into 4 companies, with the London Midland & Scottish (LMS) taking ownership of the line. The prestigious Pullmans such as ‘The palatine’, ‘The Midland Pullman’ and ‘The Peaks’ graced this route to Manchester.

In 1962 the ‘Beeching’ report was produced, which recommended the closure of unprofitable routes. This first affected the line with a reduction in passenger services, and ultimately the section from Rowsley to Buxton was closed in 1968 splitting the line in two.

Over recent years there has been interest in reopening the line from Matlock to Buxton. Although the track bed is largely intact and is protected from any future development, at the moment it remains not economically feasible. There is also the heritage railway ‘Peak Rail’ which runs preserved locos along a 4 mile stretch of the original line from Matlock to Rowsley.

Today the remaining section is still popular with outdoor enthusiasts, and day trippers visiting the towns of Matlock & Matlock Bath, and passenger numbers have increased by 94% since 2007