"The skyscraping High Peak Railway with its corkscrew curves that seem to be laid out by a mad Archimedes endeavouring to square the circle."
19th Century description of the C&HPR
The Cromford and High Peak Railway
The Cromford and High Peak Railway was constructed in the 1830s between Cromford Wharf and Whaley Bridge
Steeple House Junction: the line on the right is the Killer's Branch to link the Cromford Canal to the Peak Forest Canal. The 33 mile line originally used horses for motive power, except for the nine inclined planes which were operated by stationary engines. The traffic – minerals and goods only – took about two days to travel from one end to the other. The first locomotives operated from 1833 but horses remained for a further 30 years. A passenger service lasted a few years between 1874 and 1877 with one through train in each direction taking 5½ hours. The Beeching era had its effect and Middleton Incline was closed in 1963, with traffic running down over the next four years until the railway closed in spring 1967, after 137 years of service.
The 'Killer's Branch'
In 1883 a branch line was built off the C&HPR at Steeplehouse to Middleton Quarry, without any parliamentary approval. The Hoptonwood Stone Firms Branch was originally built for the Killer Brothers of Wirksworth, owners of Middleton Quarry who paid for its construction. It passed through various hands before closure. The line's traffic consisted simply of trains of loaded limestone wagons – there was no official passenger traffic. The 1 in 27 gradient line was one of the last parts of the railway to close, in 1967.
The Killer's Branch entering Middleton Quarry
The High Peak Trail
In 1971 the Peak Park Planning Board and Derbyshire County Council bought the track bed of the C&HPR and turned it into the High Peak Trail. The trail is now very popular with walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
The SGLR Society was formed in 1985 not to restore the Killers' Branch but to use the track bed to build a narrow gauge railway using rolling stock from quarries, mines and other industrial locations. Two foot is the most familiar narrow gauge but 18" was chosen for its curiosity value. This gauge was considered light enough for manual manoeuvring but substantial enough to carry reasonable loads. We have found getting hold of rolling stock of this gauge very difficult and have had to re-gauge a lot of stock. Our original stock and some trackwork came from the former Ladywash Mine at Eyam.