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Peak Rail is a dream, a dream that thanks to the hard work of hundreds of members, and supporters by the thousand, is slowly coming true. In the 1960s, British Railways (as it then was) closed many thousands of track miles on the recommendations of Dr Richard Beeching, on the grounds that they were unprofitable. In 1968, the section of the old Midland Railway main line across the Peak District, from Matlock to Buxton (a part of the line between London St. Pancras and Manchester Central) was closed. Access to Manchester was maintained by using other routes, but many Derbyshire communities suffered, and the wonderful journey through the heart of the Peak District National Park – and across the lovely Monsal Viaduct – vanished.

Now, a fervent group of dedicated railway enthusiasts has begun the ‘reconquest of the Peak’. Starting from a former goods siding at Rowsley, north of the beautiful town of Matlock, Derbyshire, they relaid and renovated the four and a half miles between that point and a newly created railway ‘halt’ called Matlock Riverside. Passengers on Peak Rail could walk approximately 400 yards to the main Matlock Station on the British Rail system, and thence onward to major cities. On the 2nd July, 2011 a breakthrough occurred, when a new section of the now single track line was completed, which ran from Matlock Riverside to Platform 2 of the main Matlock station. This allowed direct communication with existing mainline ‘metals’ – the objective of almost every ‘heritage’ railway in the United Kingdom.

Here we see a Peak Rail train, standing at Rowsley South Station, waiting to depart for Matlock Main station, It is drawn by ‘Royal Pioneer’, an 0-6-0ST 1C, the ST standing for ‘saddle tank’ in which the water supply for the loco is carried in a curved tank on top of the engine’s boiler, thereby, making it more efficient, by pre-heating the water before it reaches the boiler tubes. It was built in 1944, by Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns Ltd, of Newcastle on Tyne, and later rebuilt by the Hunslet Engine Co. of Leeds. Despite being finished in an all-over black BR scheme, complete with the ‘wheel & lion’  British Railways crest and a number, ’68013′, suitable for the LNER J94 class of ‘Austerity’ shunters, this loco never saw service with British Railways. Seventy five of these durable saddle tanks were bought from the War Department at the end of the Second World War by the London and North Eastern Railway, after a hard life shunting cargo around Britains docks and performing utility work for the Army, especially where a short wheelbase was an advantage as they could handle short-radius curves with ease. They were called J94′s and given a BR power classification of 4F. The bunker carried 2 1/4 tons of coal and the saddle tank a total of 1,200 gallons of water. These powerful, if short range, saddle tanks were slowly withdrawn from service between 1959 and 1967.

‘Royal Pioneer’ – as she is now named – was WD 75186 in Army service, and was also owned by the National Coal Board, J. E. Warrington (when it was named ‘Warrington’), and the Dinting Railway Centre. It now forms part of the locomotive ‘stud’ of Peak Rail, and is used to pull regular services between Rowsley South and Matlock. Note that all trains have to be run ‘top and tail’, with a loco at each end, as there is no ‘run around loop’ at Matlock to enable a single locomotive to swap ‘ends’. Peak Rail run very popular Steam Driving Courses of either one or two hours duration, where you get a chance to actually drive ‘Royal Pioneer’! There are special events and luxury dining available in a  restaurant car, too.

Peak Rail have a long way to go, and also a potential conflict with ‘Peak Cycle Links’ who want to construct bridges over their potential route which take no account of steam trains running along the track beneath them! However, I feel that the connection to Matlock was a huge step, and Peak Rail are to be applauded.

Originally posted to History for Kossacks on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:57 AM PST.

Also republished by Derbyshire and The Peak District.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I lived in England back in the late 80s early 90s (5+ / 0-)

    The affection of so many folks for the steam engines was amazing to me. I saw real life "trainspotters" and was shocked....I thought birders were strange enough at the time (and now I am one. :-P )...a birder that is, never got to the level of obsession of the trainspotters! lol

    My young son, however, LOVED all the engines and opportunities to see them (Spent many hours out at Didcot with him.)

    Interesting diary...thanks for the peek into this corner of Britain.

    "one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress" -- John Adams

    by blue armadillo on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 08:29:25 AM PST

    •  My pleasure! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue armadillo, Joy of Fishes

      ....When I was Assistant Keeper at the Leicestershire Museum of Technology, we had some Great Central Railway engines, and a small collection of industrial, narrow-guage stuff, also.

      After I moved to Swindon, we had access to the former GWR works and the Museum in the centre of town, and Didcot was only a short ride away!

      However, the family has many Midland Railway and London, Midland, Scottish connections, so I cleave to the Midland Railway Museum and Peak Rail. Both of these will feature, shortly, especially a diary on the Golden Valley Light Railway......



      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 08:43:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Part of my life died when the SP went into UP (3+ / 0-)

        yep, had so identified with the Southern Pacific all my life that when it ws finally subsumed by the Union Pacific it was like a blank hole,  train watching for me after that got more boring---now its the hated UP Armor yellow and Grey. (think: the Borg!)
        By that time the UP  had already devoured the Western Pacific and Burlington Northern had joined the Santa Fe.
        Always thought this was unfair because altho the UP had been in bankruptcy several times, the SP never was, it ALWAYS paid the bills. The UP should have become the SP but life's just unfair sometimes, or so I'm told.
        So now there's only UP and some short lines where I live but some of Oregon's short lines are still running. This is all former SP territory, SP once pretty nearly owned it all.

        The P&W shortline that comes here has an old GP9 with SP "Black Widow" colors because the line's owner likes that color scheme

        Happy just to be alive

        by exlrrp on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 09:10:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I know the feeling well.. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blue armadillo, Joy of Fishes

          ....I grew up walking across the fields and through the woods - not to Grandma's house (that was in the OTHER direction) - but to watch the fast express trains hammer north on their way to Sheffield or Leeds or Glasgow, or the slow plodding of the incredibly long coal trains heading south to the ring of power stations close to London. The former Midland Railway ruled our world (grouped into the LMS - London, Midland, Scottish). The four entities which were consolidated after the 'Grouping' in 1923 were the Great Western Railway, London, Midland Scottish, Southern Railway and the London & North Eastern Railway.

          These seemed to be set in stone, and each had its devoted supporters. Sadly, all this diversity (in railway design, local colour schemes, locomotives designed to match local topography, signalling schemes and more) was swept away when the monolithic 'British Railways' was formed in 1947 (latterly 'British Rail')

          However, the sell-off by the Conservative Government and subsequent establishment of many small, inefficient and privatised railway companies, running railway stock over lines that they do NOT own (public ownership of the non-profitmaking  permanent way was ensured, of course) has made many LONG for the return of nationalised railways!

          'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

          by shortfinals on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 09:26:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I grew up by the SP tracks (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Happy just to be alive

            by exlrrp on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 11:24:40 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sorry a bout that (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              shortfinals, Otteray Scribe

              not my day for posts, I just lost an extensive post I will try to reconstruct

              I grew up in the San francisco East Bay Area. The SP roared through town on a triple track express way. The Santa fe sorta snuck into town fro the big yard in Richmond. the Western Pacific also came into Oakland.

              Wow, they were something to look at: The SP dealt with a varied terrain---from Portland to San Frncisco to Los Angeles to texas to New Orleans, LA. Late when i grew up as a teenager and later I hopped freights all over, it was kind of a hobby, guerilla transportation.
               The SP had the greatest variety of engines from these Cab Forward behemoths (unique to the SP) to the beautifu Daylights below. You can see more aboot the cab forward here, the one you ee is in the California State railroad museum.
              they still have a restored, running "Daylight" as picdured below, up here in Portland, #4449

              The Black Widow scheme referred to above is the first one, on a model GP9. This was the Frieght scheme for Diesel engines, passenger engine got the Daylight scheme above.
              The SP ended with the "Bloody Nose scheme on the bottom

              Happy just to be alive

              by exlrrp on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 11:33:50 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thank you SO much for this....lots of work for you (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                ....and I enjoyed it immensely. The 'cab forward is....interesting! The 'Daylight' however, looks absolutely superb.

                It reminds me of the two British attempts to run streamlined steam. The LNER's 'A4' locomotives, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley were intended to sustain 100mph, and were used on the long haul London to Edinburgh service. '4468' "Mallard" still holds the world speed record for a steam locomotive at 125.88mph (3rd July, 1938). It is seen here at the National Railway Museum, York.

                The LMS system countered with the 'Coronation' class of locomotives. These were not as speedy (c.110mph), but gave sterling service on the London to Glasgow route (the 'Coronation' class were later de-streamlined, whereas the A4's only lost the portion of their superstructure over their running gear)

                If any US rail fan makes it over the Pond, the National Railway Museum is an absolute must for your bucket list, (plus the fabulous WW2 airfield and Yorkshire Air Museum is only 6 miles outside the city!)



                'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

                by shortfinals on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:37:51 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I am SO going to see that now (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  I have to spend more time over there I can see. Loved riding the trains while there. Always been entranced by France and italy, and I speak Spanish but I'd like to see more of England and Scotland too.

                  The 4449 has its own museum home now but it does still run excirsions sometimes. Ive been trackside to see it go by several times.
                   Steam engines take a lot of maintenance. The joke is: the worst thing you can do  to a steam engine is not run it----and the 2d worst thing you can do is run it.

                  The SP was my favorite because they ran steam the longest, untill late 1957 and afterwards on excurssion ervice. ( In fairness to the UP theyre STILL running steam )

                  I guess hopping a freight to get out of town is so unEnglish but its as American as Doritos and apple pie, I bet 20% or more of country songs are on that topic alone. American railroaading is moving big loads long distances you feel part of a huge process around them.
                   hear that lonesome whistle blow.

                  Happy just to be alive

                  by exlrrp on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 03:21:48 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  Very interesting SF (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shortfinals, Joy of Fishes
    This allowed direct communication with existing mainline ‘metals’ – the objective of almost every ‘heritage’ railway in the United Kingdom.
    Doesn't really seem to be a consideration for our heritage railways over here.

    The loco design is so different from what I'm used to.  No cowcatcher, those British bumpers, the saddle tank and the lack of a big center light.

    I've been on a couple of 'tourist' trains in the past that don't have turn around facilities.  They've typically 'pulled' the cars to the destination and 'pushed' them back to the origination.  Only using one engine.

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 08:54:20 AM PST

    •  OK...a few points.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BRog, Joy of Fishes, markdd

      1. The 'heritage' rail scene in the UK is partially sustained by many rich individuals and/or groups who own preserved mainline steam locomotives ( particular 4-6-0 and 4-6-2 ). These need to be worked on longer 'special charter' excursion trains, if possible, whilst being based at 'heritage railway' museums. This generates the maximum revenue for these expensive toys! Hence the need for access to British Rail metals.

      2. Yes, there is restricted access to all railways, everthing is (theoretically) fenced (therefore no need for cow catchers...our cows are exceedingly polite, and would not DARE intrude on private property without being being invited (switches 'snark mode' off)

      3. NO large lights (see 2)

      4. The engine you see above was designed for SHORT range working, usually in a freight yard situation, or very rarely on a branch line, therefore, although it CAN pull these coaches, it would not normally be used for this.

      5. The 'push me, pull you' arrangement is at the insistence of British Rail, who will NOT allow single engine working, back and forth, on their metals.

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 09:49:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fair enough (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Fences were less than popular in the American West.  Cattle barons ruled.

        Most of our heritage roads are private ventures, operating independent of the tier 1 lines.  Many operate on tracks abandoned by the big boys.  Most for the preservation of steam.  A few, see DRG&, in Colorado, are major tourist draws, traveling from a city to a 'tourist trap'.  

        There was a dinner train here in Seattle, it ran on old BNSF tracks from Renton to Woodinville. You had several courses of dinner on the way up, stopped at a winery, and had desert on the way back to Renton.  BNSF sold the ROW to the state for hiway expansion so the train went out of business.

        I can see BR's hesitation.  If one of those tourist trains breaks down on a mainline, havoc will ensue.

        I guess you should receive full marks for not posting a tank engine...8^)

        “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

        by markdd on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 11:07:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Um, why is there no headlight on it? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shortfinals, Joy of Fishes

    (standing in the back with raised hand)

    Just wondering, no desire to be a Richard.  ;-)

    My guess is that they had such complete confidence in their right of way that they didn't need headlights. It must have been all fenced off (tho photos don't show that) That would SO not work in the US de A, there'd be dead people and cows all over.

    So thats how British railways looked: cheery little teakettles pootling along the country rails. One can kimagine Sherlock and The Doctor alighting and hailing a Hansom cab with the game afoot.

    Good to see you putting out your great diaries on worthwhile topics.

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 08:58:07 AM PST

  •  huh (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shortfinals, Joy of Fishes

    When I saw the diary title, I thought you were going to relate rail travel to automotive travel, and talk about the peak use of railways as a metaphor for the peak usage of fossil fuels.  I'm glad I was wrong, I was glad to read your news, but now that idea is percolating in the back of my head.

    •  You were course, correct, in that is an... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joy of Fishes

      ...unintended 'double entendre', but I can quite appreciate that rail travel is much more efficient that trucking when it comes to freight, and for commuter rail and long-distance passenger travel, too.

      With electric traction, the benefits to the environment become even more obvious.

      Thank you for your interest!


      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 09:56:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the update. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm glad to see heritage operations doing well wherever they are. I was lucky enough to visit the Scottish Railway Exhibition and ride the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway in the summer of 2009, and ride the train between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

    In fact, I was able to ride the train and take a bus from Waverley Station to the museum and railway -- on a Sunday -- as smoothly as possible. Score one for public transit.

    Here in Chicago, we're coming up on the 50th anniversary of the abandonment of the North Shore Line -- and electric interurban railroad that ran from downtown Chicago via the "L" to the northern suburbs, Kenosha, Racine and downtown Milwaukee. It was abandoned on Jan. 21, 1963.

    And -- shameless-plug-for-a-group-of-which-I'm-a-member time -- anyone interested in learning more should check out the Shore Line Interurban Historical Society's latest publication, "The Road of Service." If you're a foamer, you won't be disappointed.

  •  Find the Flanders and Swann song called ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Slow Train, written in 1963, that laments the loss of many British rail stations that fell to the Beeching Axe, and the way of life that went along with it.

    •  I have the complete box set of.. Flanders & Swann. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...and slow train is one of my favourites, as they gently list the stations & journeys you can no longer make....

      Please note, in the song they list SOME stations which either survived, or have been re-opened. However, they listed Ambergate, Millersdale for Tideswell and Pyehill & Somercotes - all local, Derbyshire, names.

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 10:09:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very nice diary, SF, especially under steam! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's not every day you get to see an inside connected tank engine, in fact it is rather rare (over here).

    I'm also glad to hear that the operation is thriving, as are so many others in the UK.

    My very first train was a Hornby wind-up tank engine, 0-4-0, with a goods boxcar, an open gondola, and a guard's van. Long gone, I still have fond memories of the set, and electric engines weren't far behind.

    Now, how about them Gresley Pacifics?

    •  I am DUE to go to Barrow Hill Roundhouse... (0+ / 0-)

      ....with my cousin, Peter. This has fantastic events (see site), as well as a resident 'stud' of locomotives.

      You will notice, surprise, surprise, that it is Derbyshire (a REAL hotbed of heritage railways!)

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:41:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am too much of an Anglophile! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I see the word "Derbyshire" and my mind says "Darbysher." Far too many hours watching Masterpiece Theater, Monty Python, and David Attenborough. Woe is me.

        That is a very nice looking museum, full of interesting locomotives, and obviously spirit! I do like seeing the steam, but to also have older, very well preserved Diesels is also interesting, including what looks to be a Deltic.

        That "Rail Ale" festival is something that could be done here: Portland, Oregon has both operating steam engines and a lot of locally produced beverages. Hmmm....could be very popular indeed.

        •  For a REAL Derbyshire, working-class lad... (0+ / 0-)

          ..brought up in the coalfield try 'Darbysha'...and you've almost got it right! Our place names are tricky too, thanks to the accent (and dialect, too) e.g.

          Heanor = Hayna

          Loscoe = Losca


          Ilkeston = Il-kes-tun, not as was once pronounced by a BBC News announcer (who have pronunciation advisors, for goodness sake!) 'Ilk-stone'. Locals fell off their chairs, laughing!

          'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

          by shortfinals on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:50:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm just a tiny bit too young to remember (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Railfan, shortfinals

    when there was steam-powered revenue rail service in the US. There was still a tiny bit left when I was born but I never actually saw it in operation.

    When I was 2 1/2 my dad took me from Aberdeen, MD to New York to be cared for by my grandparents while my sister was being born. I recall looking out a window and seeing steam locomotives parked, probably in Philadelphia. But as far as seeing them run, that never happened. As an adult I've seen various museum pieces in operation--in fact I try to visit and ride behind them whenever I can--but most were relatively small.

    If I'm not mistaken, steam was used to pull freight through the Rockies and the Appalachians until perhaps the late 1950's. I'd love to have seen them going.

    •  According to what I was able to find... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Railfan, shortfinals last steam service on a Class 1 railroad ended in 1961. That was the Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow-gauge line. Last articulateds through the Appalachians were a couple of 2-8-8-2's and 4-6-6-4's run by the Norfolk and Western until late 1958. Sigh.

    •  Since I am at least 107 (according to how my.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...body feels, anyway) you will not be surprised to hear that I rode behind steam traction during my youth on a regular basis. Indeed, I was there for introduction of diesel traction! (Frightening, isn't it!)

      However, there is plenty of good quality steam traction to be had in the UK, even some local scheduled services (sometimes running onto shared platforms - one side British Rail, the other side, heritage railways). There are also large numbers of steam-hauled, long-distance 'specials', mostly starting out from one of the London stations. This is ONE of the reasons Peak Rail wanted - very much - to get their link to Matlock re-opened. THAT way, they could get 'special' trains run straight into their depot at Rowsley (observing the speed limit, of course!)

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:48:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I probably knew more rail history when I was a kid (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        than I do now. Again doing some research I'm reminded that diesel traction first appeared as early as the mid-1920's but the first stand-alone diesel locomotives were introduced in the 1935 (passenger) and 1939 (freight). The the massive conversions from steam to diesel only commenced after World War II, more rapidly in the US than elsewhere so you could well be younger than I am (61, almost 62, though I certainly felt close to 107 myself after last night's stint at the gym) and still have fond memories of riding behind steam traction.

  •  Not Much rail around Here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    other than a Few slow speed Freights and the daily
    Commuter lines that Run into Boston.

    The strangest part of a train trip Nowadays is moving
    slowly through the Switching yards. Acre after Acre and
    track after track and All of it Completely Empty and Unused.

    Once upon a Time, every one of those tracks was used
    on a Daily Basis.  Not Anymore.

    On Giving Advice: Smart People Don't Need It and Stupid People Don't Listen

    by Brian76239 on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:55:07 PM PST

    •  Since I am in the same area..I agree with you! (0+ / 0-)

      I find it VERY depressing, particularly when a healthy economy needs healthy, efficient internal communications.

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:56:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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