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THE STEEPLE GRANGE LIGHT RAILWAY

Tim Jeffcoat

Following the article in Journal Volume 3 Number 1 by Mike Stanyon, members may be interested in some more details of this 1ft 6in gauge line situated on the trackbed of a former branch line of the Cromford & High Peak Railway near Wirksworth. Move to the photographs page

A Brief History of the Original Railway

The Act of Parliament establishing the C&HPR was passed in 1825, and the line opened in 1830–1 for the carriage of goods and mineral traffic, linking the Cromford and Peak Forest Canals on opposite sides of Derbyshire. Limestone quarries were already active in the Wirksworth area by this time, and a large working in Middleton-by-Wirksworth village, principally producing stone for construction purposes, was operated by the Killer brothers – John, Joseph, Adam and William. In 1882 the proprietors applied for a connection to the High Peak line, which since 1862 had been leased by the LNWR. This was agreed and the construction of the line, nearly three quarters of a mile long, was commenced. The cost was borne by the quarry company, but the line was built by the LNWR, and initially owned by them. It was completed and opened in 1884, and was always referred to as the Killers’ Branch.

In 1905 Killers’ Quarry and the nearby Hoptonwood Quarry came together under the name Hoptonwood Stone Firms, and two years later took over ownership of the

 

branch line from the LNWR. The company later became a subsidiary of Derbyshire Stone Ltd. The market for dimensional stone declined, but production of aggregate increased and in the mid-1950s underground operations began, with high-quality stone mined beneath Middleton Moor being marketed for numerous industrial applications such as glass production and sugar-beet refining. The site now became known as Middleton Mine and the branch railway continued in use until 1967, when it was closed down following the transfer of traffic to lorries. The track was lifted and the course of the line abandoned.

The working of trains on and off the branch line was carried out by the LNWR’s locomotives, and subsequently those of the LMS and British Railways. A single locomotive was sufficient to deal with the work, and was stabled at a small loco shed at the top of the Sheep Pasture Incline. Through the 1950s and 1960s various 0-4-0 saddle-tank engines of the 47000 class were generally used, but for the last few months of the line’s existence a diesel shunter took over. Shunting at the quarry at Middleton was carried out by the quarry company’s own locomotives, which latterly were two small Simplex diesels.

Story continues ...
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