HIGH PEAK RAILWAY WALKS
(Update: June 2017)
HIGH PEAK JUNCTION TO SHEEP PASTURE TOP
The High Peak Railway was built around 1827. There were nine Inclines in all. The first was at High Peak Junction Goods Yard up to Sheep Pasture Top, with
a level for three parts of a mile before climbing the Middleton Top Incline. Beyond Middleton Top was Hopton Incline Parsley Hay was turned into the Tissington
Trail and the Peak Junction to Parsley Hay via Middleton Top formed the High Peak Trail, used by walkers, cyclists and Horse riders. It can get a bit muddy and
the heavily wooded areas remain wet even when otherwise dry and sunny.
The engine house at Sheep Pastures is just a shell but the one at Middleton Top is fully preserved and the stationary engine is operated by air pressure for
demonstration. Off the railway but linked by the Cromford Canal railway/barge interchange at Wharf Depot Leawood engine is also in working condition and is
ran on a number of set days throughout the year, as at Middleton Top. You need to check when the engines are being operated.
The Peak District is naturally scenic with steep climbs up to 2000 feet, with fine limestone. The railway inclines are, 1 in 8 and 1 in 9 and should only be tackled
if you know you can manage them and allow for slow progress over these sections. An easier way is to drive or take the bus to Middleton and walk back down the
inclines, but of course, you need toget back up to Middleton afterwards.
I did the walks over two visits. On the first visit the skies opened up as I reached Sheep Pastures summit and had to give up and walk back down and back to
Whatstandwell for my train home.
On the second visit I checked out the local buses and caught the No. 6.1 Derby to Matlock bus with a change at Wirksworth for Middleton. This is one of those
strange services where the Derby bus doesn't stop at Middleton on the way to Matlock but does so on the way back! I had a 15-minute wait for the bus at Wirksworth,
which added to the overall time of getting there. Just to add to the strange arrangement the Middleton bus is also number 6.1 but only runs between Wirksworth
and Middleton. You need to ask for the bus stop Middleton Top, or Middleton Visitor's Center. There is a few minutes walk up a side road by the bus stop that takes
you directly into the center. Unfortunately, the bus driver on this occasion got me wrong and took me well past this spot and dropped me off by the viaduct at Steeple
Grange that gave me a walk up to the site of Sheephouse Station, where I could get onto the viaduct, which also meant that I had to walk up Middleton incline just to
get to where I planned to start from.
After a good look around Middleton Top and enjoying a bit of refreshment at the Visitor's Center I had a nice relaxed walk back down the two inclines over the 3
miles to High Peak Junction then from there the mile and three quarter canal side walk back to Whatstandwell station. Sadly, both days proved to be very dull and
overcast but at least it didn't rain during my second visit. There are visitor centers at most of the main centers of interest such as at Hopton and Parsley Hay.
High Peak Junction (Whatstandwell) to High Peak Junction Goods Yard
Official map showing the complete section from High peak Junction To Hurdlow with
the Tissington Trail joining at Parsley Hay.
My first walks
My first walk started from Whatstandwell Station, which is on the Derby-Matlock branch line. There is an hourly train service, departing Derby around 00.50
to the hour and back from Whatstandwell station around 00.46 to the hour.
High Peak Junction is just over a mile from Whatstandwell. You join the track bed by walking along the A6 until you come to a wooden post indication High
Peak Junction and take the steep-ish walk down to track bed level. The path is in a heavily wooded area and can be quite messy after rainfall. Suitable footwear
is necessary and that includes for the whole trail over the summits, as well as walking the canal footpath from Whatstandwell to the High Peak Junction site.
You join the canal footpath by walking from the station to the road junction by the Rising Sun pub, then up the hill for a few yards and the opening is on your
left. The road continues on to Crich village. The Canal walk is closer to two miles walk as it heads north of the railway for some distance before meeting up with
it again just before High Peak Goods Visitor Center.
You can drive directly to the Visitor's Center, where there is a car park or take the Derby-Matlock bus, which has an hourly service. For my two visits to the High
Peak I first went by train to Whatstandwell and on the second caught a bus from Derby to Middleton and walked back to Whatstandwell over the High Peak trail.
It is a round trip of approximately seven to eight miles altogether.
High Peak Junction branching off to the right of the Mainline. (E. R. Morten. In the background, high abovethe scene is
the Memorial to the Sherwood Foresters at Crich. Below the tower is the site of the National Traway Museum.
At the gated point with High Peak Junction, cut off from the public, just up ahead where it came off the main line.
The post on the right indicates the steep path down from the A6 where I joined this path.
Left: Track bed looking towards the Wharf and visitor's center. Right: Track bed looking back towards High Peak Junction.
At this stage you do tend to wonder what you have got yourself in for. However, until you reach the Wharf this section is not part of the
official High peak Trail and has not been made up for public use.
Looking towards High Peak Goods Yard, the Wharf is just up ahead. As mentioned, this path can be very messy and
slippery as it was after the heavy rain of the previous day.
A sluice gate by the Leawood Engine Pump House. As this had no connection with the railway it will be covered in the web pages covering my walk along the canal.
Looking towards the Wharf where goods were exchanged. Seen just ahead (On the left). The canal walk is on the
opposite side of the canal to the railway. The canal footpath continues to Cromford. The fenced off area on the right
is where the water is pumped into the canal by the Leawood Engine.
Leawood Pump House. From the railway side of the canal. It is open to the public on certain dates and the engine
fired up. It is a unequally large pump and well worth seeing in operation.
Left: First sighting of the railway Wharf and buildings, from the old track bed. Right: The original wagon height & width gauge and post still stand.
An outbuilding by the Wharf. The road on the right comes off the A6. The track bed to the right of the building is from High Peak Junction while the one on the left joins the canal
footpath from Whatstandwell.
A couple and their dog walking on the High Peak Junction track bed
towards High Peak Junction.
The Wharf building is now a residential outdoor center and used as a hostel.
Looking back towards High Peak Junction
The Wharf: Looking towards Cromford and from the opposite canal footpath
A tranquil scene compared to when the railway and canal were in full operation
View from the canal footpath
Along the High Peak Trail you will find posts with old photographs and details of the places of interest. Leawood Pumping station is
seen on the left behind the Crane. While a siding led up to and inside the shed locomotives were not allowed to enter the building.
Approximately from the same spot as above. Leawood Pumphouse can just be spotted in the trees to the left.
The Crane pinion, and arm holding ring
The original door and notice board
An excellent colour photo of the crane and shed in the 70's. (ColinChurcherFlickr)
This well-built retaining wall. is holding up the A6. High Peak Junction Goods Yard is just up around the corner.
Ex Shunter's cabin
An old storage shed
Steps, leading up to the A6 entrance
Looking back to the Wharf depot
The same spot as above but taken from the canal footpath on the opposite side. (Author Unknown). The water tenders
were important as fresh water was short for locomotives and for drinking use. These wagons were strategically placed
over the length of the railway.
This map shows the line and gradients from Peak Junction Goods yard to Middleton Top. The distance is only two and a
half miles but you have to allow for the two long, gradients of 1 in 9 and 1 in 8.
Peak Junction Goods Yard, where the wagons would join and leave the incline. The Goods siding was on the right.
The branch too & from High Peak Junction came in on the left.
The Brake Vans are for display only. A small group get ready to tackle the incline.
The incline control signal. Minus it's semaphore arm
The workshops and Information center, which includes a shop, conveniences and a picnic area.
The original workshops are open to the public for a small payment, which includes a guide.
The information center/shop and the work shop
The workshop is complete with a servicing pit and many tools of the trade. It is well worth a visit.
New photos. 16th May 2016
A Sample of the size of the Wire Rope used on the inclines.
A model railway is on show in the building t the left.
C&HPR Co. Fish-Belly Rails and individual stone sleepers.
Nice ornamented windows. They matched the windows of the engine houses.
Brake van Interior. Added June 2016.
View from the brake van at the base of the incline. 16th May 2016.
The loco water tower. 16th May 2016.
The Wheel Pit looking towards Peak Junction Goods siding. The control signal still stands but minus it semaphore arm
Around the same spot in the 60's (Author Unknown). The locomotive is probably waiting to take the
loaded wagons back to High Peak Junction and over the main line to their destination, having arrived
with the empty wagons earlier. It is interesting to see the pulling wire and the roller guides fixed in
the four foot.
Another excellent colour photo of the bottom of the incline. You can also see the track leading
into the siding which today is the picnic area. (ColinChurcherFlickr).
The wire Wheel Pit at the base of Sheep Pasture incline
I have since learned that these were Carriage Stabilizers. The metal strap kept the wagon couplings taught while they dropped down the incline.
I wasn't far off with my initial thinking that they were a braking system of some sort.
The large wheel that the wire was attached to from the Engine House at Sheep Pasture summit
The wagon position indicator at Sheep Pasture Bottom. The indicator pointer was linked to the wire by a chain link.
By the wagon position indicator. Someone is setting the indicator ready for the movement up the incline.
Compare the width of the over-bridge (below left) which has been streanthened for the increasing A6
traffic. Author Unknown.
Left: The tunnel under the A6, looking up the incline. Right Looking down the incline From Inside the tunnel
The re-enforced bridge on the 24th June 2017.
Same spot as above left. Right: Again, from the same spot as above right. The change to the over bridge is obvious.
(April 1967 photos by John Evens.)
1960's photos from the A6 bridge, of wagons waiting to take the incline and of two loaded wagons descending past the catch pit. Up ahead is the
hut were the points man stood, ready to turn the points should a wagon runaway or a train gather too much speed down the incline.
Points man standing by the trap point. Listening to the gong that sounded as the wagons came down the incline
and proving the rings remained constant he would close the trap points to the main running line. If the rings
became faster and faster the trap would be left open.
1961. photo. Another interesting point in regard to the roller guides is how each one is designed to guide the wire to the curvature of the track
formation. Interesting too that the main difference between this scene and the 2011 one above is that everything looks pretty muc the same
at this spot, except for the missing track and pulling wires. (J. D. Norton).
The catch pit was built after a wagon ran away and ended up in the canal. It has done it's job on a few occasions, the last being in 1946. The
The mangled wagon still lies where it came to a sudden stop. It is estimated that runaway wagons could reach 120 mph down the grade! The
two running lines ran around each side of the pit. As a point of interest! the bridge over the A6 has obviously been re-designed since the
railway closed as can be seen in the B&W photo above. where it is a simple road bridge. It has probably been strengthened to take
modern day traffic. There is not room for double track with the new bridge.
The 1946 runaway wagon. 65 years of decay.
The gradient gets steeper by one inch every nine inches
The opposite view looking down the gradient
Left: The A6 from the incline. Right: A farmstead on the hillside.
Both: View over the A--- down to Cromford Goods. (24th June 2017)
On the straight climb from Sheep Pasture Bottom, towards the curve leading to the half-way point.
(April 1967 photo by John Evens)
Half-Way point. This shed is the only remaining building from the mid-way Engine house that stood in the space behind the fence on the right.
(16th May 2016).
This way side hut is in excellent condition
The interior of the Hut. (Flash). August 2011.
The setting certainly emphasizes the gradient. Originally there had been two incline engine houses on this section and an
engine house stood at this halfway point. This shed may have been part of that working.
At the same spot as above. (Author Unknown).
Site of the intermediate Engine House between High Peak Goods and Sheep Pasture Summit (1837-1857) Aug. 2011.
The red bricks to the bottom center are the remains of the intermediate engine house. (May 2012)
Above: Just beyond the half way point. Left: Looking down the incline. Right: Looking down the incline. ( August 2011).
Down through the deepest part of the cutting towards half-way point. (16th May 2016).
Ditto. 24th June 2017).
Ditto. 24th June 2017).
Ditto. 24th June 2017).
Halfway on the incline
From approximately the same spot. Where a secondary Engine house stood.
(Cromford & High Peak Official Web Site)
From the same spot above, looking down the gradient
Remains of a wooden Crane on what would have been a small working quarry by the sid eof the line. (24th June 2017)
Interesting rock formation.
Left: Looking up the incline. Right: Down towards Cromford Goods. (21st. June 2017).
Just over the half way mark with the summit just in view.
(April 1967 photo by John Evens)
Nearing Sheep Pasture summit (24th June 2017).
The summit is gated to stop cyclists from taking a run onto the steep gradient. It is also a timly warning
to walkers to take care on the slippery surface when it has been raining.
Sheep Pasture Engine House at the summit of the incline (Aug. 2011)
Where the rope wheel was fixed to the outside of the building with the wire guide run. A more complete set-up is seen at Middleton Top
The steam engine was replaced by electric power during the latter years.
The building is an empty shell but is safe to enter and look around
The base where the engine stood and and an over beam are still in place but the hole where the rope wheel went outside has been filled in.
The plain at Sheep Pasture after the steep incline.
The Engine House had a lean-to building at the east end, with a slanting roof. Probably a
store. The building has been demolished but can be seen in numerous old photographs.
New Photos from 16th May 2016.
The hole in the side of the cliff was the route the smoke from the Steam Engine took. The actual chimey was built up on the cliff top just out of sight
in this photo.
A closer view of the Ex chimney tunnel leading to the actual chimney above.
July 2012. I have since discovered this very fine model railway of Sheep Pasture. I have not come across any photos showing that the 'Lean-to' building was actually the Boiler House
and this photo shows that the boiler was on view just as you see the two at Middleton Top. Check this very fine model railway out a the link below.
Sheep Pasture Model Railway
Sheep Pasture Engine House at summit. The track bed curves towards Black Rocks. (24th June 2017).
Virtually the same spot. The Shunter is preparing wagons for ascending the incline. N.B. The wire wheel at the bottom of of the engine house
is covered for safety. You can see where the wire comes out just below the wagon. The two large wheels to the left are interesting. They are spares
and may possibly have came from the engine houses at Bunsell or Hopton. Stephenson Clarke became Stephenson Clarke Shipping Ltd. and is the
oldest shipping company. (Author Unknown).
A new piece of furniture has been added at Sheep Pasture. 16th May 2016.
From the summit the line is fairly level as far as Middleton Bottom. This is where the sidings were, along with
the locomotive water tank etc.
Opposite view. This is now a picnic area with fine views over the valley
The same spot in the 1960's. Quite a picturesque spot even in railway days. It is interesting how much the railway
designers could pack into quite a tight spot. (By Duckwalk (Flickr).
1949. Sheep Pasture Loco Depot (D. J. Norton)
The water source, approximately where the Water Tank stood, at north end of Sheep Pasture (Aug. 2011)
Original C&HPR steps at Sheep Pasture (Aug. 2011)
Sheep Pasture. Looking towards Black Rocks. April 1967. Close to closure. The reservoir was behind the wall just ahead of the water tank.
1949. Approaching Sheep Pasture Top. Reverse view from above. The signal box is interesting in that it is not seen in
the photo above.(D. J. Norton)
There are fine views across the Cromford valley....
Left: The Derby-Matlock branch running north to south below the hills. Right: Cromford
Cropped image from above. The cable cars (Two Passing each other). Seen at center right. The tower, above the tree line, marks the terminus at the
Lead Mine Museum. The building, top left, in the trees, is the mine restaurant & bar, with a grand view over the valley to the Sheep Pasture area.
Willersley Castle, now a hotel, was built in 1792 for Sir Richard Arkwright, known as the father of the industrial age. Also in the scene
you can just make out the Cable Cars climbing up from Matlock Bath to the Lead Mine Museum at the Heights Of Abraham. Top left.
Sir Richard Arkwright's home through the 200mm zoom lens. (24th June 2017)
The Derby to Matlock branch between Whatstandwell and Cromford. It was once a double track mainline between London
St. Pancreas to Derby and Manchester but is now a single line branch off the Derby-Sheffield mainline at Ambergate.
Looking towards Cromford From the site where the Sheep Pasture control signal stood, with Matlock in the far distance
(To) SHEEP PASTURE TO MIDDLETON BOTTOM
My Thanks To.....
John Neave for his kind permission to use a number of his 1960's photographs when the railway was still in operation. Check out John's ''Going Loco'', which includes a C&HPR history. At....
Mark Norton for the use of 1940's photos by his late father Dennis J. Norton.
John Evens for the fantastic colour photos taken in April 1967 just prior to the line closing. John's photos can be viewed on Flickr under JodrelAviator.
Reading: "The Cromford & High Peak Railway" by John Marshall. Published by Martin Bairstow. Printed by The Amedeus Press 2011.
Other Railway Walks....
The Dundee & Newtyle Railway The first passenger railway in Scotland built in 1831, which had three inclines operated by stationary steam engines. The main source of income was from
the numerous stone quarries in the area and local farming produce. Passenger numbers were always sparse.
The inclines were abandoned in the mid 1800's by new deviations that allowed through locomotive running.
The line also included the Dundee Law (Hill) tunnel built at 300ft above the City. Both the north & south portals of the tunnel are buried below modern housing
schemes. Passenger services ended in 1955 and the line closed completely in the mid 60's.
Unlike the C&HPR none of the Engine houses were preserved. The inclines can still be followed but sections have been back-filled or ploughed over
This web site tries to cover as much as possible.
Boddam To Ellon Branchline Built by the GNSR in the latter part of the 20th century. The passenger service only lasted until 1934 but goods remained up to total closure in 1949.
The GNSR built a large Golf course and Hotel at Cruden Bay, with an electric tramway between the station and hotel. All that remains today is the Golf course.
Other web pages....
Kittybrewster Memories. Kittybrewster Loco Depot, Aberdeen.
Tivoli Memories The Tivoli Theatre, Aberdeen.
Hosted by www.theatreorgans.com
BACK TO HOME PAGE