Steeple Grange and Wirksworth
On the banks of the Peak
25 September 2005
Back Contact Geoff
There are two active railways in the vicinity of Wirksworth - although at first sight very different, they have some common features and some commonality of origin. The 18" gauge Steeple Grange Railway follows the course of the former "Killer" branch, a standard gauge line serving the quarry at Middleton, with a ruling gradient of 1 in 27. The (very) recently- opened standard gauge line to Ravenstor from the Ecclesbourne Valley's Wirksworth station was formerly used solely for quarry traffic, and has a gradient of 1 in 30. And in both cases, an ex-BR diesel locomotive would propel a single-coach train up the bank. We'd been to Steeple Grange before - back in May 2001 (see
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
"Steeple Grange and Rudyard Lake"), when the working locomotive was a (fairly strange) little petrol-engined thing. Much better known is "ZM32" - an 18" gauge Ruston (416214 of 1957) which spent its formative years at the ex-L&YR Horwich works. This nicely-restored loco was in action on the passenger train - for the princely sum of £1 each, we were pushed up the bank to the current far end of the line. Here, the driver gave passengers a short explanation of the railway's origins and objectives, before hauling us (I suspect, given the gradient, that it was the passengers that propelled ZM32 down the line) back to Steeple Grange. Halfway up the line, there is a siding where some stock is stored - we had passed a few younger members of the railway's staff shuffling about with a "Greenbat" battery electric locomotive. Shortly after ZM32 had departed up the line with the next train, the Greenbat came down, and after propelling its short train into a siding, began to shunt up and down. I think the idea was that members of the public could "have a go" for a small fee. It occurred to me that the Steeple Grange railway has a goodly number of younger members - the average age of those present must have been much lower than that of most other railways. I felt it was rather encouraging that, at a time when "trainspotter" is a term of abuse, this little railway could encourage the younger generation to come and do something positive. Link: Steeple Grange Light Railway
Ruston and Greenbat... ...a selection. ZM32 is seen propelling a train away from Steeple Grange - returning a little while later. Next, a ride up the line. Lastly, the battery-electric arrives and (with some nimble footwork and a shove or two) shunts back towards the engine house
ZM32 at Steeple Grange Greenbat in the woods At the top end Ready to return 2' gauge Planet - awaiting gauge conversion Beware of trains! Hudson petrol trolley Greenbat arrival ZM32 arrives at Steeple Grange Shunting with the Greenbat A neat little cab Cabside detail ZM32 propels another train up the line
We drove the short distance to Wirksworth station as a heavy shower of rain began to fall, and dashed into the Portakabin booking office (given that passenger services on the branch ended in LMS days, it is hardly surprising that the original buildings are no longer in existence). Tickets obtained (not quite such good value as Steeple Grange - but the money is going to a good cause) we joined the train - a single DMU car, propelled by ex-BR 03 D2158, bearing the name "Margaret Ann", standing in the recently-constructed bay platform. The journey up to Ravenstor is short, but of some interest in that the line climbs beside the railway's main storage sidings, before crossing under the Wirksworth - Cromford road and terminating at the (also newly-constructed) Ravenstor platform. Beyond the platform, the gradient of the track bed suddenly steepens - there was once a cable-hauled incline up to the Cromford and High Peak line. A display using a standard gauge open wagon and three narrow gauge V-skips, represents the
transfer arrangements from the quarry to the main line. Like so many lesser railways, it would have been possible to walk back to the starting point - potentially it would have been an interesting stroll. The rain had stopped some time earlier, but there was every chance of another heavy shower... We rejoined the train. Conclusions? - an interesting afternoon, taking a look at two lines with lots of potential - the Ecclesbourne Valley's main objective is to reopen for passenger services down to Duffield and, ultimately, on to Derby. The Steeple Grange plans to extend eventually to Middleton village - and also to open a spur to the National Stone Centre. Clearly a part of the world to keep an eye on. Links: The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway Ecclesbourne Valley Railway Association
D2158 in the bay at Wirksworth The train - DMU car in the bay At the platform, Ravenstor LMS-style nameboard, Ravenstor Driver's eye view, Ravenstor Looking back from Wirksworth - up the bank