Middleton Top Engine House, Derbyshire
In a rather unprepossessing building with a tall smoke stack can be found this wonderful piece of Derbyshire Railway Heritage and one of the very earliest Railway Enterprises in the UK.
It is all part of the Cromford & High Peak Railway built in the early 1800’s to link Derbyshire (and the Cromford Canal) with Manchester and ultimately Liverpool. But the task was daunting as the rail link had to cross the high peaks of Derbyshire at heights approaching 1000ft. Railways, as we know even today, baulk at steep inclines.
So one solution was created here at Middleton. A static Twin Beam Steam Engine was used to haul a line of carriages 708 yards up the 1in8 incline by means of a chain pully system. Once at the top horses were used to power the train until 1841 when steam trains arrived. The Engine house is in itself a major engineering achievement. Completed in 1829 and used till 1963 it stands testament to its engineers and designers. Even water to power the mammoth steam boilers had to be lifted up the incline…the engine house being located high on the limestone ridge precluded any local water supply.
The Engine House has been lovingly restored and can be seen in operation a many Sundays over the summer months. Today it is powered by compressed air but that takes nothing away from the thrill of watching the mighty pistons driving up and down to turn the giant wheels that used to pull those chains.
A walk down the incline brings you to the Cromford Canal and its link to the railway at High Peak Junction. A museum is open most days in the old engine shed.
One other point of interest is that the rail lines on which the carriage ran were initially know as ‘fishbelly rails’, short lengths joint together on top of plates on stone sleepers
Laying that track was certainly a tough job over tough terrain….but it worked
(C) David Oakes 2019