Discovering a little bit of Derbyshire Industrial Heritage

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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.

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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.

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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

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Laying that track was certainly a tough job over tough terrain….but it worked

27th July

(C) David Oakes 2019

4 thoughts on “Discovering a little bit of Derbyshire Industrial Heritage

    • I honestly do admire the imagination and skill they used to create what we take for granted these days…. but also admire the quality of the workmanship – not sure we are as competent today 🙂

      • I do agree about the workmanship too. Swedish railways are nowadays a catastrophe. They have not been properly sustained over the years, and there are no longer skilled workmanship available. The result? Everyday trains are delayed or cancelled, and we can no longer rely on them for getting to your job. Sometimes they don’t even go at all. Some companies have had to hire buses for their workers from Malmoe going north. IKEA in Älmhult for example.

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