Peak Rail is a preserved railway in Derbyshire, Central England, which operates a steam and heritage diesel service for tourists and visitors to both the Peak District and the Derbyshire Dales.

The preserved railway line is over three and a half miles (5.6 km) in length and, as of April 2016, operates train services from Matlock station (shared with Derwent Valley Line services from Derby via Ambergate) via the site of Matlock Riverside and Darley Dale to Rowsley South.

Peak Rail intends to extend its operational services northward to Bakewell when resources allow, extending to a total of 4.25 miles (6.84 km). Beyond Bakewell, the railway trackbed is used by the Monsal Trail, but a restored line could operate single track alongside (as is done by the heritage Avon Valley Railway) once safety issues are resolved.


First preservation attempts with the Buxton Steam Centre

The Buxton Steam Centre of the Peak Railway Preservation Society as it was in March 1990 before closure
Peak Rail
Monsal Trail
(proposed extension to Bakewell)
Rowsley Yard
148.29 Rowsley South
147.47 Church Lane Crossing
147.15 Darley Dale
Station Road Crossing
South Yard (shunter depot)
146.75 Bridge 40 (Warney Brook)
Old Road
145.39 Bridge 35 (River Derwent)
145.32 Matlock Riverside
Peak Rail
Network Rail
Cawdor Way
Network Rail run-around loop
Matlock National Rail
Derwent Valley Line
Matlock (Network Rail) station with a Peak Rail train hauled by Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST 68013, 21st July 2012. The platform on the right is the one used by trains on the national network.

In 1975, the Peak Railway Preservation Society was established and opened a site at the now-closed Buxton Steam Centre with restoration facilities and a 300-yard operating line. They also operated a successful restaurant ("The Palatine") in two railway carriages on site. Proposals were put forward to extend the operating line onto the single track freight line towards Peak Forest, but were not met with success.

Closure of the Buxton Steam Centre and relocation to Darley Dale

In the 1980s, Peak Rail relocated its headquarters to Darley Dale and by 1991 the railway had reopened the section of line between Matlock Riverside and Darley Dale.

In 1997, the line was extended within a half-mile south of the Derbyshire village of Rowsley itself. A new station was constructed next to the site of the former loco shed at Rowsley South. The station was capable of holding long incoming charter trains and had a car park to accommodate a large number of cars and other vehicles. The station at Rowsley South has also been used for local charity events and cycle races, as well as steam and vintage vehicle rallies. With its location on the edge of the Peak District, the railway joins other attractions in the area, including Bakewell, Haddon Hall, Chatsworth House, the Rowsley shopping village, the village of Rowsley and the Cauldwell's Mill museum.

Extension to Matlock (Network Rail) station

After the construction of the Matlock by-pass, and the new Sainsburys supermarket in the former Cawdor Quarry, a new track alignment and track layout was installed between Matlock Riverside and Matlock (Network Rail) station to provide a new connection to the national network.

Discussions regarding access to the Matlock down platform have resulted in an agreed 50-year lease, including the re-connection of the Network Rail and Peak Rail metals. The rails were originally disconnected due to a rearrangement of Network Rail track as a part of other redevelopments in the area south of the present Matlock Riverside station.

The extension to Matlock (NR) was finally re-opened on 2 July 2011.

Future developments

In 2004, Derbyshire County Council published a study which concluded that reopening the former line for a local service was technically feasible and that the track bed should remain clear of development, but it was not an economic possibility in the near future.

Expansion towards Bakewell

An extension towards Bakewell would include moving Rowsley station into the village, with full restoration of the former Rowsley Station site to its former condition, and expansion towards Bakewell via Haddon Halt:

  • Phase 1 would restore and re-lay track to the site of Rowsley station in Rowsley itself, plus replacement of one or two bridges.
  • Phase 2 would be reinstating a bridge joining up to Rowsley viaduct above a nearby road, followed by restoration of both the viaduct and trackbed as far as a proposed Haddon Halt.
  • Phase 3 would then be restoring both the old Haddon Tunnel and Coombes Road viaduct to former use before relaying track to a few metres from the edge of the Bakewell station site itself.
  • Phase 4 would remove infill between the platforms, then relaying track into the old station site and then restoring the site to its former use.

Negotiations for the lease of the mile of trackbed to the north have resulted in the offer of a 99-year lease, from Rowsley South to Rowsley village. However, the extension is unlikely to happen until finance becomes available.

Monsal Trail

Derbyshire County Council and the Peak Planning Board supported a scheme to develop the trackbed from Bakewell to Blackwell Mill as a cycle track, the Monsal Trail. With a stated aim to extend to Matlock beyond the existing track the application shows a cycle path broadly following the trackbed as far south as Darley Dale.[1][2] These plans acknowledge the existing railway as well as phase one of the extension project but make no mention of the proposed extension beyond Rowsley village toward Bakewell.

Special events

The railway operates special events as well as the normal timetabled services. These include "Santa Specials" for children and families, and the "Warring Forties" event, with battle re-enactments of World War Two skirmishes involving military vehicles and re-enactors on the site; Diesel Galas; and local music festivals.

A restaurant service called "The Palatine" operates on given days throughout the season, whilst at Darley Dale there is a museum of the line's local history.

Operating groups at the railway

Several railway preservation groups are based at the railway, often working in support of and cooperation with Peak Rail. These include:

  • The Heritage Shunters Trust, which has a large collection of former British Railways and private company shunters.
  • The Derbyshire Dales Narrow Gauge Railway, which operated narrow gauge trains over a short running line by the picnic ground at Rowsley. Presently all services on the DDNGR are cancelled until further notice.[3]
  • The LMS Carriage Association, which restore examples of L.M.S and other coaching stock.
  • The Renown Repulse Locomotive Group, responsible for the restoration of two former British Rail Class 50 locomotives.
  • Andrew Briddon, who has several of his locomotives based upon the railway.
  • Other locomotive and stock owners who are restoring wagons and stock upon the line

For further details see Rowsley South.

Motive power

Steam locomotives

No. 68013 'Royal Pioneer' in service in 2012


  • N/A

Undergoing overhaul


  • GWR 4575 Class 2-6-2T No. 5553, built in 1928. Owned by Pete Waterman. Moved in 2015 from Crewe Heritage Centre and will be overhauled on site.
  • GWR 5205 Class 2-8-0T No. 5224, built in 1924. Owned by Pete Waterman. Moved in 2015 from Crewe Heritage Centre and will be overhauled on site.
  • GWR 5600 Class 0-6-2T No. 6634, built in 1928. Owned by Pete Waterman. Moved in 2017 from the Severn Valley Railway following it's restoration from scrapyard condition never commencing, is due to be restored to working order.

Diesel locomotives


Undergoing overhaul/restoration


  • BR 0-4-0DH Class 02 no. D2866.
  • BR 0-4-0DH Class 02 no. D2868. BR Green. Built in 1960.
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 03 no. 03027.
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 03 no. 03180.
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 03 no. D2199. BR Green. Built in 1961.
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 04 no. D2229. Built in 1955.
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 04 no. D2272.
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 04 no. D2284.
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 04 no. D2337. BR Green. Built in 1956.
  • BR 0-6-0DM Class 05 no. D2587. BR Green. Built in 1959.
  • BR 0-6-0DE Class 08 no. D3000. BR Black. Built in 1952.
  • BR 0-6-0DH Class 14 no. D9500.
  • BR Co-Co Class 37 no. 37152. BR Railfreight livery. Built in 1963.
  • BR Co-Co Class 50 no. 50029 "Renown" br large logo blue. built in 1968.
  • North British 0-6-0DH 27932 of 1962
  • North British 0-4-0DH 27097 of 1953 (oldest s.g. diesel hydraulic in the UK)
  • Brush Traction 0-6-0DE BT803 of 1979 (formerly with Tyne & Wear Metro and Channel Tunnel construction)
  • Yorkshire 0-4-0DH (2679 of 1961)

Diesel Multiple Units

Undergoing overhaul/restoration

  • BR Class 117 nos. 51354 and 51396 built in 1959.

Former Residents



Note that the locations given may not be current as locomotives move between railways from time to time.



Signalling on the railway

Signalling diagram for the Darley Dale and Church Lane area

There are four signal boxes on the route. Two boxes control the only two level crossings on the old Midland Railway main line route from Manchester to London St Pancras. The crossings are both in the Darley Dale area on the Peak Rail line. The third signal box at Rowsley is being commissioned to control the sidings e it and be a public viewing exhibit, this was the former ex Bamford signal cabin from the Hope Valley. There are plans Rowsley South railway station for refurbishment and future operational use. The fourth cabin at Riverside came from Luffenham. It controls the Matlock interface area connection to the national network.

Ex-Luffenham signalbox now Matlock Riverside
  • Matlock Riverside: an original BR cabin, formerly located at Luffenham junction. The restored cabin is mounted on a non prototypical stone-block base due to its exposed position. An internal staircase has also been fitted in the same manner to protect against vandalism. The 19-lever frame was recovered from Glendon North Junction. Mechanical interlocking allows the signals exiting and entering the loop via the Darley Dale end to be cleared in opposing directions when the cabin is switched out via the King lever locking.
  • Darley Dale Crossing: controls the section from Darley Dale to Matlock Riverside under the one train staff key, as well as the other gated level crossing at Station Road. Based on an L.M.S. ground level design, it was erected in 2007 to replace the older Midland style replica cabin which had become life-expired.
Darley Dale signalbox
  • Darley Dale station: the passing loop at Darley Dale is worked using the Absolute Block method, with the signal box at the other end releasing the signal of the opposite signal box to allow trains to enter the applicable up or down loop line, due to the constraints of the size of the loop all signals are Home Starter combined signals, rather than the traditional separate distant, home and starter arrangements.
In suitably snowy Derbyshire weather Church Lane signalbox controls the level crossing.
  • Church Lane Crossing: controls the section from Darley Dale to Rowsley South under the no signaller token block method, as well as the traditionally gated level crossing at Churchtown. Originally, this signal box came from Gorsey Bank level crossing on the nearby Wirksworth branch, the signals here are Midland Railway lower quadrant examples on wooden posts dating from 1927. The signal box operates the first preserved example of a "Josslock" motor point, an electro-hydraulically worked electro-pneumatic point machine, whereby a standard electro-pneumatic point is driven by a hydraulic power pack.
The unique LMS turnover style lever frame which works points And signals via a doublewire method of operation.
  • Rowsley South: The Cabin was originally located at Bamford, it was moved to the up platform at Darley Dale initially but never commissioned, Eventually it was moved to Rowsley in January 2014, whereafter restoration began, it will be used to control the loco shed sidings and yard exits as a shunt frame using a unique now in the UK though still widely used in Europe -double wire driven point operation using the ex Barrow Hill sidings turnover style lever frame kindly donated by the National Railway Museum and point operating gear which has now been installed at Rowsley.

Two train running

In late February 2007, the railway's 'Two-Train Running' project was completed and approved by HM Railway Inspectorate. Through improvements to infrastructure and signalling, this project allows two trains in steam on the line, using a refurbished and extended passing loop at Darley Dale. Each section of the railway is worked by a train staff, each with a key to operate the ground frames and electrical signal releases at the signal boxes and the ground frames at Rowsley South, Rowsley North, Darley South Yard sidings and Matlock Riverside.

Darley Dale footbridge

In mid-2009, the original ex-Midland Railway Darley Dale footbridge was purchased from the Midland Railway - Butterley with an aim towards restoration and eventual repositioning at its original location at Darley Dale. Part of this project requires the removal of the unused signal box structure to facilitate the erection of the footbridge. Fundraising for this ambitious project began in late 2009 and remains continuously.

See also


External links

Coordinates: 53°09′37″N 1°35′39″W / 53.1603°N 1.5941°W / 53.1603; -1.5941