Ecclesbourne Valley Railway

Ecclesbourne Valley Railway
Wirksworth Station as it is today.
Locale Derbyshire, England
Terminus Ravenstor
Commercial operations
Name Wirksworth branch
Built by Midland Railway
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Operated by WyvernRail plc
Stations 5 (to be 6)
Length 9 miles (14 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Commercial history
Opened 1867
Closed to passengers 1947
Closed 1964 (freight)
1989 (completely)
Preservation history
1992 WyvernRail is formed
1996 Light Rail order granted
1997 Derby and Wirksworth Railway Association is formed (later to become EVR)
2000 Volunteers start clearing vegetation from the line
1 October 2002 Wirksworth re-opens and its passenger trains begin
2003 WyvernRail and Network Rail agree fifteen-year lease-purchase deal
2004 Gorsey bank reopens and 12 mile (0.80 km) passenger trains begin
1 September 2005 Ravenstor opens and 34 mile (1.2 km) passenger trains on 1 in 27 Incline (of the same name) begin
2007 Iridgehay level crossing reinstated and later reopened
8 March 2008 Idridgehay reopens and 3 12 miles (5.6 km) passenger trains begin
8 April 2011 Duffield reopens and 10 miles (16 km) passenger trains begin
9 August 2014 Shottle reopens (after more than 65 years out of use)
Headquarters Wirksworth
Derby Lightweight, no. 79900, operating on the line on which she was originally tested when new some 55 years earlier, fully restored to passenger carrying standard from being former test car IRIS. The unit is now a unique example of a Derby Lightweight single car unit.
Class 122, no. 55006, operating away from home, at Bewdley on the Severn Valley Railway on 15th October 2004, whilst taking part in the Railcar 50 event. This unit is painted in original BR Green livery, and is usually based at Wirksworth.

Ecclesbourne Valley Railway

Cromford and High Peak Railway
Disused Incline
Stoneycroft Quarry
Gorsey Bank Level Crossing
Idridgehay Level Crossing
A517, Ashbourne Road
Duffield Tunnel (52 yards)
A6, Milford Road
To Belper
To Derby - Midland Main Line
The route of the railway, running north from Duffield, via Wirksworth, to Ravenstor

The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway is a 9-mile (14.5 km) long heritage railway in Derbyshire. The headquarters of the railway centre on Wirksworth station, and services operate in both directions between Wirksworth and Duffield and from Wirksworth to Ravenstor.

From April 2011 onward, passengers are now able to board and alight heritage services at Duffield where in recent years a station platform (3) has been re-constructed. Heritage services are timed to connect with East Midlands Trains Nottingham - Derby - Matlock service at the adjacent Duffield Network Rail platforms and therefore it is now possible for passengers to travel to and from Wirksworth by train from anywhere on the national network.

The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway is named after the River Ecclesbourne and the track follows the river from its source to its confluence with the River Derwent at the Derbyshire village of Duffield.

Despite being a branch in itself, there is also a separate 12 mile (0.80 km) branch operating from Platform 3 at Wirksworth Station up a 1 in 27 gradient incline to Ravenstor (for the National Stone Centre and the High Peak Trail, respectively).

The line is principally operated by a large fleet of heritage Diesel Multiple Units. Locomotive hauled trains operate on Enthusiast and special event days often alongside the DMU fleet.[1]



The "Wirksworth Branch" was the product of early 19th century railway rivalry. Since 1835 Wirksworth's citizens had been promoting the idea, among others, for a branch line from the North Midland Railway, later the Midland Railway, at Duffield. The Midland was initially unenthusiastic, but then realised that the branch could be extended to Rowsley, albeit with difficulty, avoiding the section from Ambergate, on its Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway, which was shared with its rival the London and North Western Railway.[2] It is for this reason that all of the bridges along the line, including the one which simply has a head shunt under it (Cemetery Lane) are built to double-tracked grand Midland Railway style.


The 8 12-mile (13.7 km) line was surveyed in 1862 and received Parliamentary assent the following year. It would follow the valley of the River Ecclesbourne with no major obstacles apart from the final climb into Wirksworth. A cutting was required, and some buildings were demolished, while there was considerable upheaval in Duffield.

The final inspection of the line was carried out by Colonel J.A. Rich of the Royal Engineers on 26 September 1867, who approved the line for opening.[3]

The line was opened to Wirksworth on 1 October 1867 and was initially worked by the Staff System.

Under the original scheme, it would have descended from Wirksworth to Cromford using a 1,503-yard (1,374 m) tunnel and a 280-yard (260 m) long viaduct, and proceed parallel to the existing line, but on the west side of the river through Matlock to Rowsley.

However, when the lease expired on the original Ambergate line, the LNWR withdrew, and the Midland acquired complete control. Thus the section beyond Wirksworth was never built. The Midland was left with one of its few branch lines, and one which, it felt, was of questionable viability.


The presence of the line allowed Wirksworth's limestone business to develop, the carriage of which was its mainstay until the middle of the 20th century. There was also farm produce, particularly milk, some 800,000 imp gal (960,760 US gal; 3,636,872 L) daily, and a number of textile mills (Wirksworth had the dubious distinction of being the main supplier of red tape for the London Government Departments). It saw a regular passenger service, with stations at Hazlewood (about 12 mile (0.80 km) from the village down a steep hill and originally called Windley), Shottle (originally Cowers Lane) and Idridgehay.

There were three, rising to six, passenger trains from Derby each way, with one on Sunday, and two goods trains. By 1939, however milk was carried instead by road, and during World War II passenger travel was severely curtailed. There was also the hourly "number 37" bus, which led to a decline in passenger numbers. Passenger trains were temporarily suspended in 1947 and were officially ceased in 1949. An hourly (5 on Sundays) direct bus (Trentbarton service 6.1) still operates (2014) between Wirksworth and Derby (Bus Station) with a journey time of 50 minutes. However this runs via Belper rather than directly along the main road.

In the early 1950s people near the line were treated to the eerie sight of a railway carriage ghosting along, apparently by itself. It must be said that there would be some who remembered the use of steam motor carriages from the Morecambe and Heysham Railway at the beginning of the century, and steam railmotors from the Yarmouth and North Norfolk Railway. However this was the test vehicle for the new diesel railcars being designed in Derby - nothing more than a standard coach with the mechanism fitted and a windscreen cut in each end for the driver - that presaged a major change in British rail travel. When the so-called Derby Lightweights were produced they were each tested on the line after leaving the workshop. One of the only three surviving of those originally built, M79900, was converted from being the IRIS test car back to passenger carrying standard and has been joined recently by the other two, residing on the line on which they were originally tested some 60 years ago.

Rail accident

On 25 August 1981, A rail accident occurred when a fully laden freight train partially derailed 300 yards (270 m) south of Wirksworth.[4]

Decline and closure

Although most of the goods had transferred to the roads, limestone traffic continued, including that formerly hauled by the Cromford and High Peak Railway, when it closed in 1967. Though the amount of traffic justified the installation of some continuous welded rail in the 1980s, production was increasingly of aggregate carried by road. In 1991 the quarries passed to Croxton and Garry Ltd (which later became Omya UK Ltd) which no longer needed a rail link. Although its sidings, and the station goods yard, at Wirksworth are still listed by Network Rail, the connection to the main line at Duffield has been severed and fenced off, There is hope that one day the EVR could "once possible funding would be made" purchase and re-use both the goods yard and the sidings for further/extra space for some rolling stock and train storage.

Present day


In 1996 WyvernRail were awarded a Light Railway Order for the full length of the whole line.[5]

Wirksworth station was reopened in 2002, with the first 12 mile (0.80 km) of line between Wirksworth and Gorsey Bank reopened for a DMU shuttle passenger service in 2004, followed by a new line to Ravenstor in 2005.[6] On 8 March 2008, the railway began to branch its passenger operations further south by holding a grand opening ceremony[7] for the line between Wirksworth station and Idridgehay station[8] - 3 12 miles (5.6 km) of the line's total length.

In 2003 WyvernRail agreed a fifteen-year lease-purchase deal with Network Rail. In May 2005 they completed the purchase early and bought almost the entire railway.[9] The only portion still leased is an area of the station yard in Wirksworth which has been retained by Network Rail as a Strategic Rail Site and is on a rolling 3-year lease to WyvernRail.[10]

In July 2005 WyvernRail adopted Duffield railway station under a scheme promoted by the Friends of the Derwent Valley Line. They undertook to provide care and maintenance of the station on behalf of Central Trains who operated it at that time.[11]

The line has now been brought up to passenger-carrying standards to allow trains to run through from Wirksworth to Duffield. At Duffield, passengers can change for mainline rail services by crossing from the branch platform (Platform 3) to one of the Network Rail platforms (either Platforms 1 or 2). Now that the line is open to Duffield it is the intention to revisit the larger Shottle site and refurbish the platform and surrounding areas (which needs considerable work). From 24 June 2012 a section of Shottle platform was reopened and it is now possible to alight there, although much work is still needed to complete this project. There may also be scope for reinstating the platform at Hazelwood but as of August 2015 there are currently no official plans.

Signalling and Line Operation

The railway principally operates on a Token system, with the Wirksworth to Duffield section currently holding one token in the form of an Annett's key. The Wirksworth to Ravenstor incline holds a different Annett's key, as does the shorter Wirksworth to Gorsey Bank section. Due to a ruling gradient on the line, the Wirksworth to Duffield section is protected by a trap-point just north of Wirksworth Station. The Wirksworth to Duffield token may change in the future as a passing loop has been installed at Shottle, to allow future two train running. This is a very similar system to what the lines operated when it originally opened in 1867, preserving some of the heritage of the line.

An unusual piece of track work has been installed at Wirksworth (and can be seen at Platform 3). The track is interlaced (overlapping) to allow either the platform to be used for passenger trains or to allow wagons to collect stone from the adjacent dock. The interlaced section of track is operated by a manual tight point but still comes under the control of the Wirksworth to Ravenstor train token.

There were very few physical signals on the line, apart from indications at cross-overs. One semaphore signal was located almost underneath Cemetery Lane Bridge, but this has recently been relocated to Shottle station as part of the signaling project for the passing loop. Another electronic signal was located at Duffield station to warn that it is the end of the line. It is believed that this signal was permanently lit for nearly forty years, before being swept away in the reconstruction of the platform ready for the reopening.

Film and TV appearances

The railway has seen various filming projects take place. The first filming venture came in the form of the Hellmann's Mayonnaise "Big Dollop" TV advert. The following year (2004) the railway was used again to film the National Geographic Channel's Seconds from Disaster where their ex-Gatwick Express coaches were used to depict the Eschede train disaster from 1998.[12]

In 2006 a location just south of Wirksworth was used to film the ITV drama Mobile[13][14] whilst in June 2007 Wirksworth was used as the fictional station of 'Lightbourne' in the BBC television series Casualty, season 22, episode 05.[15] The storyline of Casualty involved both the Gatwick Express stock that is located on site as well as 03158 acting as an approaching goods train. This locomotive departed for the Lincolnshire Wolds Railway in June 2009 but has since moved again to the Great Central Heritage Railway.

The BBC returned to the railway in August 2009 to shoot scenes for a new drama which aired between 1 and 5 March 2010 called Five Days II starring Suranne Jones, Anne Reid, Bernard Hill, Matthew McNulty and Ashley Walters. The station at Wirksworth was turned into the fictional station of 'Castlebury' in Yorkshire. This time though it was the turn of the DMU to have a lead role, with Met-Camm's E51505 and M51188 being used.

Filming took place on Saturday 28 August 2010 for an episode involving Derren Brown. The illusion aired on 8 September 2010 and featured Class 122 M55006 at Shottle on the line.

On-site Restoration Projects

Diesel Multiple Units

DMUs currently provide the backbone of Wyvern-rail services, though more recently there has been some steam and mainline diesel workings. The operational units based at EVR undergo regular maintenance; the type of work can range from mechanical servicing through to whole engine replacement, bodywork and repainting as well as the reconditioning of the interiors. The turnaround of each vehicle varies depending on the degree of work undertaken. This can be a few days, weeks or months but most are not usually withdrawn for lengthily periods.

With the variety of operable DMUs based at EVR there is generally a sufficient pool of serviceable units to choose from in the event of a failure.

The DMU team successfully restored class 119 W51073 to service.

There is also another DMU currently being restored. This is to enable a unique 3 car 101 set to be run, in green.


Recently the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway Association funded, in conjunction with WyvernRail, the building of a temporary maintenance facility and a reasonable sized water tank on the Wash Green Dock. This has enabled several restoration projects to start. One of the two Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 steam locomotives was completed during 2010 and ran several days on the Ravenstor incline. The other larger Andrew Barclay was completed in 2013. Both can now be seen on selected days and on the popular steam experience courses. Both of these projects have been funded by various grant funding as well as individuals and heritage lottery.

Stored on site are two more locomotives on both of which overhaul to working condition has started. These are "Kathryn" currently dismantled in the shed receiving a heavy mechanical overhaul and major boiler work, while Bagnall Austerity "The Duke" has been completely dismantled and has had its frames overhauled ready for reassembly on the wheels. Other work is being carried out. This is being done by the owners and 48624 locomotive group. It is expected that "The Duke" will be running for the start of the 2016 season.

Carriages and Wagons

The LMS Carriage Association of Peak Rail has established a small workshop on the Wirksworth site to provide further public interest in its rolling stock and enable more progress to be made on some of its fleet. Since March 2010 LMS Period III Third Open 27162 has been undergoing internal reconstruction from a stripped state. This included not only the refurbishment of the remaining woodwork but the manufacture of many new fittings from scratch such as the seats and tables. The vehicle was the subject of a major fast-track overhaul to the bodywork structure at Shildon during 2009. Passengers were able to sample 27162 during April/May 2011 when locomotive hauled passenger trains returned to the line between Wirksworth and Duffield. Following the initial runs, the carriage was taken out of service to enable a full refinish including lining out of the exterior. During this work, the vehicle sustained major fire damage in the early hours of Monday 17 October 2011 due to an accident as a result of welding. The LMSCA intend to restore the coach to full working order with repairs likely to completed during 2015.

The LMSCA are also focusing on another restoration project: LMS period III Porthole BTK 27001 Restoration is likely to take around two years. The end result will be an open style interior similar to that of 27162 with provision made for disabled passengers and will emerge as a BTO (brake third open). This is also likely to be completed in late 2015 or early 2016.

LMS Directors Inspection Saloon 999504 999504 (On loan from Great Central Railway) is no longer used as a brake coach thanks to the restoration of a privately owned Mk1 BSK.34625

Early 2013 saw the arrival of a further three MK1 carriages from the now dissolved Stratford and Broadway Railway site at long Marston, These were a CK, SO, and an SK. A group was formed by the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway Association to refurbish the CK in time for the May bank holiday weekend in 2013, creating a three-coach Mk1 set comprising a BSK, CK and SK. There will be the addition of the second SK and using the LMS Third Open, the line will see 5 coach trains running during the 2015 season.


Stations of the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, from north to south.
Location Status Opened Closed Notes Photograph
Ravenstor open 1 September 2005 New station built by the EVR, opened 1 September 2005.
Ravenstor Railway Station
Wirksworth open 1 October 1867 16 June 1947 Building demolished, platforms rebuilt. Reopened 1 October 2002.
Wirksworth railway station
Idridgehay open 1 October 1867 16 June 1947 Building in private ownership, platform survived. Reopened 8 March 2008.
Idridgehay railway station
Shottle open 1 October 1867 16 June 1947 Building in private ownership, platform survived. Reopened 9 August 2014.
Shottle railway station
Hazelwood closed 1 October 1867 16 June 1947 Building in private ownership, platform demolished. Platform re-instatement and possible restoration being considered.
Hazelwood railway station
Duffield open 1841 Buildings demolished, branch platform survived, main platforms still in use by Derwent Valley Line. Reopened 8 April 2011.
Duffield railway station

Rolling stock

Steam Locomotives

Ferrybridge No.3 on its first test run to Gorsey Bank after a total rebuild.

Diesel Locomotives

Second built Class 20 D8001 waits at Wirksworth in 2009

Diesel Multiple Units

Class 119, no. 51073, one of the first restoration projects to take place at the railway and one of only three surviving examples.


Narrow Gauge


WyvernRail Limited was established in 1992 as a community-owned and locally managed venture to restore and operate the Duffield to Wirksworth railway in Derbyshire, England.

The initial plan was to lease the line from Railfreight Construction (the British Rail sector then responsible for the line) and operate a community railway service between Wirksworth and Derby using leased diesel units, probably Class 142 ‘Pacers’. The model used was termed ‘Open Access’, a method of operation used by some operators today (most notably Hull Trains and Grand Central). The Railways Act 1993 created the framework that would allow WyvernRail to start the process, but the industry structure the Act created also caused the whole process to slow down to a crawl.

The line’s saving grace was the designation of Wirksworth Station Yard as a Strategic Freight Site,[18] which meant that the yard was protected for railway use, thus making closure of the line extremely difficult. The line had already had a ‘Near Death Experience’ in 1990 when a track lifting train began to lift approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) of continuously welded track between Idridgehay and Shottle. Fortunately, the work was stopped by British Railways management as it was reported that there was the possibility of new stone traffic on the line. As a result, the line was mothballed and the strategic freight site designation meant that this status remains on the line to this day.

Changes to the structure of the industry following privatisation meant that for several years during the mid-1990s WyvernRail often experienced difficulty in maintaining a consistent relationship with the authorities responsible for the line. However, while progress was slow on the ground, WyvernRail remained active wherever possible. While the most significant achievement was the award of a Light Railway Order for the line in 1996, WyvernRail also investigated other projects. During this period, the company’s approach changed from Open Access to a straight lease or purchase of the line. In 1997, the Derby and Wirksworth Railway Association was formed in response to growing interest in WyvernRail’s activities. The Association grew slowly over the next three years but, after renaming itself the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway Association in 2000, membership took off when access to the line was finally granted.

For WyvernRail, progress began at accelerate in the Summer of 2000, when Railtrack management not only took an interest in the firm’s activities but provided a proactive and imaginative basis for negotiations, including granting the company’s volunteers access to the line. This approach led to the gradual restoration of the line, conversion to a plc and the successful share launch of WyvernRail plc in April 2002.

Reference and further reading

  1. "Ecclesbourne Valley Railway - Events 2011". November 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2009.
  2. Sprenger, Howard (2004). The Wirksworth Branch. London: Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-625-6.
  3. "DERBY AREA SIGNALLING PROJECT - Inspector's Report". 17 November 2003. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  4. "Matlock Mercury and West Derbyshire News". Matlock. 28 August 1981.
  5. "Statutory Instrument 1996 No. 2660: The Duffield and Wirksworth Light Railway Order 1996". Retrieved 12 April 2009.
  6. "RAIL CHRONOLOGY : ECCLESBOURNE VALLEY RAILWAY : opening". Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  7. "Triumphant Return to Idridgehay" (PDF). April 2008. Retrieved 3 June 2009.
  8. "All Aboard for Idridgehay" (PDF). March 2008. Retrieved 3 June 2009.
  9. "WyvernRail Buys Ecclesbourne Valley Railway". 20 May 2005. Retrieved 12 April 2009.
  10. "ShareSave: Now there's an easier way to become a shareholder in WyvernRail PLC". Retrieved 12 April 2009.
  11. "Duffield Scene Edition 153" (PDF). July 2005. Retrieved 10 April 2009.
  12. "RailFilmLocations Filming in Derbyshire, UK - Productions". Retrieved 3 June 2009.
  13. "RailFilmLocations Filming in Derbyshire, UK - Mobile". Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  14. "Matlock mercury - Cameras at railway". 4 October 2006. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  15. "RailFilmLocations Filming in Derbyshire, UK - Casualty". Retrieved 12 April 2009.
  16. Industrial Railway Society (2009). Industrial Locomotives (15EL). Industrial Railway Society. ISBN 978-1-901556-53-7.
  17. "Rolling Stock Guide" (PDF). EVR.
  18. "SFS LIST for public view" (PDF). October 2008. Retrieved 12 April 2009.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ecclesbourne Valley Railway.

Coordinates: 53°05′00″N 1°34′08″W / 53.0832°N 1.569°W / 53.0832; -1.569

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/17/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.