The Cromford Canal

Thursday morning, we walked down from the hotel to Cromford Mills, less than half-a-mile away.  These mills were the site of the first cotton-spinning machine invented by Richard Arkwright.  This whole stretch of the Derwent Valley and its mills has been designated as a World Heritage Site – a slight contrast to the pyramids and the Taj Mahal, but nonetheless the birthplace of the industrial revolution and of the factory system of production.  As well as a museum, there was a interesting line of shops to explore.

We discovered that our hotel had been built by Sir Richard as his home, but he had never lived there.  And we found this description of the great man – it seems to describe a number of my friends (ignoring the Lancashire bit)….

A few yards away was the terminus of the Cromford Canal, and the old wharf buildings have been restored.  Unfortunately the narrow boat was fully booked, so we walked for a mile and a half along the canal and then back (much better for us both, really.)

Once again the railway enthusiast’s instinct cut in.  Along the canal, the main A6 road, the canal and the Derby to Buxton railway (originally the Midland Railway line to Manchester, before Dr Beeching axed it north of Buxton) ran side by side.  Unfortunately, the main line service was one an hour, and always went past at a bad spot for photography.

However, a mile or so along the towpath, we came across High Peak Junction, terminus of the Cromford and High Peak Railway, and one of the oldest railway workshops (and certainly the oldest in existence) in the world.  The CHPR was an eccentric backwater, that remained in operation until 1967 serving quarries in the area.  Features included a number of rope operated inclines, and the steepest – 1 in 14 – locomotive operated gradient in the UK.  For many years, it was operated by the pretty little North London Railway 0-6-0T’s, moved there by the LMS in the 1930’s.

The workshops have been restored.

There is an exhibition in these two ex-LMS brake vans.

And beyond them is the start of the Cromford Incline, now part of the High Peak walking trail.

One of two water towers on the site.  There was no steady water supply on the high level lines above this incline, so water for the locomotives (isolated at the high level) was carried up to them in old locomotive tenders.

The engine shed has been well preserved.


Inside the workshops is this nice model of the site.  A bit old and battered, but built to scale and giving a very good impression of how the site would have looked.  Below, the incline starts at the top of the picture, behind the buildings.


Now, the river banks are well vegetated, with mature trees having grown since closure in 1967.  The left bank of the canal where the picnic umbrellas are is the same area as where the tracks are being lifted in the model above.

A little further along the canal is a fine transhipment building, to load the barges from railway wagons.  The railway used to run behind this shed and onward to join the main Midland line with a junction and interchange sidings.

We walked a little further, across an aqueduct over the Derwent, then retraced our steps.  We got half way up the hotel drive before the heavens opened with a short sharp shower!

And here is a dreadful warning.  Perhaps this could be modified as a notice for layouts at exhibitions???

So that’s OUR holiday snaps.  It was an excellent week away, and we came back having eaten too much, talked too much, and walked about right.  And I’ll hand back to Allan and Ron for a few more days.

About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
This entry was posted in Inspiration, Out and about, Prototype and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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