Situated at the top of Middleton Incline on the High Peak Trail is the restored Middleton Top Engine House, which was built in 1829. In the past it was used to haul wagons up the incline, but although those days have long since gone, it can still be seen in motion on selected dates between April and October - for further information click here.
Middleton Top Engine House is the sole survivor of nine that once stood at the top of every incline along the Cromford and High Peak Railway. It is designated as an Ancient Monument, together with its Butterley beam engine which in the past hauled the cables up the track. Originally timber was supplied daily to fire the boilers, now it is compressed air that does the job.
Derbyshire County Council are now the custodians of this important piece of our railway heritage, visited by enthusiasts from all over the world. During 2003, it was featured on BBC2, when Fred Dibnah was the programme presenter.
The last commercial service train to operate on the Cromford High Peak Railway, ran on the 21 April 1967. This was not the last train, however, and the final journeys made on the line before closure were a series of excursions, which took place north of Middleton on Sunday 30 April. They brought to an end what had been an enterprise of considerable engineering skill and ingenuity when work began in 1825. The line opened for business in 1830 and linked Cromford Wharf, on Cromford Canal to Whaley Bridge, reaching an height of 1,264 feet at one point.
From High Peak Junction the line climbs steeply up to Black Rocks, popular with climbers and families for the woodland walks and superb views. Steeple Grange Light Railway, that operates on what was once a branch line of the Cromford and High Peak Railway is passed on the way to Middleton Top. Only a short distance further along the trail from Steeple Grange, is the National Stone Centre, officially opened in October 1990, on the site of six disused quarries.
The engine house hauled wagons up Middleton Incline, a distance of 708 yards and gradient of 1 in 8.5, for 134 years before retirement in 1963. At the outset it had been intended to construct a canal system to link the East Midlands with Manchester and by-pass the Trent and Mersey Canal. The canal was never built due to technical difficulties, one of the main reasons being the lack of water on the limestone plateau.
Water conservation has always been an important factor in the White Peak, when even after heavy rainfall the rainwater quickly disappears through the porous limestone rock. Two reservoirs once stood on what is now the picnic lawn outside Middleton Top Visitor Centre, where rainwater was diverted from the roof of the locomotive shed and recycled from the engine house. Water tanks were hauled along the line to provide water for the locomotives and line-side cottages.
Apart from the engine house, there is a visitor centre at Middleton Top where the story of the Cromford and High Peak Railway is told. The centre also provides information, maps, walk leaflets, books, gifts and refreshments. There is a car park, toilets, cycle hire centre and picnic site. The Cycle Hire Centre is conveniently located next to the trail and provides well maintained bikes to suit individual needs, including cycles suitable for use by people with disabilities. The High Peak Trail is the longest of the trails in the Peak district and links with the Tissington Trail at Parsley Hay.
The Cromford and High Peak Trail is suitable for walkers, cyclists and horse riders and there is no better way of exploring the beautiful countryside of Derbyshire and the Peak District. It provides 17.5 miles of gentle exercise in a relaxing environment, along a mostly flat, traffic free route and, when Tissington Trail is added this figure rises to over 30 miles. The trails provide not only fantastic scenic views, but in the spring and summer the wild flowers attract many birds and insects.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Wirksworth Heritage Centre: (Tel. 01629 825225) where the ‘Wirksworth Story’ is told taking you on a fascinating journey through time on three floors of the centre. The special displays are excellent and if you want something different you can always try a computer game. For further information see special feature.
The National Stone Centre: (Tel. 01629 824833) tells the story of stone, its geological and industrial history. The exhibition inside shows how advanced technology makes use of stone in an incredible number of ways. Outside the visitor centre, the quarry trail takes you back over three hundred million years. Open all year seven days a week.
Steeple Grange Light Railway: (Tel. 01246 205542 during running times 07769 802587) is an 18 inch gauge line built on the trackbed of the CHPR now the High Peak Trail, it provides a scenic ride of approximately 20 minutes. The surrounding area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Special events are held regularly, please telephone for precise details. Also see special feature.
Crown Yard Kitchen: (Tel. 01629 822020) located next to the Heritage Centre. This friendly little café is open daily and provides a good range of hot and cold meals. Seating outside. Art and craft displays.
The Rising Sun, Middleton: (Tel. 01629 822420) walkers and cyclists are very welcome at this popular pub within easy reach of the High Peak Trail. Open all day. Meals served at lunchtime and in the evenings during the summer. There is a beer garden and a secure lock up for cycles.
Middleton Top Visitor Centre: (Tel. 01629 823204) light refreshments available, picnic lawn outside and picnic tables located at convenient points on the High Peak Trail.
The Pennine Bridleway National Trail starts at Middleton Top, passing through various villages to Hayfield. For more information:
All the images on this page have been kindly supplied by Derbyshire County Council.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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