Ecclesbourne Valley Railway

Ecclesbourne Valley Railway

The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway is a heritage railway in Derbyshire, with operations based at Wirksworth station. It is currently planned to extend the railway along the former Midland Railway branch line which joined the main-line at Duffield.

It is soon to be the second Heritage Railway that operates a whole branch line in it's original form, after the Keighley & Worth Valley Steam Railway up in West Yorkshire

The line is operated by diesel locomotives, which haul former diesel multiple unit trailer cars and also uses heritage diesel multiple units.


*Ravenstor railway station
*Wirksworth railway station
*Idridgehay railway station (reopened to the public 8th March 2008)
*Shottle railway station (proposed)
*Hazlewood railway station (proposed)
*Duffield railway station - planned connection with main line services


*Steam Locomotives
**Barclay 0-4-0T 2360 "Wee Yorkie" (No3 in Green Livery) - Non Operational
**Barclay 0-4-0T 2217 "Henry Ellison" (Sprayed in Oil) - Non Operational
**Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T No 102 Cathryn - Non Operational

*Diesel Locomotives
**BR 0-6-0 Class 03 No. D2158
**BR 0-6-0 Class 03 No. 03084
**BR A1A-A1A Class 31 no. 31414 - Not in Use
**BR Class 20 no. D8001

*Diesel Multiple Units
**BR Derby Lightweight Single Car Unit 79900 "Iris"
**BR Class 101 unit 51188+51505
**BR Class 108 DTCL no. 56224
**BR Class 117/121 hybrid unit 51360+54289
**BR Class 117 TCL no. 59496 - Not In Use
**BR Class 119 DMBS no. 51073 - Under Restoration
**BR Class 122 no. 55006

*Electric Multiple Units (ex. Gatwick Express) - Static Exhibits
**BR Class 488/2 unit 488202 (72501+72617)
**BR Class 489 units 489101 (68500) and 489107 (68506)



The "Wirksworth Branch" was the product of early nineteenth 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.


The 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. It opened as far as Wirksworth in 1867.

From Wirksworth it would descend to Cromford using a convert|1503|yd|sing=on tunnel and a convert|280|yd|sing=on 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 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.


However, it allowed Wirksworth's limestone business to develop, the carriage of which was its mainstay until the middle of the twentieth century. There was also farm produce, particularly milk, some 800,000 gallons 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 half a mile 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, and passenger trains ceased in 1949. In the latter part of the twentieth century, people increasingly travelled by car and even the bus service has disappeared.

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.


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 continuous welded rail in the eighties, 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, effectively preventing the easy reinstatement of any future link.

WyvernRail plc is a community-owned and locally-managed venture to restore and operate the Duffield to Wirksworth railway (the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway) in Derbyshire, England.

WyvernRail Limited was founded in late 1992 and its founders came from the worlds of BR management and railway restoration. Three years after the last train had run, they were aware of the potential which could exist from the then rumoured privatisation of Britain’s railways.

The initial plan was to lease the line from Railfreight Construction (the BR 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, 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 one mile 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's 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.

Print references

*cite book|last=Sprenger|first=Howard|title=The Wirksworth Branch|year=2004|location=London|publisher=Oakwood Press|isbn=0-85361-625-6

Reference and further reading

*cite book|last=Sprenger|first=Howard|title=The Wirksworth Branch|year=2004|location=London|publisher=Oakwood Press|isbn=0-85361-625-6

External links

* [ Ecclesbourne Valley Railway official website]
* [ Ecclesbourne Valley Railway Association volunteers site.]
* [ Statutory Instrument 1996 No. 2660: The Duffield and Wirksworth Light Railway Order 1996]
* [ British Railways in 1960 - the Wirksworth branch]
* [ British Railways in 1960 - the Wirksworth incline]

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