Churnet Valley Railway

Churnet Valley Railway
Churnet Valley Railway
Churnet Valley Railway, 1940s weekend.jpg
"Winston Churchill" at the 1940s weekend
Commercial operations
Name British Rail
Built by North Staffordshire Railway
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Preserved operations
Owned by North Staffordshire Railway Society
Operated by North Staffordshire Railway Society
Stations 4
Length 5.25 miles (8.4 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Commercial history
Opened 13 June 1849
Closed to passengers 4 January 1965
Closed 30 August 1988
Preservation history
24 August 1996 First trains run[1]
Headquarters Cheddleton and Kingsley and Froghall
[v · d · e]Churnet Valley Railway
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Rudyard & Macclesfield
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Trackbed breached by Supermarket
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Birchall Tunnel (69 yards)
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Cauldon Low Branch (MCR)
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Stoke-on-Trent Branch (MCR)
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Leek Brook (run-round loop only)
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Tramway to Mental Asylum
Enter and exit tunnel
Cheddleton Tunnel (531 yards)
Station on track
Stop on track
Station on track
Kingsley and Froghall
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Oakamoor Sand Sidings
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Oakamoor Tunnel (497 yards)
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Trackbed breached by JCB Works
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Ashbourne Line
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to Uttoxeter

The Churnet Valley Railway is a standard gauge heritage railway to the east of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire. The CVR has two main operational headquarters - Cheddleton station, where the motive power department is based and where the first trains ran, and Kingsley and Froghall station, where many passengers begin their journey.

At present the railway is 5.25 miles (8.4 km) long, although trains operate over a further several miles of railway between the terminus at Leekbrook Junction and the stone quarries at Caldon Low on a semi-regular basis. This stretch of railway is owned by the Moorlands & City Railway, a commercial venture which aims to run freight trains between Caldon and the main railway network at Stoke, with an agreement that the CVR can run passenger trains over it in return for the M&CR's use of the Churnet Valley line as far as Oakamoor quarry and, in the future, Alton. This mutually beneficial arrangement will give the CVR increased prominence and status in the competitive heritage railway sector and as a tourist attractive in the North of England.


Early days

The North Staffordshire Railway Society was formed in the 1970s and bought the old goods yard at Cheddleton Station. Workshops were created there and the first locomotives arrived in 1977, although British Rail were still using the adjacent railway to move industrial sand from the quarry at Oakamoor. British Rail ceased using the line in 1988 and the society began to arrange for the purchase of the stretch from Oakamoor to Leekbrook Junction.

The first trains ran over the preserved line between Cheddleton and Leekbrook, a distance of roughly 1 mile (1.6 km), on 24 August 1996.[1]

The route

Kingsley and Froghall station is where many passengers begin their journey. Despite its name the station lies within Froghall village, Kingsley being a further mile away along the A52 road. At Froghall, a short walk away, is the canal wharf which is the site of some historic lime kilns.

From Kingsley & Froghall the railway passes the historic Thomas Bolton Copperworks factory (some of which is derelict with other parts still in use) and meanders through the forested valley, through Hazles Wood and Booth's Wood and on toward Consall. The station here is sandwiched between the Caldon Canal and the Churnet river. There is a nature reserve nearby, whilst the Black Lion public house sits on a bank overlooking the railway, canal and river. This pub is unusual in that there are no public roads leading to it. Access is on foot via the canal towpath or the railway. Consall is now fully signalled and the passing loop allows two trains to run on special events and during high season.

Trains leaving Consall face a stiff gradient as they begin the section towards Cheddleton. Initially this section of railway too is heavily forested but after a half-mile or so the trees fall away to reveal open farmland and moorland. Trains pass the motive power depot as they arrive into Cheddleton station, where locomotives under repair may be glimpsed in the yard. An early start of around 6AM awaits the volunteers who light up the steam locomotives of a morning here. The Grade II listed Victorian station building at Cheddleton houses a small relics museum, toilets, ticket office and waiting room. In July 2011 a new temporary catering facility was opened on the platform. A more permanent facility based on platform 2 is in the process of being funded by a public appeal with construction due to be completed by 2012. Continuing from Cheddleton, trains run past a local caravan park and through the 531-yard (486 m) tunnel, emerging at Leekbrook Junction. As the name suggests this was a junction serving railways from Stoke, Leek, Alton and the quarries at Caldon. Today there is no platform and trains terminate here. Passengers cannot alight at present. On occasion trains continue through to Caldon, using the recently reopened Moorlands & City Railway line, a distance of some seven or so miles.

The CVR also owns the trackbed between Kingsley & Froghall and Oakamoor. The railway is in situ as far as the Oakamoor sand sidings, which once served the now disused quarry. A further short stretch through the tunnel here and into Oakamoor station requires relaying before trains can run to Oakamoor once again, although this is one of the medium-term objectives of both the CVR and M&CR companies as part of the returning of trains to Oakamoor and Alton beyond.


Signal Boxes

Each station (or station site) currently served by passengers has a signal box, although only one is currently fully operational:

  • Leek (Proposed) - Would require new signal box plus signalling on possible new site of new station in the future.
  • Leek Brook - Only original box standing on the line. Currently disused awaiting funding. Internally all but the lever frame itself has been removed.
  • Cheddleton - North Staffordshire Railway box relocated in 1978 from Elton. This currently houses a lever frame which allows access between the "main line" and the bay platform/motive power depot but operationally is regarded as a ground (shunt) frame, no other operational signalling equipment being present.
  • Consall - The signal box originally came from Clifton, near Ashbourne and was stored for around 18 years in Cheddleton yard before moving to Consall in 2002. This is currently the only fully operational box on the railway, being commissioned in 2004 to allow two train running.
  • Kingsley and Froghall - Kingsley & Froghall never had a signal box at the station, the area instead having two boxes. One was located north of the station to control Bolton's sidings (an important industrial exchange site), the other being south of the station, controlling the junction to the small Froghall Wharf branch. In preservation, a platform box (from Rushton) has been installed NSR style on the down platform where it is currently used as an office. It has no other signalling equipment inside.
  • Oakamoor (Proposed) - Oakamoor would require a signal box as part of a possible extension to the station itself in which it would control signalling and safety at the station in the future.

Current operations

The railway currently mostly runs the "one train staff" system, Consall box spending most of its time "switched out". The railway is split into three sections: Leekbrook Junction-Consall, Consall-Kingsley & Froghall and Kingsley & Froghall-Oakamoor. The latter, not being used for passenger trains, is protected by a stop board south of passenger operations at Froghall. Most running days see the Leekbrook Junction-Consall and Consall-Kingsley & Froghall locked together with a single engine/train in service. On peak days they can be split, Consall box opened, and a simple two train service operated.

Future plans & involvement with Moorlands & City Railway

As the railway expands it is expected for more signalling to follow. The company has proposed upgrading works to Cheddleton as part of a wider development scheme for that station. Since November 2010, when the Moorlands & City Railway reopened the section from Leekbrook Junction to the site of the quarry and former station at Caldon Low, trains have operated on a semi-regular basis along this stretch of line, a feature of which is continuous steep gradients from the moment trains depart Leekbrook until the summit at Ipstones is reached. Throughout 2011 the CVR have operated steam services along this section roughly once a month. It is hoped that the M&CR will have restored the section between Leekbrook and Stoke to running order by 2012, at which point the CVR may also operate steam services along that line occasionally.

A third objective of the M&CR is to restore the missing line of approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) between Leekbrook Junction and Leek town, where the former station has long been demolished and the land developed upon. A new station will be built here, returning trains to the town of Leek for the first time in decades. The M&CR intend on operating a commuter service between Leek and Stoke, whilst the CVR will extend their regular services into Leek, eliminating the need to terminate at Leekbrook where there are no station facilities.

Finally, the M&CR aim to operate passenger services from Stoke and/or Leek, along CVR metals and into Alton, to connect with the immensely popular tourist resort of Alton Towers. This will require continued cooperation between both companies, upgrading the existing track between Froghall and Oakamoor sand sidings, returning rails through the tunnel and into the station at Oakamoor, and negotiating an agreement for the use of the trackbed between Oakamoor and Alton, which is currently employed as a cyclepath. The track bed is double track width, as the entire Churnet Valley line was built double track, and it is expected that trains will be allowed to operate alongside the cycle path, as has been successfully and safely achieved on other heritage railways such as the Avon Valley Railway. The station at Alton remains entirely in tact, although privately owned, and the CVR/M&CR may operate into an all-new terminus in this village.


Steam in the Churnet Valley - Consall station
  • Leek
    • New built station few metres close to old site
    • 69 yard "Birchall Tunnel" close by
  • Cauldon Low
    • TBA
  • Leek Brook
    • Currently no public access (station platform & grade two listed signal box, unrestored)
    • Run round loop
    • 531 yard "Cheddleton Tunnel" nearby
    • Rail connection to Moorland & City Railways
  • Cheddleton
    • Operational Headquarters
    • Original Victorian station building
    • North Staffordshire Railway museum
    • Refreshment room & booking office
    • Motive power depot & engine shed (open to public)
    • Carriage & wagon restoration workshops (closed to public)
    • "The Boat Inn" public house nearby
  • Consall
    • Sleepy rural station with period buildings & waiting room
    • "The Black Lion" public house nearby
  • Kingsley and Froghall
    • North Staffordshire style rebuilt station building
    • Award winning traditional tea rooms
    • Picnic area
    • "The Railway Inn" public house nearby

Beyond Froghall....

  • Oakamoor Sand Sidings
    • Limited passenger services (usually during selected special events) operated by DMUs approximately 4–6 days per year
    • No passenger facilities
    • Particularly scenic section of line
    • "Oakamoor Tunnel"

Future Extension


  • 2008 National Railway Heritage Awards, National Express East Coast Volunteers Award, awarded for the reconstruction of the Up platform and waiting shelter at Kingsley and Froghall. The project was joint first with the Great Central Railway.
  • 2005 National Railway Heritage Awards, Ian Allan Publishing Award, awarded for Consall station and signalling and Kingsley & Froghall station

Past and ongoing projects

Leekbrook Junction

The 2010 activities of Moorland & City Railways (MCR) in the areas north and east of the CVR's terminus at Leekbrook Junction, have triggered (or brought forward previous) redevelopment plans for the area. The initial heritage operation of MCR's Cauldon Lowe branch would require additional infrastructure in the Leekbrook area. Whilst much infrastructure remains on MCR land, the CVR side has seen enhancements during 2010 to complement the new operations. The signal box, after years of neglect, is currently (Nov 2010) receiving external restoration work to safeguard its future use. The platform and area around the signal box has been cleared of 20 years of vegetation. A ground frame is also to be installed to control the MCR turnouts and the north set of the points that form the CVR's run round loop. The same loop is also to become a signalled passing loop.

Relocation of Whitebridge Crossing cottage

In November 2008 a investigation was undertaken for the proposed relocation of Whitebridge Crossing cottage from its present location next to the West Coast main line at Stone to the down platform at Cheddleton station. The cottage will be used as a visitor centre incorporating a cafe, toilets and a museum. It will replace existing portacabins currently used as a shop and the temporary catering facility built in 2011. It is proposed to dismantle the existing 200-year-old listed building and have it rebuilt at Cheddleton brick-by-brick with a basement to be incorporated into the proposals. Empty since the last crossing keeper left in 1998, the building has been left derelict and vandalised. Because of the building's current close proximity to the running line at Stone, it cannot be sold or put to any other use in its present location.[2] The portacabins located on the proposed site at Cheddleton were moved in early 2010, and the ground cleared ready for the relocation works to start. All other progress has been “behind the scenes” and has involved a long journey of essential meetings and paperwork to enable to project to proceed.

Kingsley & Froghall up platform

Kingsley and Froghall from the road overbridge in 2011 with the up platform at upper left

This project, lasting a little under two years from 2007 to 2009 involved the reinstatement of the “up” direction platform at Kingsley & Froghall station, all passenger services having used the opposite (down) platform since the station reopened in 2001. The project became possible in early 2007 following a £10,000 grant for a heritage trail between Consall & Froghall supplemented with financial backing from the North Staffordshire Railway Company.[3] The rebuilding work began with the reinstatement of the section overhanging the river (about one third of the platforms length) which had been removed during the demolition of the original station. The other main part of the project was to rebuild the wooden waiting shelter, to the original 1849 design. The brick foundations had survived intact and were deemed to be in sufficiently good order to re-use, subject to some localised repairs. The wooden structure was fabricated off site to exact measurements and then assembled on the existing base.[3] and was completed in February 2008. 2008 also saw the wall between the shelter and the end of the platform rebuilt along with the fencing covering the remainder of the platform. Resurfacing of the platform followed along with several other smaller projects including the platform lighting and signage. Access was provided with a new foot crossing at the south of the platform (there never was a footbridge), replacing a previous foot crossing at the north end deemed unsuitable for reinstatement due to safety issues regarding visibility. The project was concluded in February 2009 when the platform was used by passengers for the first time during the railway’s steam gala. Whilst the platform is now officially open, the lack of signalling at Kingsley & Froghall restricts passenger trains to the down platform except for special events.

Kingsley & Froghall extension

Froghall station

Almost immediately after the opening of Consall station in 1998, attention turned to extending the railway’s operating line a further two miles to Kingsley & Froghall station, an important commercial decision for the growth of the railway, as previously Cheddleton was the only public vehicular point of access, and the station and car park were limiting the number of visitors that the railway could accommodate. A share issue was launched in the summer of 2000 in order to raise funds. 2000 saw vegetation clearance completed along with much of the drainage and track work required to bring the track into passenger operating condition. 14 October 2000 saw “top & tailed” diesel hauled passenger specials, followed shortly after by a slight setback in November 2000 after severe flooding damaged at least 3 sections along the extension. The following year, 2001, other works for the extension were completed, notably the run round loop at Kingsley & Froghall station, as well as final tamping of the two miles of plain track. The main down platform that was to be used for passengers, reduced to a grassy mound following demolition by BR, was also rebuilt. A car park and access to the adjacent A52 was also arranged. The extension was opened on 11 August 2001, extending the CVR’s passenger operations to 5.25 miles (8.4 km) and returning passenger services to Kingsley & Froghall after a 35-year gap.

Future extensions

The railway harbours a number of mid to long-term plans for expansion.


The 69yd Birchall Tunnel, between Leekbrook Junction and Leek

To the north, a short extension could return trains to the market town of Leek, although a new site would be required as the site of the old station is no longer accessible due to development over the years. Beyond Leek, a supermarket access road built on the original route makes further expansion towards Rudyard Lake and the main line at North Rode (near Macclesfield) financially improbable for the near future. The area of Leek where the remaining trackbed currently lies, Cornhill, is the site of a disused Cattle Market. The railway is known to be included in current regeneration talks and plans being held by the council. Approximately one mile of track would be required to link the cattle market site with the existing infrastructure in place at Leekbrook Junction. After the Froghall extension of 2001, the railway made it clear than the extension into Leek was the next priority in terms of physical expansion.


The surviving building near Alton Towers

To the south, the line as far as the sand sidings at Oakamoor remains, after which there is a tunnel before Oakamoor station is reached. The track to the sidings requires upgrading for passenger use, and work on the tunnel and the rebuilding of the station site would be necessary, although it is considered viable. The railway owns the track as far as the sand sidings, the tunnel and the trackbed south being in the hands of the council.

Continuing south, the next station after Oakamoor is Alton Towers, where the station building has been restored, although it is not owned by the railway. The prospect of running trains as far as Alton is lucrative given the tourist potential provided by the popular Alton Towers which is located nearby. This is something of a long-term prospect, however, especially as this section of track now forms part of National Route 54 of the National Cycle Network.

This four mile section (from Froghall-Alton Towers) is in principle regarded as commercially viable to reopen, and has been stated as a longer term expansion aim of Moorland & City Railways.

The next station on the route south of Alton is Denstone, though no railway has any plans to extend this far. A JCB works makes expansion south to the mainline at Uttoxeter improbable without significant financial outlay.


The level crossing at Apesford (Cauldon Lowe Line) before the line was re-opened

East of Leekbrook Junction is the 8 mile Cauldon Lowe line, which serves the quarries at Caldon. It joined the line with a triangle, a single leg of which is still in situ. The line is part of the Moorland & City network (see separate section) and re-opened in a heritage capacity in November 2010. As the Churnet Valley Railway has certain running rights on the Moorland & City network, it is feasible that potential future services could use the line, however the line serves very little other than the quarries.


A 1962 view of Bucknall, one of the several demolished stations on the 10 mile line to Stoke

West of Leekbrook Junction is the 10 mile Stoke-on-Trent line. The line is part of the Moorland & City network (see separate section) and is currently mothballed pending work to return it to a usable condition. As the Churnet Valley Railway has certain running rights on the Moorland & City network, it is feasible that potential future services could use the line.

Possible extension towards Stoke-on-Trent railway station, could see the Churnet Valley Railway interchange with commuter rail services on the West Coast Main Line as time, money and finances could allow.

Moorland and City Railway Ltd

A train on the Moorlands and City line at Bradnop, on the first weekend of public operation

Moorland and City Railways is a commercial company set up by some of the directors of the Churnet Valley Railway with the aim of re-opening the line from Stoke-on-Trent to Cauldon Lowe. The company has already taken ownership of the entirety of the route with the exception of Leek-Brook junction which is owned by the Churnet Valley Railway. The company has already begun work on the section from Leek-Brook Junction to Cauldon-Lowe which opened for a steam gala operated by the CVR on 13 November 2010.

Moorland and City plans to open additional sections to a new station outside of Leek and to Alton which would serve the popular Alton Towers theme park. It would aim to operate service from Stoke (connecting with National Rail services) to Leek where services would reverse to travel either to Alton over the CVR or Cauldon Lowe.

The company will operate as a commercial profit-making venture using its own rolling stock. It has already agreed track access rights with the CVR which will provide a source of revenue for the CVR whilst the heritage railway will enjoy free access to all of the Moorland and City network.

The first non public service from the Churnet Valley Railway on to the Cauldon line left from Cheddleton station on 3 October 2010.

Locomotives & Rolling Stock

Steam locomotives

Number Type Livery Status Notes
1827 Beyer Peacock 0-4-0 Lined Black Under Overhaul Contract Overhaul - normally based at Foxfield Railway.
5197 S160 2-8-0 USA Black Static Display Taken out of service in December 2009 following expiration of boiler ticket.
5199 Large Prairie 2-6-2 BR Lined Green Operational Visiting - normally based at Llangollen Railway.
6046 S160 2-8-0 N/A Under Overhaul Completion expected 2012.
44767 Black 5 4-6-0 BR Lined Black Operational Visiting - normally based at NYMR.
48173 8F 2-8-0 N/A Dismantled awaiting overhaul Long-term project. Restoration likely after completion of 6046.

Locomotives off site and former residents

Number Type Livery Status Notes
44422 4F 0-6-0 BR black Operational Former resident locomotive. Currently at the Nene Valley Railway. May return to the CVR in the future.
68030 Hunslet 0-6-0 BR black Operational On loan to Strathspey Railway.
80136 4MT 2-6-4T BR Lined Black Awaiting Overhaul Former resident. Currently at Crewe Heritage Centre.
92134 9F 2-10-0 BR Black Under Restoration Undergoing restoration at LNWR Crewe. Long-term project.

Diesel locomotives

Number Name Type Livery Status Notes
Brightside Yorkshire Engine Company 0-4-0 Black Under Repair Currently dismantled for engine overhaul
6 Roger H. Bennett Yorkshire Engine Company "Janus" 0-6-0 NCB Blue Operational ~
D2334 Class 04 Green Operational ~
25322 Tamworth Castle Class 25 "Ice Cream Van" Blue Static Display Cosmetically restored in 2008
33021 Class 33 Blue Operational On loan from Tysley
33102 Sophie (Unofficial) Class 33 Blue Under Restoration Receiving major bodywork overhaul. Currently the main diesel project
37075 Class 37 Blue Operational ~
37407 Class 37 Transrail Grey Stored ~
37424 Class 37 Transrail Grey Stored ~
47524 Class 47 Rail Express Systems Stored Restoration to continue following completion of 33102

Diesel Multiple Units

Number(s) Class Type Livery Status Notes
M50455/E59701/M50517 Class 104/Class 110 DMBS/TSL/DMCL Green Operational E59701 on loan from Wensleydale Railway
M59137 Class 104 TCL Green Under Restoration ~
977391/977392 Class 101 Departmental (PWay) unit Yellow Stored ~
ADB977554 Class 104 DTCL Blue Stored Last used for demonstration Sandite trains in 2008
53437/M53494 Class 104 DMBS/DMCL NSE/Blue Stored ~

Coaching Stock

Coaching Stock in use on passenger trains currently consists almost entirely of Ex-BR Mark 1 vehicles, four or five being a typical rake. A 1966 built BR Mark 2 and an LMS Period 3 coach are also used, both on loan from the Foxfield Steam Railway. These vehicles run in BR maroon livery which is historically correct for the railway’s 1950s/1960s image. Currently only one rake is required for normal services.

Two Mark 1 vehicles are also used for the railway's Moorlander dining services. One is an authentic Kitchen Car, the other being a Second Open converted into a dining coach. Both coaches have recently been overhauled and repainted (between November 2009 & March 2010) into Pullman Umber/Cream following a vandal attack in 2009.

Several vehicles built earlier and later than the Mark 1s are preserved on the line, however none are currently in serviceable condition.

Number Type Livery Set Used In Notes
E4354 Tourist Second Open Maroon Main operating rake ~
S4392 Tourist Second Open Maroon Spare rake ~
4779 Second Open Umber/Cream Dining rake Converted into dining coach for Moorlander services. Overhauled & repainted 2009
M5175 Mk2 Tourist Second Open Maroon Main operating rake On loan from Foxfield Steam Railway
E13236 First Open Maroon Main operating rake Entered service 20/11/10 following a 3 year rebuild (from scrap condition) including conversion from a First Corridor (FK)
M16155 Corridor Composite Maroon Main operating rake Repainted 2009
27249 LMS Open Third Maroon Spare rake On loan from Foxfield Steam Railway
M35343 Brake CorridorSecond Maroon Main operating rake Overhauled & Repainted 2007
M35473 Brake Corridor Second Maroon Spare rake ~
80030 Restaurant Corridor Umber Dining rake Overhauled & repainted 2010
W86197 General Utility Van Maroon Used for special events only ~

In addition, Mark 1 General Utility Van, W86500 is currently under restoration

Freight Vehicles

Typically for a railway of this size, the CVR does not yet have a dedicated wagon restoration group, maintenance of a nucleus of essential vehicles being undertaken by the more established Coach Works. Operational wagons tend to be examples which have an essential function rather than historical importance alone.

Because of this, the operational fleet of freight vehicles is relatively small. They can be summarised as follows:

  • Rake of 4 Dogfish/Catfish ballast wagons used exclusively for track renewal.
  • "Demonstration Freight" set consisting of five 4 wheel vans, an open "tube" wagon, a 4 wheel oil tanker & bogie bolster. All are in BR Bauxite livery except the tanker and bogie bolster which are black & grey respectively. The five vans in this rake have the dual purpose of being storage areas, and the bolster can carry large items on top. This rake is often complemented by a standard LMS Brake Van (also bauxite) which is currently (April 2011) the only fully operational brake van on the railway.
  • Several vans & well wagons exist around the railway, externally restored but not used in trains.

Restoration of wagons is done sporadically. The Coach Works directed its full resources towards eight wagons for a significant part of 2007, the majority of the vehicles which now form the demonstration freight set being restored during this period. The ballast rake was restored in 2001 and all other vehicles have been restored by individual owners at various times.

In April 2011, restoration work on brake van DB993707 started, this is currently (June 2011) the only wagon undergoing restoration work.

There are no particular times when any freight stock can be advertised as being in service, however the demonstration freight set sees occasional use during (some) galas, driver experience days and photographic charters.

Supporting groups on the CVR

  • 4F Loco Fund (44422) [4]
  • BRCW Group (DMUs) [5]
  • Churnet Valley Model Railway Department [6]
  • Churnet Valley Railway Telecomms Department [7]
  • ST4 Group (D1842 & 47524) [8]


External links

Coordinates: 53°3′52″N 2°1′35″W / 53.06444°N 2.02639°W / 53.06444; -2.02639

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