Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Midland - Matlock review 1


Derby to Matlock 7/4/08

Cost of ticket £4.50  - Cheap Day return

Dept Derby 14.25  arrive Matlock 14.57  Journey time 32 mins

Distance: 17 ¼  miles  Weather: cloudy/sunny intervals

Train type: 2 car  Class 158  Sprinter DMU  (single track from Ambergate onwards)

Railway company: East Midland Trains

Name of Line: The Derwent Valley Line/ The Matlock Branch

Frequency of trains - approx one every two hours


I make the train with literally a couple of minutes spare after running/jogging from the car park in the centre of Derby. Derby station is barely visible as it's currently undergoing a massive renovation, so everything is boarded up. It seems to have just five platforms, which doesn't seem much for a major mainline station. There are two HST East Midland trains on two of the platforms and my train is waiting to depart on platform 2, so it looks quite full. The large engineering works to the east of the section is in the main no longer standing. The buildings that remain are being converted to flats. I remember with great affection coming to Derby Works open day back in 1970, seeing many Peaks undergoing various stages of refurbishment. Anyway, we pull away on time going under a road and over the River Derwent, which we will cross several times on our journey. We pass several small factories on our right as we continue up the Midland mainline, whilst many small redbrick houses can be seen on the left. We soon speed up to about 50 mph as a guard comes to check our tickets. The factories soon give way to out of town shopping outlets and then finally there's open fields as we leave Derby behind. The A6 runs parallel with the railway line on our right as a rusting track veers off to the right. Soon after we slow down as houses start appearing on the right and we arrive at Duffield, which is an island station with a bus stop. On the double platform there's the original footbridge, which leads to the original station building, which is in the process of being converted to flats. Duffield is a mixture of red brick terraced housing with newer 3 bedroom detached houses by the side of the railway line. The four tracks now become two as we enter the first tunnel on the journey, Milford Tunnel which is less than a mile long. The land on our left is now more hilly and we see the river Derwent on our right. It's also quite wooded now and we enter a small cutting before we stop at Belper station. It's looking very yellow with lots of daffodils growing on both sides of the station. There's also the station name made out of several large stones, and plenty of lavender growing, which adds a nice touch. It has a bus stop on each platform, but there's no sign of the original station building. We stay in a brick encased cutting as we leave Belper station and then cross the Derwent once again. We cross the river three more times as we pass the odd farm on the hillsides, which are starting to get steeper. We now leave the mainline behind on our right as we pull into Ambergate station, which has been rebuilt from its original place further back down the line. Most of the village is high up on the hillside to the right and the station is high above the main road, directly beneath it. Sadly Ambergate has gone from a four-platform station to a single platform one with a solitary bus stop. The driver goes to a box on the platform to get his key so we can continue our journey. The best part of the journey now begins as we enter a wooded cutting and speed up. We pass a water treatment works on the right, complete with solar panels and soon after arrive at Whatstandwell station - a contender for the most unusual place name in Britain! It originally had two platforms, but one is now abandoned and overgrown. There is the usual bus stop on the used platform, though it's nice to see the original cast iron footbridge still in use.  We then go through two tunnels in quick succession, before entering another wooded section, which is broken only by a caravan site. Then we see a large flat area below us on the left, which is where the train slows to stop at Cromford station, which also has two platforms. The disused one has a nice brick building on it. The in use platform has its original station building which is currently in the process of being refurbished. Builders and scaffolding abound. The old red livery of the LMS is apparent here. We enter another tunnel before emerging at Matlock Bath station, which is very busy. The buildings are like Swiss chalets, which is appropriate as on the right is cable car station, which takes up to the top of the Heights of Abraham, a local tourist destination. There's one more tunnel and then a cutting before we come to a final stop at Matlock station, which is not quite the end of the line. There's no buffers here and the track to the north of the station looks new as it leads to the preserved line belonging to Peak Rail which has a line from Matlock North station, a few hundreds yards further on as far as Rowsley south. The line did continue onto Buxton and many would like to see it restored, but it will take time and a lot of money to achieve this. At least peak Rail have restored Matlock station nicely with some interesting pictures on its walls and there is a large bookshop belonging to the group within the station building.  (Editors note Jan 2009: A green metal fence has now been put across the track on the far side of Matlock station separting the two lines).

Summary: A picturesque line through what many regard as Britain's "Little Switzerland".  I'm sure East Midlands could consider running trains hourly throughout the day, at least in the summer months, when a flourishing tourist trade uses this area. If the line is ever rejoined up to Buxton it could be a very busy and prosperous line.  MC