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Peak Rail Steam Railway

Peak Rail Steam Railway

Welcome to the first of my Location Reports.

My intention is to provide information for the photographer, and casual visitor, to various places of interest.

See the main Location Reports page for more details of the series and links to the reports.

Railway Overview

The Peak Rail steam railway is part of the old Midland Railway line that originally ran from London St Pancras to Manchester Central via Derby.

The railway was identified for closure as part of the infamous ‘Beeching Report’ of the 1960s.

As a result, local passenger services ceased between Matlock and Buxton in 1967 and through express trains finally ended in 1968.

Currently local services, operated by East Midlands Trains, still run from Derby to Matlock, which is the ‘mainline’ terminus.

Directions to Peak Rail.

At Matlock, you change to platform 2 and join the Peak Rail line for a run of 4 miles through to Rowsley South.

In 2011 arrangements were finalised to allow Peak Rail trains to run into the mainline station making access to the steam railway extremely easy.

In November, January and February only, Peak Rail trains run into Matlock Riverside station which is slightly north of the mainline station. It is only a short riverside walk into the main town.

The railway is open throughout the year. You will find both steam and old BR diesels running the service.

Darley Dale Railway Station

Darley Dale is the first station north of Matlock.

There is a small museum featuring  various exhibits showing the railway during its working period. The exhibits include photos, posters and items of equipment that give a good flavour of times gone past.

Rowsley Railway Station

The northern terminus is Rowsley South. The station is a modern build, albeit in traditional style, alongside the main engine shed and engineering facilities.

On the station is a nice buffet and a gift shop with lots of transport related wares.

During British Rail days this site was a sizeable depot and maintenance facility.

Within this engineering complex are several enthusiast groups dedicated to restoring, preserving and maintaining various historical locomotives and rolling stock.
Below are a few links to some of these groups.

Heritage Shunters Trust

LMS Carriage Association

Renown Repulse Restoration Group

Also to be found at Rowsley South is a picnic area which gives a good view of the railways operations. There is a short narrow gauge railway operated as the Derbyshire Dales Narrow Gauge Railway which runs alongside the picnic area.

Photographic opportunities

There are many photographic opportunities to be found on and around the Peak Rail facilities.

Matlock and Matlock Riverside stations offer little other than the standard railway platform type environment.

A footpath runs a good way alongside the railway between Matlock Riverside and Darley Dale. The River Derwent also runs close at several points. The footpath provides many opportunities for lineside shots of the passing trains.

Darley Dale station has an authentic steam era feel and look. The crossing gates immediately south of the station also offer another unusual opportunity for creative photos.

The Matlock bound platform is laid out with authentic milk churns, enamel signs, period railway signage and stacks of luggage. It really looks the part. The Rowsley platform buildings are under renovation and not open to visitors yet.

Rowsley has many great opportunities. The many types of wagons, coaches and locomotives under restoration and stored is very impressive. The sheer number and differing types of railway vehicles present many photo opportunities. There is a fully working turntable which in itself is a rarity nowadays.

As is typical for Britain, the weather was changeable during my visit. The day started nice and bright with good light from the winter sun.

As the day progressed, the clouds crept in and the day became much darker with only very brief glimpses of sun. The darker skies led to flatter looking scenes with little in the way of saturated colours. At times like these it sometimes pays to look for scenes that would look good in black and white.

A steam railway is the perfect place to practice black and white photography. It not only gets around the problem of flat colours, but also leads you into creating a little bit of authenticity with your photos.

As shown below, when the sun shines keep an eye out for colourful scenes, but when the light isnt favourable look for patterns, shapes or reflections in otherwise dull scenes. The sky was heavily overcast on the carriage shot. The dull maroon colours were muted, yet the sheen provided lots of reflections from the wooden boarding on the platform. A dull image in colour is transformed when converted to black and white.

Lasting impression

My lasting impression of the Peak Rail steam railway was positive.

Although the line is only 4 miles long, it provides ample opportunities for creative photography. The railway shouldn’t be compared to larger steam railways such as the Severn Valley Railway as that simply isnt an equitable comparison.

The Peak Rail steam railway does a great job of providing a compact snapshot of a railway from the past.

Darley Dale and Rowsley are both full of opportunities for the photographer who enjoys railways or recreations of times long gone.

The railway operates a number of special theme days which provides additional photographic opportunities.

All in all, I recommend the Peak Rail steam railway to both photographers and also to general visitors looking for an authentic steam era experience.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to leave your views and comments …

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