The 'Killer's Branch'
In 1884 a branch was built by the London and North Western Railway from the High Peak line at Steeplehouse to Middleton Quarry at a cost of £3,700. This sum was paid by the quarry owners, the Killer Brothers. Ownership of the quarry passed to the Hoptonwood Stone Firms, who subsequently bought the line off the L&NWR in 1907. It continued to be worked by L&NWR locomotives, however, and this arrangement passed at the grouping to the London Midland and Scottish Railway, then at nationalisation to British Railways. Traffic consisted of limestone from the quarry, and no passengers were carried. The quarry stopped sending limestone out by rail in 1967, the branch line closed, and the track was lifted soon afterwards. The line was steeply graded for much of its length. The photo shows the ungated level crossing at Middleton Main Street with the quarry in the background.
The Cromford and High Peak Railway
The 33-mile Cromford and High Peak Railway was constructed in the early 1830s between the Cromford Canal in the valley of the River Derwent on the east side of the Peak District and the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge on the west side. Its construction enabled traders in the East Midlands to transport goods to the Manchester area (and vice versa) on a more direct route than was available at the time using the canal system alone. It also led to the expansion of limestone quarrying in the Peak District, lime being then in great demand as an agricultural fertiliser. The railway was built with long stretches of level track worked by horses, interspersed with inclined planes with gradients of up to 1 in 8 where stationary steam engines worked the traffic up and down, with the wagons attached to continuous chains, and later steel cables. Steam locomotives were soon introduced onto the level sections and horse operation was for the most part phased out, although one short section of the line was still using horses until the early 1950s. Passengers were carried for just a few years in the 1870s, but they travelled on goods trains which had to stop to shunt the numerous sidings en route, so it was a very slow journey. The construction of more modern railways in the late nineteenth century led to the abandonment of substantial parts of the C&HPR in the Buxton area as early as 1892, but almost all the eastern end of the line remained in use until 1967. The photo shows the C&HPR at Steeplehouse curving round to the left, with the Killer’s Branch passing through the gate.