Book takes a Peak at Buxton’s rail heritage

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A Buxton writer’s love affair with the railways is conveyed in a fascinating new book reliving the illustrious history of a High Peak line.

‘Over The Peak - Peak Dale to Millers Dale’ provides a fascinating pictorial look back at the Midland railway line in its heyday.

It reflects on a time when passenger trains roared alongside those serving a quarrying industry which, even today, is the lifeblood of what remains of the rural route.

The book is the second in a series - the first covers the line from Chinley to Peak Dale - and is the ninth to be penned by John Bentley, a Buxton resident and veteran of the footplate for 37 years.

“I have a lifelong interest in the history of the railways and have spent years compiling details and photographs,” explained the former train driver, whose career ended in 1994 with the onset of privatisation.

“This book follows the history of the line from Chinley to Millers Dale, not in a technical form but focussing on the working history, how it worked, what it did and why.

“Millers Dale was always a fascinating place for the railway enthusiast. I had planned to cover the entire line in one book, but then I realised what information was available, plus I felt I needed to do justice to the more picturesque parts of the line.

“Before the railways came along, transporting a cart-load of stone out of the Peak District was extremely difficult, but when the railways arrived people quickly realised that instead of a cart-load of stone, you could move a train-load. It proved to be a very useful asset.

“It was a real tragedy for this town when they closed the line to the south, and Buxton has suffered as a result. Just look at Macclesfield - you can get a train to Edinburgh in one direction or to Penzance in the other.”

Over The Peak is illustrated with over 200 black and white photographs of steam engines and diesel locomotives from various sources, including some well-known local railway photographers and the Manchester Locomotive Society’s own collection.

The book also takes a more indepth look at Dove Holes Tunnel and the Great Rocks and Tunstead industrial scene, featuring a section on the ICI steam and diesel locomotives which were the workhorses of the quarrying industry.

Also featured is a little-known accident in Rusher Cutting Tunnel in 1938, when a train carrying Preston North End supporters returning home from their FA Cup final win over Huddersfield at Wembley was struck by a goods train. Several people were injured, but miraculously there were no fatalities.

Copies of the book, and the earlier edition ‘Over The Peak - Chinley to Peak Dale’, are available directly from the author at 183 Lightwood Road, Buxton. Published by Book Law Publications, it is priced £23.95.