Attractions, Reviews, Travel Tips

The Peak Rail

Spread the love

I don’t know why, but there is something quite romantic about a steam train journey. There shouldn’t be. It’s noisy. It’s dirty. It’s far from smooth and it’s relatively slow. And yet, there’s nothing quite like it as a way to get somewhere. Especially on Peak Rail.

Peak Rail is a heritage railway offering train rides on restored steam and diesel trains. It runs on a stretch of restored railway line between Rowsley (the main station) and Matlock. The initial attempt from the collective of rail enthusiasts was unsuccessful, but they did not give up. In the 1980s they moved to Darley Dale and by the early 1990s had restored just over three miles of railway. A few years later, the line was extended to Rowsley South, the station was built and it could accommodate a large number of rail cars. Work soon started to extend the line to Matlock and following discussions, the lower platform was opened up to Peak Rail in 2011. They’re hoping to extend as far as Bakewell next. 

A lot of enthusiasts are based at Peak Rail, so if you are interested in the history of stations, signalling, shunting or the trains, there is probably going to be someone around to talk to you about it. There are dozens of old carriages and engines along the side of the track and you often see people working to restore them.

Depending on whether you prefer steam or diesel locomotives, check the timetable for the service running. If you are on a budget, the railway offers a lot of dates when accompanied children travel for free, including over the summer holidays, which is when we went. We’ve visited Peak Rail a few times over the years and always opt for the steam train.

There is ample parking at the station at Rowsley South. The station is lovely and has a cafe, toilet and a small shop. There is a lot of attention to detail, beautiful plants, benches and the staff couldn’t be friendlier. You can buy a single ticket, or a return and spend a few hours wandering around Matlock or Darley Dale. If you catch the early train, you can hop off at Darley Dale, have a mooch around the small museum in the station, have a wander around and catch the next train to Matlock on the one ticket. Each station is beautifully maintained and the group have pulled original signal boxes from other parts of the country and other touches together to add to the authenticity. 

It’s oddly exciting when the train pulls in. I don’t know if it’s the sound, the whistle or the steam, but even though I’m not even close to being a train enthusiast, I always get a big smile on my face. Looking around me, so does everyone else. 

The carriages are all different. Different eras feature on the train, so depending on the era you prefer, you may want to wander through the carriages before you decide. The seats are old and well used, original stock that have been restored for the railway. We opted for different eras on the way there and back. Conductors come along in uniform to check tickets as you chug  along, watching some beautiful countryside along the route. You really do feel transported back in time. Children line up to wave as you go past, some of these are rather tall children with grey hair and a huge grin. 

If you have children into Thomas the Tank Engine, this is a must. The first time we went, my youngest stepson just stood on the platform staring at the engine. He was in seventh heaven. I’d bought tickets for a birthday surprise. When I said “shall we go on it”, he didn’t move his head. Just a “yeeeessss”, very quiet and not sure he’d heard right. It’s now a tradition to go around his birthday every few years. It never fails to delight. If your children are into Harry Potter, tell them they’re going on the Hogwarts express. They’ll love it. 

For those of us who are a bit older (and steam trains were a thing of the past when I was a child) it’s a magical day out, a reminder of simpler times, a chance to take in some beautiful scenery and know that you finally have one of those rare trips that makes everyone happy. 

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *