The Midland Railway, Butterley – a Derbyshire gem


Butterley Station, Midland Railway Centre

I have always been interested in railways, especially those using steam locomotives. I remember as a boy taking a 4d (four ‘old pence’) bus ride one of the old ‘blue and cream’ Midland General Omnibus double-decker ‘buses, the 4 miles to Langley Mill Station on the Erewash Valley Line close to the Nottinghamshire border, in order to watch the main line trains such as the ‘The Master Cutler’ and ‘The Thames-Clyde Express’, thunder through on their way to Sheffield and Glasgow from St Pancras Station, London.

Here is a shot of Butterley Railway Station (on the old Pye Bridge to Ambergate line which closed in 1968), in the Derbyshire town of Ripley. When I was about 8, I was taken on a ‘special’ from here to Manchester Belle Vue station, drawn behind an LMS ‘Black Five’ locomotive, northward across the embankment which splits Butterley Reservoir, and returned late at night having had a wonderful time at the old Belle Vue Zoological and Pleasure Gardens. Since it was after midnight, the last ‘bus on the old Midland General Omnibus route, from Ripley to Nottingham, had LONG gone, which meant that the family faced a long walk home to Codnor (c.3 miles)!

The Midland Railway Trust has transformed this derelict site, and despite the fact that it looks almost exactly as I remember it, the original station building is no longer there. However, an identical pattern Midland Railway station building was found at Whitwell in north Derbyshire, and has been erected on the site of the old one. Note the period wood and cast iron benches, the typical milk churns found on small Derbyshire stations, and even the period fire buckets!

The Midland Railway (later, one of the main constituent companies of the London Midland and Scottish Railway Ltd) was formed at the Sun Inn in Eastwood, and had its main locomotive and carriage works at nearby Derby, so it was natural that the Trust would have chosen this site, along with the 3.5 mile length of preserved track, as its headquarters. Now trains run from here to the new station and museum at Swanwick and beyond, and there is a fine narrow-guage extension to the hamlet of Golden Valley (where my mother was born). When I was visiting, the station was decked out with bunting for a visit by the much-loved ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’, and the place was heaving with ‘small railway enthusiasts’ and their guardians/parents. This made for a very happy time for all concerned.

Oh, and there has been a name change; although this facility was originally named ‘The Midland Railway Centre’, it is now known as ‘The Midland Railway, Butterley’. Still the same wonderful history, though!

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