The Henmore Dale Light Railway (or Henmore for short) was a narrow (2’4”) gauge railway in Derbyshire. The railway followed the valley of the Henmore Brook to the villages of Carsington and Hopton, from an interchange with the London and North Western and North Staffordshire Railways at Ashbourne. Originally opened in the 1890’s as a general carrier in the Henmore Valley as far as Hopton, during Edwardian times (between 1905-1910) the line was rebuilt and extended northwards to the heart of the Peak District, so that the vast quantities of limestone there could be transported easily from the many quarries in the locality.
At the same time as the extension northwards, a branch line from the original terminus in Ashbourne, Park Road, was built through the centre of the town to link to the joint LNW and North Staffs station. The new station, Ashbourne Exchange, had both passenger and goods interchange facilities.
Several companies took advantage of the rebuilt railway, Cockayne & Sons in Ashbourne built their own private siding to serve their sawmill, with the railway transporting both the raw materials (large logs) and the finished products (sawn timber and boards).
Further redevelopment work in the 1920s saw the site of Jessop’s flour mill flattened, and F.W. Gilbert’s creamery erected in its place – this had its own internal railway system, served by a fireless locomotive from Bagnall and Co., just down the road in Stafford.
Traffic on the railway consisted of quarried stone, various milled minerals, bricks from the brickworks at Hopton, plus grain and flour to and from the watermills at Sturston and Atlow. There were weekly livestock trains to and from the market at Ashbourne. A regular passenger service served the villages along the route of the railway, providing a much needed lifeline for many of those in and around the Henmore Valley.
From Ashbourne Exchange, the line ran through the centre of Ashbourne to Park Road, where trains reversed to continue their journey. From there they passed through Sandy Lane Halt, then out into the countryside to Sturston, Atlow (also serving Atlow Mill), Hognaston and on to Hopton. The section of line between Hognaston and Hopton is now hidden in the depths of Carsington Water. From Hopton, the line turned north, serving Middleton, Grange Mill and Prospect quarries before reaching the village of Grangemill itself. From there a short branch served Ivonbrook quarry. North of Grangemill the line continued to the main terminus at Winster, from there a short branch continued up the valley to the end of the line at Elton, where the branch served Portaway Mine.
The railway made extensive use of transporter wagons, like those on the Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway, to transport standard gauge wagons over its narrow gauge rails.
Sadly, the site of the Park Road terminus in Ashbourne has now become a housing estate, and the upper parts of the line were flooded during the construction of Carsington Reservoir in the late 1970’s, though by this time the railway was already long gone.
We say the railway was already long gone, in fact that would be a miracle as it’s a complete work of fiction, though a very convincing one as some members of the public at shows have been known to state that they remember travelling on the railway in their youth…