The Henmore Dale (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…
Those of you with long(ish) memories will no doubt remember our original Henmore layout - Ashbourne Park Road, having appeared at a number of shows around the country, and gracing the pages of the April 2013 issue of Railway Modeller, shortly before its final, somewhat fatal showing at the York Exhibition that Easter. There the layout suffered a severe case of gravity during take down, and a decision was taken to look at building a replacement.
Below are a few photos taken of Ashbourne Park Road, courtesy of Steve Flint and Railway Modeller:
An overview of the Park Road terminus
Ashbourne Hall passes F.W. Gilbert's creamery
Ashbourne Park Road plan, showing one of many possible combination of boards which could be erected to form the layout
Well five years down the line, we are finally getting somewhere with building a replacement for Ashbourne Park Road.
The new layout, Sandy Lane Halt, represents a section of the line on the outskirts of Ashbourne, and re-uses two of the modules from the previous iteration, Dig Street and F.W. Gilbert's creamery, with two new boards for the station itself.
The plan for Sandy Lane Halt is much more constrained, with four scenic boards, and a fiddle yard at either end.
Sandy Lane Halt has been under construction now for the part of the last three years, by a small band of us in the group on an infrequent basis. Now though we have a deadline, our next Open Day is Saturday 26th January 2019 in Mickleover, Derby, and we are determined that the layout will be there and working. The last time it ventured out (January 2017) it was non-working, and was the first time that all the boards had been erected together.
Recently, progress has ramped up a notch or three in order to meet this deadline, and much visible progress has been made on the layout. The boards are all wired, and fully tested, and we successfully ran the first train a couple of weeks ago:
Since then we have painted the track, and started to add the basic scenic formers to the bare boards.
An overview of the new station boards, part-way through painting the track.
The lightweight track at the front is part of the disused sand pit - the lower level will be flooded with the remains of an excavator sticking out the water (just need to build it first...)
More progress to follow as and when, but if you are at a loose end in January, come and check out our Open Day:
There are further details, photos etc. of the old layout over on our website - www.henmoredale.org.uk - go and have a look :-)
Edited by NeilHB, 05 November 2018 - 17:25 .