Take an 8-mile nostalgia-trip through the Peak District’s countryside on one of Peak Rail’s heritage steam trains, while traversing past the very best sights of the countryside and dales, from Matlock to Rowsley South. Peak Rail uses a stretch of railway that formerly connected London and Manchester, which was in use until 1968.
With an extensive fleet containing 1940s models of steam and diesel trains, Peak Rail is sure to satisfy train lovers and fascinate young holidaymakers.
This 8-mile round trip delivers outstanding views of the Peak District’s famed limestone hills, and rides through dark tunnels and over impressive viaducts of architectural ingenuity. Setting out from Matlock Platform 2, the locomotive then stops at Darley Dale Station, where you’ll find the Peak Railway Association Museum, and then continues onto Rowsley South, where you’ll find the gift shop and picnic area.
Peak Rail also offers onboard luxury dining, alongside seasonal offerings catering for the likes of Mother’s Day and Christmas Lunch, with two onboard restaurants and a bar. The menu has a wide range of gourmet meals and offers traditional afternoon tea and coffee.
The former London to Manchester line took the better part of 20 years to complete, and drew upon many different influences and investors, who each had their own reasons for wanting the railway built – which made the construction both difficult and sporadic. The Derby to Ambergate section was opened in 1840; Ambergate to Rowsley was completed in 1849; and Rowsley to Manchester was completed, finally, in 1860. The construction of this last stretch was prolonged due to the building of Haddon Tunnel, after the Duke of Rutland refused to allow the line to pass through Haddon Hall.
Matlock Station was built in 1949, originally titled Matlock Bridge, and was designed by Bedfordshire-born architect, Sir Joseph Paxton, who’s other works included London’s Crystal Palace. Paxton also designed the Station Master’s House, which was completed in 1984; both the station and the master’s House are now grade-II listed.
The neo-gothic Darley Dale Station, as it appears today, was built in 1874 and replaced an older Paxton-designed station built in 1849. The original Rowsley South Station was built too in 1849, however, it was never restored after its closure in 1967; the Rowsley Station that is part of the Peak Rail line today was constructed in 2011, and is located roughly one mile away from the original.
The Peak Rail Preservation Society first came together in 1975, which quickly grew into a thousand-member society, and lead to the formation of Peak Rail Operations. Despite the cause to preserve the rail being met with such initial enthusiasm, success in moving the project forward was met only intermittently. It wasn’t until 1987 when a funding agreement was reached with local authorities that work on restoring the railway line got underway in earnest.
In 1991 the stretch between Matlock Riverside and Darley Dale was completed and reopened, and in 1997 the rail was extended to the new Rowsley South Station.
Things to See and Do at Peak Rail
Palatine Restaurant Car – Luxury dining is available onboard in the Palatine Restaurant, complimented by a fully licenced bar. This 80-person-capacity moving restaurant keeps to the theme of the age of steam-powered rail and offers the utmost in Victorian-era luxuries. The Palatine’s menu consists of mostly traditional meals, such as pie and mash, beef bourguignon, pan roasted chicken breast, mushroom and red pepper stroganoff, amongst other mouth-watering offerings. The restaurant can also host afternoon tea or coffee, and is the perfect place for wedding receptions, business lunches, and private parties.
Drive a Loco – Learn all there is to know about the operation of steam-powered trains, and then put this knowledge to the test by driving one along a stretch of Peak Rail’s heritage railway line – from Rowsley South Station to the Church Lane Crossing! The professional footplate team at Peak Rail will provide in depth 1-on-1 tuition and participants are sure to come away feeling like locomotive experts. There are both one-hour and two-hour sessions available, and each partaker will receive a certificate plus free access to the trains for the rest of the day.
Peak Rail Museum – The fascinating museum at Darley Dale Station houses memorabilia, old photographs, and posters, amongst other steam engine relics from the Peak Railway Association Archives, which, with the help of information boards, bring the story of the age of industry back to life, and reveal the important role Peak Rail played in preserving it. Outside Darley Dale Station, you’ll also find a selection of picnic benches.
Rowsley South Shop – The gift shop, located at Rowsley South Station, is the perfect place to pick up a railway-related souvenir, and is also a must-visit for model train enthusiasts. With a massive selection of railway literature, DVD’s, and jigsaws, the gift shop is also well stocked in new and second-hand railway models.
Matlock Tourist Information and Shop – The shop at Matlock Station offers a wide range of souvenirs, such as postcards, greetings cards, jams, and crafts; a selection of guidebooks and maps; and a small range of light refreshments, such as cold drinks, sweets, and ice creams.
How to Get There
By Car – From the M1: take either the 28, 29, or 30 junctions, from which point Peak Rail will be signposted. If travelling from Derby: take the A6 towards Manchester; again, Peak Rail will be signposted.
Postcode for Satnav – DE4 3NA
Carpark – There is a pay and display carpark at Matlock Station. There is also free parking at Rowsley South Station and limited free parking at Darley Dale Station.
Good to Know
– Single tickets are available.
– Dogs are welcome on board, if they are kept on leads. However, only guide dogs are permitted to enter the Palatine Restaurant Car.
– The Engine Shed is currently not open to the public.
– There is a Guards Brake Van onboard where passengers can store their bicycles.
Monday – Closed
Tuesday – 10.00am – 5.00pm
Wednesday – 10.00am – 5.00pm
Thursday – Closed
Friday -10.00am – 5.00pm
Saturday – 10.00am- 5.00pm
Sunday – 10.30am – 5.00pm
All Day Unlimited Tickets
Adult – £9.50
Senior Citizen – £8.00
Children Under 3 – Free
3-15-year-olds – £4.50
Family (2 adults, 3 children) -£30.50
Adult – £5.00
Senior Citizen – £4.50
Children Under 3 – Free
3 – 15-year olds – £2.75
Family (2 adults, 3 children) – £30.50