Peak Forest Tramway

Peak Forest Tramway

Location map
caption="Peak Forest Tramway shown within Derbyshire"

The Peak Forest Tramway was originally planned to be about four miles (6 km) long from Chapel Milton to Dove Holes, both in Derbyshire. However, it was decided to start the tramway at Bugsworth (now called Buxworth) and, as built, it was about six miles (10 km) long. Its purpose was to carry limestone from the vast quarries around Dove Holes down to Bugsworth Basin, where much of it was taken by boat along the Peak Forest Canal and the Ashton Canal to Manchester and beyond. The remaining limestone was put into lime kilns at Bugsworth where it was converted into quick lime (or burnt lime). The tramway opened for trade on the 31 August 1796.


Built by Benjamin Outram, the tramway was initially single track, on a convert|4|ft|m|abbr=on 2 in (1270 mm) gauge, constructed of stone sleeper blocks and L-section cast-iron rails that were fastened directly onto the blocks, in the same manner as his Little Eaton Gangway built for the Derby Canal. The rails, known as gang rails or plates, were provided by Benjamin Outram and Company who also supplied the mineral waggons.

From Bugsworth it rose convert|129|ft|m to Whitehough, then proceeded to Chapel Milton on the level. It then climbed 56½ to the base of the inclined plane, which took the line upwards convert|192|ft|m over a distance of convert|512|yd. After a more gentle slope to Barmoor Clough, and thence to the Dove Hole quarries.

To aid acceleration from the top, and braking at the foot, the inclined plane varied from 1 in 6 at the top to 1 in 12 at the base. It was intended to be, at least partly, self acting with decending wagons counterbalanced to some extent by partly loaded wagons being drawn up. Initially rope was tried, followed by a patent twisted chain, passing round a wheel, with a brake to control it, in a pit at the top. Eventually a chain with five inch (127 mm) links was purchased from Birmingham which proved more equal to the work.By the beginning of the twentieth century this had been replaced by a steel rope.

There was another small incline of convert|33|yd within the quarry complex worked by a horse-gin at the top and a continuous rope.

The mineral waggons were originally similar to those used for the earlier Little Eaton Gangway, with a substantial wooden chassis with a wrought-iron body held in place by two wooden wedges. The axles were bolted onto axle trees and the cast-iron wheels (about 20 inches in diameter) were held on the axles by a linchpin (known as a "lily-pin"). Later the bodies were fixed with a door at the back, unloading by means of a tippler mechanism mounted on a turntable. Each waggon carried between 2 and 2.5 tons of limestone.

From the bottom of the plane to Bugsworth Basin, a team of four horses could draw up to twenty wagons. The ganger and nipper (apprentice), controlling a gang of waggons, rode on the axles and kept the speed at 4 to 6 miles per hour by spragging the wheels to make them skid.


In 1803 the tramway was made double track, with the exception of Stodhart Tunnel and below Buxton Road Bridge, using the same method of fixing the rails.

Problems were experienced because the rails became loose and to overcome these the main line was re-laid between 1832 and 1837 using pedestals or saddles placed between the rails and the stone sleeper blocks. Over the years the design of the rails and saddles underwent many modifications and in circa 1865 much of the main line was replaced by L-section steel rails 9 and convert|12|ft|m long rolled at the Gorton Works (Gorton Tank) of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company.

The most important surviving features of the tramway are the elevated tramway branch at Bugsworth Basin, Stodhart Tunnel and the self-acting inclined plane at Chapel-en-le-Frith, known as the Chapel Inclined Plane. The elevated tramway branch forms part of the Scheduled Ancient Monument of Bugsworth Basin. Stodhart Tunnel is the oldest railway tunnel in Derbyshire and it is a Grade II* listed building.


* Schofield, R.B., (2000) "Benjamin Outram," Cardiff: Merton Priory Press

External links

*Map and aerial photo sources for: gbmapping|SK022820 - Bugsworth Basin and gbmappingsmall|SK076782 - Dove Holes

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