Recently I had a walk up to Middleton Top with the Matlock Mavericks to take a look as some industrial history in limestone country near Wirksworth and Cromford.
Middleton Top is the last surviving winding engine from the now defunct Cromford and High Peak Railway. The railway has now been converted into the High Peak Trail.
The stationery engine was used to wind trucks up and down the Middleton Incline, which has a gradient of 1 in 8, and is a beam engine built by the Butterley Company in 1829 – these are the original engines for the railway began operation in 1830. The incline was in use until 1963.
Outside the engine house you can see a pulley wheel under a grille in the centre of the track. There was a similar pulleys at the bottom of the incline and a loop of steel cable was attached around them. The wagons were then attached to this by chains and usually the engine would have one set of wagons descending the incline and another on the other track ascending – in order to counterbalance the load. A maximum speed of 8 miles per hour was permitted because it was very difficult to control a set of runaway wagons loaded with limestone.
Also outside the engine house you can see a sample wagon from the old railway, and a short section of the original track, with a distinctive type of rail. Originally these were attached to blocks of stone rather than the usual sleepers.
Inside the visitors centre there is a splendid working model of this section of the railway and a short video. Just be on the lookout for any time lords!