New Mills Station - 150 years of trains
PUBLISHED: 09:56 20 July 2015 | UPDATED: 09:56 20 July 2015
150 years since the first train stopped at New Mills Central Station, Derbyshire Life discovers local memories and finds out about the special events taking place to commemorate the occasion
‘The railway was opened to the public on Saturday last, July 1st. Great numbers of people assembled at New Mills terminus to witness the arrival and departure of the trains. The distance between New Mills and Marple is commonly called ‘a good hour’s walk’, but it is now easily accomplished by ‘Puffin Billy’ in seventeen minutes. Great taste has been displayed, and the comfort of the passengers studied, in the erection of the station house.’ This was how The Glossop Record reported the exciting news of the new station opening on Saturday 8th July 1865, and in 2015 railway enthusiasts, volunteers and historians are joining together to celebrate the 150th anniversary of when the first train stopped at New Mills Central Station in the High Peak.
Sean Whewell, one of the founding members of community group Visit New Mills, said: ‘The town is heavily reliant on our railway links with over 200,000 passengers each year using New Mills either to commute to work or as a tourist gateway to the Peak District, Hope Valley and Goyt Valley. We are excited to celebrate not only the anniversary but also the architectural heritage we see in our buildings and bridges around the town.’
A plaque was unveiled at the station by the Managing Director of Northern Rail, Alex Hynes, on 1st July to observe the official anniversary. He also did the honours at Marple Station – two stops along the Hope Valley line towards Manchester – as it, too, is celebrating 150 years of railway travel. Alex said: ‘The North’s railways are being transformed before our eyes with the biggest investment since Victorian times. The unveiling of these plaques is a fitting tribute to those that built our railways and we’re proud to be playing our part in shaping the next 150 years.’
Chairman of the Friends of New Mills Stations group, Beth Atkins recalls some of her childhood memories: ‘Central Station had two waiting rooms with coal fires in inclement weather. One was a ladies waiting room; in shades of Victorian morality, ladies had to have somewhere private to retire to. The general waiting room and the booking office were more cheerful places to be. The porters had a warm room-come-office that had an old fashioned black leaded stove with a kettle sitting on it. I suspect that bacon went into a frying pan after the morning rush was over, though it was tradition that the train fireman’s wide shovel – including the one in the engines – was the proper place to cook the bacon.’
It’s widely speculated that Edith Nesbit, author of The Railway Children, set her famous book around Strines Station and the railway line between Marple and New Mills. An exhibition of research into this theory will be showcased at New Mills Library throughout July, compiled by former library workers, Gwenda Culkin and Barbara Matthews.
Gwenda said: ‘The writer’s half-sister, Sarah Deakin, and her husband John, first resided at Ridge End, Marple and later at Cobden Edge, Mellor. Electoral roles show the Deakins to be living at Paradise during the 1880s. Paradise was a property adjacent to the cottage Three Chimneys, the name of the house used in The Railway Children. It was here, overlooking the Goyt Valley at Strines, and the railway along which the steam trains travelled, that Edith Nesbit came to visit her relatives.
‘Her friendship with the Woodcock family of Aspenshaw Hall, also allowed her to become familiar with the surrounding countryside which overlooked the industrial scenes of Thornsett and Birch Vale Printworks. The contrasting landscape of isolated hilly upland with industrial activity in the valleys appears to have inspired the author in her writings.’
New Mills and District Railways Modellers Group hosted its first exhibition in the town in more than 30 years to commemorate the anniversary. Retired local railway worker, Stuart Broome, is the Membership Secretary, Club Archivist and one of the founding members of the group which started more than 40 years ago. He said: ‘Our very first exhibitions were held at New Mills Town Hall and my Hornby Dublo 3 rail layout was on show. It will be great to be back there with the same models. I will also be taking photos of the railway line and station, as I have been doing since I got a Box Brownie camera when I was about 10 years old. It was a good life working on the railway if you were dedicated to doing your best for the passengers. If you had a passenger who wanted to make a journey with several changes, we had to look up fares in as many as five fares books that were the size of the old phone books – there were no computers then!’
For more information go to www.visitnewmills.co.uk, find Visit New Mills on Facebook or follow @VisitNewMills on Twitter.