The Derwent Valley Line on the edge of England's Peak District National Park is one that exemplifies the beauty and practicalities of the nation's smaller but popular branch lines. Though it starts in the city of Derby, where the Midland Railway had its headquarters during its 78-year history, it creeps further north via Ambergate Junction along the course of the River Derwent to the town of Matlock, where Peak Rail currently operate their heritage services from.
Though the route offers some beautiful scenery and places to admire at both Belper and the terminus Matlock, it is an intermediate station near the village of Cromford that brings the line some quirky history and a station building that's very distinctive. Today, to those in the know, it forms an attractive railway landmark in the heart of the Derwent Valley where visitors can either hike or travel by train onwards into the Peak District. Other sections of line within the National Park have since become popular walking trails.
Cromford Station was first opened in 1849 as Cromford Bridge Station and featured the original station building on the Up platform designed by G.H. Stokes. The unusually ornate building, which later became a waiting room, features a prominent spire above the central doorway along with a large clockface which is best admired from the opposite platform where a later station building was constructed by the Midland Railway. During its early history, services ran through Cromford and Matlock and onto Bakewell and Buxton serving the numerous mills along the valley along with the Cromford Canal which mainly transported iron and coal but also supported the exports of the nearby mills. When viewed 'head on' the former station building exudes charm and is a welcome sight to railfans from areas where station infrastructure tends to be bland and utilitarian. Upon departing for Matlock, trains head immediately into the Willersley Tunnel which goes under the eastern side of the valley for almost 700 metres (764 yards). Willersley Castle is located nearby.
By 1968, the section to Buxton had closed and trains only ran as far as Matlock as they do today. In subsequent decades the station building at Cromford, including the ornate waiting room, deteriorated over time with the southbound line being removed and becoming overgrown like the platform itself. It was during this time of neglect that the station became the location of a photoshoot for Oasis, the mancunian rock band of the 1990s who defined that decade's Britpop era. The famous Gallagher brothers can be seen at the station in the artwork for the 1995 single Some Might Say, with Liam standing on the footbridge and Noel using a watering can on the platform. Art Director Brian Cannon, who worked with Oasis on the artwork for their era-defining albums Definitely Maybe, (What's the Story) Morning Glory and Be Here Now roped in his parents and aide for the shoot and his Dad is seen centre stage with the wheelbarrow containing the 'sink full of fishes' - one of many references to the song's lyrics in the photograph. The artwork for Oasis' Some Might Say can be viewed on Spotify. The single release featured Talk Tonight and Acquiesce as b-sides - notable songs in themselves. Below, a photo taken in 2021 shows the restored station from the opposite platform. The original shot was taken from the trackbed and cannot therefore be recreated.
Since then, the station has seen an upturn in fortunes, getting restored following its purchase by the Arkwright Society who also oversee Cromford Mill. In 2009 the building became office space and after that a holiday let, which sadly saw the platform and footbridge closed to the public. However, a visit to the station for both railfans and music fans is still very much encouraged and listening to Some Might Say on the northbound platform can conjure a profound and moving moment, particularly for younger railfans who might recall fond memories or childhoods from the 1990s when Oasis were topping the charts and conquering the musical stage. The station is not often busy and the contrast of the romping guitar solos, wall of noise and thumping drumbeat with the quiet and lonely station can transport visitors back to 90s nostalgia in a way that no train could ever do. This is perhaps highlighted best with Liam's delivery of "Standing at the Station, in need of education in the rain...", one of many Oasis tunes to feature train and station references (Supersonic and D'You Know What I Mean being notable others). A Class 170 'Turbostar' DMU arrives at Cromford's only in use platform for a service to Matlock with the old station building visible on the other side. Recently, operator East Midlands Railway has fitted certain 'Turbostars' on the Derwent Valley Line with new emission-reducing technology.
Railfans may not be interested too much by the selection of rolling stock that currently make use of the line - Class 153, 156 and 158 DMUs with 170 Turbostars making appearances of late - but with Peak Rail's heritage line just up the road at Matlock, the area holds something of interest even if the music connection at Cromford doesn't. Either way, the Derwent Valley is an important one historically and should be appreciated by both railfans and music fans alike.
All photos by Joe Rogers.
Author Gary Dolzall rejoices in the extraordinary and unforgettable Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe.
Allen Jackson explains Britain's freight operations, illustrated with recent photos from Basford Hall Depot.