'Middleton Top Engine House.'
Middleton Top is the last surviving complete winding engine house built by the Cromford & High Peak Railway Co and still contains its original pair of beam engines, built by the Butterley Company in 1829, together with its boilers and imposing chimney. It lies along the High Peak Trail, the old railway line converted into a walking, cycling and horse riding route.
The railway was created for the purpose of linking the Cromford Canal with the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge. The one major hurdle which engineer Josias Jessop had to overcome was Derbyshire's bleak High Peak region which rises one thousand feet between the two canals. No locomotives then or now could climb steeply inclined rails and Jessop's answer to the problem was to use a series of powered inclined planes linking long, nearly level sections of line suitable for either locomotives or horses; in fact, the railway's gradient profile was similar to a canal.
When the line opened there were no less then nine inclined planes, eight employing steam winding engines in distinctive gritstone engine houses to haul wagons up and down. Each incline was equipped with double track to enable wagons to be moved in both directions at the same time as well as being balanced for safety and economy of operation.
The winding engine at Middleton Top was the third one from the beginning of the line at High Peak Wharf on the Cromford Canal. Photo Mick Palarczyk.