The Ashover Light Railway
The Ashover Light Railway has long gone but the interest and memory still lives on.
Clay Cross mined minerals for hundreds of years before George Stephenson built The North Midland Railway through Clay Cross in 1837-38 At the time production of coal mined in Clay Cross was used to power the locomotives. The high demand for coal brought 7 collieries to the area along with 5 coke ovens, brick making plant, Ironworks and lime works.
When George Stephenson died in 1848 his son Robert became the main shareholder of the company but this was short lived and the company changed hands to the Jackson family. William Jackson in 1913 called the company ‘The Clay Cross Company Limited’ He was keen to start the expanding the company. The sight for expansion was the Overton estate at Ashover which was bought in 1919 for its untouched minerals.
To extract the minerals ment a rail link was needed for the transportation of goods from Ashover to Clay Cross. Plans were put in for three railways, two standard gauge and one narrow gauge line. The line given the go ahead was a 2` gauge, running from Clay Cross via Stratton to Ashover. The length of the track was 7 miles long. This was the start of The Ashover Light Railway.
The construction of the line was put out to tender but was eventually built by the workforce of the Clay Cross Company. The time of building the railway was just right as it coincided with the sale of four Baldwin locomotives that had been used in the First World War by the British army. The locomotives were name after the children of General Jackson who was responsible for the building of the railway. The names used were Guy, Peggy, Hummy and Joan. When the locomotives were delivered to Clay Cross they were tested and overhauled ready for work. Joan and Guy were stripped and taken to different locations of the track so they could work in different locations.
The Ashover Light Railway was also used as a passenger service running to The Butts Quarry in Ashover from a station at Egstow Clay Cross.The rolling stock was four coaches built by Gloucester Carriage and Wagon company. The carriages were one of the most comfortable ever built for a narrow gauge railway and would seat 40 people. The company also purchased 70 second hand drop sided carriages for goods.
The Opening Ceremony of the Railway was on the 6th April 1925 and the first day of normal public service was the day after. The line ran through some of the most picturesque parts of Derbyshire.
The route of the line was from Clay Cross onto Chesterfield Road towards Tupton, over the bridge on Chesterfield Road, then into Holmgate to Springfield’s Clay Lane to Stratton then North West into the Amber Valley. The line then ran by the side of the river Amber crossing the river from time to time over ten bridges built for the railway. The first station was Hurst Lane. It then passed through Woolly Moor to Milltown and into The Butts Quarry Ashover.
Ashover Light railway continued to transport passengers and minerals but was put under pressure by the growing use of the bus and lorry. The passengers dwindled and the lorry started to take over and on 5th July 1949 the railway was forced to close. By the early fifties most of the line had been scrapped and today almost nothing can be seen.
Not much of the old line can be seen today. On the A61 between Clay Cross and the Tupton roundabout you can still see the old remains of Firelli Bridge where the line crossed the road towards Egstow.