Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

The Peak Forest Tramway

Ian Salvage (Publicity Officer) & Ian Edgar MBE (Chair of Bugworth Basin Heritage Trust)

This article is from Signpost 53, February 2017

The Peak Forest Tramway once linked Bugsworth Canal Basin, at the head of the Peak Forest Canal, to the limestone quarries at Dove Holes Dale in Derbyshire. It allowed limestone to be carried from the quarries down to Bugsworth Canal Basin, where it was transferred into boats and thence via Manchester, to the Mersey Basin and far beyond.

The completed canal and tramway opened as far as Lodes Knowle Quarry on Wednesday, 31st August 1796, with an extension quickly following to Dove Holes Dale quarries, creating an overall tramway length of just under six miles. Initially, the tramway was single track, except for the Great Inclined Plane at Chapel-en-le-Frith and Short Inclined Plane at Lodes Knowle Quarry. However, as trade rapidly increased, a second track was installed in 1803, except at Stodhart Tunnel and under Buxton Road Bridge at the bottom of the Great Inclined Plane. Opening of the Macclesfield Canal in 1831 (which joined the Peak Forest Canal at Marple) also helped trade by making a direct route available to Cheshire and the Midlands for much demanded limestone and lime products.

Movement of the rolling stock was achieved by various means. Loaded wagons travelled down to Bugsworth Canal Basin using gravity, while horses hauled empty wagons back, except at the inclined plane, where full wagons coming down hauled the empty wagons up. Returning wagons were not always empty; it is known that goods were transported to factories built along the tramway.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tramway traffic diminished, as railways and road networks developed. The last commercial wagons to travel the complete length of the tramway occurred in 1922; by 1924 the tramway between Dove Holes Dale and Chapel Milton was closed; and during 1927 and 1928, the tramway was dismantled.

Land sold after closure of the tramway means that nowadays it is no longer possible to walk its complete length. There are currently no rights of way over the privately owned sections and there are some significant barriers to overcome for this status to be altered.

Thanks to the Bugsworth Basin Heritage Trust (BBHT) for providing much of the material for this article. For greater detail on the tramway, see their website at http://old.bugsworthbasin.org/. The website also contains details of a walk along the Tramway Trail, with copious notes and a map. Congratulations also to the BBHT Volunteers, who maintain the Basin to such a high standard that it now has Green Flag status


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Page title:The Peak Forest Tramway
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