The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, connecting Duffield near Derby with Wirksworth, the Gem of the Peak, became fully operational today when His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester travelled the whole line to open the line formally.
Arriving by train from London, His Royal Highness crossed from the main line platforms at Duffield and joined the first scheduled passenger train from Duffield to Wirksworth since June 1947. Hauled by a former British Railways locomotive, no. 78019, the train included a carriage, built the year the line closed, that has been restored by a dedicated team of volunteers at Wirksworth.
The train was filled with the working volunteers who could celebrate over a decade of hard work to the reopening of the railway and John Snell, the Chairman of WyvernRail plc, paid credit to them: “We have waited, anticipated and dreamed of this day for over a decade and it is so very fitting that the people who made this dream a reality are those who are present on this very special day”.
Riding on the footplate for part of the journey, His Royal Highness toured the station at Wirksworth and visited the railway’s museum before unveiling a plaque commemorating his visit and the line’s reopening.
Present at the event were Martin Miller, General Manager of WyvernRail and Mike Craft, Secretary of the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway Association, both of whom were present on the very first day of clearance work in November 2000. “It is truly amazing to consider not only what we have achieved in just over a decade but the sheer dedication of both our shareholders and volunteers in keeping faith in our plans, often when we literally could not see the wood for the trees” remarked Mr. Miller, while Mike Craft was in reflective mood: “To see so many of our friends here today is a wonderful experience and I think everybody present will take a moment to remember some of the team who passed-away before our dream could be realised”.
The celebrations today pave the way for a festival lasting the next four days with public services commencing on Friday 8th. This event forms the start of what promises to be an exciting season for the railway with steam and heritage diesel trains, all of which connect with East Midlands Trains’ services between Nottingham, Derby and Matlock.
Today, Wirksworth has returned to the railway map and the town looks forward to welcoming rail travellers for the first time in over six decades.