The railway from Ambergate on the North Midland Railway north of Derby through Matlock to Rowsley 6.5 km north, was opened in 1849. It was extended through Monsal Dale to Buxton in 1863 and the route became the Midland Railway’s main line from London St Pancras to Manchester. It was energetically promoted as a scenic route.
The line closed in 1968, but a 5.6 km section has been re-opened by Peak Rail as a heritage line. The Peak District Railway Preservation Society was established in 1975 at Buxton, achieved some success but had to move to Darley Dale in 1980s. It worked trains to a temporary station at Matlock from 1991 and in 2011 began to share the main station in the town which is served by trains from Derby and Nottingham. At the northern end the line was extended to Rowsley South in 1997. Visitors can travel from Matlock station to Darley Dale where there is a railway museum and Rowsley South where the company has a newly-built station with a buffet and a 28 acre (ha) depot, on the site of an old Midland Railway engine shed. Peak Rail hopes to extend its working line north to Bakewell and in due course to lay track alongside the walkers’ trail that follows the former main line through Monsal Dale.
Most trains are worked by Austerity steam shunters built for the government during the Second World War, but Peak Rail has two ex-Great Western Railway tank engines and two main line diesel locomotives. The depot at Rowsley also accommodates workshops operated by the LMS (London, Midland & Scottish Railway) Carriage Association, the Renown Repulse Locomotive Group which is restoring two class 50 main line diesel locomotives, and the Heritage Shunters Trust, which has a collection of small shunting locomotives both steam and diesel.