Passengers enjoy 20,000 steam train journeys in 40 years at Derbyshire heritage railway centre

A heritage railway which draws hundreds of visitors each year has reached an important milestone in its history.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 1:03 pm
Passenger train leaves Butterley Station on August 31,1981.
Passenger train leaves Butterley Station on August 31,1981.

Midland Railway – Butterley has just clocked up its 40th anniversary of operating passenger trains. Around 20,000 steam engine trips are estimated to have run during that time.

Forty years ago the first steam train with fare-paying passengers on board pulled out of Butterley Station for Swanwick Junction.Such was the interest that more than 4,200 people rode in passenger trains along the one-mile stretch in the first fortnight, which included the August bank holiday weekendIt was a dream come true for the volunteers who were given the official green light the previous month to run passenger services.However, the journey to get the railway into working order had begun way before then.In 1969 volunteers from the Midland Railway Group, which collected and restored exhibits and operating equipment, supported a plan by Derby Corporation to create a working museum.But a site for the museum on the Pye Bridge to Ambergate line, which closed in 1968, was limited to a three and a half mile stretch. The track had been lifted, the station at Butterley had been demolished and a 100ft slag heap was in place at what was to become Swanwick Junction.Derbyshire County Council supported the project which had reclamation and leisure prospects. But lack of funds prevented both the county council and Derby Corporation from backing the scheme any further. Volunteers pressed on, deciding to base the project at Butterley Station where a railway station, relocated from Whitwell, was rebuilt on the site of the original building.The line was extended over the years to Ironville, almost to Pye Bridge and Hammersmith. Stations were built at Swanwick Junction, where a museum was also constructed, and at Hammersmith.

Volunteers have worked hard to build Midland Railway – Butterley into a visitor attraction.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Passengers on a steam train ride which left Butterley Station in 1981.

The IndieTracks music festival, was launched in 2007 with three bands and by 2019 had grown into a large-scale event with 50 bands playing on four stages.

Children visiting Midland Railway – Butterley have been entertained by such celebrities as Paddington Bear and Thomas the Tank Engine.

And in 1999 Katherine Bates and Chris Boyden of Chesterfield got married at the railway centre.Laura Greaves, events and marketing manager at Midland Railway – Butterley, said: “Back in 1981 the volunteers’ pioneering ideas led to the growth of the railway as a visitors attraction.“Forty years later we are not only able to offer visitors a ride on the same railway, but also have a day out with us and learn about the Midland Railway. We continue to be a volunteer run trust, without which we wouldn’t be able to open the doors to visitors.“We would like to thank all those that have visited us over the last 40 years and hope you have enjoyed watching the railway grow. Many of our visitors that were children when they first visited are now bringing their own children which is testament for the locals’ love of the railway.”The Midland Railway is open for passenger services most weekends of the year and every day of the Derbyshire school holidays. For more details, go to or call 01773 570140.

A steam train ride at Butterley was a big draw for these Scouts in 1983.
Butterley Station at Ripley has drawn 20,000 passengers in the past 40 years.