Serious flooding occurred on Friday 8th November throughout the Derwent Valley in response to heavy rainfall over many days on a saturated catchment area. During the morning I received a phone call from the Office making me aware of the situation and that peak flow would be around midday. I decided upon seeing the situation for myself and parked at Darley Dale Station. I had observed from the car, whilst travelling along the A6, the floodwater was not near the track north of Darley Dale. A sad sight along Station Road, at Four Lane Ends, was an abandoned car, one of whose occupants had drowned in the fast flowing floodwaters in the early hours of the morning. As I proceeded to walk south towards Matlock Riverside the extent of the floodwaters became evident. Beyond Red House Cutting the whole valley floor was under water. By Bridge 38 the floodwater was also on the Up side of the trackbed, this was to be the case right down to Bridge 35 over the River Derwent, being aided by Bridges 38, 37 and 36 being underpasses, originally for farmer access. The floodwater was up to the deck at all three of these bridges. Just south of Statham’s Crossing/ Bridge 37 and down to Bridge 35 the floodwaters had earlier completely covered the track according to locals in conversation. One local mentioned that there were at least 25 large bales of hay stuck against the deck of Bridge 35. These bales had been stored in the field near Statham’s Crossing. By the time I arrived at Bridge 35 the water level had dropped sufficiently to allow most of them under. An astonishing sight was that of one bale stuck a long way up a tree. The A6 at this point was also under water. Later that evening the BBC 10 o’clock news opened with an aerial shot of the area north of Matlock and the whole line was shown to be under water south of Bridge 37.
From my observations I could not perceive any obvious damage to the track formation. Train operating was suspended and the following week the P-Way team carried out a full line Track Inspection to ascertain if any damage had been caused to the track formation and structures. All drains were also checked for blockage or damage. As the floodwaters receded it became clear that Bridge 35 had suffered some damage. The cross bracing between the two bridge piers at the southern end of the bridge had been hit, most likely by one of the hay bales, and detached. The bridge was structurally inspected by a bridge engineer and weekly testing allowed the Santa Specials to traverse it at a reduced speed of 5mph. The repair work was scheduled for w/c 10th February but due to the impact of Storms Ciara and Dennis and further heavy rainfall thereafter meant postponement until the river level dropped.
Whilst Storm Ciara raised the level of the River Derwent again it did not cause the widespread flooding of the valley floodplain like Storm Dennis exactly a week later. Thankfully on a Track Inspection around peak flow the floodwaters were not high enough to reach the track formation. However the floodwaters did again reach the Up side of the line through the underpasses. An assessment as per the November flood event was carried out.
Since these flood events all Track Inspections will focus particularly on the track formation between Bridges 38 and 35. With a prolonged dry spell this Spring, following on from the extremely wet Winter, it is prudent to do so as this section is on an embankment that had floodwater surrounding the structure. The bridges on this section will also be visually inspected on a more frequent basis.
Had you received the latest edition of Peak Express, which has been severely delayed due to the Covid-19 restrictions, my Chair Report would have included a brief resume of the AGM of the Peak Railway Association Ltd (PRA). This took place on Saturday 8th February at the Whitworth Centre in Darley Dale. So I’ve decided to include some of the proceedings in this message.
53 members attended in person with all 8 current Directors present and there were 48 valid Proxy votes. All the resolutions on the Agenda were passed including the reappointment of directors Mick Bond and Harold Davenport. The Resolution to consider the Accounts for the year ended 31/05/19 raised a number of questions from several members. It was asked why income had fallen by roughly £14000. It was explained that much of the reduction in membership receipts (£6000) would be because of the timing of the publication of Peak Express. It being through Peak Express that membership renewals and reminders are distributed to members. The removal of free travel for PRA members by Peak Rail Plc had caused a very small number not to renew their membership. Another issue is that a significant number of people have taken advantage of the discount on 5 year membership so therefore are not renewing annually. Sadly there has also been an increase in the number of deaths being notified. It should be noted that membership receipts have been very buoyant in the current financial period. There were two other significant declines in income that need to be mentioned. Firstly, the donations received from PRA Branches fell by £4250. This is wholly down to a large donation from the Sheffield Branch of £5000 in August 2017, therefore occurring in the previous financial period ending 31/05/18, towards the renewal of Darley Dale Level Crossing. Secondly, receipts from the Annual Raffle were down by nearly £3700 on the previous year. Unfortunately this is a trend that has continued with the latest raffle at the end of 2019 with receipts down another £2500 to £5100. The reasons for this are very clear. Due to General Data Protection requirements the PRA can no longer send raffle tickets to Peak Rail Plc shareholders. This has reduced income by some £3000-4000. Also there has been a drop in receipts from PRA members who receive raffle tickets to sell via Peak Express. There have also been fewer volunteers prepared to sell raffle tickets on the train. With 50% of total sales coming from the Santa Special season this has had a real impact. The 2018 raffle raised £7800 towards refurbishing the carriages on Peak Rail. This has mainly been used to purchase cloth for recovering the seats in two Mk 1 carriages plus a set of batteries, costing £1800, for another. The seat covers on the Mk 1’s had become very tatty and the refurbishment has dramatically improved their appearance which is important to visitors.
It is interesting to note that no member asked about what the £9192 under the heading Projects had actually been spent on. £3760 went to purchase new Crossing Timbers to replace life expired ones. £420 went on CCTV provision at Church Lane Signal Box. This was in response to volunteer safety being put at risk by road vehicles moving through the level crossing whilst the gates were being opened and closed. The CCTV has removed this problem. Yet another positive not mentioned was the £3371 provided for the restoration of the LMS Brake Van, as reported on in the last edition of Peak Express.
I’ll cover some of the issues that arose under General Discussion future updates.
Who would have thought at the start of the New Year that life, as we’ve known it, would change so dramatically in such a short period of time? Interesting too how new terminology has quickly entered everyday vocabulary, such as ‘Social Distancing’. How are you coping? I hope that you are well and have avoided Covid-19.
PRA meetings have been postponed:
- Chesterfield Branch – Tuesday 17 March – Ken Horan
- Derwent Valley Branch – Tuesday 24 March – Ken Grainger
- Sheffield Branch – Mon 6 April – Paul Shackcloth
- Buxton Branch – Thursday 9 April – Gavin Lake
First episode of “Britain’s Lost railways” Series 2 will be on Channel 5 at 8p.m. on Sunday 9th February. The first episode is on Derbyshire and some of it was filmed on Peak Rail.