With thanks to Cliff Williams for use of the photographs and facts

Well there is still a main line railway existing in Clay Cross, the main Leeds to Derby line which runs underneath the town and the Sheffield to Nottingham (Erewash) line which runs to the east of the town. Clay Cross station was actually situated in the township of Tupton, 2 miles from Clay Cross and the ticket entitled the bearer to right to walk along the embankment to the town. There was a goods station in the town terminating on Market Street, part of this line ran up to the works for the movement by rail of goods in and pipes out. Originally the goods out was coal from the Numbers 1, 2 and 3 pits which was then taken as far as London.

The other 'railway' was the narrow gauge Ashover Light Railway (ALR). Detail about this railway can be found at Ashover Light Railway. Primarily, this was constructed to carry lime from Ashover to the ovens at the Clay Cross Works

There were 5 steam locomotives used on the ALR, which were Baldwin's and named after General Jackson's daughters and sons. Bridget (Elizabeth Bridget Huth Jackson), Joan (Hermina Joan Carmichael Jackson), Hummy (Henry Humphry Jackson) and Guy (Guy Rolf Jackson). The daughter known as Peggy was in fact Margaret Beatrice Meinertzhagen Jackson.

The Ashover Light Railway Society plan to reopen a section of this railway and hope to see steam trains working again on it.

The Station

Clay Cross railway station was built by the North Midland Railway in 1840. It was originally planned to have been built within the Clay Cross Tunnel, however it was clear that it would be impossible to ventilate it effectively, so instead it was built at the northern entrance
The original station was by Francis Thompson in the Italianate design. In 1879 the line from the Midland Counties Railway was built through the Erewash Valley meeting the North Midland at the station, which had platforms serving two passenger lines, with two goods lines passing to the east, which continued the whole way down the Erewash Valley. The station was rebuilt by the Midland Railway and enlarged to serve four tracks, with two outer platforms and an island platform in the middle.
The station was closed in 1967.

Original station
looking south
looking north
from the embankment

The Tunnel

Clay Cross Tunnel is 1784-yard long on the former North Midland Railway line.
It begins at the highest point of the line, just after the old Stretton railway station. Situated at the watershed of the rivers Amber and Rother, it was completed by George Stephenson in 1839.
Clay Cross is directly above it and there are ventilation shafts in Market Street and High Street (some 144 feet above the line) and also in Clay Lane and Bridge Street.
Until the building of the tunnel, no deep prospecting for minerals had been carried out. The discovery of coal and iron led to George Stephenson with a group of others, buying a tract of land south of the tunnel and set up a company, George Stephenson and Co., later renamed the Clay Cross Company.
Nevertheless the boring of the tunnel was not straightforward, eventually costing 140,000 instead of the expected 98,000, with the loss of fifteen lives.
The northern portal is a magnificent Moorish design and is now a grade 2 listed building.
The tunnel saw one of the first uses of the absolute block signalling system, maybe after a narrow escape on the south bound inaugural run. The train was heavier than expected and a pilot engine was provided at the rear. This was detached at the entrance to the tunnel, but halfway through the train came to a halt, and someone had to walk back for the pilot, to the consternation of the passengers. Stephenson had been shown the system by its inventor William Fothergill Cooke supported by Wheatstone of the Wheatstone bridge fame. This was the forerunner of the Midland Railway's system.

North entrance

Neil Wilson 2012 - www.claycross.org.uk
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