The North Midland Railway Act of 1836 led to the establishment of the line between Derby and Ambergate, and beyond up the Amber Valley via Chesterfield and Rotherham to Leeds. The line of the North Midland Railway was laid out by George Stephenson and carried through by Robert Stephenson (appointed joint engineers). This was an immense engineering operation: the Milford tunnel is 800 yards long, the cutting through Belper was completely lined in masonry and incorporated 10 road bridges, there were 5 bridges built over the Derwent between Milford and Ambergate and at Bullbridge a 150ft long iron aqueduct was erected to carry the Cromford Canal with no disruption to canal traffic. The design of the bridges and most civil engineering works on the North Midland Railway was coordinated by the resident engineer in the Chesterfield offices, Frederick Swanwick. He was probably the designer of the monumental cuttings, embankments, tunnel mouths and bridges that are so characteristic of the line. In February 1839 the railway architect Francis Thompson was specifically commissioned to design the stations and ancillary railway buildings on the platforms. He in turn commissioned Samuel Russell to record (by engraving) the stations of the North Midland for publication. He also recorded some of the bridges and tunnel entrances. (1)
On August 22nd 1839, it was reported that the whole of the excavations were now complete in the Clay Cross Tunnel, where the last brick was laid on 18th of December 1839. During December, efforts were made to complete a single line of rails for Stephenson's Coke Ovens at Clay Cross to Whittington and Derby, supplied to the North Midland Railway (NMR). With the opening of the NMR line, there marked a change in the pattern of long distance road passenger traffic- four daily coaches from Chesterfield to London and the three to Derby and Birmingham had all but disappeared by 1846, and the coach to Manchester no longer ran. In December 1841 the directors of the NMR decided to reduce the fare from Sheffield to various stations north and south of the city, however the number of coaches to Sheffield had falled from seven to three. (2)
Bibliographic reference: Billson, P. 1996. Derby and the Midland Railway.
Bibliographic reference: Williams, C. 1980. Driving the Clay Cross Tunnel, navvies on the Derby/Leeds Railway.
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