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Whaley Bridge Wharf

A wharf on the Peak Forest Canal with a transhipment warehouse of 1801, later a terminus of the Cromford & High Peak Railway in 1831.

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Canal Street, Whaley bridge, Derbyshire, SK23 7BJ

SK23 7BJ
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About Whaley Bridge Wharf



The Whaley Bridge arm of the Peak Forest Canal was opened in 1800, terminating at the wharf and warehouse - which also straddles key water feeders to the canal. lt runs for 24 km.(15 miles) between Ashton under Lyne, east of Manchester, and Whaley Bridge and links the Ashton Canal with the tramways that brought limestone from the Peak District quarries. The canal's terminus at Bugsworth Basin is one of the best-preserved canal-tramway interchanges. Marple Aqueduct carries the canal 100 feet above the River Goyt and there are 16 locks at Marple, separating the "Upper" and "Lower" parts of the canal. The Lower Peak Forest Canal forms part of the "Cheshire Ring".

In the early 1820s a canal was planned to connect the Cromford Canal at Cromford Wharf with the Whaley Bridge Branch of the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge, lying on the opposite side of the White Peak to the north west.  A junction canal such as the one proposed would have been impracticable across such mountainous terrain, so the idea was dropped and a railway was built instead. Construction of the railway was authorised by Parliament on the 2 May 1825, the Cromford and High Peak Railway Company was incorporated on the 2 May 1825.

This extraordinary standard gauge railway was provided with edge rails from the outset and it was opened in two sections. The first was from Cromford Wharf (later extended to join the Midland Railway at High Peak Junction) to Hurdlow, which opened on the 29 May 1830 and the second was from Hurdlow to Whaley Bridge,  which opened on the 6 July 1831. Its summit level was more than 366 m. (1,200 feet) above sea level.

Most of all, it is remarkable in that it was a railway built in the manner of a canal with inclined planes being substituted for flights of locks, and in all there were nine of these. In order to reduce earthworks along the summit section to a minimum this was built as a very winding contour railway that resulted in numerous tight bends. In some instances the railway almost seemed to double back on itself. Where earthworks were unavoidable, the result was a number of huge embankments and narrow cuttings.

The main purpose of the railway was for the transportation of minerals, such as limestone, lime, coal and iron, as well as general goods. It reached the wharf in 1831, down a rope-hauled incline, powered by a horse gin. The incline, which, amazingly, remained in operation until 1952, can be traced south of the wharf, beyond its crossing of the River Goyt via a wrought-iron bowstring girder bridge. Railway wagon movements on the wharf were also horse powered. The transhipment warehouse of 1801 was extended in 1832. Buildings opposite the south face of the warehouse - across Canal Street - include the former wharfinger's house and office.

The horse gin, also known as a horse capstan or horse whim, operated on a gradient 1 in 13.5, 164 m. (180 yards long). In use, a horse was harnessed to the outer end of a long pole that was attached to the top of a vertical shaft that arose from a wheel pit, covered with boards, at the top of the plane. A pinion was fastened to the bottom end of this shaft, which meshed with a larger gear wheel. A pulley was fastened to the same shaft as the larger gear wheel and the endless chain from the plane was passed around this. There was another covered wheel pit at the bottom of the plane and the endless chain also passed around this, so that the chain crossed from one rail track to the other.


By road follow A5004 into Whaley Bridge. After half a mile the wharf is in the left by way of Canal Street.

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