At Middleton Top stands the impressive and last surviving winding engine from the once busy Cromford and High Peak Railway. Although the railway closed in 1967, the Engine House stands as a monument on the High Peak Trail.
The stationary steam beam engine was used to wind trucks up and down the steep (gradient of 1 in 8) Middleton Incline and was built by the Butterley Company in 1829, working from 1830 to 1963. This is the oldest working Engine House of its type in the world, although these days electricity provides the power rather than steam.
Outside the Engine House you can see a pulley wheel under a grille in the centre of the track. There were similar pulleys at the bottom of the incline and a loop of steel cable was attached around them. The wagons were then attached to this by chains and usually the engine would have one set of wagons descending the incline and another on the other track ascending – in order to counterbalance the load. A maximum speed of 8 miles per hour was permitted to control the wagons.
Also on display outside the engine house is a sample wagon from the old railway, and a short section of the original track, with the distinctive ‘fish-belly’ type of rail, which were attached to stone blocks rather than the usual wooden sleepers. The final photograph shows the Engine House in use during the 1950’s.