[Source: Glynn Waite (Rowsley Association)]

Date opened: 28t.6.1926
Location: Opposite Peak Rail's Rowsley South station
Company on opening: London Midland Scottish Railway
Date closed completely: 3.10.1966.
Company on closing: British Railways London Midland Region
Present state: Demolished but a new shed has been opened on the site by Peak Rail.
County: Derbyshire
OS Grid Ref: SK263643

Notes: Notes: The Midland Railway (MR) had been actively exploring creating a new Locomotive Depot to replace the cramped facilities at Rowsley since 1898. By the 1920s the need for a new engine shed remained critical and, two decades after purchasing the land, the contract for its construction was finally let to E. Wood & Sons on 14th December 1922 – just a couple of weeks before the Midland became a constituent of the London Midland & Scottish Railway.

Although this was to be quite a substantial structure, with accommodation for 24 locomotives inside, the contract was only for £22,205.11s.8d, marginally more than the estimate in 1914 and less than the original one in 1900. Bearing in mind wartime inflation, this represented a saving of around 50%. Perhaps one of the main differences, however, was that this shed was to be built with bricks rather than stone, which was the intention with the earlier schemes.

Even then, things did not go exactly to plan. Photographs and correspondence indicate that the shed building had been completed by the end of 1924, yet it was not until 28th June 1926 that was brought into use. Even then, the coaling plant was not ready and engines had to be coaled at the old shed until October. This no doubt provides part of the answer, but the financial state of the LMS, a period of depression, and various strikes will have played a part.

No doubt the opening would have taken place a little earlier had it not been for the General Strike in May 1926. The consequence of this resulted in the first few months after the opening being somewhat surreal.  At the end of May, the LMS suspended the guaranteed week for railwaymen and many of the younger hands in particular were put on short time, initially on a 3 day per week basis rather than the 6 day working week that then existed. It would be mid September before operations were ‘back to normal’.

The new shed was a magnificent building, with facilities such as hot baths, which were still not installed in the railway cottages at Rowsley four decades later – but at least the men could use them when both on or off duty. This was in complete contrast to the Spartan conditions that always existed in the Sidings.

Initially the shed would have been somewhat under utilised. It will be recalled that because of the cramped facilities at the old shed, a lot of the workings from and to Rowsley were covered by foreign crews, and that remained the situation. Another feature was that since the line was extended to Buxton in 1863, Rowsley had been a sub-shed of that depot, and that situation continued, even though the facilities were far better than those at its parent depot.  This remained the case until 1935, when two related events took place. A review of facilities at Buxton resulted in the Midland shed closing and its workings incorporated within those of the enlarged ex-L&NW depot in the town. At the same time, the LMS completely restructured its Motive Power Department. On 19th August, Rowsley was brought under the control of the District Motive Power Superintendent at Derby, but now as a shed in its own right, identified as code 17D.

Rowsley’s initial allocation consisted of 23 tender and 13 tanks engines, including those used on the Cromford & High Peak line at Cromford, Sheep Pasture and Middleton. Additional work was gradually transferred to the depot and on the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 its allocation of engines had risen to 46. This would have resulted in an associated increase in the number of footplate crews.

The war, however, brought some unexpected changes in the form a greatly accelerated transfer of work to the depot. Work previously allocated to depots in the industrial towns and cities, which were often subjected to bombing, was transferred to Rowsley, where there was less disruption. This process also continued for a few years after hostilities had ceased.

Some men were recruited locally, but many came from other depots. In 1925, because of its size, the LMS had set up a number of geographical areas, within which promotion was to be restricted. Rowsley was the southernmost depot of 30 in an area which mainly covered South Lancashire and North West Cheshire. So staff did not come from the Derby area, from where Rowsley was now controlled, but from sheds like Newton Heath, Longsight and Trafford Park and, of course, Buxton. 

The increase in the complement of staff was quite remarkable. On 20th November 1941, there were 172 footplate staff – which itself would have been an increase over pre-war levels. On 1st October 1946 the number had increased to 223, while on 26th October 1948 there were 260 footplate staff, excluding passed cleaners and cleaners – at which time there were only 140 lockers for the men!

The allocation of locomotives had also increased to 60 by 1946 – which was more-or-less the maximum that could be accommodated both inside and outside the shed, especially as a number of larger engines were now in use, when compared with the situation in 1926.

The war, of course, brought many demands on the railways, and while drivers and firemen were ‘protected’ grades needed for the war effort in Britain, many of the younger staff – cleaners in particular – were ‘called up’. These were replaced by around a couple of dozen women.

It is generally acknowledged that the railway system was at its peak in the years prior to the First World War, but Rowsley’s peak – from a staffing perspective at least – was just after the Second World War.

The increase in staff, however, was not matched by an increase in facilities at the shed and while various temporary arrangements were considered none came to fruition, other than the opening of a canteen in the summer of 1944 – and even then, this was situated in part of the less than adequate messroom.

By the early 1950s, the number of people employed at the shed was still considerable, as the following will show:


Passed Firemen








Passed Cleaners








Conciliation Shed Staff




Workshop Staff




Salaried Staff




Canteen Staff








In addition to this, the shed also administered 20 men from the Cromford & High Peak depots at Cromford, Sheep Pasture and Middleton.

The 9 clerical staff comprised the Shed Foreman (Shed Master from 1955), 3 Running Shift Foremen and 5 clerks – a ratio that would be unheard of today.

A number of notable changes took place in the 1950s. A new by-pass road was laid in late-1955, which enabled turn-back locomotives to reach the turntable without passing over the main ashpit and waiting behind locomotives being coaled. This was given the nickname of ‘The Burma Road’.
In April 1958, 17D – the shed code that had become synonymous with Rowsley – was altered to 17C following the transfer of Coalville shed to the Leicester district. Later, in September 1963, it was further reallocated 16J under an enlarged Toton District. Neither change was readily accepted by those who worked at the shed, however, and today, forty years after its closure, it is 17D that is always associated with the shed.

Towards the end of the decade, the condition of the shed roof was causing concern and this was renewed in a completely different style, the work being carried out between February and October 1959.
Following a visit of the Locomotive Productivity Committee in January 1955, it was suggested that 3 turns in the Sidings should be dieselised. However, it was 1959 before the matter was raised again, at which time two 350hp diesel shunters were allocated to the depot, but immediately transferred to Derby on loan. In February 1960 proposals were published for diesel depot to be built in the adjacent Engineer’s Sidings, with limited maintenance facilities for 7 Type 4 and 13 Type 2 diesels, and heavy maintenance facilities for shunters. A plan of the depot was also included.

The proposal to dieselise some of the Sidings shunting operations floundered during the summer of 1960, due to manning implications, and the matter was never raised again, although their introduction was implicit in a further scheme of February 1962 for a diesel depot at Rowsley.

By now, however, the gradual decline in freight traffic and changed working practices in British industry caused BR to review its freight operations. In February 1964 proposals were put forward for the closure of Rowsley Sidings and this took place on 27th April.

This, of course, had a serious effect on the shed, which relied on the Sidings for most of its work and the whole of its allocation of 51 engines was transferred away within the next few weeks.  A number of traincrew were retained for the relieving of through trains, but most of the fitting staff and shed labourers were made redundant. Four steam engines were retained for banking and local ballast work, although now allocated to Derby, while the depot’s passenger turns from Bakewell and Darley Dale to Derby were converted to Type 2 diesel haulage.

The steam engine turns were also converted to Type 2 diesels from 4th January 1965, with 18 more staff becoming redundant. A gradual reduction in the number of footplate staff followed, with men leaving as they approached retirement age, with their jobs not being filled. When the footplate roster was compiled for the timetable commencing on 16th April 1966, this showed worked for just 44 sets of men, with an additional 2 drivers and 9 firemen being identified as ‘surplus to requirements’. The remaining staff consisted of the Depot Manager (who was also in charge of the Goods Guards and signalmen), 3 Running Shift Foremen, 2 clerks (who also covered other administration work), and 4 ‘light duties’ shed men.

Two months later a report was published on the complete closure of the line, the first stage of which was to divert freight trains away from the route and close Rowsley shed. This became effective on 3rd October 1966.

Many of the staff took redundancy, but a good number remained on the railway. Six men were transferred to each of Bescot and Crewe, while others went to Westhouses, Buxton and Cricklewood. Most, however, went to Derby, where special provision was made to accommodate all who wanted to work there.

The shed lay dormant for a year, but on 20th October 1967, the Divisional Civil Engineer at Nottingham issued a specification to 13 contractors interesting in tendering for its demolition. This started in the December, with the work – which included the coaling plant, out buildings and filling in of the turntable – being completed by mid-February. One of the stipulations was that all rubble was to be spread on site and levelled tidily to a height of no more than 3 feet above the surrounding ground level. There was obviously no check on the work, as those who saw the site afterwards would not have identified it with the phrase ‘levelled tidily’.

On 29th March 1997, Peak Rail extended its operation from Darley Dale to a new station at Rowsley South, which was built on part of the Engineer’s Sidings adjacent to the former engine shed. At the same time, volunteers began the painstaking task of excavating the shed site with a view to returning much of it to its former glory. The turntable has now been completely renewed, ash pits restored, rails laid through the shed yard and onto all four roads of the shed which has also been rebuilt, albeit that it only covers about one third of the original site and is of a more modern and functional design than its predecessor.

Source: Rowsley Association

Click here for Rowsley 1st Locomotive depot
Click here for Rowsley sidings
Click here to see a series of pictures of the A6 bridge at the north end of Rowsley station being replaced in 1965.

To see other stations between Manchester Central & Matlock click on the station name:Manchester Central, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Withington & West Didsbury, Didsbury, Heaton Mersey, Cheadle Heath, Hazel Grove (Midland), Buxworth, Chinley (2nd site) STILLOPEN, Chinley (1st site), Chapel-en-le-Frith Central, Peak Forest, Cheedale Halt, Buxton (Midland), Blackwell Mill Halt, Millers Dale, Monsal Dale, Great Longstone, Hassop, Bakewell, Rowsley (1st site), Rowsley South PEAK RAIL, Darley Dale, Matlock Riverside PEAK RAIL & Matlock STILL OPEN. See also Stockport Tiviot Dale & Stockport Portwood

The outside of the shed looking north on 24th November 1924. It would be another year and a half before it saw any activity. This is believed that the main reason was due to delay in constructing the coaling plant.

A diagram showing the area occupied by the 1926 engine shed and adjacent Engineer’s Sidings. Note the Welfare Ground in the lower centre. This was the area known as ‘Cow Pasture’, which was purchased in 1898 as a potential site for the new shed. It appears to have been too small for that purpose, hence the reason for buying additional land on the opposite side of the main line. In the 1920s this area of land was given to the staff, who laid out various sports and children’s facilities. Two old coach bodies were used for changing and community gatherings. It was known as the LMS Sports Ground (Welfare Ground being an alternative name). Unfortunately, the land was leased to the Ministry of Supply in 1941 to help the war effort, and Firth Derihon’s Factory (now Firth Rixson) built on the site – just at the time when the compliment of staff at Rowsley was increasing quite dramatically. (Click here to see a higher resolution version)
Plan from Rowsley Association

Rowsley's second locomotive shed in February 1949.
Photo from Roger Griffiths collection

An atmospheric view of the south end of the shed c.1958, showing a variety of motive power – a 4MT 2-6-4 Tank, an LMS 3F tank, an ex-North London 2F tank (for the Cromford & High Peak Line), a 2-6-0 ‘Crab’ and what are probably Class 3F and 4F 0-6-0s with their tenders facing. The two snowploughs on the stop block indicate that the photo was not taken in the winter period. Note the
train spotter on the left.

Photo from Rowsley Association

The Coaling Plant for Rowsley 2nd shed, with the shed in the centre background.
Photo by H Townley from Peak Rail collection

Class 3F 0-6-0 No.43778 on the turntable in April 1958
Photo by Arthur Haynes from Peak Rail collection

An ex Midland Railway Johnson 0-6-0 locomotive number 43342 at Rowsley shed in 1958.
Photo by Stan Withers

Rowsley shed in 1963. British Railways 9F locomotive number 92126 waits for its next duty.
Photo by Stan Withers

The shed looking north soon after its closure in October 1966.
Photo by John Morten

Looking south shortly before the full closure of the shed in October 1966. The Type 2 diesels used for banking and the local passenger services were not allowed on the shed and had to be stabled on the north side of the coaling plant. Note the flat shed roof which was the result
of the alterations in 1959.
Photo by Rowsley Association

The former site of the 2nd locomotive depot at Rowsley in 1991 which was later chosen by Peak Rail as the location for their new smaller locomotive depot.
Photo by Alan Lewis from his Flickr web site

Peak Rails new edgine shed under construction in August 2006 This is on the site of the 1926 shed although it only occupies one third of the original shed site.
Photo from Peak Rail collection

Last updated: Monday, 22-May-2017 13:04:46 CEST
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