There is an area of Derbyshire that lies off the main road and rail routes, but could be argued to be amongst the most important parts of the county, if not the country, in terms of its coal mining, iron production, manufacturing and heavy engineering. With the scenically beautiful Midland main line through the Peak District on one side, and the more down-to-earth and workmanlike Erewash Valley line on the other, Ripley was surrounded by coal mines, potteries and agricultural land. Hard by Ripley was Butterley, whose eponymous engineering company, one of the oldest and most respected in the world until its recent demise, sat like a spider in a web of industrial railway lines and canals.
None of these lines could be said to be glamorous, or even attractive − at least not in the way that some country branch lines are remembered. But they each had their own character, and a charm that leads many to regret their passing. Little has been written about them before, but their story deserves to be told. This book aims to do that.