Butterley Station, Ripley
Derbyshire DE5 3QZ. Tel: 01773 747674 / 749788 „
We are heading toward the summer months when we all start to think of going out to play. Like most people we have our favourite places to visit and often these are places that we may choose to visit regularly. We consider ourselves lucky because we live within an hours drive of The Midland Railway station at Butterley.
I think the first thing I ought to explain is where Butterley is, if you are on the M1 then you will need to come off at Junction 28, it is on the B6179 one mile north of Ripley town centre and if you have SatNav then put in the postcode DE5 3QZ.
Obviously with a name like The Midland railway centre the focus is on steam engines and a bygone era. The Other Half and I both love the old steam trains but we aren't fanatics, we just love the whole idea of being able to spend a day out, enjoy a cuppa and a walk and watch the young families enjoying themselves. The places that you can go and visit and spend relatively little are very few and far between nowadays and this venue is among one of them.
Do take care as you travel along the narrow track towards the Midland railway, for about a mile you wind your way down towards the centre and will find yourself having to pull into passing points because there isn't enough width for two cars on the road.
At the bottom of the track there is a fairly large car park, now they don't ask for any parking fee but there is an Honesty box, of course all of the money collected from parking will help with the running costs of the railway.
It is a very relaxing day the kids can enjoy themselves, if you have a dog then you can walk the dog around the centre along with you ( on a lead ) and in general you only need to bother wearing some old casual clothes.
I feel that I need to point out that the ground is hilly, rough and uneven in some parts so anyone with mobility problems may struggle. But I wouldn't foresee any problems pushing either a wheelchair or a pushchair around.
If the weather is good then sandals are fine but if there has been a lot of rain then it may well be appropriate to wear your wellies!
If you have never visited the centre then try to pick a dry weather day, take a picnic, there are plenty of grassed areas to stick a rug down and although you can buy food and drink it does become expensive for a family day out.
At the entrance to the railway you will see a static engine, this is the Thomas the Tank engine that has been put there especially for the children. Now Thomas `talks` ( with the aid of an adult volunteer who sits inside and yells through a hole!), if any parent asks Thomas nicely he will engage in conversation with their children. The children's faces are a picture!
One of the large sheds is set aside for model railway enthusiasts and in there you will see some spectacular model railways in action. The volunteers who own the train sets are more than happy to chat about their train sets and anything to do with model railway in general.
To the far right of the centre they have re-sited an old tin tabernacle (church), it may be basic but this is one of my favourite places to visit. There are some pews and a couple of old organs and an altar that has been made to look cared for.
The Midland railway centre has a license to hold weddings and you could even consider having your wedding reception aboard a steam train!
The centre can also provide the perfect setting for a children's birthday party, a pre- organised Sunday lunch or an evening charter. For information you would need to contact the railway.
As you are wandering around the centre you will periodically see the volunteers at work, now the whole centre depends on those who volunteer their time and as you work your way around the railway centre is becomes very clear just how dedicated those volunteers are.
The museum section will probably be more interesting to the adults, there is a galleried walkway that allows you to look down on the workshops. There you will see the men at work on the steam engine restoration projects and some of the equipment hanging on the wall has to be seen to be believed! I have never seen spanners so large!!
There are a couple of enormous sheds that are home to the steam centres engines. One of the engines is named The Princess Margaret Rose, a spectacular site to see, lovingly restored and cared for. Sometimes another engine called The Duchess Of Sutherland will be there too but that particular engine is often loaned out to other steam centres or railways.
Now don't get the idea that there are only a couple of engines here to look at, in fact there are a host of old engines to feast your eyes upon.
I must just tell you about the old platforms, they have been decorated with old posters, vintage chocolate vending machines, old suitcases and bicycles!
There is a souvenir shop that sells trinkets, postcards, sweets, ice cream and cold drinks.
There is also a large portakabin that is again manned by volunteers who serve home cooked food and the most delicious puds!
In there you can always buy a welcome cup of tea or coffee too.
They do run a steam train for a short journey, tickets can be bought on the day. The short journey on the steam train is great but sometimes it is just enough to wander around, to let the children play and we still haven't been to visit the animals at Brittain Pit farm yet.
Brittain Pit animal farm is on the same site, let me tell you what they have at the farm.
Lots of birds, from cockatoos to finches, hamsters and guinea pigs, rabbits, sheep, pigs, goats, fish, Llamas and a few more that I may well have forgotten about.
In the farm they have little bags of food that can be bought for pence and the children can feed the animals but they will need to be well supervised, the goats are gannets!
I think by now you have the gist of the Midland railway centre, it is well worth a visit if you live near enough or you are maybe holidaying nearby.
During the summer holidays they have many days where they run Thomas the Tank engine and Oswald the engine along the tracks for fun. Some of the volunteers dress up, the Fat Controller is always a wonderful sight.
You can easily spend a whole afternoon at the Midland railway, it makes a thoroughly enjoyable family outing. Some time ago the centre received funding from the National Lottery to enable them to carry on their remarkable venture.
We went to the Midland Railway Centre in Jan 2009 and can't say that we found it all that enjoyable or remotely good value for money. We paid just under £30 for two adults and two children. After paying we found that there were no steam trains in operation, just a diesel. I'm sure it was an old and venerable diesel - that could be why it still had its original graffiti - but to most of us a diesel is a diesel and is the kind of train you'd normally take from one town to another and is nothing special.
The lack of steam was a big disappointment. We took the train to the museum site- the timetable is based around steam trains, but diesel is much more efficient so there was lots of sitting around at the end of the line and the like. The museum site was OK. There was a big shed - take your wellies to get there, it hadn't rained for a good while but the site was like the battle of the Somme - which was filled with various engines and carriages. Very poorly lit, generally well labelled, but mostly you walked about on the level of the carriage wheels - if nothing else this helped show you how high station platforms are, but made it difficult to see into the carriages. Didn't really matter that you couldn't reach the windows though as it was too dark to see in. So we walked over to the model railway display where the gentleman running the display basically said that we couldn't bring the (well behaved) kids in. Why have a bloody train set and not allow the kids to see it? There was another that we saw later at the original station, which the kids loved. Also at the museum site there was a kid's play area, which we didn't look at closely as it was too cold. We waited an age for the train back before getting off. We didn't see anything of Thomas the Tank Engine although they do have Thomas days. Most of the visitors there had small children (under 5) but there wasn't anything Thomas on display except in the shop.
Most of the volunteers (although not all) were older men who generally ignored the visitors and indeed (as with the model train) seemed to consider us to be a bit of an inconvenience.
I know that to an extent I'm complaining that the train museum focussed too much on trains and that's not really all that fair, but it's true. £30 to ride a diesel train is a lot of money, the engine shed was not very child friendly (not disabled friendly either, I'd think) and the model railway man was frankly unhelpful. I felt a bit like we were trespassing on the preserve of the elderly and bearded and were resented for all except the money in our pockets.
So it's good if you're a real train fan, but if you just have casual interest in trains you'd be best of going somewhere else.
Midland Railway Station is set on the outskirts of the Derbyshire town of Ripley in a village named Butterley and is host to a wide variety of steam and diesel engines. Butterley Station was actually demolished following the closure of the Railway, and the station house that is now there was moved stone by stone from Whitwell in North Derbyshire. The remainder of the buildings and the tracks have been built since the Midland Railway trust set up in 1973. The station house not only hosts the original ticket office, but also a gift shop, where a host of items can be bought, they specialize in Thomas the tank engine goods, but a good range of hornby trains/trucks/tracks can be bought here. A shop most definitely to create a crater in your credit card! There is a fairly good café on the station, which provides hot and cold drinks as well as a pretty reasonable snack type meal, on busy days Sundays and Bank holidays you will have to queue for quite a while as it does get very busy. There is an excellent model railway set up situated in a porta cabin on the station; this can be seen working on most days – operated by the local enthusiasts club. These helpful guys, who will bore/entrance you about the various trains operating, will readily answer any questions you may have about the trains. Please note do not ask to operate the model trains – they are jealousy guarded! The trust now renovates all its own operating coaching stock and work can be seen carried out on the trains as you walk around the station. Every 2/3 months there are ‘A day out with Thomas’ days which feature Thomas the tank engine and his friends. You can buy your tickets from the ticket office at the princely sum of £8.95 per adult (2 children travel free with each adult), although the price seems high, it is for unlimited travel on that day, up and down the line. You can also meet Sir Tophamm Hatt (AKA the fat controller). On a
rriving at Butterley you will find a large parking area to the left hand side, with disabled parking right outside the station house. Ramps are situated directly into the station house – so access is easy for all at Butterley. There are plenty of staff on hand to assist any wheelchair users onto the trains, so the whole family can enjoy a pleasant day out. Once you have bought your tickets you are free to look around Butterley station until your train arrives. The train journey itself takes you past Swanwick Junction where you will see the main museum site, where the majority of the restoration work is carried out, passing the former Kettering signalbox, which controls the Swanwick junction area. The train takes you out to Riddings, where the engine leaves the coaches and runs around to the front of the train to take you back to Swanwick junction, where you can get off and view the museum and attractions hosted there. The train ride itself takes about 20 minutes and is a pleasant ride through some lovely countryside. On arrival at Swanwick Junction you can see a large signal box; this is great fun for kids (young and old ones at that) as you are encouraged to ‘have a go’. You can change the signals and the points by heaving on the huge handles. The signal box was actually rescued from Linby a village in Nottingham and represents a typical Midland railway signal box. After leaving the platform there is a small children’s play area, where your little ones can burn off some steam of their own. This is very small and hosts a couple of swings, a slide and a roundabout and gets very very busy during the holidays and at weekends. On Thomas days out there is usually a bouncy castle and a bouncy slide set up, so children can have yet more fun. The bouncy castles will cost you around 50p for 10 minutes bouncing time – very good value. Not only can you ride on a full size steam or diesel engine you can als
o ride on the Golden Valley Light railway. This will cost you an extra £1.50 per adult (children are free). The carriages are very small and cramped and the seats are very hard indeed. The journey takes you through the country park for a few miles and if the seats weren’t quite so hard, would be quite relaxing. After enjoying your train rides you can visit the Matthew Kirtley Museum. Matthew Kirtley was the Midland Railways first Locomotive and Carriage Superintendent. The museum houses a fantastic display of engines and carriages. There are steam, diesel and electrically powered trains dating back to the 1890’s. There is a fantastically restored ‘mail’ train, which you can go inside and sit on the ‘stool’ that the mail sorters would sit on – not recommended as they are small and very uncomfortable! If you are tiring of trains by this time, you can visit the Johnson’s Buffet; here you can sample a wide variety of snacks and drinks all at very reasonable prices for a tourist attraction! You can also visit Brittain Pit farm; there is a selection of animals on view from ducks to sheep to pigs and rabbits. The staff are all very friendly and will allow petting and feeding of the animals. All in all the Midland Railway Centre is a great day out, and it is a day out too. If you happen to visit on one of the Thomas the tank engine days you are guaranteed to have knackered children at the end of the day! There is lots to do and see, with child orientated quizzes and puzzles. You can also get married at Midland Railway Centre by prior arrangement of course and hold children’s birthday parties here. The children are taken on the train, given a meal and a drink and taken around the places of interest there by a guide. Children’s parties are again by prior arrangement. For anyone who has wanted to drive a steam or diesel engine, Midland Railway gives you the opportunity. You can learn how to
drive a full sized steam or diesel engine! You do have to pay for this experience and all money goes back into the railway, if you are sneaky you can get your children into the ‘cab’ of the engine to see what is going on, by getting them to stand there looking wistful!!
My husband is a steam railway enthusuiast, the rest of us our less enthusiastic about steam engines, nevertheless we all had a good day out at the Midland Railway Centre. This opinion does not contain a lot of detailed info on locomotives, signal boxes etc. as I don't really understand it all, just a mums view of the place. Although listed as an attraction in Ripley the stations are actually at Butterley and Swanwick Junction. We parked at Butterley where there is a free car park, which is actually a large field belonging to the local angling club. There is also a car park at Swanwick Junction, but although we drove through Swanwick we didn't see any direction signs for the railway centre. Ticket to ride... the cost of an adult ticket valid for the day was £7.95, the children went free as they had a special offer on of up to 2 children travelling free with any paying adult. I think the normal price for children was £4.00 and free for the under 4's. Your ticket gave you unlimited travel for the day. We arrived early so while we waited we looked around the souvenir shop and watched the staem engine being prepared. The journey... From Butterley to Swanwick Junction, turns round at Riddings, back to Swanwick Junction through Butterley, up to Hammersmith where it turns round again and terminates at Butterley. All the main attractions are at Swanwick Junction, so they recommend that you get of at Swannick on the return from Riddings. Swanwick Junction... Diesel Depot.. This is a biulding under construction ready to house a collection of mainline diesel engines. Demonstration Signal Box.. You can see how a Midland signalman would have worked. It's interesting to look round, but the kids were disappointed that you were not allowed to pull the levers. St.Saviour's Church.. A "Tin Tabernacle" Victorian Church rescued from the railway village of Westhouses. Model
Railway.. This is in a portakabin, wasn't open on our visit. Allport's Emporium.. Basically a souvenir shop. Matthew Kirtley Museum.. A large engine shed housing the collection of steam, diesel and electric locomotives and rolling stock. I am not an expert on locomotives, but hubby said it was an interesting collection, although unfortunately some of the most interesting were not accessible due to some building work. Richard Levick Workshop.. This is where the restoration work goes on. Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust Depot. Locomotives housed here include Princess Margaret Rose and Duchess of Sutherland. Country Park.. Walk along the footpaths past the ponds and marshy areas ( ideal for ducks), 35 acres in area. You can also explore the park on the Golden Valley Light Railway train, we didn't get round to trying this. Brittain Pit Farm.. This was April's favourite bit of the day. It's quite a small show farm with slightly tatty but brightly painted pens. The animals donkeys including a new foal, goats, pigs, ducks, geese, Charlie the Llama, ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, chinchilla, sheep, chipmunks, I think thats about the lot. As with most of these farms you could buy a paper bag of food pellets for 40pence, with a choice of feeding furry or feathered friends. April loved the animals tickling her hand as they ate, Matthew was nervous of the although he's the eldest, so I had to get my hands covered in donkey spit. There were plenty of signs reminding you to wash your hands after feeding or touching the animals and adequate washing facilities and toilets. The whole atmospere of the farm was very friendly, April had a short pony ride, all this was free, you had the choice of whether or not you would like to leave a donation. the thing I liked about the farm was that the animals seemed well fed and cared for and were not clamouring to get food from
the visitors. There is a small childrens play area consisting of a couple of swings, a slide and a see-saw, I wouldn't recommend it as it looked a bit rusty and rickety and was set on grass with no safety mats. Food.. There is a buffet at Butterley and Swanwick Junction, we opted for Johnson's Buffet at Swanwick. There was a choice of hot, cold meals vegetarians catered for. The hot meals were the usual burger, sausage,chicken nuggets, etc with chips and baked beans of peas. The veggie things were you've guessed it veggie burgers, nuggets etc. The portions were large enough for any engine driver, with big chunky chips and huge mugs of tea, at under £12 for the four of us I would say it was value for money. So after stuffing ourselves on sausage and chips in the buffet, feeding the animals and looking in wonderment at the huge steam locos we got the train back to Butterley. There is a footpath from Swanwick Junction to Butterley , if you feel like walking it takes about ten minutes. Facilities on the train.. There was a buffet car selling drinks, crisps and chocolate. The toilets were not in use, but it's only a short journey and there are toilets at both of the stations. We went on a quiet day, they ran four trains between 11 and 4. They do run more on bank holidays and special Thomas the Tank events etc. Family verdict.. not a bad day out at all, we had warm sunny weather which helped , not really a trip for a rainy day.