Brothers to recreate father’s historic rail feat on mobility scooters

John and Geoff Buckley on the bench in Middleton Top which bears their father's name.John and Geoff Buckley on the bench in Middleton Top which bears their father's name.

A Derbyshire Dales family will fulfil a long-held wish this weekend as they set out on a fundraising trek along a route where their forefather entered local folklore.

John and Geoff Buckley, 83 and 79, will be joined by sons Simon, David and Jonathan and grandson Alfie as they journey from Middleton Top to Parsley Hay on Sunday, October 8.

Sam Buckley, centre, on his last day.

They will be retracing a section of the Cromford and High Peak Railway - now part of the High Peak Trail - along which John and Geoff’s father Sam and brother Edward drove the last steam train in 1967.

John, who lives in Matlock, said: “It’s something that’s been on the bucket list. It’s a long time since we have been up there, and now is the right moment.

“We are marking the 50th anniversary of that event in a tribute to Sam, who has been described as ‘a railwayman of rare quality’.”

The last scheduled steam train ran the line in April 1967, and Sam was made redundant after nearly 50 years of service on the line.

A train makes the infamous ascent up Hopton Bank.

But later that year, a train packed with rail enthusiasts and officials from the Stephenson Locomotive Society made a special visit to Middleton Top to ride the line before the land was sold to Derbyshire County Council.

Sam and Edward, who worked as a fireman on the line, had joined the crowds to witness the historic moment, and watched as the train attempted to climb the infamously steep hill at Hopton Bank only to stall twice.

As the local experts, Sam and Edward were asked to step in and help.

Still dressed in their best Sunday suits, they climbed up to the footplate and coaxed the train and its passengers over the summit for the last time.

The brothers will ride Tramper mobility vehicles provided by Derbyshire County Council.

John said: “I remember Edward saying that morning that the train would never get up there.

“It was a real challenge. It’s a 1:14 slope and was one of the steepest in the British rail system, and unlike many others it didn’t have a beam engine, rope and wagon system to do the work.

He added: “I don’t know what my father did, he just knew the exact water levels and manoeuvres, and used all his years of experience.

“It was a spectacular achievement, and the only time Sam and Edward crewed a train together. It was a real moment of heroism for me and it’s gone down in railway history.”

It has also made a small mark on Middle Top, as the brothers have dedicated a bench to their father’s memory near the cycle hire station, where once the trains stopped to take on water.

John and Geoff’s achievement will be no less impressive than Sam’s, as they mount Tramper vehicles provided by Derbyshire County Council’s countryside service, while the younger generations ride bikes for the full 23-mile route.

The specially adapted mobility scooters are normally stationed at Middleton Top and High Peak Junction, but rangers have arranged their loan for the day.

John said: “It’s a wonderful service for people like us, who couldn’t do it any other way. We’ve had really fantastic support from the rangers.”

The family are also using the occasion to fundraise for Aquabox, the international emergency aid charity whose headquarters is nearby.

John has been a member of Wirksworth Rotary Club for 54 years, and an Aquabox volunteer since the charity and community project was set up by the club.

During that time, they have sent 110,000 boxes all over the world, providing safe drinking water and humanitarian aid to people in desperate need.

Earlier this month, the charity issued an emergency appeal to help victims of the Asian floods.

To sponsor John and Geoff’s journey, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/john-and-geoff.

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