With the scenically beautiful Midland main line through the Peak District on one side, and the more workmanlike Erewash Valley line on the other, Ripley was surrounded by coal mines, potteries and agricultural land. Hard by Ripley, the Butterley Company sat like a spider in a web of industrial railway lines and canals.
Three lines eventually served the town, the earliest striking north-east from the Derwent valley and growing out of the railway town of Derby. From the Erewash Valley came another line that was destined to be the poorest and shortest lived. The third line, running east to west and linking the two great Midland Railway trunk routes from London to the north, bypassed Ripley, but provided the final link in the network of lines that this fascinating area spawned.
Each line was different in character, a heavily-used passenger and goods branch line, a short-lived and impecunious passenger branch line, and an important cross-country diversionary and through route.
None of them can be seen in isolation, so this book deals with all three, the cross-country link surviving long enough to become the home of the Midland Railway Trust which, fittingly, keeps alive the spirit of the company that called itself “The Best Way”.