For the frequency and variety of passing passenger and freight traffic, stunning scenery and a handful of semaphore signals, it is hard to beat Edale as a photographic location on the busy and scenic Hope Valley Line.
Edale station is remarkably isolated from any significant settlement, but its station is a hugely popular alighting point for walkers setting out to tackle Kinder Scout, the 2.088ft peak overlooking the remote station, or join the nearby Pennine Way.
Paying a return visit on Wednesday, 2 June 2021, my aim was to look for decent photo-spots both on and away from the station itself and capture trains passing the five semaphores controlled by its 1893 Midland Railway signal box, which stands on the north side of the line, 100 yards west of the station.
Four of its five semaphore arms can be seen from the station platforms, the missing one being an up home EE19, which stands obscured by a bridge some distance west of the station and box.
Looking west towards Manchester, down starter EE3 stands on a bracket at a point where a goods siding has been disconnected, while beyond the over-bridge down section signal EE4 can be seen in the distance from the western end of the up platform (2).
From here, and beyond three over-bridges, the line can be seen entering the two-mile long Cowburn Tunnel, one of two lengthy tunnels along the Hope Valley Line, though rather shorter than the 3½-mile long Totley Tunnel east of Grindleford station.
By far the best vantage point for appreciating the scene, station area and three of Edale’s semaphores is the first over-bridge west of the station, which can be reached in less than 10 minutes on foot by following signs to Barber Booth from the western side of the station car park.
This bridge carries a footpath and farm track and from it there is a panoramic view back towards the station, with the remains of disconnected up and down refuge sidings evident, along with a surviving shunting disc that seems strangely surplus to current requirements (as seen above).
To the east of the station stands down home signal EE2, while slightly further out you will see up starter signal EE17, with good views of both from the eastern end of the up platform and of EE17 from an over-bridge some distance to the east of the village and station.
Passenger services passing Edale comprise Northern Rail Class 150/156/195 units on Manchester-Sheffield stopping services, TPE Class 185 units on Manchester- Cleethorpes workings and a mixture of Class 156 and 158 units on EMR services between Liverpool Lime Street and Norwich/Nottingham.
For a break between trains, and a chance to get updates on freight workings via Realtime Trains using its Wi-fi (no mobile signal around Edale station), I can recommend local ales at the popular Rambler Inn just outside the station.
Seeing freight workings at Edale is a bit hit or miss, with RTT showing a whole range of services to and from the Peak Forest quarries and cement workings from nearby Earles Sidings. But many of these seem to not operate and there is a large element of chance in what actually runs.
On the day of my visit I managed to see a Class 60 working light engine to and from Peak Forest and two aggregates workings from and to Tunstead, which were both Class 66 worked and the latter being hauled by celebrity GBRf loco 66779 “Evening Star” in its attractive and historic BR green livery.