The Clay Cross Company bought the Overton Hall estate in 1918. They had no need of the Hall, but the grounds, of approximately 1000 acres, contained fluorspar, barytes and limestone. In order to transport these products, from the quarries at Ashover to their works at Clay Cross, the Ashover Light Railway was built. In September 1922 construction of the line commenced and the railway was officially opened on the 6th of April 1925 by Thomas Hughes Jackson. Although Mr Jackson was in his 92nd year, he drove an engine over part of the route. The Clay Cross Company constructed the line principally as a mineral railway, but a directive from the Ministry of Transport ruled that the railway should also provide a full public passenger service to and from the isolated district of Ashover.
Four engines were purchased from the War Disposals Board at a total cost of £1,000. All of them had been in service on the front line in France during the First World War. These original engines were named after the children of General Jackson, whose family had owned the Clay Cross Company since 1915 when Robert Stephenson resigned. They were namely: Hummy (Humphrey), Guy, Joan and Peggy. A fifth engine was purchased later and was christened Bridget.
Public services commenced on the 26th of April 1925 and during the second week, which was Easter, over 5,000 bookings were made. Two trains operated the passenger service in summer and the cost of a day return from Clay Cross to Ashover was 1/- (5p). However, the initial success of the service was short lived as the number of bookings taken in the first few weeks stimulated the introduction of a regular bus service to Ashover. The number of railway passengers continued to decline until the daily service became insufficient to pay the conductor's wages. Regular passenger services ceased on the 3rd of October 1931, but passenger trains were provided at holiday times until the 13th of September 1936 when the last scheduled train ran. A few passenger trains ran for special occasions such as the 1937 Ashover Show and the Ogston Hall Garden Fete in 1940. The final "special", which was for the Birmingham Locomotive Club, ran on Sunday, 26th of August 1947.
Quarrying in Ashover ended in January 1950 and the railway closed in March of that year. A diesel engine was retained for shunting purposes at the Fallgate Yard and this engine completed the final run of the whole length of the line on the 23rd of October 1950 when it carried staff of the Clay Cross Company who were assessing the land for sale.
The railway ran immediately in front of the cottages on the Overton Hall estate, which were tenanted by workers of the Clay Cross Company. The outbuildings of the main cottage were used as stabling for a pony, used for mine work, and a horse whose job it was to haul empty carriages on the Ashover Light Railway to sidings near the cottages. In 1954 the North Derbyshire Water Board built a reservoir at Ogston, between Woolley Moor and Brackenfield, covering about 200 acres of land, and part of the Ashover Light Railway track was submerged beneath it. Only a few traces of the railway now remain.
Sylvia Wright (2001) ©