This is my third book that I have published with Amberley and since my second book, the world has turned out to be a different kind of place. The freedom to move around and go and visit railway related locations was hampered by the lockdowns and restrictions we all faced in 2020, 2021, and early 2022. For me, this meant trying to obtain new photographs of new Railfreight wagons was somewhat limited.

YGB – DB 980020 ‘Seacow’ – Peak Forest – 10 June 2001. (Wagons in the Peak District, Amberley Publishing)

When opportunities arose to be able to leave home safely and travel, I sought to return to locations around the Buxton area and the Peak District. Although I already had a good stock of my own wagon photographs, I felt there were some gaps in my coverage, and so I decided to try and obtain more photographs that would almost certainly be included in the new book.

Peak Forest looking towards Dove Holes quarry – 5 February 2003. (Wagons in the Peak District, Amberley Publishing)

As is often the case, events overtake what you type to make an introduction or a caption. None more so than a change in the way Railfreight was handled during the pandemic, traffic patterns changes, with quarries and receiving terminals changing throughout the recent years. Some of this can be attributed to the pandemic, others to new projects that were just starting up like the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway project between London and Birmingham initially. The railway industry came together and with the support of Network Rail, the four main Railfreight operators, DB Cargo, Freightliner, GBRF and the Cappagh Group of Companies (DC Rail), they all committed to rising to the challenge of moving as much of the required raw materials by rail as possible. The HS2 ‘Materials by Rail’ project was launched in 2020 and aimed to move 10 million tonnes of aggregate and spoil by 2030 to support the construction Phase One programme. In fact, it was announced in May 2023, that the 10 million tonne target had already been achieved in just over two years. It is estimated that so far up to 15,000 freight trains have removed 1.5 million lorries from the roads. The estimate had since been revised upwards to move 20 million tonnes on the same Phase One programme.

Hope Cement works sidings – 2 July 2005. (Wagons in the Peak District, Amberley Publishing)

The benefits of HS2, whether you are for or against the whole scheme are there to see especially for the railway industry as a whole and this is only the start as the planned extension towards Manchester will mean much more Railfreight towards the end of this decade and into the 2030s if all goes well. As I mention in my introduction to the book, the speed at which changes take place, meant even I had to play catch-up and revise my text to mention the changes that took place at the Hindlow quarry. And a further Postscript section was added right at the end just before submission of the book files, to consider the work that had commenced in re-connecting the Hillhead quarry back to the railway network for the first time since the 1970s. Again, traffic all intended for supplying raw aggregates for HS2. It is sobering thought that most of the Peak District area limestone and aggregates quarries have around twenty years of extraction remaining based on the current quarrying licences. What will happen after that remains to be seen as a large chunk of the construction industry and some of the chemical’s industry relies on a guaranteed, regular source of high-grade limestone for example. Other natural deposits of limestone may not necessarily yield the required purity of calcium carbonate used in the Soda Ash industry at Northwich for example.

Various wagons – Dove Holes CEMEX quarry sidings – 28 September 2008. (Wagons in the Peak District, Amberley Publishing)

I will keep following the local Railfreight scene to see what developments happen in the future. For now, I am putting some ideas together for my next book and have a discussion with my commissioning editor to best decide the way forward. Some ideas may be more viable than others, but I guess that is the nature of book publishing, but I am sure it will be railway themed.

Paul Harrison's book Wagons in the Peak District is available for purchase now.