MANY HAVE asked me about the lovely image on the cover of of my new book The Trains Now Departed. It is of the Headstone Viaduct, built by the Midland Railway over the River Wye in the Peak district of Derbyshire, on the old main line from St Pancras to Manchester.The picture was produced by the artist S. R. Wyatt for a London Midland & Scottish Railway travel poster, and is dated 1923-47, although there appears to be very little biographical detail available about Wyatt himself. The poster original is held by the National Railway Museum.
The viaduct, usually incorrectly called Monsal Dale Viaduct, is 300 feet long, with five 50-foot span arches, some forty feet high at the centre. The railway was closed by Beeching in the late 1960s, although the viaduct survives as part of a walking and cycle route called the Monsal Trail. We may consider it idyllic today, but when it was built in 1863 it was seen as destroying the charm and tranquillity of the area. The Victorian art critic John Ruskin savaged the idea of buiding the railway: “There was a rocky valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time, divine as the Vale of Tempe… You Enterprised a Railroad through the valley – you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone, and the Gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be in Bakewell in half an hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange. You Fools everywhere”