Updated 15 Dec 2009
WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900
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From an advert for Derwent Gardens.
Derwent Gardens is the result of the combination of two areas, the Ferry Grounds and the Orchard Holme. The Ferry Grounds was an area round the landing stage. This area had been an important feature of Matlock Bath life since the 1750's as the landing stage for the ferry and later for boating and swimming events.
Orchard Holme was a meadow area next to the Ferry grounds. Here several thermal springs bubble out of the ground and run into the river. Herbert Buxton, a local businessman, bought the site in 1880 and developed an amusement park to cater for day trippers whose numbers had increased once the railway opened in 1849. A gravity powered roller coaster called the 'Switchback' was opened amidst great excitement in 1889.
The Ferry Grounds were landscaped in association with the building of the Kursaal (now known as the Pavilion), by the local authority, who had purchased the site for the building in 1908. The Orchard Holme was not bought by Matlock Urban District Council until 1951. The amalgamation of these two areas produced Derwent gardens which became the new home for the annual illuminations in 1968 when the A6 road widening scheme removed the Promenade Gardens, home to the event for seventy years.
The entrance to the Switchback from South Parade opposite the Royal Hotel,
through a gateway in the stone wall, down 24 steps, and along a wooden
trestle walkway past at least 4 slot machines to the kiosk where you paid.
The man on the far right is thought to be Edgar Buxton (born 1881, an
auctioneer), son of the proprietor Herbert, next to a gaslight globe.
A flag is usually flying. The gauge is probably 2 ft 6 in, and the return
track climbs the final slope and meets again with the outgoing track just
The whole run of the Switchback in Derwent Gardens, you started from the shed on the right and turned round at the shed on the left.
Enlargement from the tinted postcard below. The tinting has altered some of the detail. A switchback car can be seen near the left shed.
Enlargement from a card posted in 1906, showing the Southern end of the Switchback on its wooden trestles, and the river-side track.
Enlargement from a card posted in 1910, showing the Southern and Northern ends of the Switchback, the track running between the trees, and the River Derwent on the right.
Detail from a card posted 24 Apr 1904. A novelty card, it has cutouts
where windows are, when held up to the light it looks like a night scene.
There are 2 cutouts in the word "Switchback" and 3 in the side facing
the reader. The wooden structure is well shown.
An earlier (c1900?) view of the SWITCHBACK starting shed and the high-level
pedestrian walkway leading into it from the Promenade. The shed
extension has not yet been built, and pleasure rowing boats are moored
close by. A small barn, stone wall and five bar gate are shown which
Matlock Register, Friday April 26th 1889
The Derby Mercury, 18 Sep 1889
The Derby Mercury, 23 Apr 1890
An aerial view of the position of the Switchback in Derwent Gardens, but only half of the run can be seen on this postcard.
A scan from a 1922 O.S. map showing the position of the Switchback in Derwent Gardens on the Banks of the River Derwent. The map scale is 25.344" to a mile (208.33 ft to one inch), the switchback outline is 2" long, giving a length of 139 yards, claimed to be the longest in the country. Thanks to the Local Studies Library, Matlock.
Knudsen's patent in 1878 (never built)
The first roller coasters were American. A lot of 19th century Switchback history can be found on Coaster History.
As early as 1878 Richard Knudsen patented the "Improvement in Inclined Railways," (patent #128,674), but it never opened. Thompson patented further improvements in 1885. From the old photos and an engraving, the Matlock Bath switchback appears to be a close copy of Thompson's Switchback in the USA, opened 5 years earlier, and is the same length. Thompson added undulating hills and the cars slowly (6 mph) rolled down a track six hundred feet long and fifty feet high. The Switchback Railway opened in the spring of 1884 at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York and made the inventor hundreds of dollars per-day. Considering that Thompson only charged a nickel per-ride, the success of the Switchback Railway is nothing short of amazing. History has dubbed him the "Father of Gravity".
La Marcus Adna Thompson (March 8, 1848 - May 8, 1919 in Ohio, United States) is best known for his early work developing roller coasters, and is sometimes called the "Father of Gravity".
In 1827, a mining company in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania constructed the
Mauch Chunk gravity railroad, a 14-kilometre downhill track used to deliver
coal (and a miner to operate the mine train's brake) to Mauch Chunk Present
day Jim Thorpe, PA . By the 1850s, the "Gravity Road" (as it became known)
was providing rides to thrillseekers for 50 cents a ride. Railway companies
used similar tracks to provide amusement on days when ridership was low.
Using this idea as a basis, La Marcus Adna Thompson began work on a
closed-circuit switchback railway. His gravity ride opened at Coney Island
Thompson patented "Roller coasting structure" (US patent 310966) and "Gravity switch back railway" (US patent 332762, see diagram below) in Dec 1885.
Thompson's patent dated Dec 1885
La Marcus A. Thompson, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Gravity Switch-Back Railway.
Specification forming part of Letters Patent No.332,762, dated Dec 22, 1885
To all whom it may concern:
My invention relates to a gravity double-track switch-back railway to be used as a source or means of pleasure and amusement; and it consists of certain new and novel features, to be hereinafter more fully descibed, whereby passengers may be carried from a certain starting-point at any convenient or suitable elevation in a vehicle or car over a series of descending and ascending longitudinal planes by the gravity momentum acquired by the car in its passage over the planes to the opposite end of the course, and thence to the terminal point, located within a pavillion or other suitable structure, but, however, at a lower elevation than that of the starting-point therein, thereby obviating all necessity for changing cars on the round trip, lessening the time for making the trip, insuring greater safety to passengers riding thereupon, and entirely obviating many serious and annoying features existing in such structures as they have been heretofore constructed. The car from the terminal point within the pavillion is elevated to the starting- point therein by certain means and mechanisms, to be hereinafter fully described.
A further feature of my invention is a novel construction of vehicle or car for use in this connection, with mechanisms for controlling the speed and for stopping the car ad libitum.
Referring to the drawings, A represents the ground or foundation upon which the trestle-work B rests, preferably constructed of wood, but, if deemed best for the purpose, may be constructed of iron, and in form irregular or undulating, or consisting of a series of descending and ascending longitudinal planes. Upon the top of this trestle-work, forming the road-bed, are stringers c, c', c2 and c3 for the reception of the rails d, d', d2 and d3, upon which the cars travel. Rigidly secured to the road-bed of the trestle-work B, and just inside of each pair of rail-stringers and in juxtaposition thereto, are the guard-stringers e,e'and e2 and e3, made of any sutiable material, but slightly higher than the rail-stringers, with narrow spaces f f' between the respective stringers for the reception of the inside projecting flanges, f2, of the car-wheels. These guard stringers prevent the car-wheels in theirpassage over the series of descending and ascending planes from jumping the tracks. Immediately inside of the guard stringers e and e' and e2 and e3, and contiguous thereto, are the brake-stringers g and g', g2 and g3, made, prefferably, of wood, for the car-brakes or shoes V and V' to slide upon, andfor aiding in the stoppage of the vehicle or car at any desired point or part of the course or railway.
F is a pavillion, either inclosed or open, of any suitable construction, and of such height or elevation as may be desired, access to the elevated starting-point i therein being had by a stair-case, i', from the ground A. The passengers, having reached the elevated starting-point i within the pavillion F, are seated in the car D. The car is then started down a slight descending plane, k, to the summit l, passing over the same to the point m, and collecting in its passage sufficient velocity or gravity momentum to carry to and over the summit n, to descend with increased velocity over the plane o, and thence mounting theascending plane p through an automatically-working switch, S, to the end of the course. And when the car is released from the locking-dog j at this end of the course T it passes down over the tracks d and d' of the descending and ascending planes, through a structure so constructed as to represent a tunnel, I, to the terminal point q within the pavillion, but at a lower elevation than that of the starting-point, discharging the passengers opposite to or aside of the staircaseg', leading to the ground A. The car is then carried in any convenient manner up the short ascending plane r, where it is held at the summit r' by a locking-dog, j, rigidly secured to the trestle-work B, whileshifting the car on the sliding switch R, as shown in Fig.4, to the tracks leading to the starting-point i within the pavillion F. The car, being released from the locking-dog j, rushes down the inclined plane r far enough for the secondary cross-arm U' upon the under side of the car to engage with a belt or chain, Q, carrying thereupon a series of hooks, t, which chain or belt passes over a series of pulleys, t', having motion imparted to them by gearing located in any convenient part of the structure or pavillion and propelled by a steam-engine, Y, located either inside or outside of the structure. The car, being elevated to the starting-point i from the point s by means of the belt or chain Q, is released by the attendent in charge of the brake-lever, and the car D is at once in position for the reception of passengers for the next trip.
The car D - such as shown in Fig.6 of the drawings - is constructed of stout material, preferably wood, with a series of seats, D', which may be either reversible or rigid ones, having sides D2, made of similar material, with openings W between the respective seats, for the admission of passengers. Upon the tops of the sides D2 are hand-grips D3, securely fastened thereto. The front and back ends of the car are provided with dash-boards D and G', projecting outwardly therefrom. Immediately above the dash-board G' of the car is a seat, G2, for the attendant in charge of the lever G3, actuating the brake-shoes V V', having an arm, g4, projecting downward and rigidly secured to the floor of the car D. Beneath the car D, beyond the back wheels, is a cross-arm or shaft, U, held in bearings u u', rigidly attached to the underside of the floor of the car. This cross-arm U has projecting from each side thereof the brake-shoes V V', which brake-shoes are loosely secured to the cross-arm U by collars w and w'. To the interior sides of these brakes is riveted a secondary cross-arm, U'. By means of collars or sleeves z and z' upon the cross-arms U and U' is secured the lever G3, for actuating the brake-shoes V V'. This lever passes up through an oblong slot or opening, z3, in the floor of the car, and then through guides z4 and z5, fastened in any suitablemanner to the under side of the attendant's seat and the seat of the car nearest thereto, for insuring the free movement of the lever actuating the brake-shoes and for effecting the stoppage of the car at any desired point, and if at any time occasion should arise for decreasing the speed or gravity momentem acquired by the car in riding over the series of descending and ascending planes of the course or railway.
Having thus described the nature and objects of my invention, what I claim as new, and desire to secure by letters Patent, is-
Some interesting links sent me by David Daniell
Switchback at the International
Exhibition at Glasgow 1888.
BRIEF HISTORY OF ROLLER COASTERS AND AMUSEMENT PARKS
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