1870 - 1893
The first large scale Ordnance Survey map of the area was published in 1880 and provides a very good picture of what the line looked like at that time.
Hilt’s quarry is shown with a complex of sidings and the double track incline can be seen leading up to it. The old quarry is shown as disused and covered in trees with the “old tunnel” at the entrance. The area at the Hat Factory shows the engine shed and a siding leading into an area that later became a large spoil heap (see below left). The old alignment was still bounded in part by walls in the Fritchley area. Five kilns, the canal arm, the original Midland Railway sidings and a gunpowder store are among the features shown at Amber Wharf (see below right).
An article in Machinery Market magazine, in 1886, stated that it had a working face 100 yards (91m) long and 114 feet (35m) deep.It said that most of the limestone was burnt into lime in the kilns at Bullbridge. The quarry was producing 150 tons (152 tonne) of limestone per day. The railway was said to be of 3ft 10½in (1181mm) gauge with a gradient of about 1 in 40 (2.5%).
The small locomotive purchased in 1869, now known locally as the “Coffeepot”, was used to return empty wagons back up the incline to the quarry, still in effect doing the work of horses as the Brunton machine had done before it. The limestone was still being transported to the Butterley works at Ripley and Codnor Park by canal, despite the opening of the direct Midland Railway line from Ambergate in 1875.
Nearly 100 hundred men were employed at the works and by the late 1880s Hilts quarry needed to expand to maintain output and in 1889 further land was leased at Crich with an associated access right of way.
George Bates had taken over as manager of the works in 1865 following the departure of Peter Bowne. Bates died in 1881 and John Henry Day took over as manager following in his father’s foot steps who was also an agent for the Butterley Company.
Butterley Company records for the end of this period note that the directors had investigated the accounts of the Bullbridge operation in detail, and found “gross irregularities” and falsification. The manager, J H Day, was given three months notice and a new manager appointed, and two years later the loss totalling £1064 2s 3d was written off, and the matter was considered closed – presumably an embarrassed “hushing – up” exercise in view of the fact that the total is equivalent to more than £1million at today’s values.