By Phil Marsh

Two UK station buildings returned to use 650 miles apart as restaurants after decades of inactivity

Published: 17th November 2015

Dogs dinners and a signalbox bird hide on offer at Yarmouth station Isle of Wight

A new restaurant opened on 11 November in a previously derelict building at Tain station in Easter Ross, on ScotRail’s Far North Line from Inverness and Dingwall to Wick and Thurso.

This is the latest development funded as part of a station regeneration scheme arranged by the Scottish Government’s agency, Transport Scotland. The “Platform 1864” restaurant is also part-funded by a grant from the Railway Heritage Trust. The station dates from 1864.

Graham Rooney, a local chef, came up with the idea to restore the old station building. He was successful in securing grants of £210,000 from the Station Community Regeneration Fund and £105,000 from the Railway Heritage Trust.

Emily Vass, a primary 6 student, won a competition at Craighill Primary School to come up with a name for the restaurant. For every example of a special dish on the menu that is sold, a donation of 50p will go to a local community project.

Graham Rooney said that he was very fortunate to be able to train as a chef in Tain and he wanted to put something back into the community. Andy Savage, Executive Director of the Railway Heritage Trust, said: “Tain is a wonderful example of how the local community can use a listed railway station in new and imaginative ways. We are delighted to have been able to help fund Graham Rooney’s imaginative proposals, and wish them every success in the future.”

Meanwhile 650 miles south………

Yarmouth Station in the Isle of Wight was a key station on the Freshwater Yarmouth & Newport Railway (FYNR) with trains running from 1889. Somewhat curiously the railway did not connect with the ferry to Lymington and passengers, livestock and coal and all merchandise was carried through Yarmouth to the station. This had two platforms but because of the tidal river estuary opposite the line, it was built 100 yards away!

The FYNR never made a consistent profit and was subsumed by the Isle of Wight Central Railway. Before this, there was a very convoluted way of operating in Newport involving trains having to reverse because of the way the two rail companies operated. The creation of the ‘Big Four’ by the Government in 1923 brought the Island’s railways under the Southern Railway. But a decade before Beeching published his infamous closure report, the first closures took place on the Isle of Wight. The former FYNR was amongst these and the line closed in September 1953.

The station remained unused until about 1960 when an old wooden barracks hut was bought for £1000 and moved to the site and re-erected on the east end of the station. It was used for half a century as a meeting hall and became the Yarmouth Youth Club to be sold by the Council in 2010.

The wooden hut was demolished to allow the reconstruction of the original station with the addition of a signalbox. This is used as a private dining room or as a bird watching hide as it overlooks the marshes. The new ‘old’ station has been finished in a Southern Railway livery and theme and a restaurant called ‘Off The Rails’ opened in August 2014. There is also a bike hire shop on the station which offers a scenic and tranquil cycleway on the railway trackbed to Freshwater Bay a couple of miles away.

Dogs’ dinners…

Dogs are allowed at the station and even have their own menu where they can share meals with owners on the platform. The interior of the station has been designed as though it is a large train with suitable photographs and railway artefacts.

Be warned that parking is a five minutes walk away as the station is in the residential old part of the town with permit parking only next to it except on Sundays or after 6pm on other days.

No trains but mind the gap

Wheelchair users or those with buggies are warned to take care as the platform is open and unfenced so there is a drop onto the former trackbed to be wary of.

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