Royal opening for heritage railway project

Harrison Pitt Architects has completed a multi-million-pound project to breathe new life into a heritage railway.

The refurbishment and new additions to the South Tynedale Railway, the highest narrow-gauge heritage railway in the North of England, have been part-funded with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Harrison Pitt Architects has been working with South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society since March 2016 on the project, which was officially opened by the Duke of Gloucester.

Work has included the construction of a new café and toilet facilities at Alston station, as well as a new second platform and canopy roof spanning both platforms.

Meanwhile at Slaggyford Station, the original station building, which has been out of action since the 1970s, has been reconstructed along with a new replica signal box, toilet facilities and a new bay platform to accommodate a buffet coach.

The project has also involved the refurbishment of an existing train shed into a new heritage engineering workshop. The Heritage Engineering Workshop was heavily supported by Cumbria Chamber with the Cumbria Growth Fund who made a major commitment and gave £300k. Cumbria Growth Fund is a Regional Growth Fund grants programme funded by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Andrew Walters, architect at Harrison Pitt Architects, said: “It’s been a real privilege to be involved in this ambitious regeneration project. The stations and the new engineering workshop are looking great and seemed the get the seal of approval from the Duke who is himself a trained architect.

“This project once again demonstrates our commercial conservation expertise. The railway is now in a state where it can bring enjoyment and education to visitors for many years to come, as well as allowing regular passengers more comfortable journeys.”

Work on the engineering workshop involved stripping the existing building back to its steel frame and installing new cladding, windows and doors to bring the construction up to modern standards.

Inside a new inspection pit was created beneath the rails, while new office and washroom facilities for workshop staff were constructed. Finally, a new accessible mezzanine floor was created for public access to the workshop, exhibitions and viewing gallery.

At Alston Station, a new café has been constructed from Alston stone. This gives a traditional exterior that blends with the surroundings, but internally the café is a light, modern space with a vaulted ceiling over a steel frame.

The new platform two has been constructed as a match to the historic platform one, with reclaimed platform coping stones and a new Alston natural stone face, it blends well with its surrounding. The train shed canopy is a welcome addition to the station, allowing passengers protection from the elements while waiting for trains.

The station at Slaggyford had been closed since 1976 and the original signal box had been demolished. The reconstruction of the station building was achieved through a careful demolition and salvage operation, with a much of the existing building fabric retained as possible.

The original windows and doors were re-used in a new timber frame structure, constructed to modern standards. The original stone plinth and chimney stacks were retained and refurbished and serve as the foundation for the new structure.

The station building is complemented by a new signal box, designed to be a replica of the original structure that had been demolished, and new toilet facilities constructed in a timber frame to complement the reconstructed station building.

The platform was also reconstructed using reclaimed materials, coping stones recovered from the site and new natural stone to match the original platform wall. A new bay platform has been formed to allow a buffet coach to be located at the station to provide refreshments at the Slaggyford end of the line.

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