Helmsdale Station Update
The Helmsdale Station Project has attempted a fully integrated station building restoration, combining renovating the listed building for holiday accommodation - providing income-generating potential to sustain the project, with restoring original platform features, reinstating passenger benefits (a waiting room/visitor information point) and, to attract additional visitors, a 'Unique Selling Point', a photographic darkroom - occasional residential photographic courses are planned.
The community project which restored the listed Helmsdale station building in 2013/14 has had its first full trading year in 2015 which has been successful. There was a worry that there would be insufficient bookings for the project to pay its way but this has been unfounded. The summary for the year is as follows:
- 11 bookings for around 60 people in all
- Use by Timespan as residence for temporary staff in weeks when not otherwise booked.
- Three residential working weeks in which volunteers have assisted with maintenance and further development - much of the work in the past year has been on restoring the Station House garden.
- Recognised by ScotRail as Helmsdale station adopter.
- Highly commended in the Scottish Civic Trust 'Angels Awards'. (Their three minute film about the project can be viewed at www.vimeo.com/140201325). This adds to the Railway Heritage Trust commendation awarded at the end of 2014.
- Award winner of the ACoRP (Association of Community Rail Partnerships) Innovation in Community Rail Award.
The ACoRP award came with a £250 cheque which we propose putting towards a replica Highland Railway station clock. It was through his article 'Restoring Station Clocks'
in the January 2015 of Far North Express that we made contact with antiquarian horologist and clockmaker Chris Edwards who is assisting in drawing up design plans and we hope, in the year ahead, will make the clock.
The trading surplus of the Community Interest Company (CIC) for the past year has been around £1,000. This will be split equally between supporting local community causes (£500 already donated to four community funds) and planned station improvements.
In consequence of the restoration of the main station building, Network Rail has generously redecorated in matching finish their store alongside. Historically this is an interesting building, built we think in the early 1900s as a pair of railway workers' cottages. Part of our station improvement plan is to commission an artist to paint trompe l'oeil scenes in the blanked windows recalling the original residential use of the building. We hope this might be along similar lines to the artwork at Invergordon station.
Helmsdale Station CIC seeks readers' support in three ways:
- Spreading the word that this holiday accommodation is available for letting - with the message that every booking benefits the local community (www.helmsdalestation.co.uk for details). We are pleased to offer additional discount on rates for FoFNL members and their friends - apply or enquire to the email address below.
- We are currently seeking an artist for the cottage windows project; please let us know if you have any suggestions.
- We continue our search for volunteers - especially people living in or near to Helmsdale - to join our Board. If you would like more information about this, Please get in touch.