Purchase Station Garage – This is the keystone to our whole proposal, if it is not possible to secure what was the original station building and trainshed then there is very little heritage value for returning the railway to Ashburton and without the town centre location the economic benefits will be greatly reduced, therefore making the whole proposal unfeasible.
Once Station Garage has been purchased the group will have secured the original station buildings and train shed, this would then allow us to start work on the renovation of the buildings and creation of a heritage centre, museum and educational resource facility. There are quite a few sources of funding for such projects which we would aim to apply for to help us realise the project. There is how ever a good amount of work that we could do on site with limited funding to help prevent any further deterioration of the buildings and structures. We would also be aiming to, where practicable, have the buildings open for visitors from the outset. This would give people the chance to see what we are doing, we would offer guided tours to explain the historical importance of the buildings and describe what our plans for the site are, this will help raise the profile of the project and also raise additional funds from donations made by the visitors.
The South Devon Railway Trust holds in its collection a good selection of original artefacts from Ashburton Station and, subject to formal agreements, would allow us their use to further promote the importance of the site.
For the short term it is envisaged that the area under the station canopy would have all the signage and platform paraphernalia restored and be used as a display area with tables available for meetings, lessons and talks about the heritage of the site and locality. We would aim to restore the booking hall and office to as original state as possible, to be used as a visitor entrance for us to greet incoming visitors. The other offices will be sympathetically restored and used for administration purposes and to house resources for educational and research use.
We have a potential educational officer who has offered to assist us with putting together a package that we could offer to educational establishments. He is a primary school teacher by profession so should be able to direct us on how we can offer high quality educational resources. He is also very interested in assisting us with getting youth members involved and would be prepared to run a ‘young volunteers’ group, helping them to get involved constructively and learn new skills.
We have had other suggestions from members of how we could offer additional research / learning resources, these have included; working with the South Devon Railway Museum (based at Buckfastleigh Station), housing the Newton Abbot Railway Studies Group (currently in Newton Abbot Library, but need more space), working with the Ashburton Town Museum, working with local historical groups, starting our own local / railway studies library and plenty more. At present we have not looked any further into any of the afore mentioned options but we would hope to be able to work with as many interested parties as practicable possible and would look to make our facilities and resources available for use by any interested parties.
Our main priority would be to secure the station buildings and trainshed, but if funding could be found from external sources for its acquisition and restoration then we would aim to purchase Chuley Road Garage. This would secure the original track bed out of the station buildings up to, potentially, what is currently Pollards Garden Machinery / Tom’s Landscaping. For the short term we may let the buildings and hard-standings until such a time as we were able to develop the site in line with our aims. This would meet the primary objective of safeguarding the site but at the same time could form a potential income to help fund other parts of the project and would see the buildings continued use in the interim and save having buildings sat around degrading, creating more of an eye-sore for the area.
When the funding became available we would look to demolish the present Chuley Road Garage building, which was erected, we believe, at some point in the 1970’s and has no significant historic value. This would then allow us to reinstate a short section of line from the station towards Buckfastleigh. We would aim for this to be used to display a few wagons and possibly a small locomotive that is awaiting restoration, which would be loaned to us by the South Devon Railway Trust. This would add further educational and heritage value to the centre, at this point we would need to make plans for additional accommodation for displays and ‘Class room’ areas with the loss of the space under the original overall platform roof. It could be possible to erect a sympathetic building on the north or south of what was the goods shed or potentially where Clipping Good Time and a Valet business are currently housed. Funding for a purpose built educational centre could be available to help us achieve this aim, although further research will be required.
Our next objective would be to purchase what is currently Edwin Tucker and Sons Ltd land on the eastern side of the river Ashburn, this land has potentially been earmarked for housing and will therefore act as a considerable barrier to us if this development were to go ahead. It is however understood, as with the other plots on the site, that we cannot expect the parties involved to let us purchase their plots at a reduced rate just because we are trying to preserve the heritage of the site. Edwin Tucker and Sons are looking to relocate to a field at Pear Tree Cross within the next few years and a lot of this is dependent on them selling their land in Chuley Road and Brewery Meadow at a good price, to help fund the new buildings. Our Struggle comes from needing this parcel of land for our trackbed, without which we cannot extend the line any further than the Station, equally we need ‘Tuckers’ to move out from their current site in order for us to be able to purchase it because this too would prevent the railway proceeding any further. We would need to raise funds which we envisage coming from private donations and perhaps other corporate sources.
With Tuckers land acquired we would be able to do some preliminary work on the site as and when to ready it for the reinstatement of the line. We would happily help out with work to re-profile the river Ashburn to help reduce flood risks to other developments further up or downstream, and if funding assistance could be found from local authorities we would offer volunteers to help provide parking facilities to the east of what would become the running line for the railway. It would be possible to instate suitable car parking spaces using hard-core from the hard-standings of Chuley Road Garage with suitable drainage laid in, a good quality membrane and loco ash that the South Devon Railway could supply. This would give a good hard-standing for parking vehicles without creating any additional ‘run off’ from rain and would improve the current drainage / flood relief of the area. It also would offer a much more environmentally friendly alternative to a tarmac or concrete hard-standing We would also look to instate a footpath to run beside the line, for users of the car parking and the large number of residents who enjoy walking their dogs along Bulliver’s Way.
With these three plots secured we should be in a safer position regarding the track bed as the other two companies who premises foul the original formation have no immediate plans for relocation or to develop their sites, this would then allow us time to gather funds for their eventual purchase. We believe that the trackbed from Tuckers Land up to Pear Tree Cross is owned by the Ashburton Town Council and we believe that they would agree its use by us in the future with the longer term aim for us to purchase it from them. In the interim we would look to undertake preliminary work on readying the track bed, clearing and reinstating blocked ditches and culverts and instating a footpath to run beside the line to replace Bulliver’s way so the local residents don’t lose an asset they enjoy.