Wednesday, December 17 2014
Supporters plan heritage centre for threatened Ashburton Station
Plans for a new heritage centre in the heart of Ashburton to celebrate the town’s railway history are being developed by campaigners – and could see the return of trains to the Dartmoor town more than 45 years after the last steam special ran.
The announcement by the Friends of Ashburton Station is in response to development plans for the former station site created by Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) which could see the station building and engine shed demolished. The group is seeking to secure the future of the historic Victorian railway complex and, in the longer term, reconnect it to the South Devon Railway, which runs from Totnes to Buckfastleigh. The tracks to Ashburton were severed in 1971 when the A38 dual carriageway was built.
DNPA Senior Forward Planner Dan Janota met representatives of the Friends at Buckfastleigh on December 15 to see how the South Devon Railway has benefitted the town for almost 50 years, and understand how the Authority can help the group develop its proposals. The Friends have already secured support from high profile organisations including the Heritage Railway Association, Transport Trust and South Devon Railway Trust. A petition to the DNPA had received 2,300 signatures in favour of saving the station site with numbers continuing to grow.
“We had a very positive meeting with Mr Janota,” says Friends of Ashburton Station Chairman Alasdair Page: “and the next step is to make a compelling case that our aspirations are credible, achievable and above all, of real benefit to Ashburton and the surrounding area. The race to save Ashburton station is firmly on, and we look forward to working with the DNPA and all other interested parties to secure these remarkable structures for future generations.
“There is a real opportunity to create a very special centre in Ashburton looking at the importance of the railway to the town and explaining why branch lines such as this were so vital to small towns until the 1960s. Creation of a heritage centre using the surviving railway buildings is key to this ambition, as is safeguarding the railway formation to Buckfastleigh for eventual reconnection with the South Devon Railway.”
The Friends of Ashburton Station are developing plans for the heritage centre in detail with draft proposals planned for early 2015. The South Devon Railway has agreed in principle to loan a locomotive and carriage for static display at Ashburton Station when the heritage centre opens.