Reopening after 50 years on track in Grantown
THE next arrival at Grantown East Station is scheduled to arrive on time... 50 years to the very minute that the last passenger train departed.
The brand new attraction on the doorstep of the Strathspey capital is still on track and will open on November 2.
Revack Estate owner Karen Blessington is behind the £2.2 million redevelopment of the derelict former Speyside Line station into Grantown East the Highland Heritage and Cultural Centre.
The attraction opens its doors for the first time at 10am with the celebrations starting at 1pm marking the culmination of the project four years in the making.
One of the additions at Grantown East is its very own 7.25in gauge miniature railway – The Revack Railway – which will be capable of pulling up to 36 passengers over along a 600m route which will eventually be extended to more than 1km.
A Lister miniature steam loco has been commissioned to do the leg work.
Dave Garman, Ms Blessington's partner, said: "We are implementing rail traffic in our own unique way on the Speyside Line.
"The reopening of the station will come 50 years to the minute after its closure. The last signalman James Telfer will drop the green flag at 1.32pm – he's still with us at the grand age of 95 years. He was the last person to leave the station.
"He remembers it like it was yesterday. He put his flag on the desk and that was it."
All those years ago, the last train pulled in at the platform at 1.28pm with many of the passengers disembarking to take photos for posterity.
The service then departed the station four minutes later, consigning the station to abandonment and the history books.
But soon it will be a bustling place once more, in fact more so than ever employing up to 30 staff in a big boost for the town's economy.
At the centre of the development is the old Grantown East station itself which has been lovingly restored with the stonework blasted with high pressure jets to clean the building to new and the mortar re-pointed.
It will house a retail centre – the once three rooms have been knocked into one – stocking high end handcrafted gifts sourced from across Scotland. There will also be interactive consoles providing information on five heritage subjects:
• The history of the Speyside Line
• The making of the Grantown East tartan
• The history of the kilt
• The history of Highland games; and
• Clydesdale horses.
Perhaps even more eye-catching – certainly for motorists on the nearby A95 – are the two old Mark I railway carriages dating from 1958 and 1960 which have been converted to a restaurant with 60 covers complete with Pompeii style woodburning pizza oven.
Ms Blessington explained: "We purchased the carriages from Stratford-upon-Avon where they had been used as a restaurant in the 1990s in Devon.
"We had them hauled here and gutted them out and have made them our own."
Even the pizza oven was a labour of love. Ms Blessington revealed: "It was handmade by Hamish Stone, of Nethy Bridge, and he painstakingly followed the 75 pages of directions from online to create the pizza oven from the redundant interior walls of the railway station."
Another attraction is the purpose built Highland games field. Mr Garman has competed for many years on the circuit in his native United States and now nearer to his Revack home although injury prevented him this past season.
There will be games demonstrations with the Grantown East staff getting involved too.
The venue is horseshoe shaped to allow maximum viewing pleasure. Mr Garman said: "I have been to hundreds of Highland games fields and the only thing I have always found is the spectators can not get high enough to see what is going on and also get good pictures.
"We will be staging demonstrations as many times as we possible can. We are cross-training all of the staff interested in the Highland games to be demonstrators so they can share the sports in a safe and informative manner too."
The couple admit it has taken a while to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The first planning application for the Grantown East project was submitted in September 2014, and permission granted December 2016.
Key through-out has been to employ staff from the local area and Grantown-based AW Laing has been the contractor on the project which has been entirely privately funded.
Revack Estate manager Sandy Ross has overseen the redevelopment day by day in his capacity as Grantown East Ltd project manager and director and carried out a 'fantastic job'.
With the project end in sight, Ms Blessington said: "The next few weeks are going to be really intense as there is still a lot to do but we will definitely arrive at Grantown East on time!"