Why this rural Yorkshire railway station with holiday let and tea room is just the ticket
It wasn’t easy, not least because the pandemic and its ensuing lockdowns hit shortly after they got the keys.
Determined to turn a negative into a positive, they used the time to revamp the tearoom and to turn the former first floor former office and staff room into a wonderful railway themed apartment named The Yorkshire Sleeper.
The result of the couple’s efforts and their genuine love of the place is that Hellifield railway station is now starting to attract more of the attention it deserves.
Long known and loved by railway buffs, the word is spreading about this gem that sits on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park near Settle
“It is tucked away and you can’t see it from the main road so people drive through Hellifield and don’t realise what they’ve missed,” says Gayle.
For those who walk up the underpass and into the station for the first time, the reaction is always “wow”.
The architecture is magnificent and still has all the hallmarks of its Victorian roots.
Opened in 1849, it was given a major upgrade in 1880 by the Midland Railway, which added the Grade II listed glass canopy supported by decorative iron columns.
The whole place is authentic, nostalgic and romantic and still very much a working railway station.
Passenger and freight trains all pass through and stop here as Hellifield has four railway lines that meet there, including the Settle to Carlisle and the Leeds to Morecambe.
Historic steam trains also pull up to refuel as Hellifield station still has its old water pumps from the days when steam locomotives were commonplace.
This year, as part of its centenary tour, the famous Flying Scotsman will call in on July 9 and on August 6 to take on water.
Those regularly refuelling at the cafe include rail passengers and railway enthusiasts, along with cyclists, walkers, bikers and people from Hellifield and beyond.
Named Shed 24H, as a reference to the last steam engine shed number allocated to Hellifield in 1963, what was once a booking hall and ticket office is full of charm and is old fashioned in the best possible way.
Painted in burgundy and cream, the classic colours of the old Midland Railway, Stuart and Gayle have added their ever expanding collection of memorabilia.
Much of it is for sale, apart from an antique station clock made by John Agar and the greatest of treasures, the original Hellifield station sign gifted to the couple by an elderly collector who came up from East Anglia to bring it back home.
There is also photography, paintings and Yorkshire produce for sale, which customers browse while waiting for food and drink.
The menu is traditional so there are no skinny macchiatos here, just perfectly good and much less expensive teas and coffees plus breakfasts, including veggie and vegan versions, soup and delicious homemade cakes, including gluten free ones.
All the above is a winning combination but the undoubted star of the show is Stuart and Gayle’s dog Benji, an adorable black cocker spaniel, who has his own chair and loves to be stroked and fussed over.
The holiday let, named The Yorkshire Sleeper, is upstairs in a first floor former office and staff quarters, which hadn’t been used for 15 years.
The conversion was challenging but worth the tremendous effort.
“It was something we thought we might do at a later stage but when the lockdown came and there were no customers we thought we might as well do it,” says Stuart, a former electrical engineer, who was hands-on with the conversion and renovation.
There is a double bedroom and a twin room plus a sitting room/dining area, smart kitchen and bathroom.
The cosy apartment has great views over the tracks and the countryside beyond and there are lots of railway books plus memorabilia, including framed train driver time cards, an illuminated “toilet” sign from a train, crockery from an intercity sleeper and a fabulous railway bench.
There are also Highland cow ornaments, a nod to Hellifield’s fame for farming Highland cattle.
Going on holiday to a railway station is the stuff of dreams for railway enthusiasts, though they aren’t the only ones keen to stay.
“Guests love the idea that you can arrive by train, stay at the station and travel by train once you are here,” says Stuart. “When everyone leaves, they have the whole station to themselves.”
The glowing comments in the visitor book say it all.
Now, another redundant space on the ground floor is to be let to an artist who also repairs musical instruments.
“She will be another asset to the station,” says Gayle.
The Shed24H tearoom at Hellifield station is open Tuesday to Saturday, www.shed24h.godaddysites.com. For details of the Yorkshire Sleeper holiday let, visit www.theyorkshiresleeper.booksterhq.com.